St Catharine’s was delighted to host an annual event for the University of Cambridge’s Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholarship Programme to welcome the latest intake of Scholars with a presentation and panel discussion.
The programme supports outstanding PhD students across all disciplines at the University of Cambridge, thanks to the generosity of our alumnus Sir David Harding (1979, Natural Sciences; Honorary Fellow 2013), through the donation from the David and Claudia Harding Foundation. A significant proportion of Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars are based at St Catharine’s (five each year on average).
Sir John Benger (1979, English; Master 2023), Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Prentice and James Holmes, Executive Director of the David and Claudia Harding Foundation, were among the special guests at the event in the McGrath Centre on 20 October 2023.
Sir John commented, “It was an honour to represent St Catharine’s at this celebration of Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars from across Cambridge and see first-hand how the programme is advancing world-class research across an astonishing array of topics. It was also a pleasure to meet the five new Harding Scholars who have joined the College this year and welcome them to our dynamic postgraduate community. Chatting with all the Scholars after the event, I was struck by their enthusiasm for collaboration and how meeting each other sparked exciting new ideas.”
The event highlighted the depth of research and interdisciplinarity supported by the programme, with a presentation from one Scholar and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education Professor Bhaskar Vira chairing a panel discussion with three Scholars who are researching different areas that would not normally be easy to fund during a PhD.
He said, “It demonstrated the breadth of this flagship scholarship programme and that there is real value in sharing and learning from one another as part of a scholarly community that spans multiple disciplines — spotting commonalities, sparking new ideas, inspiring novel approaches.
"Through our scholar presentations, we quickly discovered a common thread, with each of the three focusing on unravelling the inner workings of complex organisms or objects at a microscale. Delving deeper it became apparent they have boosted their research outcomes exponentially by embracing an interdisciplinary mindset — a common theme among Harding Scholars."
Samuel Stark, a Computer Science PhD student, has been able to study at St Catharine’s thanks to the Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholarship Programme. Having started in 2022, he was one of three existing Scholars invited to talk about their research and how this has been supported by the programme.
The chance to encounter fellow Scholars from across all the cohorts was something that particularly appealed to Samuel about the welcome event.
He said, “I loved meeting all the new faces afterwards and hearing about their projects. There are so many freshers working on problems that I just can’t get my head around — for example, aerodynamics, early-stage cancer detection, theoretical physics — and it was almost surreal to be in the same room as them.”