CSAR PhD Students Awards

CSAR PhD Students Awards For Applied Research

The CSAR PhD Students Awards of £1,000 each, are intended to recognise outstanding research with real world application and to assist students to pursue their research or careers.

The awards are open to students, in any discipline at the University of Cambridge, currently studying for their Ph.D. at the deadline for application. Selection of applicants will be at the discretion of the CSAR PhD Student Awards Committee.

The 2020 application process is now open, and will close on 8th December 2019. A meeting to select the finalists for 2020 will be held in mid-January with finalist interviews before 10 February at Churchill College.

The 2019 Awards Ceremony took place on Tuesday 9 April 2019 in the University Combination Room at the Old Schools. Several of the award winners met with Catherine Hasted, the Head of Business Partnerships at the University's Strategic Partnerships Office, early in October 2019.


The CSAR PhD Students Award scheme is funded via donations. If you are considering making a donation and would like to discuss it further in confidence, please email Jane Baker (Outreach and Students Awards Secretary) at csarscr@hermes.cam.ac.uk, speak with a committee member, or contact the president, Sir Mike Gregory, at President@csar.org.uk

Updates from previous award winners

From time to time , CSAR receives updates from previous award winners, and you can find some of these in our profiles of individual winners. Here are three examples:

Craig Pearson (2018): I am a PhD student who studies the connection between the eye and the brain. My doctoral research focused on a group of neurons that arise in the retina and project through the optic nerve to the brain. Damage to these neurons—due to injury or disease such as glaucoma—is irreversible, as they do not spontaneously regenerate. My objective was to modify the molecular environment in the optic nerve to promote the growth of these damaged cells. In mice, I discovered that delivering an enzyme to the optic nerve which modifies the structure of certain growth-inhibiting sugar molecules enables neurons to regenerate farther following an acute injury than in control-treated mice. In the future, I hope to develop integrated therapies that have the potential to regenerate visual neurons and restore sight in humans. I used funding from the CSAR to co-found a scholarship program for young scientists interested in vision research. The Peter Watson International Scholarship (PWIS), a partnership between the University of Cambridge and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is a national award open to UK high school students. In April, 2018, two winners selected by a distinguished awards committee received an all-expenses paid trip to the United States, where they visited the NIH and the National Eye Institute, toured laboratories and research facilities, met directly with faculty, visited the U.S. Capitol, and presented their winning research projects. The scholarship also received funding from the Cambridge Eye Trust and the Biomedical Research Alliance, and was recently renewed for a second year. Funding from CSAR also enabled me to travel to the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) conference in Honolulu, Hawaii, where I presented my research on optic nerve regeneration, networked with leading scientists in my field to devise combinatorial treatments using my enzyme, and shared the outcomes of our first PWIS award. I look forward to continuing with these efforts as I move forward in my career as a vision scientist.

Saif Syed Ahmad (2017): Being a recipient of the prize has been fantastically beneficial for me in a number of ways. Firstly, I used the prize money to fund my attendance to a research meeting in Paris where I also presented a research poster. The meeting was an excellent learning opportunity for me and allowed me to meet researchers I may collaborate with in future. Secondly, I had the privilege of presenting my research at a CSAR meeting at Churchill College which was a well-received and highly rewarding experience. Thirdly, I had the opportunity to be a judge the Award in 2018 and this experience was a fantastic learning experience enabling me to learn about novel research and see how research abstracts are viewed from a judge’s perspective. Importantly, being an Award Recipient has helped me secure other exciting opportunities within academia. Having completed my PhD I am now focusing my research into understanding how we can improve the treatment of breast cancer. As a current postdoc, I was selected for an exciting Leadership Development Programme, supported by the Canada-UK Foundation and the University of Cambridge, which promotes the careers of outstanding postdocs, enabling them to become future world-leaders and entrepreneurs who will potentially create new technologies, jobs and generate economic growth. https://www.opda.cam.ac.uk/career-development/CanadaUK-fellowships .

Aleksej Popel (2014): The CSAR Student Award given to me allowed me to cover living expenses over my stay at the Division of Radiochemistry at Lomonosov Moscow University in March to April 2014 to conduct experimental work for my PhD. I was fortunate that during my visit the International Lomonosov Conference for Young Scientists took place at the University. I was able to take part in the Conference, where I presented my results on characterisation of irradiated and unirradiated single crystal thin films of UO2, and even managed to get a Conference award for this work. Apart from my work, I took this opportunity to enjoy the cultural heritage of Moscow.

Previous award winners

Find out about the winners awarded in previous years: