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      Inspirational Alumni

      Inspirational Alumni

      Get inspired by members of your alumni community who’ve achieved greatness in their chosen fields.

      Academia

      Professor Sir Doug Turnbull - Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Disease (MBBS 1976, MD, PhD 1983)

      Doug has made the understanding of mitochondrial disease his life’s work. In 2012, he and his colleagues were awarded the coveted Wellcome Trust Centre status, one of only nine in the UK. As Director, Doug has built an internationally renowned team of clinicians and researchers, with patients opting to travel to be under his care. Doug has been recognised by the Royal College of Physicians on several occasions: awarded the Goulstonian Lecturer (1992), the Jean Hunter Prize (2003) and the Sims Royal College of Physicians Lecturer (2004). He was awarded a Knighthood in 2016 and elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 2019.

      Professor Sir John Burn - Professor of Clinical Genetics (BSc Human Genetics 1973, MBBS 1976, MD 1991)

      John became one of the first clinical geneticists in the UK following his studies. He is currently Professor of Clinical Genetics at Newcastle University. Formerly, he was Director of the Institute of Genetic Medicine, Chief Investigator of CAPP, and Executive Director of Global Variome. He led the regional NHS Genetics Service for 20 years and helped to create the Centre for Life. He was knighted in 2010 and chosen as one of the first 20 ‘local heroes’ to have a brass plaque on Newcastle Quayside. In 2017, he was appointed as the new Chairman of The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and is also a Non-Executive Director of NHS England.

      Professor Mushtaq Ahmad Saleem - Professor of Biochemistry and Dean (MSc Agriculture 1980)

      Mushtaq is Professor of Biochemistry and Dean of the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Central Punjab, Lahore. He is a notable scientist in the field of Environmental Biochemistry and Biomedical Toxicology. During his PhD and post-doctoral research in the UK, he discovered a novel field of research regarding various enzymes and macromolecules, exploring ‘Proteases and their role in the resistance to insecticides’. This work was highly regarded and he won the Research Productivity Prize from the Pakistan Council of Science and Technology, as well as the Special Science and Technology Prize from the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan.

      Professor Paul Michael Kennedy CBE FBA - Professor of History and distinguished Fellow (BA Modern History 1966)

      Paul is internationally known for his writings and commentaries on global, political, economic and strategic issues. He is currently the J. Richardson Dilworth Professor of History and distinguished Fellow of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy at Yale University. Paul holds a number of honorary degrees and fellowships, and was awarded a CBE in 2000 for his services to History. He is on the editorial board of numerous journals and has published prominent books on the history of British foreign policy and great power struggles.

      Prof. Dr. Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui - Vice Chancellor at Ziauddin University, Karachi, Pakistan (PhD Medicine 1978)

      Pirzada is eminent in the field of higher education management in Pakistan and at present serves as Vice Chancellor at Ziauddin University, Karachi, Pakistan. He has served in the capacity of Vice Chancellor in public/private sector Universities of Pakistan for 16 years. Besides being the Vice Chancellor of University of Karachi for 8 years, he was the founding Vice Chancellor of Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science & Technology, Pakistan. Pirzada occupies a very prominent place in the contemporary Urdu poets of Pakistan.

      Prof Sarah Hainsworth OBE FREng - Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean (BEng Science of Engineering Materials 1989, PhD 1993)

      Sarah is Pro-Vice-Chancellor and the first female Executive Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Aston University. Her forensic engineering research has two main focus areas, forces involved in stabbing and characterising tool marks in injury and dismemberment. Sarah came to public attention in 2013 for her work related to the skeleton of King Richard III; her expertise helped establish the manner of his death. In 2019, she was awarded an OBE for her services to Engineering and Forensic Science.

      Arts and cultures

      Dianne Nelmes - TV producer (Politics and Economics)

      Dianne is known as the 'Queen of Daytime TV' and is the force behind classic TV shows such as This Morning with Richard and Judy. Dianne started her career as a reporter and executive producer on the award-winning public affairs show World in Action and went on to launch the well-known Saturday light entertainment shows You’ve Been Framed and Stars In Their Eyes. In 1998, she was appointed the first ever Controller of Daytime Television at ITV and created the long-running and headline grabbing show Loose Women. She left ITV to become the managing director of Liberty Bell, an independent documentary production company.

