Funding attracts sustainability-minded students to Wolfson

Last year, Wolfson launched new funding to support students with a passion for sustainability – and it’s helping to attract a new group of students on a mission to make a difference.

Charles Norman

The Cambridge Trust & Hoath Family Masters Scholarship in Sustainability and Conservation offers one award of £12,000 for a Home-fee status MPhil student in a field related to sustainability and conservation.

The award was established in December 2020 by a gift from Emeritus Fellow Dr Steve Hoath in memory of his parents. It is intended to support students who have a broad interest in sustainability and conservation, particularly those who might not otherwise have the financial means to do so – as well as support the College’s thriving Sustainability and Conservation Research Hub.

Susan Larsen, Wolfson Senior Tutor, said: “After the launch of the Hoath Family Scholarship last year, even more conservation-minded students have been attracted to the College, many of whom receive funding. 

“In 2022/2023 alone, new Wolfson postgrads working on topics in sustainability and conservation have been funded by the Gates Foundation, the Commonwealth Trust and the Cambridge Trust, as well as by smaller grants from the College. 

“The challenges of tackling climate change and the quest for a sustainable future are attracting top students from all over the world to Cambridge. The Hoath Family donation enables the College to leverage additional funding, through matching funds from the Cambridge Trust, to ensure that many of these students can be supported at Wolfson.”

Enabling climate research: the first Hoath Family Scholarship recipient

Charles Norman, MPhil student in Holocene Climates, was the first recipient of the Hoath Family Scholarship last year. 

“The Hoath Scholarship has entirely enabled me to undertake this Master's degree,” says Charles. “Without it, I wouldn't have been able to accept my place. It has allowed me to explore my interests in paleo and contemporary climate change, without having to try and work at the same time. I am hugely grateful to the Hoath scholarship for allowing me to pursue my interest in climatic research!”

Charles comes from a rural farming family and has always had an interest in nature, the environment, and climate change. He studied physical geography in his undergraduate, but wanted to shift his focus onto climate change for his master's degree.

“I found the degree in Holocene paleoclimatology and was instantly interested. It involves studying past climates in order to make more accurate projections of future climate variation.”

Understanding climate change through tree rings

Charles’s research is centred around using proxies – for example, ice cores, tephra layers, and tree rings – in order to reconstruct climate variability throughout the past 11,000 years.

“Our research is largely based around the use of dendrochronology,” he says, “looking at tree rings and what their characteristics can tell us about what the climate was like when they were growing.

“My dissertation will involve creating a new climate variability chronology of the Roman Period in Britain and exploring how these climatic variations may have influenced society, migration, and military expansion throughout the occupation.

“On a wider scale, I will be exploring the natural and human drivers – e.g. volcanoes, agriculture – of climatic variation in this period, and what this can tell us about the magnitude of possible future climate variation.”

Helped by the Hoath Family Scholarship, Charles says he can also now consider going onto the next stage and completing a PhD in climate studies – and he hopes to stay at Wolfson.  

“Over the past two months, I've really come to feel very at home at Wolfson,” he says. “The staff are super friendly, and there is a huge amount of support for students. I've also really enjoyed using the facilities like the tennis courts and library and have found a new home with the boat club. I think the sense of community at Wolfson is particularly strong, and I'm keen to try and stay here for as long as possible!”

You can find details of the Hoath Family Scholarship and other awards are available on the Fees and Funding pages of the website.

More on postgraduate funding available at Wolfson