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Published: 17 February 2016

Vice-Chancellor’s Alumni Award 2015

Research scientist Dr Ameenah Gurib-Fakim has been named as the alumna of the year for 2015 after a highly successful twelve months which saw her elected as President of Mauritius, the first woman to hold the ceremonial position.

The Vice-Chancellor’s Alumni Award is presented annually to a graduate who has made an outstanding contribution to their field or to society during the previous year.

The calibre of nominations was as high as ever, showcasing the exceptional work of our alumni across the globe. Her Excellency, Mrs Gurib-Fakim, who is also founder and managing director of CIDP Research & Innovation, was appointed to her new role in June 2015 and as such is also Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Republic of Mauritius.

Dr Gurib-Fakim graduated in Chemistry from Surrey in 1983, and worked as an academic, becoming pro vice-chancellor at the University of Mauritius. She then founded her biotech business researching the medical and nutritive implications of indigenous plants of Mauritius.

She dedicated her appointment as president to her parents, who she said “had the vision to educate their daughter at a time when it was boys who were given the priority”.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Kearney said: “I am delighted to name Dr Ameenah Gurib Fakim as the winner of the Vice-Chancellor Alumni Award 2015. It is an honour to be able to recognise her in this way. 

“We are always delighted to hear about the fantastic work of our alumni, of whom we are very proud. There were some incredible nominees this year, and I would also like to add my congratulations to them for their achievements.”

In addition to the overall award, the Vice-Chancellor Alumni Award recognises the significant contribution made by Surrey or Battersea graduates in the following categories: enterprise, humanitarian and charities, industry and the arts.

Dr Nazir Amir is the winner of the humanitarian and charities award for his work in Singapore encouraging under-privileged children to grow an interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects. Nazir graduated with a BEng in Electrical and Electronics Engineering in 2001 and is a lead science teacher a Greenview Secondary School. Through his ‘RAP’ approach – ‘Relevant, Appealing and Personal’ – teachers motivate students go to school not just for the sake of attendance or to pass examinations, but to truly love the subjects that they teach.

Read Nazir’s story to learn more about how his teaching approach has changed lives.

The winner of the research category is Dr Iqbal Saripan who, at 34, was appointed professor of digital image processing at University Putra in Malaysia, making him the youngest professor listed in the Malaysian Professors Council. Iqbal was also recognised as the Top Research Scientist in Malaysia in 2014 and 2015 by the country’s Academy of Science and was cited as one of the Top 10 Creative Young Men of Malaysia. He completed his PhD in Electronic Engineering in 2006.

Read Iqbal's story.

We were delighted to award three commendations in the industry category. Abbie Hutty (MEng 2010) is spacecraft structures engineer at Airbus Defence and Space developing the structure of the ExoMars Rover Vehicle, Europe’s first Rover mission to Mars launching in 2018.

Abbie is an inspiring role model and works as an ambassador, educating young people and the broader public about engineering. She has appeared on shows such as Stargazing Live with Brian Cox, and The Sky at Night to talk about her current work. She also gives workshops and talks to schools and universities.  Abbie has been recognised as Young Woman Engineer of the Year by the Institution of Engineers and Technology and the Young Member of the Year by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Read Abbie’s story.

Ugbizi Ogar (MSc Energy Economics and Policy 2010) is the first African (Nigerian) staff member to be appointed to the International Energy Agency, the foremost body on Global Energy Policy and Strategy. He has spent the last 10 years at Nigeria’s national oil company, the NNPC, and has been part of the IEA world energy outlook team since June, 2014. Ugbizi is passionate about improving energy access in Nigeria and Africa through the not-for-profit network Energy Access Africa and believes renewable energy should play a significant role in Nigeria's energy mix. Read Ugbizi’ story.

Elizabeth Orchard (MEng 2010) is passionate about raising awareness in young people of STEM careers, particularly engineering, and is widely consulted by local and national education authorities, employers, and professional bodies on effective industry engagement. She regularly delivers speeches in schools and is herself an inspirational role model and active mentor for the next generation of engineers, especially young women seeking to follow in her footsteps. She recently achieved an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ rating by UTC  Reading, a 14-19 college, where Elizabeth helped develop an industry-integrated curriculum and cross-curricular and year-group projects, promoting key employability skills using real-life case studies and learning environments. 

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