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Mark Hopkins

Biology with Forensic Biology

Biology-with-Forensic-Biology_Student_Mark-HopkinsWhat appealed to you about Northumbria University / studying in Newcastle?

I am a local and being a mature student with a young family it was the most convenient place to come.

What was it about the course / subject area that particularly appealed?

I wanted to do a biology based subject and I thought incorporating forensics would give the subject extra interest. It was also one of the only science degrees I could find which didn’t require a Chemistry A-Level as an entry qualification ... which I didn’t have.

What qualifications did you have?

I left secondary school with no qualifications at all. I went back to college at age 28 and did 3 HEFC subjects in order to qualify through UCAS.

How did you feel during your first week at Northumbria?

It was all new but I found the campus really easy to navigate. You get lots of hints and tips from the staff to make settling in easier. Being a mature student I didn’t really participate in the fresher activities but there seemed to be lots of social activities to attend.

What do you like most about the course?

The biological and forensic staff are really excellent teachers. You really realise their value when you go to other universities and are taught by people whom are researchers first and teachers second. The forensic staff are all experienced practitioners who have worked in the field and love their subject. That came across in the teaching. The degree programme was also very practical based. I think we spent more time in the lab than any other degree programme.

Can you give an example of a piece of work you’ve been involved with recently and what it involves?

For my dissertation project I got to investigate sudden death in heroin users. It was a fantastic opportunity to work on my own in the lab and do my own research in a field which has not been much studied. I had my own cell cultures and could work in the lab all day and in most days well into the evening. The library was open 24 hours which also helped tremendously. The staff are always there to support you when you need them despite being incredibly busy. The course is demanding but if you are willing to put in the work you will get the marks you deserve. If a young waster like me can come back into education after a twelve year absence and finish top of the class, then it can only be a credit to the support systems in place and the opportunities for those willing to work hard.

Do you have the opportunity for any work placements during your course?

There were places available and some of the class did take them. You are regularly sent e-mails detailing the different things you can get involved with and job opportunities when they arise.

What do you do when you’re not studying?

Just try to be a good husband and father. To be honest I am into my fifth consecutive year in education so I can’t remember what it’s like to not study. I enjoy watching films and football. Typical bloke stuff really.

What would you like to do when you graduate?

I am currently doing my PGCE to teach secondary school. I figured if I could inspire just one disinterested kid like I was, it would be worth doing.

How do you get on with your tutors?

Great. They give you all you need and are always around. Unfortunately I lost my dad to cancer in my second year at Northumbria and the staff were incredibly supportive and understanding. It’s something I will never forget.

Have you used Student Services during your course?

Not a lot personally but I was made aware that it was there for me should I require it.

Do you have any advice for anyone applying for your course, or for university in general?

Just that you have to do this for three years so pick a subject you enjoy. If you get there and are regretting your choice, speak to someone, you can always change programmes. Most importantly though, is do not wait till your final year to knuckle down. In your final year it is much harder to impress the staff marking your work so you are much more likely to pick up extra credit by producing good work in the second year. So get the bulk of the partying out of the way in your first year.

What three words would you use to describe your time at Northumbria?

Educational, emotional and interesting.

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