Cambridge is not only a prestigious institution - it is also a beautiful university town. As poet Xu Zhimo famously wrote as he left the city: "The golden willows by the riverside are young brides in the setting sun; their glittering reflections on the shimmering river keep undulating in my heart."
For Chinese University of Hong Kong graduate Chris Ng Tin-long, getting the chance to study at Cambridge means even more to him.
"Throughout my adolescence, I witnessed some of my closest relatives and teachers suffering or even dying from cancer. Therefore, developing cancer treatments and drugs has always been one of my dreams for research," said Ng.
The molecular biotechnology graduate has been working toward this passion since his undergraduate days in CUHK, participating in the research of Wong Kam-bo, who is his course instructor at the School of Life Sciences as well as his college's dean of students.
So when it comes to furthering his studies and fulfilling his dreams through a PhD from Cambridge, Ng looked online for scholarships he might be eligible for and came across the Gates Cambridge Scholarship.
The scholarship was set up in 2000 with a donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
"Unlike other local scholarships, not only does this scholarship provide a more extraordinary and diverse scholar network in terms of ethnicities and major studies, it also emphasizes leadership and contribution to society using the collective knowledge among scholars," said Ng.
"As I hope to utilize my academic skills for patients who are suffering from untreatable diseases, such a social commitment was very impressive to me and made me determined to apply for this scholarship."
One of the 74 Gates Cambridge scholars for this year, Ng will be pursuing a doctorate in pharmacology at the University of Cambridge, with his tuition fee fully covered and a living allowance to boot.
He will be joining the laboratory of department head professor Laura Itzhaki "to develop novel approaches to hard-to-treat cancers such as pancreatic and colorectal cancers."
"To be more specific, an engineered protein, called tandem-repeated proteins, has shown immense potential to degrade targeted cancerous proteins which are the major cause of the aforementioned types of cancers, and I will be contributing to this lab's research on translating this platform to practical oncogenic therapeutics," Ng explained.
He noted that applying for the scholarship and the doctorate were very different, as the two processes required separate sets of references and personal statements.
The scholarship application was more difficult than that for his doctorate, he said.
He was required to meet with a professor from his intended field, hand in reference letters, research proposals and a personal statement. This was followed by an online interview with the department's admissions panel.
"Applying for the scholarship, in my opinion, was much harder and more competitive because several personalities and criteria needed to be demonstrated during the interview and in the personal statement, such as social commitment and leadership, not to mention the higher number of applicants and fewer awardees this year due to the pandemic," he explained.
Though he is "very flattered and grateful" to be one of the awardees of the global scholarship, he admitted that, like most new students starting anew: "I would not say that I am completely ready for the new start because, after all, I need to run away from my comfort zone and get used to a whole new, unfamiliar environment."
He added: "That being said, to better prepare for the uncertainties in my new chapter studying abroad, being passionate and curious are of utmost importance to me. Knowing more about the culture and working environment before departure would also be very helpful to adapt to the new environment."