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21 February 2022

BSc Geography graduate wins The Wellington Medal

The award recognises the student’s excellent academic achievements and contributions to King’s during their time at university and their potential for the future.

Heather Needham at her virtual graduation
Heather Needham, the Wellington Medal winner, at her virtual graduation

Heather Needham, BSc Geography graduate, has been announced as the 2021 winner of The Wellington Medal.

The Wellington Medal is awarded each year to one outstanding undergraduate student at King’s College London in the year of their graduation. The award recognises high academic achievements and other contributions the student has made during their time at university to acknowledge their impressive future potential.

The Duke of Wellington, founder of the award, former Chairman of King’s College Council, and Chair of the selection panel has written: “Selecting the winner of the Medal is always very difficult. Each faculty puts forward their strongest candidate for the Medal. All the candidates have achieved a great deal and have made a significant difference to King’s during their time as undergraduates. We are proud of all of them and believe that they have very bright futures ahead.”

Heather was chosen as the winner because of the combination of her impressive academic achievements, her many extra-curricular activities and awards, her contribution to improving the learning environment and being a role model for her peers. The panel were particularly interested in her research work in the rain forests of Colombia.

Duke of Wellington

Alongside having an excellent academic record, Heather was also active in the Geography Student Society GeogSoc and sought out many opportunities to apply what she was learning on the course – including taking on internships, tutoring and receiving research grants to conduct fieldwork.

Michael Chadwick, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography, taught Heather throughout her time at King’s and described her as “in the top one percent of all undergraduates I’ve ever taught”.

He went on to say, “I was always impressed by her positive attitude and her drive to improve the world around her, which had a major impact on staff and students, alike.

“Throughout her undergraduate degree, Heather was ambitious in pursuing her academic interests and I’m confident that she will succeed in anything she puts her mind to in the future.”

I am delighted to be awarded the 2021 Wellington Medal. I was surprised not only to win this prestigious award but to receive a handwritten letter from the Duke of Wellington in the post. 

Heather Needham, winner of the Wellington Meda

Reflecting on her win, Heather said: “I am deeply honoured that this medal recognises my academic record, contributions to the Geography Society, and my research in Colombia. It is an incredible way to conclude my degree and time at university. Studying at King’s had been the best three years of my life. I will always cherish the friendships and memories that I made through the course, field expeditions, and my involvement in the Geography Society. The experience allowed me to explore and pursue my interest in biodiversity, and further, to think critically about the challenges and potential solutions to tackling global environmental problems.

“Winning this award would not have been possible without the inspiration, unyielding support, and encouragement that I received from those working within the Department of Geography. I would like to thank Dr. Michael Chadwick and Professor Mark Mulligan, for their advice and guidance, that not only allowed me to achieve my goals but those of other students within the Department.

“I would like to thank and express my gratitude to the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), specifically, Dr. Catherine Souch, for supporting my research experience in the Colombian Andes and my academic journey. Finally, I would like to thank my parents for their everlasting support and endless motivation that has encouraged me to achieve all my dream and ambitions.

“I am ecstatic to be awarded the 2021 Wellington Medal and I look forward to receiving it from the Duke of Wellington in person at the graduation ceremony next year.”

Heather is currently studying for a MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management at the University of Oxford.