Outstanding alumni

Birmingham has a proud tradition of producing graduates who go on to achieve greatness in their chosen fields. Here we celebrate many of our outstanding alumni.

These include:

Below is a selection of some of our alumni and why we think they're outstanding: 

Concy Aciro

Taking risks in bringing positive change to her country, Concy graduated from Birmingham with an MSc in Poverty Reduction in 2007.

Why she is outstanding

As a young, female, opposition MP in Uganda, Concy puts herself at considerable risk to stand up for what she believes in. She is involved in peace talks between the government and the Lord Resistance Army rebel group to resolve the long-running arms conflict in northern Uganda.

Her interest in politics began at an early age when she was abducted by the Lords Resistance Army rebels to be trained as a fighter at the age of ten. After managing to escape, she was faced with considerable hardship, from significant food shortages to the abuse of the people around her by soldiers and rebels. Rather than discourage her, Concy’s experiences gave her an overwhelming desire to bring positive change to her country.

Away from politics she has created a children's football league with the aim of building unity between refugee camps and re-integrating child soldiers back into their communities.

Did you know?

Concy’s ambition is to see the whole of Uganda as an effective democracy.

Professor Peter Bullock

A distinguished British soil scientist, Peter graduated from Birmingham in 1958 with a BA in Geography. He then joined the Soil Survey of England and Wales (SSEW) as a surveyor, before completing a masters degree in agricultural chemistry at the University of Leeds.

Why he is outstanding

A staunch advocate of the need to treat soil as a sustainable resource, Professor Bullock spread greater knowledge about man-made climate change through his research work and laid the foundations for counteracting it. He also developed the ‘Soil-Net’ educational internet portal for teachers and their students.

He became a world expert in soil micromorphology after taking the post as head of the mineralogy section of the SSEW. After being appointed as Director of the Soil Survey and Land Research Centre in 1986, his involvement in national and international scientific and advisory bodies grew.

Did you know?

Although not formally one of the University’s 10 Nobel prize winners, Professor Bullock contributed to the reports of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. He demonstrated the role played by soil in the Earth's ecosystem and the impact of climate change on land degradation.

Sir Simon Campbell CBE FRS FMedSci

Sir Simon CampbellDr Campbell graduated from Birmingham with a 1st Class BSc in Chemistry in 1962 and a PhD in Chemistry in 1965. He was awarded an honorary DSc from Birmingham in 2004. 

His postdoctoral research was carried out in Chile and Stanford and following a faculty position at the University of Sao Paulo Brazil, he joined Pfizer in 1972. He was knighted in 2015 for his services to Chemistry.

Why he is outstanding

Innovative research by Dr Campbell and his team at Pfizer at Sandwich in Kent led to the discovery of amlodipine (Norvasc/Istin), sildenafil (Viagra) and doxazosin (Cardura), which all became some of the world’s best selling prescription drugs.

Amlodipine causes relaxation of vascular smooth muscle which lowers blood pressure and increases blood flow to the heart and so is effective for the treatment of hypertension and angina. This innovative new medicine was designed after Dr Campbell’s team carefully analysed the structural features associated with smooth muscle relaxation and long duration of action. Amlodipine has benefited millions of patients worldwide, where annual sales reached over $5bn.

'The difference between success and failure can be just one atom,' said Dr Campbell, 'so drug design requires a very clear understanding of molecular properties.'

Sildenafil (Viagra) is probably the world’s best known drug but was originally targeted for hypertension and angina. Tests in student volunteers showed quite a different function and sildenafil is now the world’s leading oral therapy for the treatment of male erectile dysfunction.

Did you know?

Dr Campbell retired as Pfizer’s head of research in 1998, but still acts as a scientific consultant to Pharma, Biotech, charities and government organisations worldwide. He is a member of various Scientific Advisory Boards across the world.

Professor Sir Charles George KT

Professor Sir Charles GeorgeSir Charles is a true knight of medicine; making a difference to people’s lives.

Professor Sir Charles George graduated from Birmingham with an Intercalated BSc in Anatomy (1962) and an MBChB in Medicine (1965). He then studied for his MD at Southampton in 1974. He also has an Honorary DSc (2003).

Why he is outstanding

Sir Charles’ early career included four years at Hammersmith Hospital before he moved into tutoring medicine and clinical pharmacology at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School.

