James McCune Smith PhD Scholarships

The University has successfully recruited 17 new scholars for a new employer-supported scholarship programme to fund Black UK students to undertake PhD research.

The James McCune Smith PhD Scholarship programme, named after the first African American to be awarded a medical degree, will provide successful applicants with access to external mentors, six-month placements, leadership training, community-building activities and networking opportunities.

The 17 new scholars will be carrying out research in all four of the University’s colleges and will start at Glasgow in October 2022 – Arts (4); MVLS (4); Science & Engineering (5) and Social Sciences (4)

Professor Chris Pearce, Vice Principal for Research and Knowledge Exchange, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have recruited 17 brilliant students to this exciting new scholarship programme. They will be working on a range of fascinating projects including the history of the RAF’s wartime and post-war race relations, therapeutic strategies to treat malaria, the school to prison pipeline for Black Caribbean boys, and research to contribute to the global elimination of rabies.

“Many of our Scholars have already made significant contributions to society and to their fields. We are very lucky that they have chosen to be part of our community of World Changers at the University of Glasgow.”

Russell Smith, one of the first 17 scholars who will be based in the College of Arts, said: “I'm both incredibly excited and totally honoured to be a part of the first intake of JMS scholarships. As a historian it's a little odd to know that you're a part of making history as well as reading up on it. I've been really enjoying seeing who all the other scholars are, mostly so I can look forward to us all getting together and meeting up to share our stories and experiences. I've some important stuff to work through before I get there but honestly I can't wait to get started in Glasgow already!"

The scholarships were officially launched last year on the 17 November to mark the anniversary of James McCune Smith’s death on that date in 1865.

James McCune Smith received three degrees from the University of Glasgow, the last of which was an MD in 1837, before setting up medical practice in lower Manhattan. He grew to be recognised as a leading intellectual, developing prominence in the New York black community and the abolitionist movement.

A total of 15 of the James McCune Smith PhD Scholarships are funded by the University, and are open for applications for PhD students working in any of the disciplines represented across the University’s four Colleges.

Two more are funded by GSK, which has partnered with the University to support scholarships in medicinal chemistry and organic synthesis. 

During the course of each scholarship, the research students will be partnered with a dedicated external mentor working in a related discipline. Employers across a wide range of sectors have already lent their support to the scholarship programme. 

The 17 new PhD researchers will also benefit from a placement of at least six months with industry, a government or non-governmental organisation or other employer.

Additional support will also be offered in the form of leadership training, community-building activities, conferences and other networking opportunities.

The scholarships are the latest in a series of institutional efforts by the University to address issues of racial equality and historical injustice.

In 2018, the University published a report investigating how the University had benefited from slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries and committed to a significant programme of reparative justice.

In February 2021, the Understanding Racism, Transforming University Cultures report identified actions to tackle racial inequality on campus, and in April 2021, the £91m James McCune Smith Learning Hub opened, named in commemoration of the University’s links with Dr Smith.

The James McCune Smith PhD Scholarships are open to UK-domiciled applicants of Black African, Black Caribbean, Black Other, Mixed White and Black Caribbean, Mixed White and Black African, or other mixed background (to include Black African, Black Caribbean or Black other).


First published: 23 May 2022

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