      George Clarke - Architect, presenter and writer (BA Architectural Studies 1995, Cert Architectural Practice 1996)

      George made his TV debut for the Channel 5 show, Build a New Life in the Country. He then went on to present A Dream Home Abroad. In 2008, he moved to Channel 4, where he has presented The Restoration Man, George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces and 2015’s Amazing Spaces Shed of the Year. In 2014, George became the youngest person to be awarded honorary membership of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). He is an ambassador for the Prince’s Regeneration Trust and for the housing for homelessness charity, Shelter. He was a visiting lecturer at Newcastle from 2001-2003.

      James Honeyborne - Wildlife filmmaker and creator of Blue Planet II (BSc Biology of Plants 1992)

      James is a wildlife film producer who spent 25 years at the BBC’s Natural History Unit. He is now the CEO of Freeborne Media, a Bristol-based production company, which recently signed a multi-year deal with Netflix to produce nature and science documentaries. As an Executive Producer, he is best known for creating the Emmy and BAFTA-award winning Blue Planet II, narrated by David Attenborough. The production of Blue Planet II took four years, involving 125 expeditions in 39 countries. It was awarded the Chatham House Prize 2019 by Her Majesty The Queen, for 'sustained impact'.

      Rowan Atkinson CBE - Actor, comedian and screenwriter (BSc Electrical and Electronic Engineering 1975)

      Rowan shot to fame as the star and co-creator of the satirical sketch show Not the Nine O’Clock News. He then starred in a number of well-loved TV comedies, including Blackadder and The Thin Blue Line, before achieving global success and acclaim with the adventures of his character Mr Bean. In recent years, he has appeared in several feature films, as well as enjoying a successful theatre run in the West End. Rowan was awarded a CBE in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to drama and charity and has won two BAFTAs.

      Sean Scully - Artist (Art 1972)

      Renowned abstract painter Sean is lauded as one of the leading artists of his generation. Nominated for the Turner Prize twice, Sean creates large works using horizontal and vertical stripes, bands and grids in numerous configurations. A trip to the University theatre where he saw Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot' is accounted to opening his eyes to the possibilities of great art. His pieces are exhibited widely in Europe and the United States and are in the permanent collections of many museums and public galleries including the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

      Dr Zoe Williams - General Practitioner, media personality, fitness and physical activity expert (MBBS Medicine 2007)

      Whilst completing her second year as a qualified doctor in hospitals in Newcastle, Zoe received the calling to become a Gladiator on Sky 1’s revival of the classic show. She saw her role as a doctor and as a Gladiator complimenting each other, and used the opportunity to promote diet and exercise to a wider audience. Since Gladiators, Zoe has become the resident doctor on ITV’s popular daytime show This Morning. She has presented across the BBC network, including BBC News broadcast, Horizons and Trust Me I’m a Doctor.

      Authors

      Chrissie Gittins - Freelance poet and writer (BA Arts 1975)

      Chrissie writes poetry, short stories, poetry for children and radio drama. Her latest poetry collection, Sharp Hills, was inspired by her father’s experiences during the Second World War. Her first three children’s poetry collections were all choices for the Poetry Book Society’s Children’s Poetry Bookshelf. She has also won the Belmont Poetry Prize for a single children’s poem and was a finalist in the first Manchester Children’s Literature Prize in 2014. Her children’s poems have been animated for Cbeebies TV. Chrissie has received two Arts Council Writers’ Awards, a Hawthornden Fellowship, and awards from the Author’s Foundation and the Oppenheim-John Downes Memorial Trust.

      Debbie Horsfield - Theatre and television writer and producer (BA English Literature 1976)

      Debbie's first plays, Out on the floor and Away from it all, were produced at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in the early 1980's. She won the Thames Television Playwrights Award in 1983, becoming Resident Writer at the Liverpool Playhouse where she was commissioned to write the Red Devils Trilogy. In 1985, she was nominated for the Evening Standard Awards Most Promising Playwright. Debbie then moved in to television, writing a number of series for the BBC. Her best known work is the critically acclaimed adaptation of Winston Graham’s historical Poldark novels. Her television work has been nominated twice for BAFTAs.

