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Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship for Cardiff physicist

11 July 2023

A female postgraduate researcher in a lab at Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy.
Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship Fund 2023 awardee Clara Cafolla-Ward says the fund is about levelling the playing field for anyone who doesn’t fit the mould.

A research student from Cardiff University has been named among the recipients of a prestigious scholarship fund aimed at improving diversity in physics.

Clara Cafolla-Ward, who is studying a PhD in the School of Physics and Astronomy, is one of ten postgraduate researchers to receive the Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship Fund.

Awarded by the Institute of Physics (IOP), the fund offers doctoral scholarships to groups currently underrepresented in the physics research community including women, people with refugee status, ethnic minorities, disabled people or financially disadvantaged students – and others who would otherwise struggle to complete a course of postgraduate study due to their circumstances.

Clara, whose PhD focuses on condensed matter physics, said: “This fund will make a huge difference as I have no other means of financially supporting myself. I’m very grateful.

“The Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship Fund genuinely reaches out to a wide range of diversities. It’s about levelling the playing field for anyone who doesn’t fit the mould.

“Every individual has their own experience and perspective that creates a unique and valuable contribution. Physics challenges all assumption – to do this, it requires a variety of perspectives. Thus the drive towards understanding our physical reality requires a diversity of people from which to view it.”

Clara Cafolla-Ward

The fund was set up by leading physicist Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell and the IOP in 2019 after Dame Jocelyn was awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for her role in the discovery of pulsars.

Dame Jocelyn immediately donated her entire £2.3m prize award to the IOP. Her aim was to help counter what she described as “the unconscious bias that still exists in physics research”, adding: “I don’t need the money myself, and it seemed to me that this was perhaps the best use I could put it to.”

To date, the fund has enabled 31 students to begin PhDs they would otherwise not have been able to take on.

“It’s vital we continue to increase access to physics so that people from a range of backgrounds can see just how fascinating the discipline really is, while also contributing their unique set of skills and perspectives as part of their studies and, hopefully, their careers.”

Professor Haley Gomez Deputy Head of School
Astronomy Group
Cardiff Hub for Astrophysics Research and Technology

“We take this kind of widening access activity really seriously here in Cardiff and it informs our outreach programmes in schools and communities across south Wales.

“So, on behalf of everyone at the school, huge congratulations to Clara for securing this important funding from the IOP to pursue her PhD research.

“I look forward to following her progress!”

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We are currently inviting applications for a number of EPSRC fully funded PhD studentships available from 1 October in a range of research areas.