It’s a momentous occasion finishing your university studies but, thanks to COVID-19, many graduates have missed out on the opportunity to attend a graduation ceremony.
However, today more than 1550 people from the University of Newcastle donned their gowns and caps to mark their achievements.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky said it was a wonderful opportunity for students, a combination of people from the 2019 and 2020 cohorts, to reflect on their years at the uni.
One of the students who was honoured this morning was Kieran Molnar.
He finished a double degree in Computer Systems Engineering and Computer Science last year.
Kieran said his graduation was very exciting.
“It was exhilarating because it marks the end of my degree and means I am stepping into what’s next,” he explained.
“It was a really nice atmosphere, the pandemic meant we couldn’t go on stage and had to sit down with our families but I think it symbolised the togetherness the uni tries to foster.”
Prior to starting his degree Kieran dreamt of becoming a doctor to help find a cure for cancer but found his talents in computers and gadgetry.
While he followed that path, he still held onto the goal of making a medical breakthrough.
During his studies he met a researcher who was interested in the human vestibular system – the system that controls balance and coordination.
The equipment used to test this system is incredibly expensive, so Kieran, alongside his supervisor, identified a need for innovation and had a breakthrough.
He produced a working alternative to the existing medical equipment using much cheaper alternatives.
Kieran says he had no idea his degree would lead to where he is now.
“When I started, I just chose something I was good at but now being able to see that path forward is incredible, it’s completely different to what I thought it was going to be,” he said.
With an eye on the future, the 26-year-old says he is keen to have a bit of break before continuing on with his research.
“I am really grateful for what the uni has done for me,” Kieran said.
“The university staff go far beyond what they need to do to help the students.”
He adds that learning through the pandemic had both positives and negatives.
“There were good parts and bad parts,” Kieran said.
“No face-to-face teaching was a huge loss because it is so important but the uni tried to make up for it in other ways.
“They did something great when they increased group work.
“They encouraged us to work together which was great for decreasing our social isolation but it is also wonderful for employability.”
More students will also graduate next week with eight ceremonies to be staged across three days, today (Friday 9 April), Tuesday and Wednesday, 13 and 14 April.