Orkney student triumphs over adversity to graduate with distinction

A young student from Westray in Orkney has proven resilient in the face of a major challenge to graduate with a Masters in Engineering.

Gaius and Gillian Bews - Mechanical Engineering 325 x 488Gaius Bews (23) has excelled in his Masters while helping to care for his wife, who was diagnosed with kidney cancer and subsequently had an operation to remove both her kidney and the tumour.

Gaius, graduated from Robert Gordon University’s (RGU) School of Engineering with a MEng in Mechanical Engineering with distinction on July 14, at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen.

The aspiring engineer had garnered an interest in mechanics while helping out on his family farm and decided to pursue this interest and expand on his skills at RGU.

“I’ve always been interested in mechanical machinery and was getting a large amount of exposure to hands on mechanics and fabrication on the family farm,” he said.

“Experiencing this ‘less precise’ form of engineering made me want to develop on my abilities and understanding about the theoretical reasons behind why materials are used and components are designed  the way they are.

“I had a strong interest in mechanics and how things worked and there is no more relevant degree to those interests than mechanical engineering. Being raised on a farm exposed me to machinery and fabrication from a very young age. This exposure really fuelled my interest as I grew up and became increasingly more involved in operating and repairing machinery; as well as giving me the opportunity to fabricate and weld across various applications.”

Gaius, who went to Kirkwall Grammar School, has had to deal with more than most during his studies but the challenges which he has encountered in helping to deal with his wife’s illness have given him a very positive and humble outlook on his experience. 

“I’m very pleased with what I’ve achieved. To come from the modest, small island beginnings to qualify with my degree does give a strong feeling of achievement.

“Although I am delighted with my achievement, life events across my final year of study caused a real change in my perspectives regarding my final result. In early December 2016 my wife was diagnosed with kidney cancer and consequently had an operation, later that month, to remove both her kidney and the tumour. The period since then, right up until the present, has been spent helping her recover and returning to a more normal form of living.

“This masters year has been very challenging - trying to juggle my final studies with caring for my wife.

“However, through the support of close family and friends, as well as an increasing reliance on God, we managed to come through it and have become stronger and more resilient because of it.

“It’s not an experience I’d ever wish anyone to go through; however, if you are in this situation then you must be willing to allow people into your life to support and help you throughout. The final grade you get is fairly irrelevant when you, or someone close to you goes through something serious like that and so it should be. It’s only an award. There will always be an alternative option; whether that be resitting the year or choosing a different career path. Provided you have a good work ethic, you will always get opportunities and therefore it’s much more important to prioritise recovering from your illness than getting your desired degree grade.”

Gaius cites the hands on Land Yacht project – a competition between teams of engineering students to design, build and their machines on land – as one of the stand out experiences from his time at RGU.

“The most enjoyable aspect of the course for me was the 3rd year group project module in which we had to design and build a land yacht to race against groups of our peers. This is a particular highlight because we were able to practically apply our learning and get really hands on in the building of the craft. It made what we had been learning come alive to a much greater extent than any other module we completed.”

And for the young graduate, the future is wide open as he looks to new challenges in the industry.

“I want to remain in touch with the energy sector if possible and get an engineering job which is both challenging and enjoyable. I want to continue to develop and challenge myself and I aspire to become a highly competent chartered engineer.”


Release by Rob Smith
Communications Officer | Design and Technology
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