To mark Commonwealth Day on 14 March – which this year celebrates the theme of ‘Women as agents of change’ – and the centernary of International Women’s Day on 8 March, we feature profiles of two female alumni who have had a major impact on the lives of others, in their home countries and abroad.

Dame Bridget Ogilvie (Commonwealth Scholar from Australia, PhD Immunology of Parasites, University of Cambridge, 1960-1964) has enjoyed a varied career both as a research scientist and in leadership roles, including her time as Director of the Wellcome Trust. One of her key achievements at the Wellcome Trust was to establish the the Sanger Institute, a genomic research centre in Cambridge, UK. The Institute is still internationally important in the field of genome sequencing.

It played a major role in the initial sequencing of the human genome and was instrumental in assuring that the sequence of this genome was not privatised but made immediately available to the world.


Carolyn McMaster (Commonwealth Scholar from Canada, MPhil International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science, 1969-1971) grew up in a household interested in international affairs.

From an early age I participated in dinner table discussions about both Canadian and world events. A job which would allow me to work abroad was a logical choice after university.

Carolyn feels that the five years she spent in South Africa after the end of apartheid were her biggest challenge, but found the experience of working in both development and foreign policy rewarding.

I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work in both the development and political/economic fields of our diplomatic service. Each provides a different perspective on both Canadian policies and interests, and the issues facing the countries to which I was posted or accredited.