Winston Churchill

What They Say

“I believe that I shall look back on my year at Churchill as the first year when I stopped thinking about myself as a student, and started thinking about myself as an academic and as a researcher. I began to think more critically this year about the various approaches that researchers take to difficult problems in science and began to realize my own ability to choose between those approaches in my career. I believe that the most important product of the past year has been a clearer understanding of what I want to do and how it should be done. Entering my PhD, I now feel very well-prepared to jump in and to take charge of my own research projects right from the start.”

"Allow me to begin by providing an overall impression of the University of Cambridge: You are a scholar in its fullest sense at Cambridge, because you have the freedom and liberty to chart your own path of study and inquiry. Opportunities abound, from excellent talks and specialized courses to great travel experiences around the UK and the European continent. I appreciate most that students are expected to take the initiative themselves to be involved and get things accomplished. It is truly a supportive environment to pursue scholarly interests."

“I cannot stress enough how wonderful and formative my year at Cambridge was. Academically, I encountered a new field and feel that I can now call myself a neuroscientist. The work was challenging but rewarding, and I was provided with great mentorship and support every step of the way. I developed many lasting friendships through Churchill College, my lab, and beyond, and I now have people to visit around the world. ... My year exposed me to new ideas and ways of thinking, and I believe that it was an invaluable opportunity for me to deepen and refine my academic and personal interests. I would like to express my profound gratitude to the Churchill Foundation for allowing me to have an experience that I will always remember as one of my most treasured years.”

“The past year I have spent in Cambridge has been amazing. Focusing on my research, I have gained appreciation for electronic structure simulations, which will prove useful as I pursue a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering. I have only really scratched the surface of density functional theory based methods but have gained proficiency in the CP2K package, which will be helpful throughout my research career. The Cambridge environment has been a great inspiration for me, and I will always cherish my time in Cambridge as a time of great personal and academic growth.”

“This year was hard. When working in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people in an unfamiliar field, a year is a deceptively short time to both find one's bearings and produce a body of original research. In addition, my advisor was extremely hands-off, and so I was forced to be far more independent than I ever had been in the past. There was no one automatically to "check-up" on or motivate me other than myself. In no way am I implying anything negative about my research group — they were all fantastic teachers from whom I have learned an extraordinary amount. But the general academic attitude seems to be that, unless you actively seek out an advisor with specific questions or concerns, you will generally be left alone. While at first this proved a difficult adjustment to make, I believed it led me to become a much more mature and self-reliant student. … Ultimately, this was a truly incredible experience. My year at Cambridge has been a wonderful platform for future growth, both personal and professional. The experience and connections I have obtained through colleagues at the Institute of Astronomy will give me a huge step up as I start graduate school.”

“Life seems to consist of a handful of key decisions. For me, one such proverbial “fork in the road” was when I was given the opportunity to attend the University of Cambridge as a Churchill Scholar.  As I look back, it was an unforgettably adventurous year: total immersion in the unique academic environment of Cambridge, blessed with the chance to pursue my research of interest in a world-class lab. Indeed, interacting with the other Churchill Scholars and members of the University was humbling yet inspiring. Also, as it was my first time truly living abroad, my year residing in England was unexpectedly informative and gave me a significantly broadened my global outlook. I now realize that this intense year as a Churchill Scholar set the tone for the years that followed and prepared me for a career anchored in science. In conclusion, I feel extremely honored to have been selected as a Churchill Scholar, and I wholly endorse the Winston Churchill Scholarship for any budding US scholar who seeks such a potentially transforming professional and personal experience.”

“The Churchill Scholarship has had a significant effect on my thinking and career path, and the news of the new Scholars always takes me back to that key year in my life.”

“My year on the Churchill Scholarship was fantastic. It changed my perspectives, set up many new and exciting contacts, and helped me develop new goals for what I want to get out of my career. At the same time, I formed amazing friendships, traveled around Europe, and learned to row with the Churchill College Men's First VIII. I had so many "firsts" that they are hard to keep track of. When I started thinking about UK fellowships, I wasn't sure if it was worth taking a year out of an already long MD-PhD track for a master's education that would probably be dwarfed by two doctoral degrees. It was easy to mentally write off the nebulous cultural experiences I would have and the potential contacts I would make. Looking back, I find it hard to believe that I was so naïve – the year was one of the most exciting, interesting, and valuable of my life.”

