Oxonian named Britain’s ‘top black student’

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melvin mezue

A St Hugh’s Neuroscience student has been honoured with the 2013 ‘Rising Stars’ award, and named the UK’s top black student.

Melvin Mezue, a D Phil candidate, topped a list of Britain’s highest achieving black or mixed heritage undergraduates and postgraduates. He was awarded the 2013 ‘Rising Stars’ award on the 11th of July in a ceremony at the House of Commons.

Three other Oxonians were included in the list of ten finalists, making three of the top 5 current Oxford students.  Ify Aniebo, Uchechukwu Ukachi and Ré Phillips were awarded fourth, fifth and sixth places respectively.

The judging panel were especially impressed by Melvin’s research into how the brain processes pain, which has been showcased in exhibitions at the Science Museum and presented on the BBC’s The One Show. He has undertaken this research whilst taking a sabbatical from a Medicine degree at UCL.

He was honoured for his achievements in Business as well as Academics. As well as continuing his medical training, Melvin is co-founder and financial director of a youth-led promotions company and has served as Africa Society President at both universities.

The ‘Rising Stars’ awards are organised by the Rare Recruitment Agency. This year’s judges included two MPs, a recent Cambridge Student Union President and a variety of activists and businesspeople.

Despite his academic success, the Melvin seems set to return to his medical training:

“Research is great because it allows the freedom to delve into things you really care about. But there is also an undeniable incremental benefit to being clinically trained.

“Besides, I’ve always liked to finish things I start.”

Oxford students have featured increasingly prominently at the awards since their inception in 2009, with three making the list last year and others taking the top two spots in 2010. Although recognising that the University’s academic reputation contributes to this, Ré Phillips argues that it demonstrates how students from ethnic minorities are integral to Oxford life:

“Black students are not only succeeding as leaders in our own community and student organizations, but we are also tightly woven into the fabric of Oxford University and are making contributions to wider society.”

PHOTO // Bill Knight
PHOTO // Bill Knight

Phillips, who is currently taking an M Phil in International Development at St Antony’s, praised the achievements of all four Oxford students to make the list:

“Melvin was not only Afrisoc president, but he is also doing ground-breaking research on phantom pain at Oxford. Uche is St. John’s JCR president. Ify is the founder of African Health Magazine. And out of term time, I travel to different areas of the world, from Spain to Sudan, to perform music and share artwork that brings a message of peace, hope, unity, and non-violence.”

Melvin himself agreed that students from Oxford impress through more than hard work:

“I think one thing that is clear is that Oxford students are driven to perform beyond their academics… I think that’s what makes them stand out amongst high performing students from other universities. “

In order to be considered eligible for the award, candidates needed to be of either black or mixed race heritage and be a student at any UK Higher Education Institution.  All those honoured were nominated by mystery individuals.