A University of Ulster graduate has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to study at the University of Miami in the United States.
Aaron Kirkpatrick, from Coleraine, will spend a year at the Florida-based institution completing a Masters in Marine Mammal Science.
Graduating top of his class with a First Class Honours degree in Marine Science from Ulster’s School of Environmental Sciences in July 2011, Aaron has always had a passion for sea life.
In 2011 he moved to Vancouver and began volunteering at the Vancouver Aquarium where taught intertidal marine biology to high school students and helped with the rehabilitation of marine mammals at the aquarium’s rescue centre.
Aaron also interned at the world renowned Cetacea Lab in Canada, studying humpback, fin and killer whales while living on the remote Gil Island, off the north coast of British Colombia, for three months.
Professor Adrian Moore, Head of the School of Environment Sciences, said: “This is fantastic news for Aaron. He is the first of our marine science graduates to be awarded this highly-competitive Fulbright research/study grant, which will allow him to pursue marine mammal research. The scholarship is just reward for the time and effort Aaron invested in his studies.”
Aaron said: “I am delighted to be awarded such a prestigious scholarship from the US-UK Fulbright Commission.
“The Fulbright program is one of the most competitive scholarships worldwide and to follow in the footsteps of alumni that includes 43 Nobel Prize winners, 28 heads of state/government, 11 US congress personnel, 78 Pulitzer Prize winners and 1 UN secretary general is a great honour.
“I have the opportunity to pursue a masters degree programme that is not offered anywhere else in the United States and of which only eight people are admitted per year.
“I am extremely excited to begin my masters in marine mammal science and to spend the next year taking classes to further my knowledge and experience in marine mammals.
“Further to this I will take a three month internship during summer with one of the leading marine mammal organisations in the United States with a view to working with cetaceans upon my return to the UK.”