He then joined the University of Southampton, where he became Professor of Clinical Pharmacology. He served six years as Dean of Medicine and three years as Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Biological Sciences.

His career highlights include acting as Chairman of the General Medical Council’s Education Committee, BMA President and Chair of the BMA's Board of Science & Education. In 1999, he joined the British Heart Foundation. He became a member of the government's Task Force for Coronary Heart Disease, and the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Association of Medical Research Charities.

He was knighted for services to medicine and medical education in 1998.

Did you know?

Professor Sir Charles George is a native Brummie and credits the University of Birmingham as having a major role in his life.

General Sir Mike Jackson GCB CBE

General Sir Mike JacksonArguably Britain’s most famous soldier, General Sir Mike Jackson graduated from Birmingham in 1967 with a BSocSc in Russian Studies and in 2000 received an honorary LLD.

Why he is outstanding

The former head of the British Army, General Sir Mike Jackson has always been a force to be reckoned with and has never been afraid to speak his mind.

Born into a military family, Sir Mike was commissioned into the Army at the age of 19 before undertaking his degree course at Birmingham. After a few years with the Intelligence Corps he rose to command the First Battalion of the Parachute Regiment between 1984 and 1986. He also commanded the 3rd (UK) Division, spent two years at the Ministry of Defence and served in Berlin and Northern Ireland.

Sir Mike commanded a NATO division in Bosnia, before he commanded the Alliance’s Rapid Reaction Corps. He won a Distinguished Service Order for his leadership of the Kosovo Force in the successful operation to end ethnic cleansing of Albanians in the former Yugoslav republic. He ended his military career as Chief of the General Staff - the professional head of the Army.

Did you know?

Sir Mike’s son, Mark, followed him into the military and served as a paratrooper in the Gulf before becoming an artist.

Paul Manning MBE

Paul ManningPure gold: one of Britain’s most successful cyclists, Paul graduated from Birmingham in 1996 with a BSc in Geology.

Why he is outstanding

Paul is a professional cyclist who won the gold medal in Team Pursuit Cycling at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. 

With his team mates Ed Clancy, Geraint Thomas and Bradley Wiggins, he reached the finals of the Team Pursuit competition in style, setting a new world record in their semi-final ride against Russia. In the final against the Danish team they then shaved a further two seconds off that time, overlapping their opponents in the process. 

Now retired, Paul can add his Olympic gold to bronze at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics and the World Championship title in 2005, 2007 and 2008. He received an MBE in 2009 and has gone on to become one of cycling's leading coaches, winning ‘High Performance Coach of the Year’ at the 2012 UK Coaching Awards.

Did you know?

In 2009, Paul was inducted into the British Cycling Hall of Fame alongside fellow greats Chris Boardman, Graeme Obree and Mandy Jones.

Natasha Marsh

A chart-topping classical singer, Natasha graduated from Birmingham in 1996 with a BA in Music and Drama.

Why she is outstanding

Soprano Natasha Marsh topped the classical charts with her debut album Amour in February 2007. After graduating, she won a coveted scholarship to the Royal College of Music opera school and made her acclaimed debut with Grange Park Opera singing Jacqueline in Fortunio by André Messager. She later returned to sing the role of Governess in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw.

She was named Young Welsh Singer of the Year 1999 by supporters of the internationally-renowned Morriston Orpheus Choir, and has since created the title role in Michael Berkeley’s new opera Jane Eyre with great success for Music Theatre Wales.

Roles with a number of opera companies include Musetta in Opera Holland Park’s production of La Boheme, Micaela in Carmen at the Royal Albert Hall, and First Lady in The Magic Flute with Glyndebourne Touring Opera.

Natasha was also the voice of European football for the 2008 Euro football championships, recording the theme tune for the opening and closing credits of each ITV broadcast.

Following her self-titled second album in 2008 and a UK tour in 2009, Natasha performed at Last Night of the Proms with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Did you know?

Natasha is a fan of Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Corinne Bailey Rae and Coldplay.

Mehmuda Mian

Mehmuda MianUpholding fair principles in public life, Mehmuda Mian graduated from Birmingham in 1984 with an LLB in Law and French.

