The College is very proud to count one of Cambridge University Sport’s recent Outstanding Achievement Award winners as one of our own! The award – one of only six given across the University – honours Churchillian Joa Hoshizaki’s significant sporting efforts at Cambridge and the transformational impact she has made to the Cambridge University Ice-hockey Club and team over an extended period.

She goes above and beyond to ensure that the team was the best it could be and that every team member feels encouraged, supported and valued. Her dedication, enthusiasm and commitment have been unparalleled

Joa is from Ottawa, Canada where she completed her undergraduate degree in Microbiology and Immunology at McGill University before arriving at Churchill College in 2018 to study for a PhD in long non-coding RNAs in the malaria parasite. She completed her research at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in a lab specialising in malaria genetics and is delighted to have recently successfully defended her PhD! We met with Joa to celebrate her significant sporting achievements and hear more about her experiences at Cambridge and Churchill over the last five years.

Meet Joa

I’m from Ottawa, Canada. Like most Canadians, I learned to skate as a toddler in outdoor backyard and schoolyard rinks. I come from a family of ice hockey players, so it comes as no surprise that I started playing at the age of 4. Although I’ve pursued different sports at different times in my life, I’ve always had ice hockey on the go as well. When I was accepted to pursue a PhD at Cambridge, I discovered the historic university club (CUIHC) and immediately wrote to the captain to try out. I knew it would be a great source of community, friendship, physical activity and a reminder of home.

I chose Churchill College because from what I gathered from my research, it was a friendly and welcoming community with a strong population of postgraduates and STEM students. I also knew that there were many international students, particularly North Americans so the atmosphere and environment would be more familiar to me.

Churchill provides incredible support for athletes. I am grateful to have received financial support from the College to fund my athletic endeavours over my five years as a student. The grant funds costs associated with participating in sport such as the subscription fees, which include transportation, insurance, ice rental, tournament fees etc. The funding enabled my participation in rugby (first year) and ice hockey (all 5 years), which led me to earn two Full Blues (one in rugby union and one in ice hockey). For me, sports have been an essential part of my student experience and have provided immense physical and mental health benefits, especially during challenging times that arise when completing a PhD during a pandemic.

As a player, I play right defence, but on most shifts, you can find me making end-to-end runs up the ice to try and score goals. However, I was nominated by my teammates for the Outstanding Contribution award for the impact that I made as Captain of the Women’s Blues team for three years (2019-2022). This role was very involved and during my time in that position, it involved both leading the team on the ice as a strong player and leader as well as the logistics of running the team. Some of the highlights of my time as captain include:

  • Coaching and captaining a competitive and successful team. During those years, we won every varsity match, although unfortunately, we lost this year in a shoot-out 
  • Prioritising developing the women’s game for example organising the first Oxbridge Women’s Ice Hockey Training Camp.
  • Proposing and initiating (with the president) a merger between the Men and Women’s clubs, which had been separate since their founding (Women’s in 1981, Men’s in 1885). We are now a unified club of all three university teams and this has strengthened our ice hockey programme and community and ensured the sustainability of our club.

As Joa left CUIHC, her teammates told her that she had a great impact on their Cambridge experience. She convinced them to join, taught many of them ice hockey from scratch, encouraged them, coached them and had the privilege of watching them go on to make the varsity team. This is what Joa is most proud of: helping others get into sport and have the unique experience of competing for Cambridge.

Having now successfully defended her PhD Joa is wrapping up projects and loose ends in my lab and has started looking for what’s next. Nothing is confirmed yet, but she knows she’d like to continue working in science, either by doing a postdoc or industry position, but of course, she’s also hoping to go back to Canada for a holiday later in the summer!

Read more about Cambridge University Sports Awards 2023