CSAR PhD Students Awards

CSAR PhD Students Awards For Applied Research

The CSAR PhD Student 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 awards application process for 2025 awards is now open here. The deadline is 23:59 on Saturday 18th January 2025. Candidates will be notified whether they have been shortlisted in February 2025, and we expect interviews for shortlisted candidates to take place in April 2025.

Award winners will be asked to present their work in a 10 minute slot (with questions) at a regular CSAR lecturer evening. Subsequently this presentation will be posted on the CSAR website, unless it contains confidential or unpublished results. They are also expected to submit a short (350 word) report on how the award was used, within nine months of receipt of the award.

If the recipient’s time permits, they may be invited to present their research and inspire students, in schools around Cambridge and/or participate in the selection committee for future CSAR awards.

If Award winners request it, CSAR will endeavour to provide opportunities for personal development and meeting influential professionals in their area of interest, within the University of Cambridge and other organisations. This will also include an opportunity to meet the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research of the University.

Please send any queries, or report any issues arising during your application, to the secretary of the Student Award Committee, Jane Baker, at grants@csar.org.uk

The 2023 awards winners, and some photos of the presentation ceremony, are here.


The CSAR PhD Students Award scheme is partly 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 grants@csar.org.uk, or speak with a committee member.

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 some examples:

Jenna DiRito (2020): I initially pursued a clinically focused PhD to prepare me to attend medical school back in the United States following my studies. Cambridge was the only place where I could undertake a PhD in Surgery and start to shape my career as an academic surgeon. Throughout my PhD I studied and advanced new techniques in renal transplantation and have developed a passion to specialize in transplantation as a clinician. Thanks to the CSAR Student Award, I was able to fund my medical school applications and start my formal journey in medicine. Like many academic institutions in the US, there is a high financial barrier to entry. Depending on the amount of medical schools one applies, an average application cycle can cost anywhere from 2000-3000 GBP. The CSAR award has enabled me to fund my application and help me continue towards my ultimate career goal of becoming an academic transplant surgeon. I am grateful to the CSAR Student Award Committee for giving me the platform to share my work with a larger community outside of transplant. By helping me pursue my academic goals, I believe that this award will help me make an impact in my future patients’ lives as both a scientist and a surgeon.

I am currently a postdoctoral fellow at Yale working in the Department of Surgery and recently published a manuscript from my PhD in the American Journal of Transplantation. Here is an article from Yale summarizing the manuscript, and the manuscript itself.

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.

Michael Coto (2017): My startup Majicom recently won a prize at the global Cisco social innovation competition for our work in Tanzania. I won the CSAR award a few years back for the academic work that led to Majicom. A recent article is also below. https://blogs.cisco.com/csr/meet-majicom-a-third-runner-up-of-the-cisco-global-problem-solver-challenge-2020dtidpblgblg001473oidpstoth022641

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 .

Katerina Christofidou (2016): I’m now a Lecturer in Metallurgy at the University of Sheffield. From April I will also leading the “Materials discovery and prototyping” branch for metals for the Sir Henry Royce Institute (the UK’s national institute for advanced materials research).

Nathaniel Davis (2016): I am currently a Lecturer in Physical Chemistry at Victoria University of Wellington, NZ. I have also started my own research group: https://www.wgtn.ac.nz/scps/research/research-groups/advanced-functional-luminescence

Previous award winners

Find out about the winners awarded in previous years: