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Interdisciplinary Research Centre

Today’s global challenges are complex and no one discipline holds all the answers. To address them academics have to be able to collaborate, be open to learning from across disciplinary boundaries and to break down the barriers between academia and the world of policy and practice. 


Gates Cambridge Scholars are selected not just for their academic excellence, but for their ability to do just that in order to achieve wider social impact. The Scholarship’s mission is based on social leadership combined with academic excellence and this year’s cohort demonstrates just what that involves. The Gates Scholars will see 77 scholars from 32 different countries join them this year, of which include:


Inioluwa Afolabi, from Nigeria, will do a PhD in Chemistry.  She did her master’s at Cambridge where she studied the properties of materials for carbon capture at atomic scale. For her PhD, she will use state-of-the-art computer simulation approaches to discover and understand the properties of next-generation materials for carbon capture in order to mitigate the effects of climate change and promote clean energy transition. In addition she is a career coach and mentors African students who want to apply to university. She is committed to encouraging more women into STEM careers and spoke recently at an Artificial Intelligence for Females in STEM conference held in Nigeria.


"This is a life-changing opportunity that will launch me into a world of endless possibilities. My research at the University of Cambridge will allow me to discover novel materials for climate change mitigation and clean energy transition. With this great opportunity, I also hope to inspire other African girls and women to pursue a career in STEM," Inioluwa Afolabi, Gates Scholar


Leonardo Souza-McMurtrie from Brazil, who will do a PhD in Law. He set up an NGO in Manaus, Brazil, to help businesses learn about arbitration as a form of dispute settlement, which led him to receive a commendation from the Amazonas state legislature. His PhD aims to investigate the gap in the investment arbitration system that allows companies to sue entire nations before private tribunals, putting the fate of water, land, human rights, energy, health, the environment, indigenous peoples' rights and natural resources in the balance. Leonardo was elected director of the national board of the Brazilian Association of Arbitration Students in 2018.


"Private tribunals hold the fates of nations, overseeing a system that is both beautiful and terrifying, where corporations sue entire states on issues of water, land, human rights, natural resources, or even war. What enables them to do so? Where do their powers come from? These questions motivate my research," Leonardo Souza-McMurtrie, Gates Scholar


The Gates Cambridge Scholarship programme was established through a US$210 million donation to the University of Cambridge from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000; this remains the largest single donation to a UK university. It funds international postgraduate students from across the globe and from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds with the emphasis on diversity of thinking. Together the scholars form a network of engaged academics who are open to sharing new ideas and who understand the urgency of many of the problems facing us.