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Graduation Week - 2023 cohort reflect on their university highlights and ambitions

"Absolutely amazing module leaders, always pushing us forward... It's very rare to get an opportunity to meet professors when you end up liking all of them"

A group of students in academic caps and gowns, two of them holding bunches of yellow flowers, embrace outside the College BuildingThere was a joyful atmosphere on Hendon campus to match the intense sunshine in the last week of June, as at nine packed ceremonies new graduates were awarded their degrees watched by their loved ones. Graduates from a wide range of programmes across the university reflect on their experiences:

BSc Midwifery graduate Nadia Khenchelaoui passed her degree with flying colours, achieving First Class Honours, despite facing a very difficult situation outside university.

She had started her programme in 2018, but deferred because of personal issues.

Nadia, who has a son, said she suffered from physical and mental abuse and was involved in legal proceedings during her course.

She said: “It was torture waiting for court dates every couple of months [with] the stress of not knowing what the outcome would be. It was also very horrible to keep re-living all that had happened repeatedly. The anxiety of it all was horrendous.

“I was dealing with studying for exams, having to do different things for my course and being a mom all at once.”

A student in her academic cap and gown smiling in front of the College BuildingNadia, who has now moved back to Ireland, said the experience has “made her stronger” and praised the help from lecturers and placement staff.

She said: “I was placed in a Trust where the Clinical Practice Facilitators (CPF) went above and beyond to make sure we were ready for exams.

“I gained so much knowledge through both theory and practice - the professionals in both have equipped me for the world of midwifery. I will forever have these skills and use them throughout my career.

“I had such an amazing experience at MDX. I've had amazing support from the lecturers especially Jo Killingley: she has been my rock and I will be forever grateful to her.

“I've also made lifelong friends (Marcella and Judy) who have supported me throughout the whole time and after the degree. My sister Natalie has been the main person, my number one, that has supported me and without her I wouldn't have been able to complete my course.

“I've done it all for my son: my big boy.”

A female student with dreadlocks and glasses, wearing an academic cap and gown, smiles at the cameraMeanwhile, Nadia's coursemate Nicolette Porter has achieved remarkable success having won the Student Midwife of the Year at the 2021 Student Nursing Times Awards.

Nicolette, who is autistic, found time to produce two research papers with Midwifery Lecturer Emilie Edwards and fellow student Sophie Rayner on how the NHS can better understand and help neurodivergent staff and students.

She was accepted for the prestigious Council of Deans of Health's Student Leadership Programme and regularly wrote well-researched articles on a monthly voluntarily basis for the NHS Trust student newsletter called the Hummingbird.

Speaking about her time at MDX, she said: “Although this time coincided with the pandemic and pursuing a healthcare career at such a difficult time, I really enjoyed my time at Middlesex and being around such passionate and like-minded students made me feel like I'd found my place.

“Since graduating I've been working at an East London hospital on labour ward and I'm enjoying applying the theory I've learned throughout this degree into my practice.

“In the future, I hope to do a Master's degree in Women's Health and pursue teaching the next generation of midwives. "

Female student in Graduation cap and gown flanked with academics in academic caps and gownsBEng Computer Systems Engineering graduate Andrea Pereira is the winner of this year's Dr Anita Singhvi Prize for best female engineering student.

Andrea's final year project was a Digital Twin (a digital representation almost indistinguishable in its response to inputs from the real thing) of a communications network.

Using publicly available Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) data, which simulates the technology used by telecoms service provider networks, she deployed machine learning to find anomalies in the network and respond accordingly. She programmed the Digital Twin to reroute automatically on detecting faults.

Andrea says she was initially sceptical about choosing Digital Twin work as it is a very new area. It was also a challenge as it "doesn’t have a lot of context," she says.

"You need to expect you’re going to fail and continue until you get it right" - eventually reaching a "far more advanced solution" than seemed possible at the start.

Andrea's lecturer Dr Huan Nguyen, Director of MDX's pioneering London Digital Twin Research Centre was however "really encouraging and supportive". She now hopes to continue the project beyond her degree using real telecommunications data.

Two rows of students in a classroom at MDX smiling at the cameraOriginally Andrea was keen on studying biomedical engineering and chose computer systems engineering instead as it would give her the freedom to go into different fields, such as aviation, rail or hospitals, and apply solutions there.

She grew up in Dubai and began her studies at another university in India, before electing to transfer to MDX and the UK. Acclimatising herself to different teaching approaches on different continents, and studying during and after the pandemic has been "a journey," she says.

She praises all her lecturers, including "amazing" Dr Ramona Trestian, Associate Professor in Computer Science. "It's very rare to get an opportunity to meet professors when you end up liking all of them," Andrea says. The module leaders "were absolutely amazing – always pushing us forward, getting us ready for industry".

At the start of her second year, when there were still restrictions and hybrid working, "we got Arduino kits and Graduate Academic Assistants assigned to us. It was very encouraging, a very interactive experience – I would recommend MDX to anyone".

She likes the diversity of London and Hendon campus, and the social side has been beneficial too. "London makes you really independent" she says. Whereas in Dubai until recently students weren't allowed to do paid work while studying, in London "I was so excited - I ran for a job!" Andrea says. "I really enjoyed getting my first paycheck". She worked both as a Student Learning Assistant at MDX and independently as a tutor.

While planning to progress to a Masters, before this she intends to get industry experience "to get an idea what I like and what I want to do".

Three students, one with a camera, in a kitchen making a filmGrowing up very dyslexic, BA Film graduate Bilal Bounit has always found it much easier to communicate through visual language. At MDX he made a series of documentaries with a small crew. “I’m interested in real stories and real people, and expressing my ideas in that way", he says.

Bilal's spent his first year, during the pandemic, studying at home, not meeting fellow students. In a flatshare for his second year, he was keen to learn how to cook. One of his projects was a short filmed in the kitchens of shared houses, showing students of different nationalities cooking favourite rice dishes.

Serendipitously poet Dan Simpson saw and was impressed by the film, and subsequently invited Bilal to collaborate on a commission for the London Transport Museum to mark the 200th anniversary of black cabs. The project aimed to address how cab drivers have often been sidelined in accounts of the capital's transport systems.

Bilal followed three cabbies, each talking to a poet about their lives and the state of the world. The poets then create compositions with and about the drivers, performed at the end of the film.

Bilal's final year project, experimental in its cinematography and sound design, continuously shows the view from a train carriage window, with different music coming in and out. The work is about both physical travel and "metaphorical journeys in memory and time" says Bilal - "a really good opportunity to not try and make sense with reality, and for open, expressive feelings and thoughts".

Bilal was drawn to the buzz of London but also liked the leafiness and feel of Hendon campus: "I love the Grove so much" he says. He worked in the Kit Hub and values the quality of AV equipment for hire. His inspirations include documentary makers Casey Neistat and Mark Isaacs.

He admires MDX's Film academics, for their knowledge, experience and how available they make themselves, picking out Film Production lecturer Vesna Lukic. "There’s so many different things they offer you to get into industry. There’s always opportunities to do freelance jobs through uni," he says.

Bilal's most recent MDX project has been working for four weeks as a floor runner for a gangster film by Fugitive Film Productions, alongside 15-20 other MDX students and nine graduates, in a partnership brokered by Senior Lecturer Eddie McCaffery. MDX was the unit base with two set builds on campus, and locations within a 30 minute drive away.

"I got involved in a professional production, around the corner from where I live, and it paid," Bilal says. "I got to make all these contacts and to experience what a professional set looked like. An absolutely perfect experience".

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