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Nine lives changed by one year …

Physics graduates who studied on the Foundation Year, from back row, left to right: Nicholas Clarke, Terri Mozley, Corrie Lencz, Adam Smith, Nicholas Howlett, Daniel Amos.

A former car mechanic and a call centre worker are among nine physics graduates who will share a very special celebration today (Wednesday 21 July at 2.30pm).

The students - who originally did not hold the right qualifications to study at Sussex - are all graduating with top degrees and unforgettable friendships: something they ascribe to the Foundation Year course they all took as the route to a physics degree at Sussex.

One Graduation guest who is joining them is their former Visiting Lecturer Rodney Jory, a retired Australian physicist, who is taking time out from summer globe-trotting to see his former students graduate.

Dr Jory taught the students on the physics Foundation Year -  a preparation year designed to bring students who want to study physics up to degree standard in the basic science and mathematics required for the course. His teaching methods and interest in their lives earned him the respect and affection of all the students on the course, as did course convenor Dr Lesley Onuora, who oversees the Foundation Year.

The students formed an extraordinarily close bond during their five years of study - and achieved phenomenal successes that have subsequently changed the course of their lives.

All the students had a keen interest in science but had either failed to make the grade in their A-levels or had little or no prior experience of higher education. After five years of hard work, the support of their lecturers and thanks to a remarkable bonding experience, the nine will each graduate with an MPhys degree (higher than an ordinary BSc degree), with a record number going on to top-flight doctoral degrees in physics at Sussex and around the UK.

Daniel Amos, who met his girlfriend Terri Mozley on the course (they are now both heading to the University of Edinburgh to study for doctorates in physics), says: "This course played a pivotal role in all our successes. The closeness we shared meant that we worked hard and supported each other - and enjoyed Friday afternoons together in East Slope bar after lectures - a regular 'fixture' that year!"

Fellow Foundation Year student Nicolas Clarke, 31, worked in a call centre before realizing his dream to study physics. He says: " I loved the Foundation Year course because it gave me the chance to meet like-minded people and make friends - something that will stick with me forever."

Paul Wahnon was working as a car mechanic before he decided to take the plunge and devote himself to science. He says: "Without the top standard of teaching I received, I would never have finished the degree and would have ended up back under the bonnet of a car. I'm now going to do a doctorate in solar cells at Imperial College London. Hopefully I'll contribute to (in a very, very, very small way) solving the world's energy crisis and helping to reduce the UK's dependence on oil.

Last updated: Wednesday, 21 July 2010