      Helen Docherty - Award winning children's writer (BA Hons French and Spanish 1995)

      Helen worked for many years as a language teacher in Mexico City and in Bristol before becoming an author. Her first rhyming picture book, The Snatchabook (illustrated by her husband Thomas Docherty), has been translated into 18 languages. In 2014 it won the Oldham Brilliant Book Award, voted for by school children, as well as being shortlisted for several national awards. The Snatchabook has been staged as a play in the UK and as an opera, by a school in Canada. Another of her books, The Knight Who Wouldn’t Fight, was shortlisted for Oscar’s Book Prize 2017 and is due to be staged by the Courtyard Theatre in Hereford.

      Peter Straughan - Screenwriter and playwright (BA English 1994)

      Peter is best known for his adaptation of John Le Carré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which was nominated for an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay in 2011. He started his career as a playwright, winning the 1997 Northern Arts Writer’s Award and becoming the Writer in Residence at Newcastle’s Live Theatre. He has worked as a screenwriter since the early 2000s, and his feature film credits include the adaptation of Toby Young's How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (2008), The Debt (2015) and Our Brand is Crisis (2015). He has also produced work for BBC radio and television, including the 2015 series Wolf Hall.

      Tristan Gooley - Bestselling Author and natural navigator (BA Hons History and Politics 1996)

      Tristan is an explorer, writer and natural navigator who has led expeditions across five continents, and written four best-selling books. In 2008, Tristan founded his natural navigation school and has since travelled the world, studying and employing natural navigation methods. He is the only living person to have both flown and sailed solo across the Atlantic and walked with the Tuareg, Bedouin and Dayak peoples. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation and Royal Geographical Society, and the Vice Chairman of Trailfinders, the UK’s largest independent travel company.

      Burhana Islam - Storyteller and teacher (BA Hons English Literature 2013, PGCE Secondary English 2014)

      Burhana is a storyteller who is passionate about exploring themes of heritage, belonging, identity and faith. She became a secondary school teacher following her studies, sharing her love for stories with a new generation of curious, young minds. After five years of teaching in Newcastle and winning a mentorship with Penguin Random House, one of the UK’s biggest publishers, she relocated to Manchester and used her Society of Author’s grant to support her writing. Burhana's book celebrates the successes of Muslims through the ages, titled ‘Amazing Muslims Who Changed The World’.

      Business

      Andy Bird CBE - British film producer and executive (BA English Language & Literature 1986)

      Andy is CEO of Pearson, the FTSE 100-listed publishing company. He was the former Chairman of Walt Disney International and was responsible for the extension of Disney’s reach around world in countries like China, Russia and India. Andy worked at Disney for 14 years and led the takeover of UTV, one of India’s largest media companies and the launch of Japan’s first foreign owned, free-to-air channel, Dlife, as well as similar channels in Russia, Turkey and Spain. He first started his broadcasting career on Piccadilly Radio in Manchester. In 2012 Andy was awarded a CBE for services to the UK media and entertainment.

      Ann Cairns - President of International Markets for MasterCard (MSc Medical Statistics 1979)

      Ann is Executive Vice Chairman and President of International Markets at Mastercard. She is responsible for business spanning 210 countries and territories, connecting over 27,000 banks and 35 million merchants. Her responsibilities also include promoting diversity, inclusion and innovations, as well as managing all customer related activities in 200 countries. Recently, Ann has been appointed as the lead non-executive board member at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). She returned to Newcastle in 2015 to deliver a lecture to alumni, students and staff detailing her incredible career entitled “From the oil rig to the boardroom: an alumni story”.

