From education to employment

Imperial graduate wins Fulbright scholarship to study climate policy

Imperial graduate Chris Carter

Geophysics graduate Chris Carter has won a place at the University of Minnesota to study a Master’s in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy.

Chris will be supported through a Fulbright Award – one of the most prestigious and impactful scholarship programmes in the world, with 60 Nobel Laureates and 39 Heads of State/Government among its 390,000 global alumni.

He completed his four-year MSc in Geophysics in June, at Imperial’s Department of Earth Science and Engineering, and will start his two-year Masters at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota in August.

A burgeoning passion for policy

Chris has a long-standing interest in UK and US politics and became more focused on the environmental policy space during his degree at Imperial, as he explains.

“Geophysics is an incredibly broad subject and we touched on a lot of things, including planetary science and climate science. There’s a module specifically on environmental science where we look at the climate system as a whole and how it all functions together, especially how human influence changes parts of that system, and how our actions and our behaviours change the whole system rather than one discrete part of it. I think that’s quite a new perspective, and it’s exciting, but also makes the whole thing feel very daunting!”

As excellent as science is, and as much incredible work has been done in this area, someone has to translate that scientific work into a policy context. Chris Carter

Chris wanted to explore in greater depth the political, economic and legal frameworks through which climate solutions can be implemented and began to do his own background research and reading.

“As excellent as science is, and as much incredible work has been done in this area, someone has to translate that scientific work into a policy context. It’s all well and good having a paper written about how the Earth is warming, but that’s not super useful on its own if you aren’t equipped with the tools necessary to implement solutions in a legislative and executive setting. I wanted to translate my scientific background into a policy context to address some of these issues.”

Chris began looking for options to study policy further and given an interest in US politics in general, coupled with the still considerable sway of the country on global affairs, it made it a logical choice.

“It sounds cliché, but one of the reasons I wanted to do environmental policy abroad is that global problems require global solutions; that’s the ethos with which I approached both applications – to the masters and the Fulbright scholarship.”

A timely pivot toward climate policy

With the Biden administration having re-joined the Paris Climate Agreement, and the UK hosting the next pivotal UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Chris’ decision to dedicate the next stage of his career to this area is particularly timely. When it comes to focussing on specific areas of policy, Chris stresses the importance of a holistic approach.

“Obviously, when it comes to environmental policy, the area that everyone immediately thinks of is energy, the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy sources, and that’s great, that is work that needs to be done. But I think climate policy is much broader than that: there’s food security, water security, the injustices that come with climate change, and many other areas that I am looking forward to learning more about.”

President Joe Biden speaking at Imperial College London
President Joe Biden delivering the inaugural lecture of the Imperial Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Centre, October 2018

Advancing learning, understanding and collaboration

The US-UK Fulbright Commission works to advance knowledge, promote civic engagement and develop compassionate leaders through education exchange between the peoples of the US and the UK.

The US-UK Fulbright Commission provides the only bilateral, transatlantic scholarship programme in the UK, offering Awards for study or research in any field, at any accredited US or UK university. The Commission selects scholars through a rigorous application and interview process, looking for academic excellence alongside a focused application, cultural curiosity, a range of extracurricular and community activities, demonstrated ambassadorial skills, a desire to further the Fulbright mission and a plan to give back to the UK upon returning.

Maria Balinska, Executive Director, US-UK Fulbright Commission said: “Our vision is a world where there are no obstacles to learning, understanding and collaboration. Today there are many global challenges to overcome, and the world needs compassionate leaders to tackle them. This cohort of awardees will be placing cultural engagement at the heart of their experiences as they undertake ambitious study and research programmes in the US: I am filled with hope for the wonderful collaborations that will ensue.”

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