Graduate becomes first female to win engineering excellence prize

Emma Gunn, 23 from Castletown, has been selected as the winner of the University of the Highlands and Islands’ Prize for Engineering Excellence.

The award, donated by Willie Printie, former managing director of LifeScan Scotland, is awarded annually in recognition of academic excellence in engineering. Winners are selected from graduating engineering students from across the university partnership, who began their studies as apprentices and progressed on to further and higher education.

Before completing her degree, Emma began her journey with North Highland College UHI in 2015, achieving a National Certificate then progressing through a range of courses while becoming an apprentice and eventually a full-time engineer for NUVIA. Emma recently gained a 1st class honours degree in Mechanical Engineering and will be returning to study the MSc Mechanical Engineering.

On accepting her award, Emma said: “I am honoured to be awarded with the Prize for Engineering Excellence. The University of the Highlands and Islands is a huge asset to companies who offer apprenticeships across the highlands. The education and support they have provided me over the years has been second to none. A special thank you to Dr Peter Hylton for helping me every step of the way.

Emma continued: “My employer, Nuvia Ltd have encouraged me to continue with education, allowing me to complete the full time BEng Mechanical Engineering course, whilst working full time. Learning and gaining on the job experience whilst earning a salary, in my opinion, is the best start to a career. It has been a lot of hard work over the last 6 years, and it is nice to gain recognition of this by receiving this award.” 

Engineer Programme Leader, Dr Peter Hylton said: “It has been a great pleasure to have Emma in my classes.  I have taught her in one or more modules in each year since I arrived at UHI in 2016.  I consider her a truly deserving winner of the Prize for Engineering Excellence and fully in keeping with the spirit for which the award was intended.”

Congratulating Emma, Willie said: “It was a delight to meet up with Emma, via video call, and congratulate her on the significant academic achievement that resulted in her receiving the annual Prize for Engineering Excellence. Making the call even more special was that Emma is the first female to be awarded this prize and I have no doubt she will not be the last.

The University of the Highlands and Islands can offer a pathway of continuing education from leaving school to graduating at post graduate degree level. I had to go to two different colleges and then onto two different universities to achieve the same! The University of the Highlands and Islands has this capability under one roof!

In supporting the university, I hope to make a difference and enable more students to fulfil their academic potential and achieve their life dreams.”

Alison Wilson, head of development at the University of the Highlands and Islands, said: “The university is extremely grateful to Willie for his continued support of the next generation of talented engineering students. Emma follows in the footsteps of last year’s winner, also from North Highland College UHI, Jack Hamilton.”

Further details of the range of scholarships, prizes and awards donated to the university, and how to help local students can be found at: