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Formula 1 scholarships for undergraduates from under-represented backgrounds

Oxford Engineering students Fabbiha and Sean awarded scholarships covering tuition costs and a living stipend in the inaugural year of the Formula 1 scholarship programme

Undergraduates stood behind Formula 1 racing car

Fabbiha (far left) and Sean (7th from left) at a welcome event this month organised by Formula One.

This year the University of Oxford collaborated with Formula 1 on a new scholarship to support talented undergraduate engineers from under-represented backgrounds into engineering careers. Oxford is one of 6 universities benefitting from the Formula 1 Engineering Scholarship.

The Department of Engineering Science was delighted to be able to offer two of these scholarships to current first year undergraduates, Fabbiha (Keble College) and Sean (Magdalen College). The scholarship covers the full cost of their tuition, together with a living stipend and opportunities to engage with both Formula 1 and the ten Formula 1 teams.

Engineering Science Admissions Co-ordinator Professor Steve Collins says of the scholarships, “We are keen to help increase diversity and inclusion in engineering, starting with our undergraduate intake. Our access initiatives aim to encourage under-represented groups to consider engineering when making their ‘A’ level choices and university applications, and now the Formula 1 scholarships will help support talented students from low-income households to study at Oxford. We welcome Sean and Fabbiha to their undergraduate studies and look forward to supporting them in pursuing future careers in engineering”.

Fabbiha, who attended a state school in London, has a strong academic record and a keen interest in the application of mathematical modelling to real life situations, manufacturing and product design. She writes, “I find it fascinating how engineering links to manufacturing and product design. The engineering process appeals to me - key mathematical techniques, careful measurement and calculation, prototyping are skills that I have, but also want to build on and develop. I find satisfaction in solving complex equations and learning about the maths and physics applied in our daily lives”.

Fabbiha developed her interest in engineering at a summer school funded by the Sutton Trust where she was exposed to a wide range of principles of engineering, exploring how microbubbles expanding and collapsing in a boiling kettle to give insight into more effective designs for the propellers of large cargo ships.

She says, “To me it's remarkable that something as simple as boiling a kettle can provide us with potential engineering solutions. Attending the summer school further deepened my interest in mechanical engineering”. She was also inspired by a visit to Bangladesh, “Whilst visiting Bangladesh I cooked with family members over open fires. I was shocked to learn that 3 billion people do the same. This practice causes 4 million premature deaths. Even when provided with an electric cooker, the family went back to open fires due to tradition. As a result, I understood how important it is to look not only at economic factors but behavioural attributes of users when creating an engineering solution to a problem. Ultimately my ambition is to contribute to civilisation by tackling the most significant problems in the world of STEM, not by solving problems one after the other but by considering whole systems”.

Scholarship awardee Sean also has excellent A level passes from a state-funded Academy Trust selective school in Warwickshire, and a track record of extra-curricular involvement in STEM-related activity, leading a science club at school, organising demonstrations with lab technicians, leading experiments and mentoring Year 5 pupils at a local primary school.

Sean is interested in many principles of engineering. He says, “My interest in engineering lies between the combination of theory and practical. What excites me about my Oxford course is learning to gain a deep understanding of engineering systems, being able to delve deeper into ideas than I have been able to in school. Collaboration is also an important part of engineering to me, and I experienced this in the summer of 2021 attending the 62nd London International Youth Science Forum, which was a great opportunity to meet a large number of like-minded students which I had not experienced before. This also showed me how the world's biggest problems will require solutions with collaboration between different academic disciplines and different countries.”