21 August 2013 10:47

LEC’s top geography graduate of 2013 says studying at the Lancaster Environment Centre changed his perspective on the world.

The joy of geography is that it is not specialised, according to Michael Nattrass, after winning a prize for gaining this year’s top mark in the subject at Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC).

“My course ranged from glaciers to globalistation, a huge spectrum,” Michael explained. “It opened up my mind to different aspects of what the subject could be about.”

The interdisciplinary nature of LEC, with academics spanning the natural and social scientists, was an aspect of the teaching Michael particularly valued.

“When I did the Amazon module I was taught by a biologist, an ecologist and a geographer, with totally different viewpoints. It gives you an insight into issues from different perspectives.

His favourite modules were about cities, globalisation and urban infrastructure.

“These are subjects I never studied at school.  I did them late on in my course and they both challenged and reinforced what I had already learnt: the familiar was made unfamiliar. It seemed to bring everything I had learnt in my course together.”

Michael’s dissertation, on cycling among the young in his home town of Carlisle, was on a subject he would never have thought he would be interested in when he arrived at LEC. 

“I interviewed local councillors and members of the Green Party as well as conducting focus groups with young people.” 

The highlight of the course for Michael was the New York field trip. “I got to know a lot more people a lot better and it gave me a totally different insight into America than I would get going on holiday.”

So now he has got his first class degree and his prize, what next for Michael? It’s a hard decision when you perform well across the board.

“I’m going to take a gap year, because I didn’t have one before university. I’m going away for a few weeks and when I will come back I’ll probably do some voluntary work,” Michael told Dr Ruth Alcock, head of Business and Enterprise Partnerships at LEC, who awarded Michael his top graduate prize including an £100 Amazon voucher.

Dr Alcock suggested he might like to think about a paid work placement through the Faculty of Science & Technology scheme matching with businesses and organisations wanting help with science-related projects.  There might be an opening working on transport-related issues with our project partners in Paris, that would fit well with his interest in transport and mobility in cities, she said.