NOC and West P&I celebrate successful first year of international bursary programme

Online mentoring with the Class of 2021

A new bursary made available by West of England P&I club (West P&I) and managed by the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) has had a highly successful first year, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

West P&I, a leading insurance provider, partnered with the NOC last year to enable students and early career scientists to access exclusive learning experiences.

Although this year’s bursary had to be held virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions, five recipients of the bursary, joining from Ghana, Brazil and the UK were able to access an exciting two-day workshop led by NOC scientists, including a bespoke 3D tour of the NOC’s world class research ship, the RRS Discovery. The students were also offered a 6-month mentoring programme with a NOC scientist, to learn about their specialist areas of science.

Scientific leadership of the bursary program was provided by Dr Ben Moat, Prof. Penny Holliday and Dr Carla Sands supported by the CLASS National Capability programme. The awardee-mentor pairs were: Selasi Yao Avornyo with Dr Dave McCann; Maurício Santos-Andrade with Dr Francisco de Melo Virissimo; Kelsey Archer Barnhill with Dr Veerle Huvenne and Dr Jen Durden; Adeola Dahunsi with Dr Xiaoyan Wei; and Mariana Gandra with Dr Alejandra Sanchez-Franks.

The bursary recipients found the programme an overwhelmingly positive experience, with 100% reporting learning new skills from the programme, and finding the bursary a valuable experience despite the challenges presented by COVID-19.

Bursary recipient Adeola Michael Dahunsi said: “From the onboarding workshop through the virtual ship tours to the mentorship under the 2021 West P&I bursary, it has been a wonderful experience that will stay with me throughout my career as I hope to be a part of the in-person ship going experience in the future.”

Reflecting on the first year of the programme, the NOC’s Head of Philanthropy, Samia Burridge said: “High-quality mentorship has a major influence on young scientists’ future achievements. I am proud that, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the NOC has widened participation in its world-leading research. This kind of work depends of philanthropic support and we are grateful to West P&I.”

The bursary will continue to be managed by the NOC over the next nine years and will deliver valuable learning experiences for recipients, including joining sea going expeditions on the NOC’s two world-class research vessels the RRS James Cook and RRS Discovery, as well as other vessels involved in the NOC’s research projects.

Watch the video to find out more about the experiences of the West P&I bursary recipients.