"It is very easy for me to get caught up in research and schoolwork, to be so interested in and intoxicated by what I am studying that I forget that there exists an exciting life outside of academics – perhaps this was my attitude throughout my undergraduate career. I have only been in Cambridge now for a few months, but I have learned – finally – how to be both passionate about my field and to be able to find the time to become great friends with others who share similar passions about their respective fields of study. Not only has the Churchill Scholarship experience been a meaningful intellectual adventure, but it has also taught me the importance of pursuing a rich personal life as well."

“There are many reasons why a scientist should study at the University of Cambridge. Intellectually, there is much to be gained from having an in-depth scholarly experience within a foreign academic culture: I learned the value of carefully planning experiments and of continually pausing to reflect upon the results, and I became more confident about my ability to pursue independently the answer to a scientific question. And I found that I learned even more outside of the laboratory. The chance to join a truly international community of scholars, to encounter different viewpoints through casual conversations in the MCR as well as more formal arenas, is truly invaluable. I cannot exaggerate how fortunate I feel to have been a Churchill Scholar. My year at Cambridge was without a doubt the best year of my life to date, and I know that the people I met there, and the experience that I gained, will continue to have a positive impact on my life far into the future.”

“I am very grateful to the Churchill Foundation for making this unforgettable year possible for me. I have had an incredible time here in Cambridge, have learned a great deal both inside the Chemistry Department and outside it, have forged new friendships, and stored up scores of great memories.”

"I’m not sure if I can accurately boil down how my experiences during the Churchill.  The opportunity to study for a year in Cambridge with essentially no strings attached was an amazing opportunity.  It let me into a world that I would never expect to be a part of, and I learned a lot about how to succeed in a new environment as a result of it.

The whole process gave me perspective and confidence as I move forward in my career. Perspective to know that it is worth it to try something different when I think it is a good idea, and confidence enough to do it…  I can’t say enough about how much the Scholarship did for me.  Aside from the fun memories, it is enabling me to take opportunities that I wouldn’t have been smart enough to take without it."

“I look back on last year as one of the most important years of my life. I will never be the same, and I am better for it. Living in England made me think seriously about a few political issues, historical wonders, and cultural oddities which have enriched my life ever since. Also, I learned the value of being fiercely proactive about lab work. I learned to ride a bicycle alongside cars. I learned to identify hundreds of European bird species and tens of tea varieties.”

“Ultimately, I want to strike a balance between free-wheeling, workaholic “American”-style science and more orderly, contemplative “British”-style science. (… these are slight caricatures.) There are some problems that are best solved by brute force, and the best way to break an impasse is sometimes to work insanely hard trying different things. A less regimented approach to a project can also provoke unexpected insights. On the other hand, I’ve realized that scientific creativity and productivity can benefit by consciously limiting work time and setting aside downtime during which one can read, think, and do relaxing things other than science. My year at Cambridge was a highly worthwhile immersion in a new scientific community and a new culture of doing science. Going forward, the new skills and knowledge that I have acquired, and the new perspective that I have gained, will continue to enrich my life as a scientist. I am deeply grateful to the Churchill Foundation for their support.”

“One of the biggest draws of Part III Mathematics is the sheer quantity of talented students one interacts with here, and I am sure these are people whose paths I will cross in the future.”

“The courses I took at Cambridge are serving me well. In fact, the general relativity (Einstein's theory of gravity) I learned at DAMTP has been serving me so well that my adviser asked me to give lectures on it over the summer. I gave two lectures a week, each an hour and a half long (although this would spill over into discussion, sometimes lasting as much as another four hours). Most of the time I followed my notes from Cambridge, but sometimes I wrote my own lectures. I had very good students: my adviser, two graduate students, and a postdoc. There were about twenty lectures in all. It was immensely rewarding, it gave me a chance to learn the material inside and out. Part III puts me in a special position, because I am bringing material into a department of astronomy that is traditionally seen only in departments of physics and mathematics.”

