Graduation a milestone for scientific dreams

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

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 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, 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,” he said.

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

“I like investigating how and why things happen and being able to explain it to people, similar to explaining complex IT issues to a boardroom, but in scientific research.

“I’m working as a research assistant at Lismore at the moment and starting my PhD journey next year in natural marine product research and how to create pharmaceuticals and medicines from nature.”

Southern Cross University will also recognise Margot Sweeny, Chief Executive Officer of Summerland Credit Union, with an Honorary Award – 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 an academic and professional staff member.

More than 220 Southern Cross University students will receive their graduation certificates at the Whitebrook Theatre at Lismore campus on September 23, including eight receiving their Doctor of Philosophy award and one Doctor of Business Administration recipient.

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


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