Alumni share their government and third sector career insights with students

On Tuesday 21 July, our alumni volunteers shared their career stories with students and recent graduates. The event was part of our Bristol Connects Live series – our online series of career and professional development events. The session focused on careers in government and the third sector and our alumni experts shared their career stories and experiences to inspire students and recent graduates to help them understand more about the sector.

The event was hosted by Kim Slim (LLB 2016) who works as Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister’s Independent Grenfell Adviser and Head of Grenfell Community Support Team at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. Kim was joined on the panel by Annabelle Pemberton (BA 2018), Organisational Development Officer at Redearth Education and Shailini Vora (BSc 2016), Trust Fundraising Officer at St Mungo’s.


Inspirational student speakers at Class of 2020 Virtual Celebrations

Our Class of 2020, who are enjoying their Virtual Celebrations this month, had some inspirational student voices speaking at their digital events. We caught up with some of them to hear about their time at Bristol, their passions, and their plans for the future. And we welcome them into our alumni community!


Renowned speakers to join Class of 2020 in Virtual Celebrations

Top row L – R: The Right Honourable the Baroness Hale of Richmond, Vanessa Kisuule, Sir Paul Nurse. Bottom row L -R: Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Jenny Griffiths MBE, Dame Julia Slingo.

From final-year medics graduating early to work on the NHS frontline, to groups organising foodbank donations, throughout this year Bristol students have been stepping up to assist those impacted by the pandemic. Many of our final-year students have been taking part in such activities, all whilst working hard to complete their degrees.

For these students, their time at the University is almost at an end. So, to mark their incredible achievements and commemorate their final year, the University is hosting a series of virtual celebrations for the class of 2020. The events will be hosted online and will see Bristol students from all over the world signing in from home to watch with their friends and family.


In celebration of our fantastic Bristol scholars

On Tuesday 25 February the Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO) hosted our inaugural Scholarship Celebration in the Great Hall of Wills Memorial Building.

The event brought together students who have benefitted from scholarships with some of the donors who made it possible. Celebrating with our students and donors was a poignant reminder of the significant impact scholarships have on our whole University community, as well as the individuals who receive them.

My story is one of the many lives you have touched and on behalf of all the scholars, we are eternally grateful – Omolola Funsho

Omolola Funsho, spoke about how receiving the Futures Scholarship eliminated her financial worries in her first year of studying Physiological Science:

It has also allowed me to completely immerse myself in university life. I have made many friends from different backgrounds, courses and walks of life. I’ve joined the African and Caribbean Society, I joined a dance class, I’ve joined the Neuroscience and PhysPharm Societies and I’ve been able to attend many talks led by professors at the University, quiz nights and Christmas balls.

Thanks to the scholarship, Omolola has been able to focus on her studies (rather than working multiple part-time jobs to support herself), join societies and purchase a laptop which has allowed her to study flexibly.

James Watts, whose PhD scholarship was funded in honour of Dr Ian Keil, an alumnus who had also benefitted from a studentship in the 1950s, also spoke about the difference a scholarship makes.

The support of Dr Keil’s family, given in his honour, has enabled James to further his career by supporting his research in an area where funding is scarce. If you’d like to find out more about our scholarship and PhD programmes, you can read about some of them in our latest impact report.

Celebrating our newest alumni: February 2020 graduation

Graduation at Bristol is one of the highlights of the University’s year: it’s when we celebrate the achievements of students and the support of their friends and family, and we welcome thousands of new graduates to the Bristol alumni community.  

This year, the drizzly February weather didn’t dampen the atmosphere at the Wills Memorial Building as postgraduate graduands prepared to cross the stage and reunite with their friends.

We set out to meet some of our newest #BristolGrads, and hear about their time at Bristol, their passions, and their plans for the future 

Michelle Windle, MSc Strategy, Change and Leadership 

I worked part time during the two years of my MSc, but to be honest, as the chief executive of a charity, it was more like a full time job. I found the days I was studying or attending seminars were almost like a holiday: I loved the intellectual stimulation, the chance to explore different threads, and studying alongside an inspiring cohort of people from different sectors and backgrounds.  

My dissertation was challenging: my first degree was in History, so adapting to science research methodology was tough. I looked at collaboration within the third sector: how leadership across boundaries can enable charities to work together. My case study was a consortium of Bristol-based charities that my organisation was a part of, which worked together to tackle sexual abuse, and I explored why this consortium worked, when others have failed.  

What next? I’m hoping to move into consultancy, particularly for charities going into consortia together: I’d like to apply what I’ve learnt in my MSc and my professional experience to facilitate and coach organisations collaborating.