      Dr Choo Chiau Beng - Former CEO of Keppel Corporation Limited (BSc Naval Architecture 1970, MSc Naval Architecture 1971, Hon DCL 2009)

      Choo is the retired CEO of Keppel Corporation, the Singapore-based global group of Offshore and Marine, Infrastructure and Property businesses. He joined the company as a management trainee in 1971 and rose through the ranks becoming CEO in 2009. He is Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Raffles Institution and a member of the management board of the Institute for Engineering Leadership at the National University of Singapore. He was awarded a Public Service Star Award in 2004, the Meritorious Service Medal in 2008, and an honorary degree from Newcastle University in 2009.

      Chris Townsend OBE - Head of Infrastructure, Government and Healthcare at KPMG (BSc Geography 1977)

      Chris is Head of Infrastructure, Government and Healthcare at KPMG. He was the Commercial Director at Chelsea Football Club until April 2020 when he left to take charge of the Government's Coronavirus Shielding Programme. Previously, he was the Commercial Director for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games responsible for raising funds of £2.4bn. Chris was awarded an OBE in 2013 for his work on the games. Before the Olympics, he was the Group Marketing Director for Transport for London responsible for the launch of the Oyster Card.

      Sharon Rowlands - President and CEO of Web.com (BA Hons History 1980)

      Since January 2019, Sharon has served as CEO and President of domain name registry and web development service Web.com. She also serves on the Board of Directors for emergency communications provider Everbridge, as well as global business software company Pegasystems. Previously, Sharon served as the CEO of digital marketing platform Reachlocal where she completed the sale of the company to Gannett in 2016, the owner of USA Today. Underscoring her leadership expertise, she was named Customer Focused CEO of the Year in the 2016 CEO World Awards and was also named Female CEO of the Year in the 2016 One Planet Awards.

      Sir Terry Farrell CBE - Architect and designer (Architecture 1961, Honorary DCL 2000)

      Terry is the brains behind many award-winning buildings, including the largest railway station in the world, Guangzhou Station in China. In 2016, he was made an Honorary Freeman of his hometown Newcastle and for his many contributions to Newcastle University, it was decided in 2019 that the former Claremont Building would become the Sir Terry Farrell Centre. Throughout his career, Terry has championed urban planning and helped shape government policy. As recognition of this, in 2013 he was voted the individual who made the Greatest Contribution to London’s Planning and Development over the last 10 years.

      Entrepreneurs

      Derek Kelly MBE - Founder and Chairman of Kelly Turkeys (BSc Agriculture 1950)

      Derek is the Chairman of Kelly Turkeys. He founded the company in 1971, reintroducing the bronze turkey to the UK Christmas dinner table, which had been almost completely replaced by rapid-growing white feathered breeds. In 1989, the KellyBronze was featured in Delia Smith’s Delia’s Christmas, and customer demand for the free-range bird increased. Derek was awarded an MBE in 1998 for services to the fresh farm poultry industry. In 2001, they were chosen by Prince Charles to supply Christmas turkeys to his Duchy Originals range, and in 2011 the KellyBronze was the first turkey to receive three gold stars at the Great Taste Awards.

      Graham Wylie CBE - Founder of Sage (Computing Science & Statistics 1980, Honorary Degree DCL 2004)

      Graham co-founded Sage in 1981, one of the UK’s largest home-grown software company, having programmed the original Sage Accounting software whilst still at university. When he retired from the company in 2003, The Sage Group Plc employed 6,000 people, had 3,000,000 customers, revenues of £560m, profits of £151m and a market capitalisation of £2.5b. After Sage, Graham invested in the Technology Services Group (TSG), a new IT business. His contribution to the North East region has been acknowledged by the awards of honorary doctorates at both Newcastle and Northumbria University, as well as being awarded with a CBE.

      Phil Beahon - Co-founder of sportswear brand Castore and eCommerce entrepreneur (LLB 2014)

      Phil is a co-founder, with his brother Tom, of the premium sportswear brand Castore. Before University, Phil had a brief career as a professional cricketer and his brother is a former professional footballer. Producing sportswear with a five-year guarantee and selling mainly through their own website, Castore is now sold in over 50 countries and has raised over £5.5m to date from major investors, including from New Look founder Tom Singh. In 2018, he was named as one of the Forbes 30 Under 30 for Retail and eCommerce in Europe and also announced that they had signed Andy Murray to represent the brand.

