Research scholarships target science and engineering excellence

22 February 2011


Scholarly Smiles: A group of University of Waikato Masters and Doctoral Research Scholarship winners enjoyed a congratulatory afternoon tea held this week to celebrate their success.

Using chicken feathers to make bio composite materials and studying Antarctic aquatic microorganisms are just two of the exciting topics which will be supported by Waikato University’s Masters and Doctoral Research Scholarships this year.

Twenty-three Waikato University Faculty of Science and Engineering students were awarded research scholarships towards their studies at either masters or doctoral level. The scholarships are offered by the Waikato University Scholarships Committee on behalf of the Academic Board. Most students who received an award in this round received a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 8.0 or better, which is equivalent to A/A+.

Fifteen Masters Research Scholarships were awarded to Science and Engineering students; along with five domestic and three international doctoral scholarships. Among the doctoral scholarships were three INTERCOAST Doctoral Research Scholarships – requiring each student to spend six months of their studies in Germany at Bremen University.

Each masters scholarship winner will receive up to $12,000 over a period of a year and a contribution towards enrolment fees for that year. Winners of Doctoral Research Scholarships (both domestic and international) will receive living costs of up to $22,000 per annum for up to three years and an amount equal to their annual tuition fees.

Kerry Barker, a former Waikato Diocesan School for Girls student and a recipient of a Masters Research Scholarship, is working with Wallace Corporation Ltd to devise a way to use chicken feathers to make bio composite materials. These materials can be used in everything from building materials to sports equipment. Wallace Corporation Ltd processes the blood, offal and feathers of over 250,000 chickens a day.

“The field of bio composites was only really formed in 1989, so it is in its infancy. The type of materials I am hoping to create would be sound and heat insulating panels for the building sector and also structural materials like pallets. The idea behind utilising agricultural waste is that it’s cheap and it has the ability to degrade in the environment, unlike some synthetic materials which can take hundreds of years to break down,” says Kerry.

Former Putaruru College student Stephen Archer, winner of a Domestic Doctoral Research Scholarship, will study Antarctic aquatic microorganisms. He hopes to understand how a community’s population and metabolics change between the extreme environments found in Antarctica, in the hopes of understanding the systems, how sensitive they are to human contamination and the effects global climate change will have to this sensitive and valuable scientific resource. Stephen previously visited Antarctica as part of his masters research and hopes to return there at the end of this year.

Among others, further research topics include Daina Harris’ collaboration with Ag Research, working with cattle embryos and pluripotent stem cells; Rebecca White’s investigation of the bacteria involved in middle ear infections in children; Jackson Efford’s investigation of the tree-line forest dynamics on Mount Taranaki; and Rebekah Crosswell’s psychological study of driver behaviour and hazard perception.

Other Masters Research Scholarship winners include Alice Barnett, Rebecca Bylsma, Johanna Duyvestyn, Karl Jager, Kerri Lanigan, Anna Lawless, Joshua Mawer, Daniel Morrison, Simon Taylor, and Simon Williams. Other Doctoral Research Scholarship winners included: Shawn Harrison, Mohammed Majeed, Kenneth Sichone, Timothy Walmsley, Maher Elbohouty, Rachael Harris and Zhi (Cathy) Liu.

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