A lifelong fascination with creepie-crawlies has led to one man being bitten by the learning bug.
Six years ago, Dan Reed was making car parts in a factory, but now he is conducting research into hoverflies at Newcastle university.
Dan, from Fencehouses in Houghton-le-Spring, was able to turn his life around and follow his passion after enrolling on a course at Sunderland College.
Despite having no qualifications, he took to his studies so well he is now well on the way to completing a PhD at Newcastle.
He has even given a talk on his research at London’s Natural History Museum.
The 36-year-old only decided to pursue his dream six years ago when he realised that life in a factory wasn’t for him.
Dan said: “I had never spent much time thinking about what I wanted to do with my life so when I reached 30 I thought it was about time I did.
“I had always been interested in insects so decided I wanted to do a degree in zoology.
“I had no previous qualifications so decided the best option for me was to enrol on an access course with Sunderland College – I’m so glad I did.”
Dan enrolled on the one-year Access Higher Education course. The course covered everything he needed to prepare him for further education.
Dan picked certain modules, such as biology, which would help him when applying for university.
Dan added: “The course was fantastic and gave me a lot of confidence and I felt positive about applying for university.
“There were a lot of people in a similar position to me which helped.
“Once finished, I was accepted on to the zoology course and have never really looked back. I’m now studying for a PhD and doing something I love.”
Dan’s research looks at whether hoverflies can recognise good and bad smells in order to find food in a similar way to bees.
Although the research is still in its early stages, it appears that they do - something which has never been observed before.
Dan’s research is attracting further interest and he has now been asked to speak at the Animal Behaviour conference hosted by the International Ethological Association at The Sage, Gateshead, which runs from Sunday to August 8.
Ann Inkson, access to higher education curriculum leader at Sunderland College, said: “Dan has experienced the most dramatic of career changes.
“He knew exactly what he wanted to do so to see him achieving his dream is fantastic.
“Every year we help lots of adult students looking to get into university and change their career path.
“We have a range of course and finance options available so I urge anyone who is interested in following the route Dan has taken to get in touch.”
Once qualified Dan hopes to pursue his research further and eventually teach zoology students.
Dan added: “If I could offer any advice it would be that whatever you do in life make sure it’s something you love.”
For more information on Sunderland College’s Access Higher Education courses call 0191 511 6000.