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Herchel Smith Fund


The University of Cambridge recently had the pleasure of hosting the 9th Herchel Smith Symposium between Cambridge and Harvard PhD research students. The event took place from 11 to 12 July 2018 in Cambridge, UK and it marked another year of the mutual cooperation between Harvard and Cambridge universities and researchers.

Cambridge was visited by 13 Harvard Herchel Smith PhD students together with 4 faculty representatives. The Symposium has provided yet another great opportunity for the cohorts of students and faculty members to get to know each other and explore the University and the beautiful city of Cambridge. 

Taking place within the historical building of Gonville & Caius College, the event commenced with the welcome remarks delivered by Professor Chris Abell, a Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Cambridge. The opening talk was given by Professor Sir Shankar Balasubramanian, a Herchel Smith Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Cambridge. During the subsequent stages of the Symposium, the students had an opportunity to present and discuss their research projects and explore one of Cambridge’s finest research centres – MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology.

The Symposium Dinner organised in Sidney Sussex College was attended by distinguished guests, including Herchel Smith Professors, Managers, Fellows and Students, and also Heads of Schools and other Herchel Smith affiliated individuals. It has brought together the Herchel Smith Community from Cambridge and Harvard, which represents the great legacy of Dr Herchel Smith’s endowments.


The first Herchel Smith PhD studentships were awarded in 2008. Each year Cambridge receives hundreds of applications for these studentships from the brightest young researchers from across the world. Cambridge presently recruits four PhD students annually (for a four-year period of study), while Harvard recruits six PhD students annually (for a three-year period of study).

Herchel Smith, born in Plymouth (UK) in 1925, was a distinguished organic chemist who invented and patented new chemical reactions for the synthesis of novel steroids, including the contraceptive pill. His research interests can be traced back to his time as an undergraduate at Emmanuel College where he read for the Natural Sciences Tripos, matriculating in 1942 with distinction. He went on to study organic chemistry as a graduate student under Professor Alexander Todd and was awarded his PhD at Cambridge in 1952. He became a postdoctoral fellow at Oxford University and then a lecturer in organic chemistry at Manchester University before moving to the United States to work for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. Herchel Smith died in West Chester (USA) in 2001 leaving substantial bequests to many of the universities and colleges he had been associated with.

During his lifetime and following his death in December 2001, the University received under Herchel Smith's will the largest ever individual bequest to a British University at that time.