A PhD student from University of the West of Scotland (UWS) has won a prestigious national award for her research into drug use in Scotland.

Beata Ciesluk is the first UWS recipient of the Robertson Medal, presented annually by the Carnegie Trust to the most outstanding student on its PhD scholarship programme.

Beata said: “It’s fantastic to receive this recognition: winning this medal means a lot to me.”

Beata was chosen from 11 students awarded scholarships in this year’s cohort. Her research focuses on the increasing rates of drug use in “hidden” parts of the population not traditionally associated with drug use, such as women and older individuals.

Beata, who is originally from Poland, moved to Lerwick with her family when she was 14. Having studied Psychology at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Shetland, Beata articulated to UWS in Paisley, where she gained a first-class Psychology degree in 2020 before going on to gain a Masters with Distinction in Addiction Psychology in 2022, also from UWS.

Beata added: “My research focuses on addiction; specifically, drug use in Scotland. Due to the high numbers of drug related deaths, there’s a need to study this population and to understand why people are dying.

Photo: (Left to Right) Ronnie Bowie, Beata Ciesluk, Lucy Troup and Professor James Miller
Photo Credit: University of the West of Scotland

“Through my research, I realised there’s a minority population made up of women and older individuals who are not coming into the system.

“There is a lack of research into people who use drugs but who are not using support services. Researching this population will allow these voices to be heard and for the development of interventions that will have a positive impact on lives through harm reduction and allowing access to treatment for those who may go otherwise unnoticed.”

Beata’s focus on these issues has led her to work in addiction services; work she continues to this day, in her role as a Community Link Worker with We Are with You, based in Paisley.

Presenting Beata with the coveted silver medal, Ronnie Bowie, Chair of the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland said: “Beata is a poster child for everything that Andrew Carnegie wanted to achieve by setting up this endowment.

“In particular, we were very impressed by the way her research is embedded in her understanding of the lived experience of the people in this community, something she’s done all the way through and continues to do today.”

The award was presented in a ceremony at UWS’s Paisley campus on Wednesday 24 January, led by the University’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor James Miller; also a Trustee of the Carnegie Trust.

Professor Miller said: “We are extremely proud of Beata’s achievement. We are delighted that the quality and impact of Beata’s research has been recognised by the Carnegie Trust through the award of the Robertson Medal. This is the first time this prestigious award has been bestowed on a student at UWS. Beata’s achievement is both a personal accolade as well as being an inspiration to our current and future PhD students.

“Our research is directed towards creating real and impactful benefit to our communities and the wider challenges set by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – Beata’s research clearly speaks to these values.”

Two silver medals are awarded each year to Scholarship candidates judged to be the most outstanding in the fields of Science and Engineering and Arts and humanities. The medal was introduced in 2003 to mark the contribution of the retiring Chairman of the Trust, Sir Lewis Robertson, who served the Trust for more than 40 years.

By Ricky Kelly

Main writer for Renfrewshire News

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