From chemistry to global affairs: One scholar’s quest to bring science to the public

From chemistry to global affairs: One scholar's quest to bring science to the public
"The Schwarzman Scholars programme was an opportunity for me to understand how science and technology fit into a global puzzle." Source: Joshua Woodard

Schwarzman Scholar Dr. Ross Jaggers cut his teeth as a scientist — graduating with a master’s in Chemistry at the University of York and a doctorate in Chemistry (PhD) from the University of Warwick — a substantial achievement, by many standards. To tackle global challenges, however, he knew he needed something more. Jaggers’s motivation is to accelerate the transition of science and technological innovation from lab to market — in short, to bring science to the public. To do this, he looked to Asia.

In 2018, he embarked on a new academic path as a Schwarzman Scholar, pursuing a Master of Management Science, and Global Affairs and Leadership at Tsinghua University. We caught up with him to find out more about his shift from chemistry to global affairs, what life in Beijing was like and his current role at the Royal Society of Chemistry:

How did you find out about the Schwarzman Scholars, and what drove you to apply?

At the University of Warwick, a mentor of mine suggested it to me as the next step in my personal and professional progression. He encouraged me to look beyond my immediate skills of science and research. 

I then became interested to step outside of my bubble and think about the implications of global action in tackling our most serious challenges — from climate change, to urbanisation, to the future of work and society. Especially through the lenses of China and the US. 

Would you recommend being a Schwarzman Scholar to other students?

A lot of Schwarzman Scholars will tell you the network of peers that you join is one of the most valuable and impactful benefits of the programme. I spent time with such an aspirational group as we learned together, explored, travelled, and challenged each other’s views. 

This was an invaluable experience I doubt I will get the chance to replicate. I expect the connections formed in my time at Tsinghua University to have lifelong impact, and more exciting opportunities will arise. 

What challenges did you face living in Beijing, and how did you overcome them?  

As someone who did not speak Chinese prior to arriving (and arguable still poorly to this day!), landing in Beijing was certainly a culture shock. Learning to navigate a space without the use of the Chinese language or an assumed level of cultural awareness was hard work. However, thanks to very helpful friends, mobile technology and a structured introduction, I got to a place of comfort soon enough. 

With helpful friends and technology, Jaggers soon became more comfortable in China. Source: Ross Jaggers

Tell us more about the jump from being a scientist to studying Global Affairs as a Schwarzman Scholar.

Having spent the majority of my career as a scientist, I found myself taking more of an interest in the outcomes of my research than the science itself. The more I was exposed to the design of research projects, the clearer this became.  

I found myself taking a step back to understand the value of science as a discipline as well as its impact on society. The Schwarzman Scholars programme was an opportunity for me to understand how science and technology fit into a global puzzle. 

Do you have any other projects you can share with us?

I was a member of the Industry Engagement team at the Royal Society. Here, I did work between the industry, academia and the government, working to bring together stakeholders from these three different worlds together. 

This was a skill I had previously developed as Sub Editor of Chemistry Review at the University of York, and as a researcher that wrote scientific journal papers and presented research at scientific conferences.

Following my time as a Schwarzman Scholar, I now work with the scientific community to influence science policy and the research and innovation environment as a Programme Manager at the Royal Society of Chemistry. I do this by building networks and collaborations, by supporting excellent chemical researchers and innovators, and by accelerating their impact.

Do you have any advice for international students looking to apply to be a Schwarzman Scholar?

Yes, I do. In crafting your application, I would suggest you think critically about why it is that you want to complete this programme. And why you want to join this growing network of Scholars. 

As a Scholar, not only will you learn from your professors, peers, invited experts, college guests and new friends, but you will bring your own unique perspective, questions and skills. Both are equally important and deserve your careful consideration.