      Government, Law and Politics

      Alexander John Gosse Downer - Former Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (BA Politics & Economics 1974, Hon DCL 2001)

      Alexander is the former Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and the longest-serving Foreign Minister of Australia. He was elected to the federal Parliament in 1984 as Liberal member for Mayo and held this seat until his resignation from Parliament in 2008. He was Leader of the Opposition for eight months from 1994 to 1995. Previously, he served as the Executive Director of the Australian Chamber of Commerce. He also worked as an adviser to the Liberal Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, and subsequent Leader of the Federal Opposition, Andrew Peacock.

      Dr Ali Mohamed Shein - 7th President of Zanzibar (PhD Clinical Biochemistry and Metabolic Medicine 1989)

      Ali’s political career in Zanzibar began in 1995, when he was elected member of the House of Representatives and made Deputy Minister of Health. He later won the Mkanyageni constituency in general elections held in November 2000 before being appointed as Minister of State and later Vice President of Zanzibar in 2001. In 2010 he was nominated by the CCM (Chama Cha Mapinduzi) party as the presidential candidate and was sworn in President of Zanzibar and Chairman of the Revolutionary Council on 3rd November 2010. From an early age, Ali has been a conscientious social activist and nationalist."

      Lisa Nandy MP - British Labour Party politician (BA Hons Politics 2001)

      Lisa is a British Labour Party politician. She has been the Member of Parliament for Wigan since 2010, having served under Jeremy Corbyn as Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change from September 2015 until June 2016. Preceding this, she had served as Shadow Minister for Children and then Shadow Minister for Charities. Since being elected Lisa has campaigned in Parliament to tackle child abuse, to save the Education Maintenance Allowance and against human rights abuses in Palestine. She has fought against low pay and zero hours contracts and campaigned against growing poverty in Wigan and across the country.

      The Honourable Mr Justice Matthew Nicklin - Justice of the High Court (LLB 1992)

      Matthew was appointed a Justice of the High Court, assigned to the Queen’s Bench Division, in October 2017. Before appointment, he was a barrister and media law specialist, and former Joint Head of Chambers at 5RB. After graduating, he was called to the Bar by Lincoln’s Inn in October 1993 and was awarded a Pegasus Scholarship by the Inns of Court in 1998 to undertake a placement in Sydney, Australia with King Wood Mallesons. Matthew was a barrister member of the Board of the Bar Standards Board from 2008 to 2013. He was appointed a Recorder in 2009, a QC in 2013 and a Deputy High Court Judge in 2017. Matthew is still actively involved with the Law School and is a member of the School’s Advisory Board.

      Virginia Gamba - United Nations (UN) Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict (BA in Spanish & Latin American Studies 1974)

      Virginia is an Under-Secretary-General serving as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict at the UN. She was appointed in 2017 and has over 30 years of experience in working on issues related to disarmament, peace and human security. She is also an academic, having taught at American and Maryland Universities in the United States and King’s College London, where she was a lecturer on Latin American Security Studies. In 1995, she shared the Nobel Peace Prize as a formal member of the Pugwash Executive Council, an international organisation that works towards reducing the danger of nuclear proliferation and global security threats.

      Professor Zaini Ujang - Academic administrator and environmental engineer (MSc Environmental Engineering 1991, PhD Environmental Engineering 1996)

      Zaini is currently Secretary-General of the Malaysian Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry. As Secretary-General of the Malaysian Higher Education Ministry, he oversaw the creation of the 2015-2025 Education Development Plan (Higher Education). He started his academic career at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) in 1988 and went on to serve as Vice-Chancellor from 2008 to 2013. When he was appointed, he was the youngest ever person to head a public university in Malaysia. In 2009, he received the Merdeka Award, the highest public recognition in Malaysia, for his academic and professional contribution.

