Lewis Drysdale, the new student of the year at the Scottish Association for Marine Science UHI, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, is truly dedicated to the sea.
The former naturalist guide on marine life survey vessels, now studying full-time to become a marine scientist, also devotes much of his time to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) as a member of the Oban crew. He was formerly the deputy coxswain of the Tobermory lifeboat.
He has won the student of the year award at the Scottish Association for Marine Science UHI in Dunstaffnage, near Oban, for his academic prowess on the undergraduate marine science degree course, and his contribution to the student community.
As a mature student, Lewis was uncertain how he would fare in a formal academic setting. His tutors, however, have praised his hard work, ambition and enthusiasm – and said it was clear from the outset that he was going to be exceptional.
Dr Finlo Cottier said: "There is no doubt that when Lewis graduates in a few years’ time he will be a fantastic ambassador for the Scottish Association for Marine Science UHI and will contribute to our strong reputation for marine science education."
Lewis said: "It is a great compliment to receive this award and I would like to thank all the staff members who have given me the opportunity to develop my education and broaden my horizons at SAMS UHI. The degree course has exceeded my expectations and I look forward to what the future brings for the rest of my time here."
Lewis has achieved consistently high grades in his first two years on the degree course, bringing his own experience of the marine environment to class discussions, as well as representing fellow students on the Education Quality Assurance Committee (EQAC), ensuring their voice is heard on a variety of issues affecting the learning experience.
He has also taken part in research activities at SAMS, including a Scottish west coast cruise aboard the UK research vessel RSS James Cook, testing large rock drill and long sediment coring on the north western UK shelf, and archived unique oceanographic records of Atlantic circulation and presented it in poster format.
Education coordinator and marine biology lecturer Shona Magill said: “Lewis is a pleasure to teach as he is always engaged and enquiring in lectures and practical sessions. He has a mature attitude to his studies and has taken every opportunity to get involved in research projects here at SAMS. As a fantastic undergraduate rep on the EQAC Committee, students have come to trust Lewis to take issues and concerns forward. He is a great ambassador for SAMS UHI.”
A fully trained member of the Hyperbaric Treatment Centre at SAMS, contributing to an on-call rota where he may be called upon to help divers suffering from decompression, Lewis has also won praise from Ronnie MacKillop, coxswain of the Oban Lifeboat.
He said: "Lewis joined the RNLI in 2006 and was promoted to deputy coxswain of the Tobermory lifeboat in only 19 months. This is quite exceptional. On moving to Oban to attend SAMS, Lewis immediately requested to continue his volunteering work and we were very happy to have him. We knew very quickly that we had inherited an exceptionally competent crew member. He is a person we know we can rely on at all times and I am always impressed by his ability to remain calm when things are getting difficult.
"Lewis has always found time to keep up his training and involvement at the station, despite what I know is a significant workload at SAMS and I commend him for that supreme effort. We are very fortunate to have him in our ranks."
Lewis has just returned from the Arctic where he took part in the three-week International Polar Year field school, aided with a grant from the University of the Highlands and Islands student development fund.
PS: Lewis went on to win the overall prize as the student of the year 2011 for the entire University of the Highlands and Islands in the first year that it has been awarded university title.