Skaggs Oxford Program Names First Scholars

By Mika Ono

Graduate students Erin Scherer and Joanna Rawling will be the first two participants in the Skaggs Oxford Scholarships Program, a joint graduate program in biology, chemistry, and biochemistry at The Scripps Research Institute in the United States and Oxford University in Great Britain.

“The Skaggs Oxford program provides the opportunity for students to take advantage of scientific expertise and facilities at both institutions,” says Scherer, a second-year Scripps Research graduate student in the Burton lab. “During a recent trip to Oxford, I met with several faculty members from the Biochemistry Department and associated departments.  I was impressed by the number of potential collaborators, the flexibility of the program, and the academic environment.”

Scherer, who earned her B.S. summa cum laude in Chemistry from the University of Arkansas, is currently investigating broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV, work that is relevant to the generation of an AIDS vaccine. Outside the lab, Scherer dances ballet in classes at the California Ballet School, and enjoys outdoor activities, such as sportsfishing, camping and hiking.

Scherer plans to complete approximately three years at Scripps Research before transitioning to Oxford for her final two years of graduate study.

The second Skaggs Oxford Scholar, Joanna Rawling, is currently enrolled at the University of Oxford. A graduate of Imperial College, London, she spent her third year of undergraduate study in Madrid at the Centro Nacional de Microbiología, where she conducted research with investigator José Antonio Melero on the respiratory syncytial virus. The research resulted in a paper in the Journal of Virology this April.

“I enjoyed the experience of living in another country with such a different culture from the UK,” says Rawling, “and this is one of the reasons why the Skaggs scholarship appealed to me.”

Rawling’s hobbies include studying foreign languages, running, and figure skating—both as a solo figure skater and in a synchronized skating team.

Both Scherer and Rawling will graduate with a joint Ph.D./D.Phil. degree from Scripps Research and Oxford University. This is the first time in Oxford’s 800-year history that it has offered a degree jointly with another institution of higher learning. It is also the first of its kind offered by Scripps Research.

The Skaggs Oxford Scholarship Program, which will support 10 students over five years, was made possible by supermarket and drugstore leader L.S. Skaggs and his wife Aline.


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"The Skaggs Oxford program provides the opportunity for students to take advantage of scientific expertise and facilities at both institutions," says Skaggs Oxford Scholar Erin Scherer. Photo by Kevin Fung.



Skaggs Oxford Scholar Joanna Rawling looks forward to the cultural experience of living outside the UK.