PhD joy for Moray man Malcolm

A Moray man who has battled health issues for more than 20 years has said his university studies proved to be good therapy, as he graduated with a PhD from Robert Gordon University (RGU) yesterday (Tues, Dec 9).

Malcolm ClarkMalcolm Clark (43), from Lossiemouth, collected his doctoral award from RGU at Aberdeen’s Music Hall for his work looking at interactions with structured texts (genres) by conducting user studies with eyetracking.

The former aerospace systems operator was medically discharged from the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1998 due to lumbar back problems and decided to go back into education, starting with a HND at Moray College.

His time at RGU first started in 2002, when he embarked on his undergraduate degree in Computing for Internet and Multimedia. Malcolm, who has suffered from problems with his spine and sciatic nerves since his first lumbar spinal operation in 1994, then went on to complete a postgraduate degree before deciding to take the plunge and start his PhD in 2006.

It has not been an easy journey for Malcolm who was in and out of a wheelchair and on strong pain medication for a number of years, meaning he had to put his studying on hold while he dealt with hospital admissions and a fourth major lumbar spine operation in 2011.

He said: “It was extremely tough to deal with everything that was happening and at times I felt very low, but just kept going with support from my wonderful wife Sam, extended family and the RGU’s counselling service.

“One of the biggest challenges over the years for me has been staying motivated and working from bed when I was immobile and heavily medicated. Overcoming all the problems to achieve what I have thus far is a big highlight.

“I still move about aided by a walking stick but finally got over the finish line of my PhD this year thanks to a great joint supervisory team of Prof. Patrik Holt at RGU and Prof. Ian Ruthven at Strathclyde University.

“The challenge has been fulfilling and therapeutic. It is also worth remembering that no matter how old you are it is never too late to retrain or learn new subjects.”

Malcolm is now looking forward to forging an academic career in research at RGU and added: “I have learnt that to succeed you need a team of people with different skills that can help you achieve your goals and RGU excels at this type of support.

“I have had a huge amount of support during the process and I wouldn’t have succeeded without help from a wide range of people at RGU, to whom I am very grateful.”

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Jenny RushCommunications Officer | Design and Technology