School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Prestigious Oxford Scholarship for Hydrology Graduate

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Mr Nalin Singh, who graduated from UKZN with a summa cum laude Bachelor of Science Honours in Hydrology degree in May this year, is headed for Oxford University in England after being awarded an Oxford-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann Scholarship to further his studies there through an MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management programme.

The Oxford-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann Scholarship and Leadership Programme is awarded to applicants demonstrating academic excellence who are expected to contribute to the university’s research and proceed to lead and contribute positively to public life in their countries and regions of origin.

The programme cultivates leaders from developing and emerging economies through fully-funded postgraduate studies at Oxford University for outstanding graduates, as well as leadership development, mentoring and networking opportunities.

An appreciation for the value of living systems, a love of non-fiction and his father’s work as an environmental scientist inspired Singh to study the natural sciences.

‘I developed an early understanding that the Earth system was threatened and needed to be protected, and saw myself playing a role through balancing environmental integrity with socio-economic development,’ said Singh. ‘I decided to make my contribution by studying the most valuable natural resource – water.’

Studying through UKZN’s Life and Earth Sciences stream exposed Singh to a variety of technical and “soft” science modules, imparting an interdisciplinary and systems approach that he believes will stand him in good stead in his MSc programme.

The top graduate in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences for both his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, Singh also attained a summa cum laude result at undergraduate level and received several awards, including the Roland Schulze Award for the top third-year Hydrology student and the JG Afrika Award for the top undergraduate Geography student in 2019, as well as the Campbell Scientific Floating Trophy for the best student having completed both Agrometeorology modules in 2018.

During his studies, Singh was the chairperson of the “Hydrators” postgraduate Hydrology Student Club of the Centre for Water Resources Research (CWRR), and was also a member of the KwaZulu-Natal student branch of the International Organisation for Impact Assessment South Africa.

Highlights of Singh’s time at UKZN included the applied understanding of hydrology that he gained, and also the friendships he formed.

While a student, he did vacation Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and applied hydrology work for the JOAT Group and also conducted research for the groundWork non-profit environmental justice organisation and for the South African Environment Observation Network.

The one-year programme at Oxford, which together with the scholarship programme involved an exhaustive application process, will focus on a blend of skills related to the water sector. Singh – drawn to the programme for its integration of the different perspectives, approaches and concepts needed to holistically solve the water sector’s major challenges – will commence his studies in September.

‘I aim to build upon the solid foundation of the education [I] received at the CWRR and UKZN and will be structuring [my] academic activities around bringing back knowledge applicable to solving the challenges facing water security in southern Africa,’ said Singh.

After completing his master’s, Singh hopes to gain experience working internationally in the short term, but ultimately plans to work specifically towards achieving water security in southern Africa and the Global South. He is also considering PhD studies.

Singh’s long-term goals include becoming a water leader practising good governance and a water practitioner championing “new” or “alternative” water management solutions and capacity building.

The CWRR congratulated Singh, wishing him great future success.

Singh thanked his parents for giving him the freedom to find his passion while supporting his education and welfare, and also thanked his friends and family for impacting his life and personal growth. He said he was grateful to all the academics, mentors and teachers who had played a role from his primary school years through to university.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied