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Twin sisters scoop top honours

Identical twins Rebecca and Victoria Smith have now got even more in common after both graduated with distinctions from Newcastle University.

Joining approximately 1,900 students at the University’s winter congregation ceremonies, Rebecca and Victoria, from Hamsterley Colliery in County Durham, gained master’s degrees with distinction in Flood Risk Management.

Rebecca said: “We have a particular interest in flood management and the course was just perfect to study something we’re interested in. It was a really good programme, in which we had to challenge ourselves quite often. It was an interesting course and a great opportunity to become fully aware of what flood management entails.”

Offered at Newcastle University’s School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, the Flood Risk Management MSc course combines practical and computational components to equip students with the knowledge of the water environment and flood risk management.

World experts in climate change

For their dissertations, the 22-year-olds explored runoff management for areas in Newcastle. Victoria focussed on water management options for Newcastle Town Moor, while Rebecca investigated storing runoff on Leazes Moor in order to potentially reduce the risk of flooding to the City Centre and Newcastle University campus.

Victoria said: “It was really good to learn from the people who are world experts in climate change and people whose interests are in what we wanted to study. The dissertations were the pinnacle of the course and we got to work really close with the supervisors to do something that was really interesting.”

Rebecca added: “With climate change people need to prepare themselves for the potential increase in rainfall and the subsequent risk of future flooding. It is imperative to understand and attempt to manage the growing flood risk, especially in-light of the recent flood events across the UK.”

Dr Paul Quinn, Senior Lecturer in Catchment Hydrology at School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, supervised the twin sisters’ dissertation projects.

He said: “In recent years the urgency to solve real world problems in our own back yard has become more important than ever. The issue of flooding in Newcastle and across the UK could not be more important as we see once again record floods in the Eden and the Tyne.

“Rebecca and Victoria have pitched in with full effort and have taken the issue of solving floods in Newcastle to level where the ideas proposed in their dissertation are now receiving serious consideration. Their work was highly skilled and thoughtful and they certainly kept me busy! I really enjoyed working with them on their dissertation and know they will do well in their new roles as problem solvers of the future.”

Women in Engineering

The budding researchers are part of a growing number of female engineering students at Newcastle University.

Victoria said: “I think the key point is that engineering has always been viewed as a male-dominated sector and, as it’s growing, there is a pressure for women to get involved. It’s great to get involved, because different people have different views on issues and explore them from different angles. It’s a very welcoming environment and women should get involved in it.”

Rebecca said: “From when we started the masters, I was really surprised how many girls were actually on our course. Everything was completely equal and balanced.”

Building on their research experience from the master’s course and undergraduate degrees in Physical Geography, Victoria and Rebecca have now started PhD projects focusing on water-related issues.

Newcastle University students are among the most employable in the country. The most recent graduate destination data, from those graduating in 2013/14, shows that 94.1% of leavers were in employment or further study six months after graduating. 

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published on: 14 December 2015