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A fellow of St Catharine’s College, known as ‘Catz’, was delighted to return his former school to speak to young scientists about his experience growing up in inner-city Nottingham, and his studies and career at the University of Cambridge.

Professor Stefan Marciniak (2011), Director of Studies in Clinical Medicine at St Catharine’s College, visited The Wells Academy, part of Greenwood Academies Trust, in Nottingham on 15 January 2024 – 38 years since he was a pupil there.

The visit came about thanks to St Catharine’s alumna Lilian Greenwood (1984, Social and Political Sciences), MP for Nottingham South since 2010, who explained:

“I found myself sitting next to Stefan at the Catz Alumni Society annual reunion dinner in College in September 2023 and soon discovered that he had grown up in inner-city Nottingham. I was sure that the Academy Trust CEO of his old school, Wayne Norrie, would be excited to hear that a St Ann's lad, from what had been a tough comprehensive, was now a Cambridge professor and that it would be great for today's students to hear about his journey. I fired off a tweet and they were soon in contact.”

Professor Marciniak is now Professor of Respiratory Science and Director of the MB/PhD Programme at the University of Cambridge. He is also an Honorary Consultant Respiratory Physician at Addenbrooke’s and Royal Papworth Hospitals.

During his visit to The Wells Academy, Professor Marciniak had the opportunity to meet with and talk to 31 Year 10 students, who are the first to pursue separate science GCSE qualifications since the school became an academy in 2009.

Professor Marciniak said, “It was a special treat for me to visit my old comprehensive 38 years after I left! It was an absolute pleasure to see what a wonderful school The Wells Academy has become: enthusiastic and polite students, great facilities and nurturing staff. Most of all, it’s the positive ethos that impressed me. Thank you to everyone for a warm welcome back, and to Lilian Greenwood for reintroducing me to my alma mater.”

George Coles, Principal at The Wells Academy, commented:

“Stefan spoke candidly about some of the challenges he faced as a school student growing up in inner-city Nottingham. It was shocking to hear about the culture of low expectations prevalent in schools at the time and the acceptance that working-class students were often not expected to achieve academically. Thankfully, times have changed – we always remind students that regardless of where they’re from or their starting point, that knowledge, qualifications and character will open doors for them in the future!

“Stefan also spoke about his journey after school and his time at Cambridge. Following the presentation, numerous students eagerly approached him with questions about life at Cambridge and university education in general. The day after his visit, several students approached me, expressing a desire to visit the University which I think a testament to the impact of Stefan's words!”

Lilian adds, “I'm delighted to hear about Stefan's recent visit to The Wells Academy – I hope he'll inspire more St Ann's students to follow in his footsteps to Catz."