Leila Matavel, MSc Robotics 

What I loved about Bristol was the diversity, the friendships, the clubs and the beautiful views! 

The classes and the lecturers were very, very good too. I feel like everything I learnt here was relevant to my career and I’m now I’m actually working in robotics.


Lesley Silvester, Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa, and Dr Hayley Ellis (BSc 2014, Cellular and Molecular Medicine, PhD 2018) 

Lesley: I met Hayley with Dr Kathreena Kurian (head of the Brain Tumour Research Centre and Hayley’s PhD supervisor) before she had even finished her undergraduate degree at Bristol. What was really interesting was that Hayley had already published an important literature review at that point. I thought she was just so impressive, there was a really nice connection there.

Hayley: I would never have been able to continue my studies at Bristol without Lesley and Terry’s financial support. In my PhD research I was tracing genetic mutations through recurrent brain tumours, so when the same patient comes back and they have another sample taken, we could see the potential impact of different drugs.

Lesley: I feel privileged to have been able to support Hayley’s PhD. One of the most special things was when a copy of her PhD arrived, and it was dedicated to Terry and I – we were really gobsmacked!

Hayley: I’m so happy to be here to celebrate Lesley today as she receives her honorary degree.

Jasmeet Khalsa, MSc Advanced Computing, Machine Learning, Data Mining and High Performance Computing 

Since I finished my MSc, I’ve been living and working in Germany. I didn’t really know too much German beforehand, but I’ve found it really easy to integrate. In terms of what I’m doing there, it’s pretty similar to what I did my thesis on here in Bristol, so that’s great – it’s an area I’m really passionate about.  

My course was intense: I needed a strong work ethic during my time here. But there were so many highlights of my yearthe music scene in Bristol is great, and so are the bars, museums and restaurants. I particularly loved spending summer days down by the harbourside, ideally with a pint of West Country cider! 

Venexia Walker, PhD Medicine 

I submitted my PhD last year and moved into a post-doctoral role here at Bristol. Right now I’m on a one year placement at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia: there’s a key dataset for my research which can only be used within the United States.  

My work looks at disease progression. I’m using a statistical method called Mendelian randomisation to explore how, once someone has a disease, we can prevent progression. Lots of studies focus on the period before disease, looking at risk factors or preventative medication. For those sorts of studies, you can use general population data, but the statistical work becomes more complicated when we’re looking at disease within an individual.  

My PhD at Bristol was funded by Roger and Kate Holmes, two donors who have given generously to research into Alzheimer’s Disease at Bristol. I met them a few times during my PhD; having the chance to talk to people outside of academia who were really interested and invested in my work was very meaningful for me.

Rujie Sun, PhD Advanced Materials.

I really enjoyed the five years that I spent in Bristol. It’s such a nice city to live in! The environment is great, there are so many beautiful buildings in the city and around the University – like the Wills Memorial Building!  

Now that I’ve graduated, I plan to stay in academia. I’m already doing some postdoctoral research in London.

Sulagna Ghosal, MSc Management (Marketing) 

I’m from Kolkata, and I came to Bristol initially because of its strong reputation among employers. My year here has gone so quickly. As an international student, it can be a steep learning curve to understand the academic system here: the assignments and assessments, for example, are quite different to in the Indian system. It almost felt that I’d finally got the hang of it, and then the year was over!  

A highlight of my time here has been the friends I’ve made on my course. We’ve shared lots of experiences together. I’m heading back to India next month, and I hope that I might move into a PhD programme.

Alexander Palmer-Walsh, PhD Aerospace Engineering 

My time at Bristol was definitely made by the people I met here and the things that I’ve learned along the way.  

I know that working on a PhD can be quite an independent process but the fact that, here at Bristol, you can be in an office with lots of people going through the same thing really helps. You can chat to people, bounce ideas around and, to be honest, everyone just gets behind you and are really willing to help you out.  

Doing a PhD can be a bit of a rollercoaster so being able to persevere through the tough bits and having people there to talk to is really useful 

For anyone starting at Bristol this year, I’d say to make the most of your time here and the community around you. If you feel like you’re getting into a rut and closing in on yourself, know that there’s so many people here to support you and make sure you utilise that.

Meet our #TeamUoB London Marathon Runners

Five Bristol alumni, staff and students are going the extra mile and running the 2020 London Marathon in support of Healthy Minds, a physical activity programme at the University which utilises the benefits of exercise to support students affected by mental ill health .