Why she is outstanding

Standards are very important to Mehmuda Mian, who has spent much of her career upholding fair principles in public life.

Mahmuda was named on the Muslim Women Power List 2009. She is a trustee of the BBC Trust and a former Commissioner of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. She has also worked as a non-executive director of the NHS Litigation Authority and a member of the Police Complaints Authority.

At the BBC she sat on the Editorial Standards Committee (the final stage of the broadcaster’s complaints process), deciding whether there has been any breach of editorial guidelines and on any necessary remedial action. The committee dealt with 70 complaints last year, including the offensive on-air phone call that led to the three-month suspension of presenter Jonathan Ross.

Mehmuda is an Associate Director of the Lokahi Foundation, a charity which undertakes academic research on the impact of religion, beliefs and culture on society. These projects include Campus Salaam, which primarily supports Muslim students in dialogue and engagement using the Campus Salaam website and Lokahi support team. Recent events include ‘Rumble in Westminster’ where controversial subjects were debated and participants learnt how to deal with heckling and aggressive behaviour.

Although she is passionate about standards, Mehmuda’s vivacious personality is far removed from that of the infamous morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse. She enjoys travelling and abseiling, which she recently tried for the first time.

Did you know?

Mehmuda is a fan of nature documentaries, the X-Factor and Have I Got News for You.

Dr Desmond Morris (BSc Zoology, 1951)

Dr Desmond MorrisA world-renowned zoologist, author and television presenter on animal and human behaviour, as well as an acclaimed painter.

Why he is outstanding

During a career spanning more than six decades, Dr Desmond Morris has never followed the obvious path.

Despite being an academic by training, Dr Morris became a household name in the 1950s when he presented Zoo Time, the UK’s first wildlife television series aimed at children. The weekly programmes were broadcast live from a special, residential studio in London Zoo for 11 years, where Dr Morris was Curator of Mammals. Viewers were fascinated with regularly featured animals included Congo the chimpanzee, who became famous for the paintings he completed under Dr Morris’ observation.

Dr Morris is also the author of more than 60 books including Manwatching, through which he is credited with introducing the now popular concept of body language, and The Naked Ape, which remains one of the bestselling books of all time. The book was the first to study man in purely animal terms, including our habits of sleeping, feeding, mating, fighting and rearing young, and went on to be translated into 23 languages.

In 2009, at the age of 82, Dr Desmond Morris made another three-month journey around the world, visiting the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Asia, the Far East, Australasia, and the South Pacific.

In parallel to his scientific career, Dr Morris is also a respected painter whose works have been exhibited everywhere from London, Rome and Paris to New York and Sydney, and have sold for many thousands of pounds at auction. He continues to paint from his Oxford studio, now one of just three surviving members of the original surrealist movement.

Did you know?

Dr Morris still keeps an old school report which states: ‘He does not have a great deal of intelligence but he will make the most of it.’

Amanda Ross 

Amanda RossOften described as one of the most powerful women in publishing, Amanda Ross graduated from Birmingham in 1984 with a BA in Drama and Theatre Arts.

Why she is outstanding

Amanda has brought reading to the masses through television book clubs. As Managing Director of Cactus TV, she was the driving force behind the Richard and Judy Book Club and created The TV Book Club for Channel 4.

In 2009, she received The Bookseller Retail Award for Outstanding Contribution to Bookselling. Judges felt she deserved industry recognition for delivering a £185 million boost to the trade, creating at least 50 bestsellers, for raising the profile of countless authors and for championing reading as a pastime for all.

Amanda and her husband Simon founded Cactus TV in 1994 to specialise in entertainment, features and chat shows. They have produced more than 40 television programmes, including Saturday Kitchen on BBC1, The TV Book Club on More 4, the Hairy Bikers’ Food Tour of Britain on BBC2 and the Crime Thriller Season on ITV3. 

Did you know?

Amanda is married to Simon Ross, brother of Jonathan and Paul.

Barbara Slater

Barbara SlaterBringing the Olympics to our television screens, Barbara graduated from Birmingham with a BA in Physical Education in 1981.

Why she is outstanding

As the first female Head of Sport at the BBC, former Olympic gymnast Barbara has overall responsibility for BBC Sport’s coverage of the London 2012 Olympics. She oversaw BBC Sport’s move to new facilities in Manchester in 2011. Her role involves ensuring the BBC retains a broad portfolio of broadcasting rights.

