A message from the Master: Professor Dobson discusses the scholarship

Upon arriving at St. John’s College, there is one person all the scholars inevitably meet: the Master. Here the current Master, Professor Chris Dobson, explains what the Davies-Jackson scholarship means to him. Read on to learn a bit more about the man behind the role, and about why he thinks the scholarship is so wonderfully unique. 

Professor Dobson

Professor Dobson

It was when I became Master of St John’s just over five years ago that I first began to realise the unique nature of the Davies-Jackson scholarships. I know the United States and its educational system quite well as I was for nearly four years an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Harvard and a Visiting Scientist at MIT, just after my doctorate and before returning to the UK as a Lecturer in Chemistry at Oxford. In addition, I have travelled to the US to visit universities and give talks at conferences five or six times a year on average for the last thirty years!

I believe passionately that St John’s and Cambridge is an international centre of excellence and so must recruit its students and faculty from all over the world, with the simple selection principle that we choose those people that we believe have the greatest potential for future success.

What first struck me about the Davies-Jackson scholarships was the brilliance of the idea, and the difference from just about all the other types of scholarships that bring international students to Oxford and Cambridge.The typical approach of scholarship committees is to select people with conventional ‘achievements”, largely from well established universities.

Professor Dobson meets the Queen

Professor Dobson meets the Queen

Moreover, the concept behind the Davies-Jackson scholarship struck me as a fascinating one, and something that really resonated with me and my own experience. Neither of my parents had been to university, and I was the first of my family or any of my relatives to attend Oxford or Cambridge. In addition, I had not got there by a conventional route as my school had said that I wasn’t good enough even to try, and it was only a chance encounter with someone from Oxford that led to me thinking about it again and then being offered a place at the last minute!

I have met all the Davies-Jackson scholars here at St John’s during my time as Master, and I have to say that I have been overwhelmed by their ability, enthusiasm and success; in addition, every one of the scholars is enormously interesting and great fun! I have also been to Washington to meet Graham Down and the rest of the Scholarship Committee and been overwhelmed by their enthusiasm and commitment to this unique programme (or indeed program if you prefer!).

The Davies-Jackson scholarships are one of the brightest jewels in the crown of St John’s and I am extremely proud of the scheme and of its products. And nobody could be better ambassadors for the College and University that the scholars themselves. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who is a part of this wonderful programme for their enthusiastic contributions on all fronts that have enriched our academic community beyond measure.

-Professor CM Dobson


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