In June 2011 I graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a degree that goes by the name of “Master of Chemistry (with Honours) Medicinal & Biological Chemistry with Industrial Experience”. I’ve gone from being an undergraduate chemist to a graduate scientist. When I posted on Facebook in May that I had finished my Chemistry degree, my American friends thought this meant I had graduated: in the USA most graduation ceremonies take place in May. However, in the UK we need to wait until the end of July to do that.
Anyway, it happened…finally.
I guess its easy to be blase about the whole experience. With the trials and tribulations of exams, coursework, dissertations, practical work it can feel that the actual act of getting a degree is the easy part. Pride and happiness should be for surviving the final exams.
Having grown up in the “university town” of St Andrews with two academic-type parents working for the university makes me blase too. My childhood was spent wandering around “The Oxford of the North” with its ancient college buildings; I’ve been into Edinburgh’s special graduation hall, McEwan Hall since I started studying here for various occasions. Not everybody is lucky enough to graduate in such ornate surroundings. Not everybody is lucky enough to get a degree, let alone one from as prestigious a place as Edinburgh.
My parents were the ones who seemed to care the most about my Graduation robes: what colour were the MChem students’ robes (black, with a green & white hood)? Had I ordered them yet? I ended up wearing them for about 4 hours of the 6 hour hire time. Fortunately I shelved my cynicism and nonchalance and was able to appreciate how nice it felt to be wearing the same robes as all the other Chemists and the sense of belonging that entailed. It was a tasteful green too, I reckon it looks good in the photos that were taken.
The act of Graduation runs as follows. Your name is called. You walk across the stage. The Principal then taps you on the head with a velvet hat (made from John Knox’s breeches, apparently). And that’s it. You walk across the rest of the stage, pick up your degree certificate and sit back down. Wham, you’re a graduate!
One of my flatmates from first year is a keen and talented photographer, who was offering her services for Graduation photographs. Getting an official picture would set you back by an excess of £100, so I decided against that. I’m very glad. Do check out Diana Eastman Photography, she’s on Facebook and Flickr.
Diana also took this portrait too. Despite fears about the ballot for extra ceremony tickets, the family managed to get to all come along and watch. My stepdad Bill was also present (and I believe should be credited for some of the graduation ceremony photos), but unfortunately not pictured anywhere. We had lunch at the David Bann Restaurant – we all had a good time of it.
It started to rain shortly after we exited the ceremony. Scottish weather at its most predictable, I guess. The School of Chemistry held a reception in a nearby building where we got unlimited strawberry tarts and a chance to catch up with faculty, family and fellow students. As well as pose for more photographs. This could be the last time I see a lot of these folk – as you know I’m not exactly hanging around Edinburgh.
I’m proud of getting this far. I feel more than ready to take on the real world.