“To coin a geologic phrase, Cambridge literally rocked my world. I learned more about research, rowing, and myself than I thought possible in such a short amount of time. This experience was extremely beneficial to my academic career, because I learned cutting-edge techniques, and I was inspired by the intense curiosity with which my fellow researchers pursued scientific questions. I became friends with faculty and fellow students from all over the world who are or will soon be the leaders in our field.”

“I am now studying how a kind of fluid flow called an accretion disk behaves around spinning black holes… What makes the problem challenging is the sheer range of physics it involves, from fluid dynamics to Einstein's theory of gravity. Without the breadth of material I learned at Cambridge, it would simply be impossible to keep up! When I started drafting my essay for the Churchill application three summers ago, I wrote about my desire to bring together techniques from different fields. So it is most rewarding to see, last week for example, how tools from an abstract geometry course at Cambridge can be used to make powerful statements about the magnetic fields in accretion disks. There is a lot more I can say about my time at Cambridge, but the overwhelming feelings a year later are a deep gratitude, particularly to the Churchill Foundation, and a heartfelt appreciation for the extraordinary opportunity.”

“I was devastated to have to leave Cambridge. Now that exams are over, I can comfortably look back on the year and realize that I have grown immensely. Not only has my knowledge of special topics in number theory and algebra improved, but I am more mathematically mature than when I entered. Of course, the Ceilidh Band was another opportunity this year afforded me. My love of music has been redirected and reinvigorated, and I hope to continue learning about folk music alongside my graduate studies in mathematics. Of all the amazing opportunities this year has afforded me, however, the one that influenced me the most was simply the experience of living and studying abroad with people from all over the world. It truly changed my perspective, opened my mind, and challenged many of the axioms of daily life that I take for granted. I hope I can bring a small piece of this back to the States and carry it with me throughout my life. I expect that this year will prove to be the first of many such experiences learning from people in another part of this ever shrinking world. Thank you for opening this door to me. It has been an amazing journey.”

“I have to thank everyone at the Churchill Foundation for providing me with the opportunity to study at Cambridge this past year. It wasn’t always easy, and I didn’t always enjoy myself, but I learned a lot more about myself through the hard times than I would have had it been a problem-free year. In the end, I was actually sad to leave Cambridge, and, if you read my mid-year report, you’d know that I never would have said that in January. It was an absolutely worthwhile experience, though not in the ways I expected it to be. I did not learn as much new physics as I would have liked. However, by pushing through a program where I disagreed with the teaching style and approach, and still doing reasonably well on the exams, I increased my own confidence a lot.”

“Allow me to begin by waxing hyperbolic: my year at Churchill College was the best year of my life to date, without question. The people I met, the things I saw, and the many things I learned (mathematical and otherwise) will be a source of both inspiration and fond reflection for the rest of my days. There is a special place in my heart set aside now and forever for Churchill, for Cambridge, and for England, and I often find myself yearning for just one more math formal, one more May ball, one more bike ride to Grantchester.”

“It has been incredible to be able to start a research project and devote all of one’s time to it, delving much more deeply into topics I have previously studied, running my own experiments, and developing conclusions as I obtain results… The year that I have spent at Cambridge has been invaluable in teaching me how to do research”

“I learned a great deal this year as a scientist, a student, and an individual. It has been very inspiring to be around so many other scientists from different fields and different countries, and to be studying with some of the best researchers in the world. Definitely a life-changing experience!”

“In some ways, this year was a test to my commitment to the scientific process. Despite not having someone to report to or feeling any pressure to get results, I fully embraced my project. To me, the ability to test the bounds of my creativity and to produce meaningful work became a sense of grounding amidst the chaos of the outside world. The project I worked on is a success, for not only do I have several manuscripts in the process of preparation and a thesis I am extremely proud of, I am also confidant in my abilities a scientist to design and execute elegant experiments to tackle complex problems. It is for this reason that I would refute the notion that a top young American scientist spending a year at Cambridge is a “break from their real studies.” While I agree the United States education and training programs might be unmatched, having the chance to test the bounds of one’s own limits is invaluable and is in no sense a “break” from real work. Despite a different approach to conducting research, the same standard to produce meaningful work persists. A crucial step in the development of a scientist is to be able to discover your own scientific query and then develop the means to probe that question. Cambridge has been an ideal training ground and I am more grateful then I can state for this opportunity.”

