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Abbie’s Newcastle University

Abbie is the owner of Cooper King Distillery which she established and runs with her partner, Chris.

She went to Newcastle University from where she graduated with a First Class Honours in her BSc. in Biomedical Science in 2008.

The yin and yang of decisions: art or science?

My first choice of career was medicine, specifically pathology and I’m now a distiller of fine gin! At school, I was excellent at art and science. In everything else I was on average grades, but those were my two strongest subjects. When I asked my science and art teachers for careers advice, my art teacher obviously pushed me for art, saying that I had enough talent and passion to make a go of it, and the science teacher said that science was where the money was and that I’d have a better chance of making a living! My careers teacher told me that I had to choose one or the other – that nothing could bridge the gap – so I chose science. Almost a decade later I discovered the field of medical artistry which does bridge the gap. This would have been perfect, but not even my careers advisor knew art and science could be so beautifully combined!

My art teacher obviously pushed me for art and the science teacher said that science was where the money was and that I’d have a better chance of making a living! My careers teacher told me that I had to choose one or the other – that nothing could bridge the gap – so I chose science. Almost a decade later I discovered the field of medical artistry which does bridge the gap.

After being rejected entry into medical school, I accepted a place on a Biomedical Sciences degree because it was closely related and allowed students to side-step into medicine after the first year. I chose Newcastle because it had a highly rated medicine faculty, and I fell in love with the city when I visited on a university open day.

The chemical attraction: my degree and I

I loved the course and threw my heart and soul into it. I was good at the biology and anatomy-related subjects, but my weakest topics were chemistry and physiology: they were so complicated and in depth, but I loved learning about the process of disease and their treatments. I came out with a first, so I was obviously very dedicated to it!

I had some fantastic lecturers. The physiology lecturer, Dr Tim Cheek, had a real skill for turning an incredibly dull and monotonous topic into an exciting story that would keep us all enthralled for an hour. His lectures were full of drama as he paced back and forth across the lecture theatre, and he had this amazing skill to command a crowd of hung-over, sleepy students straight after lunchtime. So even though the subject matter was rather dull and boring, I really enjoyed his lectures and they always stuck in my mind. Throughout my years of public speaking I try to embody his persona and maintain an on-stage energy to keep my audience engaged.

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