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Graduation a milestone for scientific dreams


Jessica Huxley, Southern Cross University media officer
22 September 2017

When University Medallists Justin Leigh-Smith and Peter Butcherine meet for the first time at their Southern Cross University graduation ceremony tomorrow (Saturday Sept 23) they will share a very similar inspiring story.

Several years ago while in their late thirties, both men were looking for a new challenge and enrolled to study science online part-time at Southern Cross University while still working full-time, culminating in each receiving First Class Honours for the Bachelor of Science with Honours.

“I’ve been working full-time in the marine manufacturing industry on the Gold Coast for many years and I’ve always grown up around waterways and the marine environment, so I thought I’d challenge myself and follow my passion and study marine science,” said Justin (pictured), now 42, who last year received the Rowe Scientific Chemistry Honours Scholarship.

“I was sceptical in the beginning, as I was a fairly average student at school, but I applied for the University’s online Bachelor of Marine Science and Management course and was accepted. Now after more than seven years of studying part-time this is such a great recognition of the hard work and sacrifice it has taken. My primary interest is the impact of contaminants on the coastal and marine environment and I am very interested in further pursuing study and work in the field of ecotoxicology.”

Peter Butcherine, 44, originally studied a Bachelor of Science when he left school. He became a school teacher, then worked in the IT industry for more than 20 years.

“Science is something I’ve always loved, even though it has taken me a long time to get back around to what I really wanted to do, it is never too late to start,” he said.

“I took the plunge and enrolled to study online through Southern Cross because I knew I wasn’t using my full potential and I had more to offer. Thankfully my friends and family, especially my wife and three kids, have been very supportive.

“Receiving the University Medal is a great honour and recognition of all the support I have received and also a validation for a lot of hard work. It is good to know that dedication and determination is recognised.

Peter is currently working as a research assistant at the Lismore campus and has plans for further study.

“I hope to start my PhD journey next year focussing on natural marine product research, investigating novel pharmaceuticals and medicines from nature.”

Southern Cross University will also recognise Margot Sweeny, Chief Executive Officer of Summerland Credit Union, with the award of Honorary Doctor of the University. Ms Sweeny was a long-serving previous member of the University Council, chairperson of the University’s Audit Committee and Finance Committee, and a previous staff member.

More than 220 Southern Cross University graduands will receive their awards at two ceremonies in the Whitebrook Theatre at Lismore campus, including eight Doctors of Philosophy awards and one Doctor of Business Administration.

Graduands from Business and Tourism, Law and Justice, SCU College, and Environment, Science and Engineering will graduate at 10am, followed by graduands from Arts and Social Sciences, Education, Health and Human Sciences, and Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples at the 1pm ceremony.