Meet our Alumni — George Azzopardi
Dr George Azzopardi BSc (Hons) Comp&IS, MSc, PhD
A brilliant academic career that germinated at Saint Martin’s Institute …
Twenty years ago, I had decided that I’ve had enough of school, and joined Bank of Valletta as a clerk. Since I had studied computing at advanced level, the bank transferred me to the IT services division and that’s were I heard about Saint Martin’s Institute of Higher Education.
In the year 2000, the ICT educational sector was nowhere as developed as today. The only opportunity to read for an undergraduate degree in computer science was with the University of Malta, and only as a full time student. At the bank, there was a strong rumour that a number of employees had embarked on reading for their degree in computing as evening students with the University of London, at a local institute. Initially I did not pay any attention - I was settled in a good job, and determined to enjoy my freedom from the daily grind of study. But as the weeks passed, I started to hear good tidings about the local Institute and the exceptionally good results that my colleagues attained in their exams, and I started to get the itch to give it another try — and I did — and this time round I excelled. Graduating with a first class honours in 2006 and receiving an Academic Achievement Award for Computing by the University of London, I felt I was on top of the world and done forever from the academic world. I set myself to my tasks as a professional developer with the Bank.
Life’s many surprises
I don’t know whether it is just me, but opportunities seem to come when least I expect them, and they take me by surprise. My wife, Charmaine, won a scholarship to read for her Masters at King’s College in London, and I felt I was at a crossroad. Recently married, we did not cherish to separate for the year she needed to study, so I decided to take a year on unpaid leave and follow her to London.
This is where my plans went astray. I met Mr Charles Theuma, the Principal of Saint Martin’s Institute, to ask whether he may recommend me for a job with the University of London for the year. He convinced me to use the year to pursue my own studies. At first it was like — what? study at masters level? I honestly had not thought about it, and hands on heart I was scared to even think of postgraduate studies. But, Charles was rather insistent and soon came up with the possibility of a scholarship to cover my tuition fees whilst accommodation was already handled, and prepared the reference letters. On my part I identified the MSc in Advanced Methods in Computer Science at Queen Mary, University of London, and within days I was accepted by the University and had all the paperwork submitted for the scholarship scheme — which I attained and the rest is history.
Saint Martin’s Institute did not only offer me tuition that enabled me to excel in my undergraduate degree, but took interest towards my career even after my graduation — and gave me the push and confidence that subsequently led me to read for my Doctorate in Computer Vision at the Johann Bernoulli Institute of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.
A career in research
A doctorate degree offers many opportunities. Many relate a PhD to teaching. Teaching does play an important role in the life of a researcher, because academia is all about discovery and sharing new knowledge with the upcoming students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. I do remember that I was taught leading edge computing during my undergraduate studies, and I started to touch upon new knowledge through my dissertations for the BSc and the MSc. Thus, whilst research in itself is extremely interesting, the teaching is fulfilling because I share my work with my students.
I am thankful for the seed sown by Saint Martin’s Institute of Higher Education. They envisioned where I could go, even though I was blind at that moment of my own potential, and what awaited in the future. Malta has developed and EU membership means that people such as my wife and myself can study and work anywhere in Europe with ease.
Just like George, do you see yourself taking the first step to an undergraduate degree, at an Institute where YOU are #NotJustANumber?
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