“Overall, I had a superb, full year, both personally and academically … I am very honored to have been a Churchill Scholar, joining the other passionate young scientists in my cohort and the distinguished individuals from years past… Frankly, I think I will look back on my experience as a Churchill Scholar as the one which catalyzed my life. ”

When I started in Cambridge, I had grand designs for the year.  It would not only be a ‘gap year,’ replete with the proverbial ‘adventure of a lifetime’ on the Continent (or beyond), but also the most formative year of my future career as a physicist, through developing contacts within the Cavendish that would serve as a springboard for future international collaborations and, of course, doing world-class science. I realize how close I came to achieving the original plan, although it was not in the way I originally intended.  I certainly had adventures, but many of my favorites were England-centric instead of abroad – campsite follies with Cambridge Hands-On Science, exploring the Gower Peninsula, and seeing Chartwell.  I made fewer contacts with graduate students at the Cavendish than I had expected, but my friends from clubs, Churchill College, and my division made up the difference.  And world-class science? Undoubtedly.

“My academic course in Engineering … opened my eyes to the world’s major problems and helped me understand how people from other cultures views issues regarding climate change, energy, and development”

“While incredibly varied in interests and in personalities, all the Churchill Scholars seem to share the unique combination of being exceptionally intelligent yet refreshingly down to earth and unassuming.”

“Truly, the scholarship provides an amazing experience … Six years ago I was attending a public high school in rural Michigan. I then attended a public university. During that time I went from being a basketball player to a scientist. I worked hard in the lab … but never imagined it would land me where I am today. If you had told me I would be here when I was in high school, I would have fainted.”

“The past year was a defining year for me, a chance for me to figure out who I am and who I want to be. Not only do I feel a sense of confidence as I continue my scientific career, but I am also empowered with a knowledge and strength that defies borders, and I am eager to embrace whatever lies before me”

“I am very grateful to the Foundation for making this all possible. My year at Cambridge has been valuable in many ways, and it has helped me to grow as a scientist and a citizen of the world. I do think that studying abroad and meeting inspiring people from around the world helps a young person to become a leader in life and an expert in his field, and spending an “extra” year to complete an MPhil has certainly been worthwhile for me…. I’m glad to see that Sir Winston’s vision of excellence in science education is being realized.”

“By experiencing a completely different educational environment at Cambridge, I have though deeply about my educational ideas and have a better sense of how I am going to be a professor.”

“The Churchill Scholarship will go down as one of the most interesting, scientifically stimulating and socially engaging experience in my memory. I owe tremendous gratitude to the Churchill Foundation.”

“The cultural understanding I have gained at Cambridge is simply unattainable in the United States. The people I have met hold scores of deeply held cultural and political that have made me seriously consider why we do the things we do at home. For someone like me who has never spent serious time in a foreign country before, I believe this is the most important aspect of the program.”

“My expectations have been challenged, my limits have been tested, and my sense of personal and cultural identity has been transformed. … I encountered new ideas and new research and met students and professors with whom I shall continue to work for the rest of my career.”

“It was an extraordinary experience. It was a year in which I matured and gained insight into who I am and how I want to progress both personally and professionally.”

“I have thrived in the intellectual atmosphere, developed many meaningful relationships, and thoroughly enjoyed myself… I believe that this year will have immeasurable positive effect on my academic and personal life.”

“The year at Cambridge was an amazing experience…academically and athletically, culturally and socially. It gave me the opportunity to broaden not only my knowledge of computer science, but more importantly my view of the world.”

“I had a phenomenal time at Churchill College….I managed to get something valuable from my experience, academically, socially, personally and politically.”

“The cultural understanding I have gained at Cambridge is simply unattainable in the United States. The people I have met hold scores of deeply held cultural and political that have made me seriously consider why we do the things we do at home. For someone like me who has never spent serious time in a foreign country before, I believe this is the most important aspect of the program.”

“The year was life-changing!”