Media Advisory May 30

Plant evolution and extinct bacteria are just two of the stimulating research topics supported by the Science & Engineering Masters Awards this year. A total of 15 talented science masters students have each won a $2000 award towards their tuition fees. Among the winners was Joel McMillan, a former Opotiki College student. He has just begun a masters research project studying the properties of extinct bacteria. Steven Pratt, a former Melville High School student, also received a Masters Award. During his masters research he will investigate the evolution of the plant families Winteraceae and Verbenaceae in New Caledonia, which will have implications for plant conservation. The full list of Science & Engineering Masters Awards winners are: Abigail Sharrock, Hamish Galt, Rachel Thomson, Lisa McCartain, Rebekah Crosswell, Matthew Ussher, Rebecca Gladstone-Gallagher, Kadin Lucas, Erin Telfer, Carlie Walker, Holly Goddard, Catherine Sturgeon, and Luke Hall.

About 100 Year 13 chemistry enthusiasts from around the central North Island will descend on the University of Waikato for the NZIC Analytical Chemistry Competition in June. About 25 teams of four will be set an analytical task, requiring accurate and careful analysis of an unknown substance. The results will be judged, with prizes and trophies awarded on the day. The event will be held at Waikato University’s Hamilton campus, Wednesday June 15, 9.30am - 4.00pm.

First-year Bachelor of Engineering students gather on Friday June 3 for the annual First-year Engineering Design Challenge. Students are challenged to design remote-control model speed-boats as part of a first-year engineering paper. Race day is the culmination of the challenge. During the series of races, students will pit their boats against each other in a test of speed and manoeuvrability, to see who has the best design. The event will end with a head-to-head race against a staff-designed boat. Racing kicks off at 10am on Friday June 3 and will take place on the lake down by the Village green, University of Waikato Hamilton campus.

Almost 700 senior secondary school biology students are expected to attend the 13th annual Waikato Experience Biology (WEB) Days in early June at the University of Waikato. The WEB Days offer secondary school students the opportunity to experience a range of biology-related events, including a seminar on human evolution, based on the Department of Biology’s collection of hominid skulls; a lecture and lab session focusing on DNA technology, and a series of lectures on other key topics from the secondary school curriculum. The event runs over two days, June 7 and 8 at the University of Waikato Hamilton campus.

Waikato University Chinese Language and Linguistics student Stephen McIntosh is off to China in July to take part in the final series of the ‘Chinese Bridge’ speech competition. McIntosh came first at the national leg of the competition which was held in Auckland during May. His five minute speech about how he learnt Mandarin through having Chinese friends and his frustration at not being fluent during a trip to China wowed the judges along with his rendition of a an old Chinese song which loosely translates to ‘Peach Blossom Blooming’. Fellow Waikato University Linguistics students Sarah Thomson won the second place prize. Jackie Leong, Stephen Williams and Jeremy Fleming won merit prizes at the competition.

A University of Waikato student who toughed out a winter in one of China’s most remote areas to conduct research has won an award for her perseverance. PhD student Jingjing Yang has been awarded a scholarship from the Chinese Government for her doctoral research which saw her living with the nomadic Tuva people in north-western China for a year. Conducting research on the impact of tourism on minority cultures in China, Yang spent 2009 as the only outsider in the Kanas Scenic Area, about 3000km from Beijing, living with and like the Tuva people. Yang was awarded the 2010 Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Self-financed Chinese Students Study Abroad at the Chinese Embassy in Wellington earlier this month. Over the course of a year Yang learnt two languages, Tuva and Khazak, how to ride a horse and cook local meals while conducting her research. The majority of Yang’s time was spent isolated from the modern world as the remote location and harsh weather sees the villages without electricity, running water, privacy or any other modern comforts.

University of staff member Tineka Wanakore-Eruera now has her image on a special edition $1.20 stamp. Ms Wanakore-Eruera was a member of the kapa haka group Te Iti Kahurangi that won the waiata-ā-ringa section at this year’s Te Matatini kapa haka festival in Gisborne. NZ Post release a special series of stamps in March and Ms Wanakore-Eruera, who works in the university’s Pro Vice-Chancellor Māori office, features on one of them. Widely regarded as the premier Māori cultural performing arts festival, Te Matatini sees the country’s most elite kapa haka performers competing. The University of Waikato is a strategic partner of the event.

Former Tauranga Girls’ College student Mariah Ririnui has become one of 47 students to be awarded a prestigious Sir Edmund Hillary Scholarship from the University of Waikato for her achievements in athletics. She has competed at a national and international level, winning bronze for U18 long jump at the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games in India and recently won gold in the women’s 100 meters at the national athletics championships in Dunedin. She has also received a Blue Light scholarship and a Bay Trust Athlete scholarship for her athletic achievements. Ririnui is hoping to make the team for the upcoming Oceania Championships in Samoa, and has her sights set on the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and the 2016 Olympics. The university’s Sir Edmund Hillary Scholarship Programme awards scholarships to academic high achievers who show significant leadership qualities and also excel in sport or in the creative and performing arts. The scholarships provide full university course fees while studying at Waikato, comprehensive support for the recipients’ academic, sporting and/or arts activities and additional support in leadership and personal development. Ririnui is now is her first year at Waikato studying towards a Bachelor of Communications Studies.

Three Waikato University students have published a booklet which aims to build the self-confidence of teenage girls. Abby de Lisle, Laura Harris and Chelsie Foley joined forces to write ‘The Young Woman’s Guide to Wellbeing’ after realising a lot of young girls had questions about issues, such as body image, that they couldn't easily find answers for. “I run a leadership programme at the YWCA,” says de Lisle. “And I got tired of printing out old resources for girls who had questions or needed some reassurance about issues they were having, so thought ‘why not write a booklet to hand out to girls?’.” She got together with friends Laura Harris and Chelsie Foley and the trio talked at length about what they would have wanted to read when they were teenagers, and what they thought teenagers now-a-days wanted to read. The result was ‘The Young Woman’s Guide to Wellbeing’, a booklet aimed at teenage girls between 12 - 18 that covers everything from body image, sex and relationships, to learning to speak up in difficult situations. “It really covers issues that can’t be found anywhere else. The aim of the booklet is to improve their self-esteem and self-confidence; we just thought it would be really good if there was a resource like this out there - it’s really important stuff for the girls to have.”

Infamous womaniser and seduction expert Don Juan is the subject for the latest play by Theatre Studies students at the University of Waikato. As part of their preparation for the play students are learning all about seduction. “Back in 17th century Spain seduction certainly was an art,” says Emily Campbell, one of 23 students performing in The Last Days of Don Juan – a play about the world’s greatest lover. “It’s remarkable how important and skillful seduction was.” Campbell is one of two students playing the role of Tisbea – a commoner who falls for Don Juan’s charms. “Legend has it he seduced more than 1000 women during his life but in this play he only manages four.” The original play was written in 1623 by monk Tirso de Molina and was a deeply moral and religious work. This version was written in 1990 by Nick Dear and is more a comedy about pride, honour and hubris. Instead of the traditional stage at the front of the theatre, this production will use the length of the Playhouse in the Academy of Performing Arts, with the audience on both sides. The Last Days of Don Juan plays June 1 - 4. Tickets are $10. They can be bought at the door or email

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