Former Shop Keeper Discovers a Talent for Academia on His Journey to Become a Zoo Keeper

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A shop keeper who dreamt of becoming a zoo keeper has discovered a talent for academia, which has resulted in him being awarded Best Research Paper of the Year by a leading science journal.

Rob Shotton, who left school with no qualifications due to health problems, joined the University of Worcester’s Animal Biology degree at the age of 30 with hopes of pursuing a new career with animals.

But while on the course he discovered a new talent and passion for writing and research which led to him submitting his third year independent study to the Biosciences Horizons journal.

Not only was his research published as a full scientific report but it has now been awarded the 2014 Chair’s Prize for the Best Research Paper of the Year.

Rob, whose paper was called “Testing the disturbance hiss of the Madagascar hissing Cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa) as an anti-predatory response”, said: “I was really pleased to have my research published as a full paper in the first place, but to then win this award is just incredible.”

Thirty-four-year-old Rob, who currently lives in Dudley, had been running a shop in St John’s in Worcester for a number of years before making the decision to go to university.

“When the recession hit, I decided to follow my childhood dream to become a zoo keeper,” he said. “So I signed up for the Animal Biology degree. It was a long time since I had been in education so I was a bit nervous but the course was excellent.”

Rather than zoo keeping, Rob is now planning a career in the academic world. “I would love to do a Phd,” he said. “I’ve done a little bit of teaching, but would really like to pursue this further. It was amazing to find that having left school with no qualifications, I was actually really quite good academically.”