In the 1970s, Barbara was in the national gymnastics team more than 20 times and was in the front row when the British team paraded at the opening ceremony of the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Achieving a first class degree at Birmingham led to further study, a Masters in Human Biology at Oxford and PGCE at Loughborough, and she seemed destined for a career in academia. But Barbara had developed an interest in television fuelled by helping ITV with gymnastics coverage production and commentary during her student years.

She joined the BBC as a trainee assistant producer and worked on natural history, news and regional programmes. She moved to BBC Sport in 1983 and went on to produce, direct and edit many major sporting events, from Wimbledon to the Open Golf Championships.

Did you know?

As a teenager in Liverpool, Barbara was a diver and competed at a national level. She only became a gymnast due to the lack of diving facilities when the family moved to Birmingham.

Cilla Snowball CBE

Cilla SnowballFrom trainee to advertising guru, Cilla graduated from the University of Birmingham in 1981 with a BA in French.

Why she is outstanding

Cilla Snowball is Group Chairman and Chief Executive of the advertising and communications company Abbott Mead Vickers (AMV).

After leaving University, Cilla joined Allen Brady & Marsh as a trainee but moved to Ogilvy & Mather in 1983, where she managed accounts for well known companies such as Rowntree and Lever Brothers. She joined AMV in 1992 and has worked there ever since; in senior management positions for the past nine years, rising to agency head and now country head. AMV Group employs more than 900 people in the UK and clients include Sainsbury’s, BT and Guinness.

She was awarded the CBE for services to the advertising industry in January 2009.

Did you know?

In 2010, the Guardian ranked Cilla as the 50th most influential person in the media sector and withing in the top ten highest ranking women.

Chrissie Wellington MBE

Chrissie WellingtonA four-time world champion in one of the most gruelling sporting events on the planet, Chrissie graduated from Birmingham in 1998 with a First Class degree in Geography.

Why she is outstanding

British triathlete Chrissie is a four-time World Ironman Champion (2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011).
She dominated the women’s Ironman Triathlon scene from the moment she left her desk job working for the government to turn professional in February 2007 to her retirement in 2012.

Shortly after winning her first Ironman competition in August 2007 in Korea, Chrissie became Britain’s first ever Ironman World Champion in the same year. She successfully defended her title in 2008 then again in 2009, where she broke the 17-year-old course record. In July 2010, she broke her own World Ironman Distance Record by an incredible 12 minutes. Chrissie finished her career undefeated at the Ironman distance, winning all 13 of her races.

In November 2009, readers of The Sunday Times newspaper voted her as their Sportswoman of the Year. She was awarded an MBE in 2010 and also received an honorary degree from the University that year. She was named OBE in 2016.

Chrissie describes her two passions in life as 'sport and development', and has previously spoken about her time teaching children at a school in Boston, Massachusetts as one that shows sport can have a major impact on young people's lives.

Did you know?

An elephant in Zambia has been named ‘Wellington’ after Chrissie.

Dr Hossein Yassaie

Dr Hossein Yassaie graduated from Birmingham in 1979 with a BSc in Electronic and Electrical Engineering, and obtained his PhD in 1983. He is a man of imagination with a pure passion for technology. 

Why he is outstanding

As the man behind one of Britain’s leading technology companies, Dr Hossein Yassaie has a love of technology, pure and simple.

Dr Yassaie is CEO of Imagination Technologies, the company at the heart of many of today’s most significant, iconic and exciting consumer electronics products. The company develops and licenses Intellectual Property (IP) designs for silicon chips, which are used in everything from mobile phones and media players to the latest tablets, car electronics and high-definition televisions.

Imagination’s consumer electronics brand, PURE, is the creator and manufacturer of the world's most popular digital and ‘connected’ radios. The number one radio brand in the UK it is also rapidly expanding overseas.

With around 670 staff and a market value of around £800 million Imagination boasts customers including half of the top 20 semiconductor companies, such as Intel, Texas Instruments, Renesas and Samsung. Its technologies are used in products from many of the world’s leading manufacturers including Apple, Dell, Motorola, Nokia, Philips, Samsung & Sony.