Scripps Student Spotlight: Hugo Mkhize

Master of Advanced Studies in Climate Science and Policy student focuses research on reinvestment in clean and sustainable energy innovation

Hugo Mkhize is a Master of Advanced Studies in Climate Science and Policy (MAS CSP) student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Mkhize is originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, and received a Bachelor of Business Science degree in finance at the University of Cape Town. Mkhize is selecting the advisors for his Scripps capstone project but would like to recognize MAS CSP Executive Director Corey Gabriel, oceanographer Mark Merrifield, and MAS program coordinator Hannah Gruen for the success of the program.


explorations now: Why did you choose to attend Scripps?

Hugo Mkhize: I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the multifaceted issues surrounding climate change and equip myself with a nuanced appreciation of the problem to identify where I can best play my role in being a part of the solution.


en: What are you researching at Scripps?

HM: In order to achieve our net-zero emissions ambition, we require a change in technological innovation. I believe that the government and the private sector have critical roles in ensuring that there is significantly more investment in clean and sustainable energy innovation so that we can scale up promising climate solutions as fast as possible. However, funding remains one of the major barriers to expediting the required innovation in the climate technology space. As a result, I am using my capstone project to demystify the funding options available to aspiring climate tech entrepreneurs. I am excited to be conducting this research at Scripps because I hope my findings can help our graduate students and postdoctoral researchers who may be considering commercializing their research but are not sure how to go about it.


en: How did you become interested in science and your field of study?

HM: My main climate-related interests are around finding, funding, and scaling up the solutions that will help us avert the worst effects of the climate crisis. I am particularly interested in startups and their ability to commercialize disruptive climate technologies that will benefit those most in need by easing the environmental, economic, and health impacts of the transformation of the highest-emitting sectors.


Hugo Mkhize exploring San Diego with the MAS CSP cohort.

en: What’s life like as a Scripps student? Describe a typical day.

HM: I wish I had lectures at Scripps often enough to give this a proper answer! If I am not on central Scripps campus, I either spend my time at the Eckart Building or Pinpoint Cafe. Having said that, it is a blessing that the interdisciplinary nature of the MAS CSP program allows me to also take classes at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy and the Rady School of Management.


en: What’s the most exciting thing about your work (in the field or in the lab)?

HM: The most exciting part of the program has been the amazing experience of learning in great depth about both the challenges and the opportunities that climate change will present. Also, it has been incredible getting to know the rest of my cohort and learning from their diverse viewpoints.


en: Are there any role models or mentors who have helped you along the way?

HM: I am not sure that I have any role models per se, but I definitely have drawn a lot of inspiration from the lives and careers that my parents have led. For example, my father's story has taught me valuable lessons about perseverance and endeavor. My father was born into a relatively poor family at the height of the apartheid regime in South Africa. Despite this, he managed to study dentistry at the University of the Witwatersrand in the 1980s, a time of great political, racial, and socio-economic turmoil. He went on to become one of the country's first Black dentists.


en: What are some of the challenges you face as a student?

HM: Some of the challenges I have faced include delays in processing my student visa, difficulties finding accommodation, trying to get around San Diego without a car, and finding my space within the Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) community at UC San Diego. I could write an essay on each of these, but to be honest, I don't think they have detracted from my experience at Scripps in a major way.


en: What are your plans post-Scripps?

HM: In the short term, I plan to work for and invest in climate tech startups with the aim of helping underrepresented founders meaningfully participate in the impact and investment opportunity of our lifetime. In the long term, my ultimate goal is to leverage my experiences building the world's leading climate tech startups by playing a fundamental role in helping South Africa achieve its potential to become a leader in the global energy transition.

Connect with the MAS CSP program on Instagram @scripps_mascsp.

About Scripps Oceanography

Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego is one of the world’s most important centers for global earth science research and education. In its second century of discovery, Scripps scientists work to understand and protect the planet, and investigate our oceans, Earth, and atmosphere to find solutions to our greatest environmental challenges. Scripps offers unparalleled education and training for the next generation of scientific and environmental leaders through its undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs. The institution also operates a fleet of four oceanographic research vessels, and is home to Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the public exploration center that welcomes 500,000 visitors each year.

About UC San Diego

At the University of California San Diego, we embrace a culture of exploration and experimentation. Established in 1960, UC San Diego has been shaped by exceptional scholars who aren’t afraid to look deeper, challenge expectations and redefine conventional wisdom. As one of the top 15 research universities in the world, we are driving innovation and change to advance society, propel economic growth and make our world a better place. Learn more at

Sign Up For
Explorations Now

explorations now is the free award-winning digital science magazine from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Join subscribers from around the world and keep up on our cutting-edge research.