Double celebration as graduates win UK academic prizes
UHI Inverness is celebrating a double success after two of its recent graduates won separate national prizes from prestigious institutions for their academic papers.
Stephanie McKenna’s final-year dissertation on the psychological impact of wild swimming has won The Jonathan Sime Award from the University of Surrey. The annual prize is for the best UK undergraduate dissertation in people-environment studies and Stephanie, a BSc (Hons) Psychology graduate, is the first winner from a Scottish university.
Jeniffer Simpson’s literature review on the dental benefits of drinking green tea has won the New Communicator Award for Undergraduates from the British Dental Industry Association/British Dental Editors and Writers Forum (BDIA/BDEWF).
Professor Chris O’Neil, Principal and Chief Executive of UHI Inverness, said: “Our warm congratulations go to both Stephanie and Jeniffer. We are so proud that the papers they wrote as part of their studies at UHI Inverness have been judged by prestigious British institutions as being the best. Their awards say a great deal about the exceptional academic abilities of our students and the high quality of the teaching at UHI Inverness.”
Stephanie’s dissertation, entitled An Interpretation of Wild Swimming in the Scottish Highlands: the Relationship Between Flow, the Therapeutic Landscape and Wellbeing, explored the potential of wild swimming to prevent further deterioration of public wellbeing. She interviewed seven wild swimmers in Lochaber aged between 24 and 56 and analysed the data.
Stephanie (22) from Fort William said: "I'm incredibly delighted to be the 2022 recipient of the Jonathan Sime Award, and the first from a Scottish University!
“I'm excited to share my research with a wider audience, conveying the importance of active engagement in nature to improve our health and the health of the places we call home. My dissertation was an eye-opening journey which I thoroughly enjoyed and so I want to thank everyone that supported me throughout the process; my participants, friends, family and staff of UHI Inverness."
Since graduating, Stephanie has been working for The John Muir Trust as a Ben Nevis ranger. She said: “The job has invigorated my passion for the outdoors and inspired me for the future.”
Stephanie’s dissertation tutor, Mari Todd, said: "Highlighting the link between engaging in our natural world and wellbeing benefits is crucial to supporting wellbeing in our communities. This study also helps to develop understanding that nature is not a resource to be used up but rather, is a system of which we are part. This is especially important as we look at ways to address the climate crisis and associated issues in our communities. Stephanie’s findings draw attention to the positive impact engaging in wild swimming has on an individual’s wellbeing through having supportive communities of engagement, developing autonomy and resilience in how participants approach the risks inherent in wild swimming, and developing a deep connection to place and the natural environment.”
The award includes a cash prize, publication in the International Association People and the Environment Society (IAPS) Bulletin, and a presentation at the IAPS Conference.
Professor Birgitta Gatersleben, a member of The Jonathan Sime Award Panel, said: “We had a number of excellent submissions this year. Stephanie’s dissertation stood out because of the very good qualitative analyses and the novel theoretical approach. This is a piece of high-quality qualitative research that provides a novel contribution to the field.”
Jeniffer (42) from Alness studied BSc Oral Health Science at the Centre for Health Science. Her literature review was published in June this year in BDJ Team, one of the journals of the British Dental Association. She had no idea she had been nominated for the award by its editor Kate Quinlan until she was informed that she had won.
Jeniffer said: “I was completely shocked at having won the award considering I didn’t even know I had been nominated. I also didn’t even know there was this type of award out there. Now that I have had time for it to sink in, I am extremely flattered and privileged to receive it, especially as the members of the BDIA/BDEWF are some of the most influential and revered names in dentistry. It has given me a huge confidence boost and a new sense of pride in my research and writing abilities.”
Jeniffer, now a fully qualified dental therapist, wrote and researched the article Does the adjunctive use of green tea improve periodontal indices in patients undergoing non-surgical periodontal treatment? as part of her third-year studies. She decided to focus on the effects of green tea after attending an online seminar on the topic and meeting a patient who had spoken about its benefits.
Jeniffer said: “I am interested in natural remedies and regularly enjoy green tea. The topic just seemed to present itself and I felt that as it was something that had grasped my attention then I would be able to read and write about it without getting distracted.”
Her review concluded that past studies have suggested that green tea can result in improved ‘clinical parameters’ and recommended that further, more comprehensive studies are required to strengthen the evidence base.
Her tutor Dr Guy Jackson said: “This is a superb achievement. Jeniffer’s literature review is a scholarly, finely crafted piece of writing and it is a real honour to be nominated by such a prestigious body, and to win.”
Jeniffer, who won a prize cheque and certificate, was told by careers advisors at school that she was not academic enough to go onto university. After years in office roles following her HND studies, she completed a trainee dental nurse programme and ran her own oral health clinics in Orkney. Jeniffer later studied Higher Human Biology at UHI Inverness and was accepted onto the degree course in 2019. She successfully juggled studying with being a mother to young twins during the pandemic.
Jeniffer said: “Since graduating with distinction, I am using my qualification to work to the full dental therapist remit in a local general dental practice. The course has allowed me to train and qualify as a safe beginner and I am now enhancing my skills and knowledge in working life.”
Chair of the British Dental Editors and Writers Forum, Professor Kenneth Eaton, said: “This year there were eight entrants for the undergraduate award and the three judges all put Jeniffer's paper in first place. I hope Jeniffer has time to develop her research interests as well as her clinical practice.”