PhD for Drumlithie Chemist

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A LIFE-CHANGING career move has seen Chris Newcombe from Drumlithie, near Stonehaven, swap a hard hat for a chemist’s coat.

The dad of two – who graduated from the University of Aberdeen with a PhD in Environmental Analytical Chemistry on Thursday (November 25) - decided to return to his studies at the age of 51 following a career as a building contractor and latterly in the leisure industry working as a duty officer and swimming teacher for Portlethen Pool.

It was a natural interest in science that led him to pursue his studies.

He said: “I moved up from London to Drumlithie in 1993. My wife Lynne and I wanted to bring up our daughters in a rural location and we had always loved Scotland.

“I’d always been interested in science but had never pursued it as a career having left school without any qualifications in this area of academia.

“In 2001 I decided to return to my studies and got into my degree programme in environmental science via a summer school access course with the University.

“I took on a student loan and balanced my studies with my work at Portlethen Swimming Pool where I did part time hours.

“I actually found coming back into academia as a mature student a very natural transition and believe that having two teenage daughters definitely helped me find common ground with the other students.

“I certainly found I was more focused and successful as a mature scholar than I had been in my younger days!”

Two years into his degree Chris swapped his course to environmental chemistry and graduated with a First Class Honours degree in this discipline in 2005.

He was then offered a post as a teaching fellow within the University’s Department of Chemistry – a position he balanced alongside his PhD studies.

Chris is now continuing his work at the University as a post doctoral research fellow in analytical chemistry.

Chris’s wife and youngest daughter Sophie (18) - who is studying architecture at the University of Dundee – watched him graduate at Elphinstone Hall, King’s College, University of Aberdeen on Thursday.

Another Mearns student who graduated last week was former Mackie Academy pupil Peter Ripley (24), who found his patience paid off after delaying the start of a law traineeship by a year to further his studies.

Peter, 24, from Netherley near Stonehaven, graduated in absentia from the University of Aberdeen on Thursday November 25 with a Masters’ of Law degree in Oil and Gas and was the top student across all 2009-10 taught masters programmes in law.

It was the second time he has graduated from the University of Aberdeen having scored the highest marks in his cohort for the LLB in 2008.

Peter said he returned to University to ensure he stood out in the competitive market for jobs.

He said: “I was offered a traineeship with Paull and Williamsons but needed to wait a year to start it. It was suggested to me that this course would be really helpful, given how dependent Aberdeen is on the oil industry.

“I’m really pleased that I spent another year studying as I feel the skills I have gained will serve me well in the future and the traineeship was worth waiting for as I’m really enjoying my time here.

“I’ve always wanted to base myself in Aberdeen and hopefully this will equip me well for this area of legal practice.”

A keen sportsman, Peter has combined his studies with on-field commitments to the University football team and is a member of Stonehaven Golf Club.