      Journalism

      Anna Jones - Founder of AllBright and former CEO of Hearst Magazines UK (BA International Business Management 1997)

      In 2000, Anna took on a managerial position in marketing at Emap, where she helped to launch Grazia magazine. From there she joined Hachette Filipacchi as Marketing Director, before becoming its Digital Director in 2008. Anna was appointed COO of Hearst Magazines UK in September 2011, when Hachette merged with Nat Mags as part of US publisher Hearst’s €651m acquisition of Lagardère’s international magazine business. In 2014, she was promoted to CEO. She stepped down from Hearst in 2017 to form AllBright, a funding platform and academy for female-led businesses.

      Charlie Webster - Broadcaster and Women's Rights campaigner (BA English Language and Linguistics 2004)

      Charlie has presented football, boxing and motor racing for Sky, BBC, and ITV, as well as appearing on shows such as This Morning, Good Morning Britain, The Wright Stuff and This Week. She has also hosted the World's Strongest Man for Channel 5. She is a passionate and outspoken women’s rights campaigner, specifically on sexual and domestic abuse, and in 2014 was appointed to a Ministry of Justice Victim’s Panel, to advise ministers on how to improve the criminal justice system. She is also a special ambassador for Malaria No More UK, after falling ill with the disease in 2016.

      Damian Johnson - Face and voice of football on BBC Television (BA Combined Studies 1984)

      Damian is a familiar face and voice of football on BBC Television. He has covered the English Premier League since its formation in 1992, and reported from three World Cup tournaments, three European Championships and six Africa Cup of Nations tournaments. In that time, he has interviewed the biggest names in the sport. He began his broadcasting career at Radio Hallam in Sheffield and BBC regional news show Look North. In 1998, he joined BBC Sport, becoming a regular contributor to Football Focus, Match of the Day and Final Score. He covered his first World Cup for the BBC in Japan and Korea in 2002.

      Ed Stafford - Explorer, author and television presenter (BSc Geography 1997)

      In 2010, Ed became the first person to walk the entire length of the Amazon River, from the source to the sea, taking 860 days. In 2011, he was named European Adventurer of the Year and awarded the Mungo Park Medal by the Royal Scottish Geographic Society. His television career began in 2011 when the footage he recorded during his Amazon expedition was made in to a Channel 5 documentary, Walking the Amazon. In 2012, Naked and Marooned saw him push his limits even further, spending 60 days alone on an island. His most recent show, Ed Stafford: First Man Out aired on the Discovery Channel in 2019.

      Kate Adie CBE - Journalist (BA Scandinavian Studies 1967, Hon MA 1990)

      Kate proved her worth on national television when asked to cover the London Iranian Embassy siege for the BBC. From then came an illustrious and adventurous career reporting stories from some of the late 20th Century’s major international crises, including The Falklands, Libya, The Gulf War and Bosnia. She won several news awards, including two Monte Carlo International TV News Awards, three RTS News Awards and 2 BAFTAs. In 1990, she received an Honorary MA from Newcastle University and is a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Kate stepped back from front-line reporting in 2003.

      Music

      Bryan Ferry CBE - Singer songwriter (BA Fine Art 1968, Hon DMus 2014)

      Four years after graduating, Bryan’s band Roxy Music emerged and became one of the most influential bands of the 1970s. They produced eight classic albums, including For Your Pleasure and Avalon, and their legacy on popular music is still being heard today. As a solo artist he has released a number of critically acclaimed and highly influential albums, from These Foolish Things in 1973, to 2018’s Bitter-Sweet. In 2011, he was awarded the CBE and the French Government made him an Officer of the Legion of Honour in the Order of Arts and Letters. In 2014, Bryan received an Honorary Doctor of Music degree from Newcastle University.

      John Peter Wilkinson (Wilko Johnson) - British singer, guitarist, songwriter and actor (BA Arts 1970)

      Wilko was a member of the pub rock/rhythm and blues band Dr. Feelgood in the 1970s. In 1976, the band reached number 1 with their live album Stupidity. Wilko’s finger-style, chop-chord strumming action, gave a fluency and a distinctive sound, and his influence was felt in bands up and down the country, and later in the emergent punk revolution. Wilko joined Ian Dury’s band The Blockheads, in 1980. His career took a twist in 2010, when he was offered an acting part in the hit series Game of Thrones, playing the role of mute executioner Ilyn Payne.

