Glass Sellers’ Abbott Scholar – Zak Lakota-Baldwin – Cambridge Second Year
My second year at Cambridge has brought a new set of opportunities and successes, which I am pleased to be able to report. Foremost among these was the heightened academic challenge of the material I studied this year – though I found the content difficult, it was also more conceptually stimulating, and I am happy to say that I achieved a First Class grade in my end of year examinations. I am particularly proud of coming second in my year for the subject ‘Animal Biology’, in which I received an average mark of 74.8, and third in my year for ‘History and Philosophy of Science’, in which my average mark was 76. I feel that these results reflect the additional effort and focus I channeled into my studies this year, as well as my enjoyment of the content we covered.
In addition to my academic work, I have also continued to actively contribute to Varsity, Cambridge’s student newspaper. I successfully applied to be a Staff Science Writer in first term, and then rose to become Science Editor in second term. This was busy work, but hugely rewarding, allowing me to reach a wide audience and report on a range of issues within a university that is intimately connected to the world of science. I was also chosen as the captain of the college debating team, and represented St John’s in an intercollegiate debate against three other teams, which I won. I hope to continue this role next year, and further improve my argumentative and oratory skills.
Another area I have been involved in is Project Access, a voluntary scheme which pairs current undergraduates with prospective applicants from underrepresented backgrounds. Through Project Access, I am currently mentoring a sixth form student who is planning to apply for Natural Sciences at Cambridge this year. This has been a wonderful opportunity for me to give back, as I am fully aware of how daunting the Cambridge application process can be and how far a little help can go. I have also found the experience much more rewarding than any kind of paid tutoring, as I feel it is those who cannot afford such a privilege that are most in need of support – and, thanks to the money I am receiving from the Glass Sellers, I am able to pursue this kind of voluntary work without worrying about my own finances.
This summer, I will be taking part in a conservation project in Kenya for four weeks, with a focus on reducing human-wildlife conflict in Nairobi National Park. This project, which has been organised entirely by the student members of the Cambridge University Wildlife Conservation Society, has already seen successful trips in 2015 and 2017, setting up camera traps to collect vital data and receiving a wealth of positive feedback from local communities. I am excited to take part in active conservation fieldwork of this kind, as this has been a cause that I have long cared about but previously been unable to engage with due to a lack of funding. As a result of the generous support of the Glass Sellers, this opportunity has been made a reality for me, and I look forward to a challenging and fulfilling trip (which I will be recounting in an online blog).
Looking to the future, I plan to specialise in History and Philosophy of Science next year. I have found this subject to be a unique fusion of my interests in the humanities and the sciences, and I believe it equips me perfectly for a future in science communication or advocacy. Beyond this, I am as of yet undecided about my plans beyond graduation, though at present I am considering a master’s degree or perhaps a law conversion. Whatever the path I choose to take, I am exceedingly grateful for the continued financial support and fellowship of the Worshipful Company of Glass Sellers, which means a great deal to me as I navigate the trials and triumphs of university.