When Captain Albert Liu begins his postgraduate studies later this year, he will be studying not just to gain a career boost, but also to become a better volunteer.
The 30-year-old Republic of Singapore Air Force pilot will read biodiversity, conservation and management at England's Oxford University, and he wants to contribute more to conservation efforts here when he returns a year later.
"Environment and nature (groups) tend to fall behind in terms of the amount of funding and resources received," he said. "We can do more to help even if it's just volunteer work and not a full-time job."
Last night, Capt Liu was one of five who received the Chevening Scholarship from the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office at an award ceremony at Eden Hall, the residence of the British High Commissioner.
Although he has been enjoying the outdoors since his secondary school days, it was not until last year, when he was in his final year of undergraduate studies in biological sciences, that he became actively involved in protecting green spaces. That was after getting to know Nature Society (Singapore) president Shawn Lum, and Capt Liu has been volunteering with the society for the past year.
He was gunning for the course at Oxford because of its strong emphasis on field trips. "I want to pick up technical skills and expertise so I can come back and contribute in a practical way," said Capt Liu, who also holds a study award from the Ministry of Defence.
Other Chevening Scholarship recipients this year are Ms Charmaine Chan, a manager on the Bioethics Advisory Committee Secretariat of the Ministry of Health; Mr Nelson Goh, a Centre for Banking and Finance Law adjunct research fellow at the National University of Singapore; and two managers at the National Parks Board - Mr Chen Dexiang and Mr Robin Ngiam.
British insurance company Prudential is sponsoring part of three of the scholarships.
The bond-free postgraduate scholarships have been running for 30 years worldwide, and there are around 300 alumni in Singapore, including The Straits Times correspondent Teo Cheng Wee, and Workers' Party MP Pritam Singh.