      Anthony Michaels-Moore - British opera singer and Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition winner (BA Combined Honours 1978)

      Anthony is a Grammy-nominated baritone and the first British winner of the prestigious Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition (1985). His career has been focused on the Italian repertoire. He’s a specialist in Verdi and Puccini roles and is best known for his portrayals that include Falstaff, Nabucco, Rigoletto, Simon Boccanegra, Iago in Otello and Germont in La traviata. In 1995, he received the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award, the highest award in the UK for live classical music making.

      Paul Smith - Musician (BA Combined Honours 2001, MA The Americas 2002)

      Paul joined the band Maximo Park in 2003 with fellow Newcastle graduates Archis Tiku, Lukas Wooller and Tom English. Their debut album A Certain Trigger was released in 2005 on Warp Records. It sold over 300,000 copies and was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. They have since released five more Top 20 albums, most recently 2017’s Risk to Exist. Away from the band, Paul has collaborated with poet Lavinia Greenlaw, as well as composing a 26-minute a cappella piece of music for Great North Run Culture. He also released his debut solo album Margins in 2010 alongside a photographic book, Thinking in Pictures.

      Science and Technology

      Dr Adetokunbo (Ade) Lucas O.F.R - Global health leader for Africa (MBBS 1956, MD 1964, Hon DSc 2000)

      Adetokunbo has worked tirelessly to put health research for developing countries on the international agenda. He directed the Tropical Diseases Programme of the World Health Organisation for 10 years. His work and research has been recognised through numerous academic accolades including the Harvard Medal, the Mary Kingsley Medal of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, the Honorary Fellowship of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the Harvard School of Public Health Alumni Award of Merit. He is also the recipient of both the annual Prince Mahidol Award in 1999 and the 2013 Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Humanitarian Award from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID).

      Professor Sir Alexander Halliday - Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University (BSc Geology 1973, PhD Physics 1977)

      Alexander is a world-leading scientist specialising in the development of mass spectrometry techniques and its applications to the Earth and planetary sciences. He is currently Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute. Previously, he spent 14 years at the University of Oxford serving as Professor of Geochemistry and Head of the Division of Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences. He has been awarded the Murchison Medal of the Geological Society, the Bowen Award and Hess Medal of the American Geophysical Union, the Urey Medal of the European Association of Geochemistry and the Oxburgh Medal of the Institute of Measurement and Control. In 2019, Alexander was knighted for services to science and innovation.

      Professor Dave Singh - President and Chief Medical Officer, Vivos Therapeutics, Inc (BDS Dental Surgery 1983)

      Dave is a pioneer in the emerging field of pneumopedics and craniofacial epigenetics, the study of external or environmental modifications to DNA that affect how and when the body’s cells ""read"" their accompanying genes. His years of research and clinical testing have yielded several breakthroughs in treating the condition of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a sleep disorder which causes breathing to repeatedly stop and start during sleep. In 2016, he formed Vivos Therapeutics and developed a new model for OSA treatment. He is also a member of the World Sleep Society and on the Board of the American Sleep and Breathing Academy.

      Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith - Astrophysicist, television presenter and Women in STEM ambassador (MPhys Astronomy and Astrophysics 2002)

      Lisa is an astrophysicist, Australia’s first Women in STEM Ambassador and a Professor at the University of New South Wales. She is also a presenter on the popular Australian television show Stargazing Live. Formerly, Lisa was the project scientist for the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder telescope, and led a group of 30 scientists at Australia's radio telescope national facility. She was named in the Sydney Morning Herald's 100 Most Influential People in 2012 and the newspaper’s Who Mattered 2019 list. She won both the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Chairman's medal and the Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Australian Science Research in 2017.

