Finalist battles severe illness to graduate and become a published author

His dissertation was so good it became a scientific journal

A determined third year has overcome a serious illness to get his degree, and even got his impressive dissertation published. 

Geography and Geology student Ben Gibson, 23, from Ilkley in Yorkshire, was 18 when he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.

The painful condition occurs when the body’s own immune system starts to attack its own digestive system, causing abdominal pain, weight loss, and fever.

Brand new Manchester Uni grad Ben had to take a year out from uni to return home and recover, but came back set on finishing his course – achieving a 2:1.

And his final project on extinct marine life was even published as part of a scientific journal.


Ben Gibson overcame Crohn’s disease to graduate and get his dissertation published

Ben said: “It is exhausting. It saps you of all energy and makes it incredibly hard to concentrate on your work. My dissertation took so much out of me that I had to return home for a year.

“I lost so much weight and was unable to work due to the amount of pain I was in a lot of the time.

“Stress makes it worse and I was worrying about my final year. The pain would just come on suddenly. So I went home for a year and got a job to give my body a rest.

“I was worried about studies so I’m just delighted to have finished with a degree that I thought I wasn’t going to get and I‘m ready to move on with the next stage in my life now.”

Ben’s dissertation work involved cataloguing all known specimens of ichthyosaurs, extinct marine reptiles that lived during the time of the dinosaurs.


Ben’s dissertation on extinct marine life will make him a published author

To collect data he had to visit dozens of museums for information and collate all the data for his undergraduate dissertation.

Dean Lomax, his supervisor at The University of Manchester, said: “Ben did remarkably well and should be proud of himself.

“Undergraduate students rarely consider that their dissertation work could actually form a scientific study and be good enough to form a publication, so the fact that Ben completed it despite all of his health problems makes it a doubly special achievement.

“A fine example of what a student can achieve when there is genuine interest in their topic of choice”.

“These ichthyosaurs had never been documented before so this was a really useful piece of work and together Ben and I were able to turn his dissertation into a scientific paper contributing to palaeontology. Ben will become a published author as a result.”