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Trinity donors give £8 million to support PhD students

Trinity alumni and supporters of the College have endowed six PhD studentships in the last 18 months to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems.

The £8 million in donations – increased by up to 25% from the University’s Contribution Scheme to encourage new endowed PhD studentships – will enable Trinity and the University to recruit high-calibre research students across academic disciplines, in particular from areas of the world where funding is scarce.

Director of Alumni Relations at Trinity, Bill O’Hearn said:

I am thrilled that Trinity alumni have so generously donated to support six PhD studentships. Securing long-term funding for this purpose is a priority for Trinity and a key component of the University’s Student Support Initiative.

These studentships cover all course fees and maintenance grants, which alleviates the financial burden and worry for students, and ensures the College and University can attract the most promising researchers from around the world.

Graduation 2023. Photo: David Johnson

New funds

The Prince Mahidol Studentship Fund was founded by former Master of Trinity, Sir Gregory Winter, and enhanced by the Prince Mahidol Award Foundation in 2022 with the guidance of Trinity alumnus and Honorary Fellow, His Excellency Mr Anand Panyarachun. The fund supports Thai PhD students in Medicine and the Biomedical Sciences.

The William de Gelsey Studentship Fund was established in honour of alumnus Baron William de Gelsey and made possible by the trustees of the Ennismore Charitable Trust. The William de Gelsey Fund assists European countries and supports PhD studies in any academic area.

The Huffington Scholarship Fund in Orthodox Studies supports research at either the intersection of Orthodox Theology and LGBTQ+ Studies or Theology and Ecumenism. The PhD studentship is made possible by the Honourable Michael Huffington, who is a Fellow Benefactor of Trinity.

The European Studentship Fund supports PhD researchers in any discipline who attended European schools outside the UK prior to university.

The Robert and Nobuko Crawford Fund supports PhD students in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies or Japanese Studies. This fund was made possible by Robert Crawford.

The Professor James Walters Fund will support PhD students pursuing research in the sciences, with a preference for Physics. This fund was established by a legacy from alumnus James Walters, who was Emeritus Professor, Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Queen’s University Belfast.

Current Trinity PhD students on fully-funded programmes are progressing their research.

Chalita Chomkatekaew, the first recipient of The Prince Mahidol Fund, is researching Melioidosis, a lethal disease common in tropical environments including Thailand, and the bacteria that causes it Burkholderia pseudomallei.

Her goals are to understand the bacteria, how it evolves, and the probability of new strains developing, as well as the development of effective diagnostic tests and treatments. She said:

The antibiotic treatment options for Melioidosis are limited and the mortality from acute Melioidosis remains high, at about 40% in Thailand, where delays in diagnosis and treatment is believed to be a major contributor. There is no vaccine commercially available for this disease; therefore, the emergence of new deadly strains may be devastating.

Left to right: former Master Sir Gregory Winter, Chalita Chomkatekaew, and the Master Dame Sally Davies

Ultimately, Ms Chomkatekaew is driven by a desire to protect the lives of those most at risk from the bacteria, which in Thailand is farmers and their families, as well as contributing to global efforts to combat infectious diseases.

She said The Prince Mahidol PhD studentship had not only been a crucial enabler of her research at Cambridge but also allowed her to foster meaningful exchanges and relationships with fellow students from a variety of backgrounds.

These interactions extend beyond my specific research focus, broadening my horizon and contributing significantly to both my professional and personal growth. I am confident that these experiences will equip me to become an independent researcher who can contribute to ongoing infectious disease research in Thailand with significant translational impact in the future.

Tatiana Barkovskiy

Tatiana Barkovskiy is a historian of philosophy and her PhD research, supported by the William de Gelsey Fund, explores the legacy of medieval female mystics – or beguines – who were important yet overlooked thinkers in their time.

She said:

These women belonged to semi-monastic lay religious communities, where they often wrote in vernacular what, according to their male contemporaries, should be kept in Latin, thus engaging in philosophical questioning viewed as the prerogative of the scholastics or ‘actual’ monastics. I endeavour to unravel and structure the strictly philosophical aspects of their works: the particular epistemologies, metaphysics, and ethics they put forward.

Unlike most historians of medieval philosophy, Ms Barkovskiy, who speaks Polish, Russian, French, Spanish and is currently learning German and Dutch, works with vernacular sources. Consequently, her focus is less on Latin and more on languages such as Old French, Middle Dutch and Middle High German, thus opening up an entirely new body of texts.

Ms Barkovskiy’s key objective is to demonstrate that these medieval mystics have made significant contributions to philosophical problems including the nature and limits of reason, intellect, cognition, and will and the epistemic and ontological aspects of love.

I hope that my research will complement our existing knowledge about not only medieval philosophy but also the history of women philosophers by showcasing original female voices. Perhaps some of my readers will find their own experiences echoed in those voices – something I, as a woman, dearly missed in class during my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.

Trinity was particularly suited to her research she says, given its innovative thinking in philosophy and medieval studies.

The new funds from alumni expand the opportunities Trinity provides to support graduate students. Bill O’Hearn said the College was extremely grateful to Trinity donors who have supported studentships previously.

We are in conversation with our alumni about further PhD studentship funding opportunities. If you would like more information about supporting studentships, or other gifts to assist Trinity students, please do not hesitate to contact me.

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