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Waikato University student wins Fulbright Travel Award

30 January 2013

Megan Grainger

Fulbright: PhD student Megan Grainger has been awarded a Fulbright Travel Award to present her Masters research in Montana .

University of Waikato PhD student Megan Grainger has been awarded an exclusive Fulbright Travel Award to present her Masters research at the University of Montana. 

Fulbright New Zealand Travel Awards are for New Zealand academics, artists or professionals to present their work to American audiences, and Megan will be presenting her Masters research while continuing work on her PhD in Montana later this year.

Automotive glass

“My Masters research is on the discrimination and categorisation of automotive glass by laser ablation – this will be of particular interest to a US audience and it's work that can be carried out on automotive glass in America. My database of samples consisted of glass from around the world and showed the ability to categorise the samples into country of origin.”

However, the Fulbright Travel Award isn’t Megan’s only reason for going to Montana.

Claude McCarthy Fellowship

Last year she received a Claude McCarthy Fellowship to help her travel to the States to work more closely with her external supervisor University of Montana Professor Emeritus Richard Field – a physical chemist who specialises in nonlinear dynamics.

She was also the recipient of a Shirtcliffe Fellowship, which aims to assist students of outstanding ability and character who are graduates of a New Zealand university, in the continuation of their doctoral studies.

PhD in Organic Chemistry

Megan is completing her PhD in Organic Chemistry under the supervision of Associate Professor Merilyn Manley-Harris, studying mānuka honey.

“The Fulbright award along with the Claude McCarthy and Shirtcliffe Fellowships, have all been an incredible help to me,” says Megan.

“They have allowed me to solely focus on my research without having to worry about a part-time job outside of university to earn money to support myself. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to put in the same effort of work into my research and would not have been able to achieve what I have.”

Looking at mānuka honey

Her PhD is looking at the chemical conversion that occurs in mānuka honey responsible for the unique mānuka factor (UMF), and trying to find out how it occurs, and how long it takes.

She is 24 months through her PhD and is working to produce a model that will predict the ideal conversion environment.

“I have been monitoring the reaction over time in real honey and artificial honey to study the effect that different compounds have on the conversion of DHA to MGO. This will allow me to find the rate of the reaction and help beekeepers decide how long and under what storage conditions they should store their honey. 

“The aim is to be able to take this data and model what is happening in honey and apply it to real honey samples.”

Megan leaves in June and will spend two months at the University of Montana working with Professor Field.

During her time at university Megan has earned many accolades. She has received the award for top chemistry student in her year for three years in a row, has been awarded 10 scholarships throughout the years and her Masters research has been published in the Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry.