Special achievement award for Iranian science student

Raising a baby while working part time is a tough enough job in itself.

But add to that gaining a first class honours degree in Marine Science, all while living in a foreign country, and you can safely say you have made a special achievement.

Iranian student Maryam MacCorquodale, 37, picked up a BSc Marine Science (Hons) at the Scottish Association for Marine Science UHI in Oban.

During the graduation ceremony she was presented with the Sams Award for Special Achievement.

She had pursued an early passion for science at university in Tehran but left Iran to pursue her education after struggling to cope with the strict laws in her homeland.

Upon arrival in Scotland she studied business information technology at Strathclyde University in Glasgow but after graduation failed to find employment.

After unsuccessfully applying for around 70 jobs and on the verge of returning home, she found a live-in job at the Pierhouse Hotel in Port Appin and there she met her husband Graeme.

It wasn’t until she moved to the Appin area and became aware of Sams UHI that her love of science was rekindled and she applied for the undergraduate course.

But she almost declined a place on the degree course after receiving the offer at the same time she found out she was pregnant with her daughter, Kimiya.

Mrs MacCorquodale said: “There were many times when I struggled to balance everything.

“When I found out I was pregnant, my husband and my father-in-law convinced me to take the place on the course.

“My mother had agreed to come over from Iran to support me but was refused a visa. I haven’t seen my family in five years.

“Throughout what was a very challenging degree I worked nights at the Knipoch Hotel, near Oban, then at the Pierhouse.

“Thankfully I found a very supportive childminder in Fiona Moore but I often struggled to do everything well.

“Then, the day before my third year exams Kimiya had an accident and was in hospital. It all became too much for me and I didn’t know whether to come back for my fourth year.

“But a real regret of mine is not pursuing science as a teenager. At that time, when things were difficult, I gave up and I didn’t want to repeat that story.”

Mrs MacCorquodale said she was lucky to have had supportive lecturers, who inspired her to pursue her studies in biotechnology and microbiology in particular.

She now hopes to find a PhD, or work as a support scientist on a project.

A total of 19 undergraduates gained their degrees and seven postgraduate awards were made at the ceremony in Oban’s Argyllshire Gathering Halls.

Shannon Lafferty, who is a depute president with the Highlands and Islands Student Association, was awarded the Sams UHI Student of the Year title.

Daniel Burt, from Connel, and Jamie Rodgers were awarded the Sams Council Award for Academic Excellence and the Tim Boyd Prize for Oceanography, respectively. Daniel has been accepted for a Masters at the University of Hamburg.