Congratulations and thank you to our 2020 London Marathon team! We wish them the very best of luck with their training and look forward to cheering them along on the 26 April.

See how #TeamUoB are getting on with their fundraising here

Meet the team

Dr Bex Lyons, Staff
‘I’m Bex,  a Teaching Associate in English and Personal Development in the Department of English , where I was named a Best of Bristol Lecturer 2019.
I completed my PhD at Bristol in 2017, which investigated women readers of Arthurian literature in fifteenth – and sixteenth – century England. In 2015 I ran the York Marathon, and I am so excited to be taking on my next marathon in my hometown – the London Marathon route goes through the neighbourhood that I grew up in! This challenge is also particularly meaningful for me because my role at the University. It is deeply involved with student development, and I am enthusiastic to support Healthy Minds and their important work at Bristol.



Robert Reay-Jones, Alumni

‘I’m Rob, I’m 39 and I work as a translator. After growing up in southwest France, where I became a keen middle-distance runner among the vineyards of Bordeaux, I returned to the UK after around 15 years ago for work and studies before completing an MA in Translation at Bristol in 2013. I’m now married with three children and live in Wiltshire. I recently set myself a challenge of training seriously again with a view to beating my teenage PBs over the shorter distances and one day completing the Marathon du Médoc (to celebrate or drown my sorrows!) Along the way, the (wonderful and totally unexpected) opportunity to run the London Marathon for such a great cause was too great to miss. Having had personal experience of the impact of mental illness, I cannot wait to run in support of Healthy Minds and in memory of my father, who was my hero.’



Lucy Delamere, Student
‘I am a final year Law Student at  Bristol, and a student Activator for Sport, Exercise and Health in which I get involved in promoting B:Active programmes and encourage participants to use physical exercise for all the physical and particularly mental health benefits that exercise brings! Being a final year student with graduation so imminent, I turn to exercise and in particular running for those times in which there is immense pressure, as physical activity has been proven to boost the mood and reduce feelings of anxiety, stress and depression. I am excited to be taking my love for exercise to the next level by running the London Marathon for Healthy Minds. I look forward to the challenge of training for such an event, and also raising awareness and money for Healthy Minds’ incredible work in using exercise to improve well-being and particularity mental health.’


Ken Khaw, Alumni

‘I’m Ken, based in Singapore and a husband to a wonderful wife and a father of three young girls. I graduated from the University of Bristol with a LLB (Hons) in 1992 and am a career banker by profession. I was never very active in sports, but have tried to be since entering my 40s. I have done three half marathons in Singapore, however my running has been inconsistent.  By chance I came across the Bristol alumni email to run for Healthy Minds at the London Marathon. I strongly believe in the empowerment of education. By teaching students about how building exercise into their daily routine can grow their confidence, identity and community, it encourages them to make a positive, long-lasting lifestyle.
I am honoured to have been chosen to run for this worthy cause and by the Grace of God I trust I will complete this challenge to support Healthy Minds.’

Bethany Marris, Student

‘I’m Bethany, a final year history student originally from East Yorkshire. Alongside being an avid runner, I fill my free time with listening to, reading about and reviewing music! My motivation to run the marathon for Healthy Minds came from the way in which I’ve seen first-hand the monumental impact that sport and exercise can have on your mental health. Moreover, as a student, It’s easy to solely concentrate on uni, therefore having a challenge like running the London Marathon is an amazing opportunity towards a non-academic, physical challenge.’

Eastern Canada Reunion Weekend 2019

Heater Proctor (BSc 1964):

Our 2019 reunion was convened in Niagara-on-the-Lake at the Pillar and Post Inn, 17 to 19 September. This is a deluxe hotel with a great variety of amenities and wonderful food, in a very picturesque small Ontario town near Niagara Falls.

14 of us enjoyed fine dining at the Inn, lunch at a local restaurant, and dinner at Trius Winery, one of many delightful wineries in the Niagara area. Some of our group visited the heated outdoor pool and the hot springs at the Inn. At the local Shaw Festival Theatre we took in a performance of The Ladykillers, a hilarious farce.

During our first evening Heather Proctor (BSc 1964) brought greetings from the Development and Alumni Relations Office at Bristol, giving us an update on the new buildings at the University. George Plant presented an interesting talk about his examination of lunar rocks from the first moon landing in 1969.

Our reunion dinner at Trius Winery was exceptional. After an outdoor champagne reception, we were seated in a private room, and each course was explained and presented with theatrical precision by a flight of waiters!

This was a reunion to remember. Sefton Haisz (BSc 1967) and George Plant did a wonderful job organising this, and we thank them very much.

