Waikato student scoops top scholarship to Cambridge University

4 October 2012

kate de Lange

Katie de Lange: Has been awarded one of three Woolf Fisher scholarships to study for her Phd at Cambridge University in the UK.

A Waikato University computer science student has been awarded a prestigious Woolf Fisher Scholarship, worth about $100,000 a year for up to four years, to study for a PhD at Cambridge University in the UK.

Katie de Lange is one of three recipients and only the second Waikato student to win a Woolf Fisher Scholarship, which rewards brilliant young New Zealand graduates who possess leadership skills, boldness of vision and exceptional zeal, keeness and capacity for work – qualities admired by the late Sir Woolf Fisher, co-founder of Fisher and Paykel.

De Lange’s field of interest is biomedical informatics, and she’s excited that Cambridge is home to the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, one of the leading world centres for analysing and understanding genomes.

The right place to be 

“In Cambridge, I’d be in the right place to meet the right people in this field,” she says. “I’ve been interested in bioinformatics ever since I came to a Waikato Open Day lecture on the topic.”

De Lange is particularly interested in human genetics, and in developing genome analysis techniques that could help direct the development of new drugs to tackle diseases like cancer.

“Genetic data sets are massive, so we get the computer to do the donkey work of analysis using machine learning and other high performance computing techniques,” she says.

As part of her Bachelor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences honours degree, De Lange has been working on an error detection model for genetic data, under the supervision of Adjunct Professor John Cleary.

An excellent choice

Dr Cleary is also part of a team of top computer scientists at Real Time Genomics Inc which has designed a core suite of high speed, error tolerant, proprietary and patented search technologies for advanced genomic analysis solutions. He says Katie De Lange is an excellent choice for the Woolf Fisher scholarship.

“Katie is very determined and interested in tackling challenging problems. She has demonstrated resilience in the face of unexpected results and is clear in her thinking and well organised in her actions.”

De Lange is a keen sailor and holds a Hillary Scholarship for University of Waikato students who excel in academia, leadership and sports or the creative and performing arts. She is also the recipient of a three-month Google scholarship at the company’s Sydney office, which she will take up before she heads for Cambridge to start her doctoral studies in October next year.

The Woolf Fisher Scholarship

The Woolf Fisher Scholarships were established in 2003 by the Woolf Fisher Trust and are now also supported by the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust. Up to three scholarships are awarded each year to outstanding New Zealand graduate students for doctoral study at Cambridge University. The main objective of the Trust is that Woolf Fisher Scholars will become leaders in their fields and during their careers make a significant contribution to New Zealand. 

The scholarships are administered by Universities New Zealand – Te Pokai Tara.

University of Waikato molecular biology student Ashley Easter was awarded a Woolf Fisher Scholarship in 2009.

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