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A picture of Wilson Phillips.

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Disabled biology graduate overcomes physical challenges to secure first-class degree

July 18, 2023

A disabled Edge Hill University graduate has encouraged other people with disabilities to attend university and is now embarking on a career in technology and artificial intelligence (AI).

Wilson Phillips, 22, and from Burnley, suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a muscle wasting disease that causes problems with movement. For Wilson, it means he uses a wheelchair and needs a full-time carer.

Despite the challenges he faces, he refused to be held back and is now graduating with a first-class degree in BSc (Hons) Biology.

Looking to the future, Wilson wants to study a Masters degree in data science and AI putting him at the forefront of the new and rapidly growing technology revolution.

Wilson said: “After coming to visit Edge Hill on an open day, I saw how modern it is and have always found that I can get around without having to ask for help, allowing me to live independently.

“That being said, I still needed support from friends and academics and had also a carer living alongside me on campus. The University was really accommodating, and the disability support team provided extra support so I could complete lab work and exams.”

Edge Hill’s Department of Biology is home to world-leading academics and researchers like Dr Aristides Tagalakis, whose research into gene therapies – ground-breaking medicines that alter genetic code – is globally influential.

Wilson worked closely with Dr Tagalakis on his dissertation and has been inspired to pursue a career in science, although Wilson’s condition does limit his career options.

“My paper was all about spinal muscular atrophy, its causes and some possible treatments involving cloning a protein I lack. I was really inspired the project and want to continue doing research but sadly, I have to be realistic and accept the fact that not all labs are accessible in the way Edge Hill’s is.

“By studying data science and artificial intelligence I will still be able to pursue a career in science and research but without the need to work in a lab which is ideal.”

Wilson offered words of encouragement for other people with disabilities who might think university life would be too challenging.

Wilson said: “Going to university has been an amazing experience. Both students and staff were brilliant, and no one treats you differently – it’s all equal. If anyone out there thinks they can’t study a degree because of their disability, they are wrong. My experience at Edge Hill shows that with some accommodations and flexibility, anything is possible.”

For more information about courses at Edge Hill University, visit the website

July 18, 2023


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