A jolly good fellow

6 December 2018

Engineering PhD student Safiya Noorzai (image courtesy of the Waikato Students' Union).

Engineering PhD student Safiya Noorzai has been awarded a Claude McCarthy Fellowship for a second time.

The Claude McCarthy Fellowship enables New Zealand graduates who are enrolled in a PhD programme to undertake original work or research in literature, science or medicine. Recipients use the fellowship to undertake further study or to travel overseas to present their research at conferences.

Safiya’s 2017 fellowship award enabled her to travel to Dresden, Germany to present her work at the Polymer Processing Society Europe/Africa Conference. This year’s award will fund her trip to Izmir, Turkey for the 35th International Conference of the Polymer Processing Society in May 2019.

The Hamilton-raised student says she’s over the moon to have received the scholarship for a second time and is looking forward to presenting at the conference in Turkey next year. “I honestly thought that my chances of getting it twice were very slim,” she says. “I would definitely not have been able to go, if not for the scholarship. Having the opportunity to meet and network with other researchers and experts in my field is invaluable.”

In the meantime Safiya is hard at work in the lab, under Professor Johan Verbeek’s supervision, conducting research to find solutions to the world’s growing waste and pollution problem.

Collagen may be popularly associated with cosmetics or plastic surgery, but Safiya is using it to produce biodegradable films for packaging purposes. With the support of a Wallace Corporation scholarship, the Engineering PhD student is extracting collagen from bovine hides. Safiya is using hide off-cuttings, which cannot be used for leather production and usually end up in landfill. High-purity collagen is extracted in the most efficient and cost-effective method, and is used to produce high-strength biodegradable films.

The Claude McCarthy Fellowship is named after the late Claude McCarthy who graduated in 1913 from Canterbury College with a Bachelor of Arts. He lived and worked overseas for many years and died in Spain in 1978. A bequest from his estate provides the funding for this memorial fellowship, which is administered by Te Pōkai Tara – Universities New Zealand.

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