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Urban Scholars alumni stories

Alumni are the graduates of the programme, and this page is designed to help you share your own stories and tell each other what happened next, as you progress through the programme and move on in life.


Bill Cai - Fellow for the Royal Society of Arts

The Urban Scholars Programme has helped me to set a clear view about my future, taught me the skills to plan for the future, to have ambition and goals in life, and has given me the skills to achieve them. 

Becoming a Fellow for the Royal Society of Arts is a great honor, and was a great surprise, as I was only 23 years old. Over the years I worked in many companies covering fields from culture exchange to higher education.

The main reasons for why I was made a Fellow for the RSA was because of the impact and contribution of my work for the British and Chinese government in promoting culture exchange, and also being the youngest lecturer in UK higher education in the sector for Architecture at the time.

But tracing back to where all these started, it was in a classroom at Urban Scholars, sitting in a university when I was 12 years old, listening to professors and successful business individuals lecturing us about the future, setting goals, and learning all the necessary skills.

It was because of Urban Scholars Programme that started to plan for my future, the programme gave me great credibility that gave me a pass into the culture exchange industry. My career started because of this first job. It has lead me to work closely with the British and Chinese government, and I even met Her Majesty The Queen on one work occasion. The programme made me realise how important education is, especially for young people. That is why now I am working as a lecturer in a London based university, hoping to help and guide young people and change their futures.

Samuel Gulaidi Breen - Undertaking further study and research in molecular biophysics

I am currently a postgraduate research student on the Molecular Biophysics MRes at Kings College London. My project couples atomic force nanoscopy and fluorescence microscopy to elucidate information about cellular nanobiomechanics, and nuclear mechanotransduction through the LINC complex in human cell lines.

I obtained my BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry at University of East Anglia, where I worked on a research project in which I studied the protein-protein interactions of a membrane bound multi-heme cytochrome known as CymA. This protein is a molecular wire that acts as the hub for all the anaerobic respiratory pathways Shewenella Oneidensis MR-1.

This year I will begin my PhD studentship at the prestigious Francis Crick Institute. My PhD project is on the folding and unfolding pathways of individual membrane proteins in a lipid bilayer studied using single molecule force techniques. Understanding the physical processes by which proteins fold is of great importance in biomedical sciences.

I was lucky enough to be enrolled on the Urban Scholars Programme for six years. The key messages of the programme still come into fruition today. It has helped to improve my confidence, provided me with the skills to think critically, and was key in my engagement with higher education and academic achievement. In particular, the Urban Scholars Programme helped me overcome a fear of failure and helped in the instalment of my motivation to succeed. Key messages such as never being afraid to ask for help, are still just as useful to me today, as they were in secondary school.

John Tate - Inspired to work in the financial sector after an internship at Moody's

The Brunel Urban Scholars Programme has not only opened many doors, it also provided the life skills to utilise such opportunities. No case can be more clearly seen with the Moody's internship I undertook. The broad-ranging workshops at Brunel gave valuable insights to help seize the opportunity to intern in the UK and Ireland Banking team, the value of which is still accruing at university. Experiencing the challenging and interesting work involved in credit ratings has inspired me to work in the financial sector, and quite possibly at Moody’s.

Tycjan Jaworski - Now studying at Brunel University London

I attended the Brunel Urban Scholars Programme as a scholar for four years and have now been a student ambassador for one year. I’m currently studying Computer Science at Brunel University and hope to go on to become a Games Designer.

I‘ve seen first-hand how the programme can positively impact on young people, having been a part of it both as a student and an ambassador. It’s a great way to engage with and motivate students and because of this, I’ll support the programme for as long as it is around.

I remember winning an award at the end of my first year as a scholar on the programme for a presentation that I’d given to the parents of the scholars. Having never considered myself a great presenter, this experience taught me that I can be successful in any endeavour as long as I applied myself fully.

Scholars are encouraged to look to the future and ask themselves not only where they want to be in ten years time, but also how they are going to get there. This is very useful. We all dream about where we want to be in the future but the only way to make those dreams a reality is to visualize the steps we have to take and then proceed to taking them. The speakers that come in are a big part of what makes the programme special. They not only educate, but motivate and inspire the audience. I cherish many of the lessons learned from some of the amazing people I got to meet because of this programme.

Joshua Maguire - From an Urban Scholars student to a programme ambassador

I attended the Brunel Urban Scholars Programme for four years as a scholar, and I've worked as a Brunel undergraduate ambassador for two years. I’m currently studying Psychology and hope to go on to become a Social Science Lecturer.

I'm going into my 7th year now, because I've always enjoyed it and believed in what it's about. It does get the kids to think more about their future and it raises their aspirations as well as motivating and giving them confidence to speak out and hopefully go on to study at university like I have. I have a few special memories of my time as a scholar, including winning Target Mars and two different presentations. One was in my first year on the history of video games, which me and my group put a lot of effort and thought into. The other was on the last day of the programme, our graduation, which my friend and I did together. In both cases I enjoyed the experience. Although it was hard I came out feeling great and knowing I’d done well.

It’s worthwhile because scholars are more motivated. Some of them get themselves to the campus on a Saturday morning, others come by coach. But they all choose to come and that's what makes the difference – because they are choosing to be ready to learn and they open up to the lessons. We can see how they improve from feedback forms but also in the way some of them act and present themselves, giving talks and making presentations that they wouldn't have done at the start.

The key elements are the fun activities which are all highly educational, but disguised as games, and get scholars learning and enjoying it at the same time. It’s the right blend of different curriculum subjects and fun activities. The days are short enough that it doesn't drag or lose focus, but long enough that a few different sessions can be done in a day.