University of Waikato Masters student wins international chemistry scholarship

28 May 2020

Nyssa Hewitt.

University of Waikato Masters student Nyssa Hewitt has been awarded the 2020 Harvey W. Wiley Scholarship for analytical science, an award administered by AOAC (Association of Official Analytical Collaboration) International.

This scholarship is awarded each year to a biology or chemistry student chosen by the AOAC Harvey W. Wiley recipients. The 2020 recipients are Dr Harvey Indyk, Senior Research Scientist, Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited and Dr David Woollard, Technical Consultant, Hill Laboratories.

As the winner, Nyssa will receive a cash award of US$1,000, and a plaque intended to be presented at the AOAC International meeting in Florida later this year. She also gets a one year AOAC student membership.

Nyssa completed a Bachelor of Science (Technology) majoring in Chemistry and minoring in Ecology and Biodiversity.

As part of her degree, she was required to complete an industry placement. When the opportunity came up to work at TATA Global Beverages in London, Nyssa jumped at the chance despite being told she wasn’t experienced enough.

“I did a Skype interview, sorted my visa and I was off to London. TATA Global Beverages is one of the largest tea producers in the world, and while I was there they were producing teas with added vitamins and minerals,” says Nyssa.

“In the lab we developed methods to analyse the vitamins and minerals to support the health claims on the product, as well as working on new product development.”

In the last year of her bachelors, Nyssa got a part-time job at Hill Laboratories, New Zealand’s largest privately owned commercial laboratory. While there, she worked with various water samples such as environmental water samples and effluent.

“From Hill Labs I moved back into research at the University of Waikato, working with numerous industries on a range of matrices, such as bee products and plant material.

“An industry I worked with during this period resonated with my interests in the pharmaceutical industry, and was instrumental in the design of my current master’s research project on the structural determination of an unknown novel natural compound.”

Her research supervisor, Dr Megan Grainger, an analytical chemist, is proud of Nyssa’s achievement in gaining this scholarship.

“I enjoy supporting students through their postgraduate study and helping them further develop their research skills. Nyssa has a natural curiosity that will help her become successful within analytical chemistry.”

Nyssa credits her high school science teacher from Morrinsville College for inspiring her to pursue chemistry, and ensuring she worked hard to achieve good marks by providing extra after-school classes.

Her masters research is scheduled to be complete in August this year, however lockdown has meant that she has been unable to get into the lab recently for research.

“When I do complete my masters, I’d like to pursue analytical chemistry further in research and development, and one day work towards studying a PhD.”

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