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The Robert Thurston-Hopkins Award

The first of our Centenary prizes for academic work at Brighton University was awarded at the main University-wide graduation ceremony on Friday 28 July 2023 at the Brighton Centre. The Robert Thurston-Hopkins award for the highest achieving BSc/BA student in the Department of Geography, Earth & Environment, was awarded to Elizabeth-Jane Pallett (Lizzie).

Lizzie Pallet

Lizzie also won the BSc Environmental Sciences Prize. In her studies, she specialised in extinct volcanoes in Wales.  She plans to use our £500 prize to help fund her spending next year in Japan, learning the language.  She’ll follow that by studying for an MSc in Japan the following year, not surprisingly specialising in active volcanoes in that country.   

David Green and Paul Wilkinson, accompanied by Joanna Thurston Hopkins (granddaughter of the Society’s founder), attended the graduation ceremony.

The Robert Thurston-Hopkins award
David Green, Dr Kirsty Smallbone (Dean of the School of Applied Sciences at Brighton Uni), Lizzie Pallett (winner of the Robert Thurston Hopkins award), Joanna Thurston Hopkins, Paul Wilkinson

Lizzie told us a bit about herself:

FSD: Where did you grow up?

Lizzie: I grew up in North Cornwall, in a little village in a valley, and I was always surrounded by nature throughout my childhood. I loved being in the countryside, but it was hard to find work here that I was truly passionate about.

FSD: What made you realise you wanted to study geology?

Lizzie: I had always been interested in Japan for the language and culture, and in 2020 just before COVID struck, I took a six-week trip out there by myself to learn the language. I had never felt like I belonged somewhere more, being surrounded by the amazing mountains in such a geologically fascinating part of the world, in addition to the humble and hard-working citizens there. After having to return home in April just as COVID was hitting and I had to evacuate the country, I knew I had to go to university so I could return to Japan qualified to live and work there. I applied to the only university I wanted to study at – Brighton!

FSD: Why did you decide on Brighton Uni?

Lizzie: I had fond memories visiting Brighton as a child with my family, and I knew that coming from the countryside I would enjoy what Brighton has to offer – the beautiful Downs and the chalk cliffs, and the cosy coastal city that feels familiar without being too daunting (like London for example!) I knew I wanted to study something environmental after I had made a speech at a local council meeting to support renewable energy projects in our local area, as I remember feeling really passionate about it and that I might make a difference, but it wasn’t until I started my BSc Environmental Sciences course that I became fascinated with geology – particularly igneous rocks and volcanoes. So, though geology wasn’t a huge focus of my course, I decided to write my dissertation on the subject so that I could find out more. Despite the huge challenge it was to pursue an unknown subject as a year-long independent project (with the assistance of my fab supervisors Dr Laura Evenstar and Dr Jake Ciborowski), I was still motivated to finish it to the best of my ability. I knew I was passionate about the subject! I really hope to be able to start a career in geology in Japan (or Iceland – another very geologically fascinating country). I will be leaving to study Japanese in Hokkaido for three months from September and job hunting while I’m there.

FSD: You were surrounded by the South Downs landscape for much of your Uni life. What is your relationship with the Downs?

Lizzie: Throughout my university experience, I frequently took hikes into the Downs to wind down from studying and escape the city life – even lovely Brighton could be a bit overwhelming to a country girl like me. So, it was a great comfort to be able to get away from the traffic and energy of the city and traverse the rolling hills of the Downs. Visiting Devils Dyke, Ditchling Beacon and taking long late-night hikes to the Chattri Memorial are all great memories I have with the Downs, and I feel very lucky to have been able to study my degree amidst such a beautiful landscape.

Elizabeth-Jane Pallett: “Thank you so much for the Robert Thurston-Hopkins award. I am honestly blown away. I am so humbled to receive such a generous donation and I plan to put it to good use! Whilst I worked my utmost hardest to do my best at university, I couldn’t have imagined that I would be able to win such an award and I am so grateful for the recognition of my efforts and the money that will support me to achieve my goals. In September, I will be travelling to Japan for a three-month language course in Hokkaido to improve my Japanese skills so I can one day become a volcanologist in Japan – hopefully! This award will be so helpful in getting me one step closer to that goal. Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity, it means so much!”

Joanna Thurston-Hopkins:I was very pleased to see my grandfather’s name go on in the form of the Friends of the South Downs Robert Thurston-Hopkins award, with Elizabeth-Jane Pallett as the inaugural winner. She is a very worthy recipient, who is a credit to herself and her university. The event had an extra, rather unexpected, meaning for me personally, as not only did my father the Photographer (Godfrey) Thurston Hopkins go to Art school here in the 1920’s, but there was a strange moment when I looked out across the multitude of recipients of Doctorates, one of whom, (until she died in 2021) had been my mother, the Photojournalist Grace Robertson. Somehow, I almost expected to see her face amongst the sea of robes!  Thank you very much for giving me the chance to give back and connect with a part of my family history.”