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Top of the tree

Christmas competition highlights the depth and breadth of our alumni community with Gordon Aikman emerging as our seasonal star.

Joseph Black
Joseph Black alumnus and one of the founding fathers of the science of chemistry.

As part of our 2015 email Christmas card we included a chance for alumni to win a hamper of University Gift Shop goodies by nominating an alumni star for the top of the University Christmas tree. Nominations could include historical luminaries, current superstars, or less well known graduates from the past or present.

Past masters

We received over 100 entries who nominated 79 members of our alumni community.

Notable names from history who received multiple nominations including naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin, physician, philosopher David Hume, author Arthur Conan Doyle, athlete Eric Liddell and chemist Joseph Black.

Because he managed to combine great discoveries (CO2 is still in the news every day...) with a gift for getting the public excited about science - he'd have his own TV series if he were alive today!

Nomination for Joseph Black.

Inspiring women

Women in science also emerged as a theme linking several submissions including nominations for Professor Lesley Yellowlees, Vice Principal and Head of the College of Science and Engineering and the first female president of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and Professor Lorna Dawson, Head of the Soil Forensics Group at the Hutton Institute.

She is a great role model for women in science, graduated from Edinburgh in geography in 1979. Working both as a programme advisor to the Scottish governments strategic research programme as well as being a leading world forensic geoscientist, she demonstrates great skill in overseeing research and practice and being able to carry out effective interdisciplinary  team work, with lawyers, police practitioners and policy makers.

Nomination for Professor Lorna Dawson.

Stars for the future

Established figures formed the bulk of the nominations but youth was not entirely absent with several more recent graduates put forward. Names for the future include Holly Maltby, founder and co-director of Rootmap - an illustrated map of Edinburgh, featuring places to buy and eat food that is local and sustainable, and linguistics graduate and photographer Michael Vince Kim who was recently selected for Magnum’s ‘30 Under 30’ award.

Final decision

Gordon Aikman
Gordon Aikman alumnus and MND Campaigner.

After lengthy deliberations it has been decided that Gordon Aikman, nominated by both Duncan Hothersall and Christopher Nankervis, should be honored as this year’s alumni star.

Gordon, who was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in 2014, has raised over £400,000 for MND research through his campaign, Gordon’s Fightback and has successfully lobbied the First Minister to publicly fund and double the number of specialist MND nurses across Scotland.

Gordon received an Honorary Degree from the University in July last year and was recognised in the Queen's birthday honours with a British Empire Medal for services to Motor Neurone Disease awareness and research.

My friend Gordon has met adversity with not just courage but a bare, honest goodness which has turned his terminal diagnosis into an immense force for good in the world. I am so unbelievably proud to know him.

Duncan Hothersall

Related links

Gordon’s Fightback

Notable alumni

Alumni profiles