Tara Cookson wins Bill Gates Senior Prize

  • June 6, 2014
Tara Cookson wins Bill Gates Senior Prize

Tara Cookson has been awarded the second Bill Gates Senior Prize in recognition of her outstanding research, her dedication to improving the lives of others and her work to promote the professional development of Gates Cambridge Scholars.

Tara Cookson has been awarded the second Bill Gates Senior Prize in recognition of her outstanding research, her dedication to improving the lives of others and her work to promote the professional development of Gates Cambridge Scholars.

The Bill Gates Sr. Prize was established by the Gates Cambridge Trustees in June 2012 in recognition of  Bill Gates Sr.’s role in establishing the Gates Cambridge Scholarships, over a decade of service as a Trustee, and his engagement with, and inspiration to, many generations of Gates Cambridge Scholars.

The Prize allows Scholars to recognise the impact and contribution to the Scholar community of one of their peers (who may be pursuing any subject and be from any part of the world), with particular reference to the scholarship’s selection criteria. This year it was open to Scholars who are graduating in 2013/2014.

Scholars were asked to nominate a fellow Scholar for the Prize by completing a 500-word statement about why that Scholar would be a suitable recipient.
 
Selection was on the basis of how well the nominated candidates met the selection criteria while in residence in Cambridge. Those who nominated Tara Cookson [2011], who is doing a PhD in Geography [http://gatescambridge.org/our-scholars/Profile.aspx?ScholarID=5652], singled out her intellectual ability, leadership potential and commitment to improving the lives of others.

Her research on conditional cash transfer programmes in Peru assesses their long-term implications and aims to ameliorate the lives of disadvantaged mothers in Peru through development that reflects the interests of those it seeks to help.  She has presented her work at conferences in Canada, the UK, USA and Ghana and published about her work in range of media, from the Huffington Post to the Impatient Optimists blog.

Her supervisor, Professor Sarah Radcliffe says: “Tara’s progress has been phenomenal, and she is doing highly original research.” Professor Radcliffe added that Tara’s discoveries that CCTs are gendered and that their implementation is fundamentally flawed “has generated great interest and requests to contribute to peer-reviewed articles.”

Outside of her research, Tara has been teaching undergraduate Geography students. One third-year undergraduate student, Ian Ross, said she is “definitely one of the best supervisors I’ve ever had; […] she went above and beyond to provide useful contacts, sources and literature for my research.”

Tara has volunteered with a local women’s centre, is a committee member of the Global Scholars Symposium, Wolfson College’s female welfare officer and is currently co-chair of the Wolfson College Research Event. She also established and led the Gates Professional Development programme which allows Gates scholars to maximise their success within their respective fields.

Gates Cambridge Provost Professor Barry Everitt who was part of the selection committee along with Trustees Professor David Runciman and Professor Susan Smith said: “After carefully reviewing all nominations, we felt all the nominees were deserving of the Prize, but we unanimously agreed that Tara Cookson should be recognised because she exemplifies the qualities that are synonymous with the Gates Cambridge Scholarship – academic excellence, outstanding leadership and a commitment to improving the lives of others.”

The Prize was presented by Dr Mimi Gates at the annual Gates Cambridge Graduation Dinner in late May.

 

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