Next year’s event has been planned for 21 to 23 September in Kingston Ontario. We look forward to welcoming as many alumni as possible to the 2020 reunion. We plan on inviting particularly those alumni in our area who graduated between 1970 and 1990.

A celebration of all your support

Grace Kendrick (BA 2017, MA 2019) and Julius Ogayo, International Students Officer (Bristol SU), at the event

On Saturday 9 November the Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO) had the honour of being the first team at the university to hold an event in the beautiful newly refurbished Fry building. The occasion was our Supporters’ Celebration, where we took time out to thank our alumni and friends who support, donate, mentor, volunteer or otherwise give back to the University.

It was a fantastic afternoon hosted by the Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Hugh Brady, and ably supported by many academics, students and staff who gave up their time to showcase their work and how alumni and friends’ support makes a big difference.

In the year 2018/19 £15,824,502 new philanthropic funds were raised for the university. In addition, over 1,300 alumni and friends volunteered through DARO to support students and the university.

The impact of the support given by alumni and friends continues to grow and flourish and we’re proud to feature just some of the staff and students who’ve benefited from this support in our latest Impact Report.

If you’d like to see the photographs from the event they are available now on Flickr.


London Branch Annual Lecture: Sir Paul Nurse, ‘Science and the public good’

Sir Paul Nurse delivers the 2019 London Branch Annual Lecture


Scientific research is aimed at generating knowledge of the natural world and of ourselves, and also at developing that knowledge into useful applications, including driving innovation for sustainable productive economic growth and better public services, improving health, prosperity and the quality of life, and protecting the environment. – Sir Paul Nurse

Robert Dufton (LLB 1983, Honorary LLD 2014):

The London Branch of the University of Bristol Alumni has organised an annual lecture every year since 2006. This year it attracted a record crowd of 209, no doubt because of the speaker, Sir Paul Nurse, Chancellor of the University of Bristol since 2017, Director and Chief Executive of the Francis Crick Institute, and 2001 Nobel Prize winner for his research on protein molecules that control the division (duplication) of cells in the cell cycle.

The evening was hosted by London Branch Committee members: Chair Julian Metcalfe (BSc 1978); Treasurer Martin Lunnon (BSc 1973, PhD 1976) and Secretary Alan Ingham (MEng 1999). A brief AGM, involving the presentation of the annual report by Julian, the annual accounts by Martin and a vote of thanks given by Alan about outgoing branch committee member David Snoxell (BA 1966), who chaired the London Branch from 2005 to 2010 and who had inaugurated the annual lecture, was ably chaired by Julian and lasted 6 minutes, which may have contributed to his being re-elected for a second term as Chair!

Jonathan Phillips (BSc 1994), Chair of the Alumni Association Committee, spoke about the work of the association, and his aim that the association will in time become one of the reasons why students choose Bristol over other universities.

Sir Paul welcomed the audience to the Francis Crick Institute, the UK’s leading biomedical research institute which focusses on the fundamental biology underlying health and disease. The state-of-the-art building opened in 2016.

His lecture ‘Science and the public good’, (science meaning research of all disciplines) emphasized the importance of combining discovery research and its translation which then directly helped people. Great research required excellence, academic freedom and diversity of thinking/institutions and a determined curiosity about big questions. In addition to his current work at the Crick Institute, Sir Paul drew on his experiences at the universities of Sussex, Oxford, Harvard and Rockefeller, and his time as President of the Royal Society for five years.

Questions from the audience followed and conversation continued over a reception.

London Branch Annual Walk: Secrets of the Famous Square Mile Part III, 30 April 2019

London Branch Annual Walk: Secrets of the Famous Square Mile Part III
Alan Ingham (MEng 1999)

On 30th April 2019 a group of 30 London Branch of University of Bristol Alumni gathered for the third installment of our Secret London series of London Walks, guided by a Blue Badge Guide.

Chris Green, a fellow Bristol Graduate, led our group on an informative walk around the City of London. Starting at Trinity Square Gardens (near Tower Hill) and ending in the Williamson Nicholson’s pub on picturesque Bow Lane, we heard about trade, architecture and characters spanning from Roman times to the modern day.

It is too easy to take one’s city and surroundings for granted as we go about our daily business, paying little attention to the history around us. Our walks aim to highlight the details we so often miss, thus keeping this hidden knowledge alive.

Although we walked streets which were familiar to many of us, it is always inspiring to hear of those feet who walked before us and look up to see the marks they left on the city we love.

The event concluded with a chance to socialise over food and drinks and appeared to be enjoyed by all.