The Scholarship was created by a donation from the Foundation co-founded by Bill Gates, who received the Cambridge Union’s Stephen Hawking Fellowship in 2019Luke MacGregor

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship has announced its 20th cohort of postgraduate students.

The Scholarship was established in 2000 through a $210 million donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - the largest donation ever made to a UK university.

So far, 2,000 full-cost scholarships have been awarded through the scheme, which aims to “build a global network of future leaders committed to improving the lives of others.” 

The Scholarship is awarded through a highly selective process to postgraduate students from outside the UK studying any postgraduate course offered by the University of Cambridge. In 2017, only 0.3% of applicants were offered a Scholarship.

This year’s 20th anniversary cohort will begin studying in October 2021, and comprises 84 scholars, including 10 who deferred from 2020.

Varsity spoke to some of the incoming scholars, who are researching subjects ranging from English and Philosophy to Public Health, Biology, and Computing.

Facundo Rodriguez will research the role of morality in political and interpersonal relations. “Even if philosophical meditation is a valuable enterprise in itself, I am also convinced that philosophers have a very useful set of skills to contribute to the development and evaluation of public policies,” he said. “I am glad that many civil services in Europe and the world have lately started to include philosophers in decision making processes.” 

About his application, Facundo recalls: “The Gates Cambridge Personal Statement forces you to look at your profile from a more global perspective and to seriously reflect on the role you intend your PhD to have in your career as a whole [...] It was also by completing the application and reading about the Scholarship's selection process that I found out how excessively competitive it was. Learning this was, at that time, surprising and (I must say) a little bit disheartening.”

Meanwhile, Mary DeVellis, currently at Princeton, will conduct research into the gap in sexual health education for people with disabilities. “I really enjoyed my interview with the [Health, Medicine, and Society MPhil] anthropology representative,” she said. “It felt much more like the start of a collaboration than an interview. We discussed anthropology at large [...] the difficulties of research during a pandemic, and how our careers create an impact on humanity."

Amy Jin, currently a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is another scholar working in the sciences and public health. She will commence a PhD in bioengineering, working at “the interface between biological and artificial devices.” She said that she hopes to “address existing gaps in medicine”, and describes her “passion for biology” as arising from “the resilience and adaptability of all life.”

Adaiah Hudgins-Lopez will undertake an MPhil in Social Anthropology, focusing on immigration law and undocumented migrants. Commenting on the application process, she said: “The most time-consuming aspect of the process was ensuring I crafted an application that was strong enough to be admitted to my course [...] That took a lot of time and many many editing sessions. All in all, there were not a lot of components, but it did take quite a bit of time to make sure they were of quality and represented me in a holistic and accurate way. My advice? Start early!”

Upon the announcement of the 20th anniversary cohort, Gabrielle Mills, President of the Gates Cambridge Scholars Council, said: "While the pandemic has changed the ways in which Council functions, we enthusiastically anticipate the new cohort's arrival into our diverse community and are working assiduously to support them from day one."

In February, 27 scholars took part in the first Gates Cambridge Teach-a-thon. They gave a series of free 20-minute taster sessions about their research to secondary students affected by COVID-related school closure.