      Dr Rashida Karmali - Founder, CEO and President of Tactical Therapeutics (PhD Biochemistry 1976)

      Rashida is the Founder, CEO and President of Tactical Therapeutics, a clinical stage biotechnology company which is developing patented cancer drugs. The lead drug is in clinical trials in patients with glioblastomas. After earning her PhD, she studied on the role of eicosanoids in cancer immunotherapy and autoimmune diseases at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York City, and then at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Her experience includes an extensive cancer research program described in more than 100 publications and she was featured on the cover of Cancer Research in December 1997. She was awarded the Life Time Achievement Award by Marquis Who’s Who in 2017.

      Sports

      Ben Mercer - Former professional rugby player, now writer and digital creator (BA English Literature 2009)

      Ben played for Newcastle University First XV as a fresher and later captained the team. He combined University life with rugby for the Falcons Academy and Blaydon RFC, earning a professional contract with Plymouth Albion after his studies. Ben's rugby career took him to Australia, the UK and finally France, where he helped Rouen gain promotion in his time as Vice-Captain. Exchanging his boots for a pen, he's written a book entitled Fringes - Life on the Edge of Professional Rugby, which depicts the life of a professional sportsperson away from the elite competition. He now writes and manages various digital products.

      Bryony Balen - Youngest Briton to reach the South Pole from the Hercules Inlet (BSc Geography 2013)

      In January 2012, Bryony became the youngest Briton to reach the South Pole from the Hercules Inlet, having turned 21 on the 21st of December 2011. The incredible trek took 56 days and a total distance of 1135km (705 miles) over the coldest environment on the planet. Bryony took a year out from her degree to focus on a fierce training regime and prepare herself mentally and physically for the challenge.

      Ed Coode MBE - Former British rower, twice World Champion and Olympic Gold medallist (BSc Marine Biology 1997)

      During Ed’s time at Newcastle, he represented the University Boat Club and set up the annual Newcastle vs Durham Boat race. Seven years later, he stood on the podium in Athens at the 2004 Olympics, having won a gold medal for Great Britain in the coxless fours rowing. Ed won his first World Championship in 1999 and represented Great Britain in coxless pair at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Since retiring from rowing, Ed has qualified as a solicitor. He has maintained his interest in Marine Biology, recently becoming a trustee of the National Lobster Hatchery.

      Geoff Parling - Former international rugby union player and now Coach at Melbourne Rebels, Australia (BA Economics and Business Management 2005)

      Geoff made his professional rugby player debut in the 2005/6 season and since then has made more than 200 premiership appearances playing for the Falcons, Leicester Tigers and Exeter Chiefs. He won the premiership with Leicester in 2010 and 2013, and again with Exeter in 2017. Geoff retired as a player at the end of 2018, taking on a full-time role as forwards coach at Melbourne Rebels in Australia. He made his full international debut in the 2012 Six Nations and went on to make 29 appearances. He was also selected for the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour to Australia, playing in all three tests.

      Olly Hicks - World record-breaking adventurer, endurance athlete and motivational speaker (BSc Countryside Management 2001)

      Olly is a motivational speaker and triple world record holder for maritime expeditions. He gives inspirational and empowering talks about these expeditions and has spoken in over 10 countries to organisations including Google, TEDx, The International Space Station and The Royal Geographical society. He is best known for being the only person to have rowed solo from America to England and the youngest to row any ocean solo. He is also the only person to have rowed from Tasmania to New Zealand. In 2016, he led the Greenland to Scotland Kayak Challenge in a bid to prove the Inuit may have reached Europe in the 17th century.

      Susannah Rodgers MBE - Former British Paralympic Swimmer (BA Modern Languages 2005)

      Susannah was a member of the British Para Swimming World Class Podium programme from 2011 to 2016 and has competed at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. During her career she has won a total of 30 international medals, including 17 Gold medals. She has held European and British records in the 50m Butterfly and 400m freestyle (S7 category). Susannah announced her retirement from swimming in May 2017. She is a Trustee for the London 2012 Legacy programme Spirit of 2012, and Non-Executive Director on the Board of the British Athletes Commission as well as the GLL Sport Foundation. She is Patron for London Disability Swimming Club and Ambassador for the GLL Greenwich Starting Blocks programme and was awarded the Freedom of the City of London in 2013, and an MBE in 2017.

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