Three New Zealand university students have been awarded prestigious scholarships from the Rutherford Foundation to undertake their PhDs at the University of Cambridge in England, following in the footsteps of Lord Ernest Rutherford.
The successful scholarship recipients are Janina Voigt from the University of Canterbury, and Jake Howe and Michael Price, who studied at the University of Otago.
The Rutherford Foundation, which awards the scholarships, is a trust set up by the Royal Society of New Zealand to provide support to emerging New Zealand scientists.
Chairperson of the Rutherford Foundation, Professor Margaret Brimble, says it is important for our young emerging researchers to gain valuable international experience.
“Our goal is for New Zealand’s top home-grown talent to return home to lead research programmes that benefit New Zealand in the future.”
Janina Voigt studied computer science at the University of Canterbury and says she is looking forward to working with some of the best researchers in the field of software engineering. Her plan is to work on reinventing computer programming for the future, as better programming technologies will streamline programming, bringing benefits to industries and to society.
Jake Howe studied chemistry at the University of Otago. He says that in order to deal with the major environmental issues facing the world we must first understand the earth’s natural processes. He is planning to study ocean circulation. He says he will undertake research to enable better decision making for the future, based on a greater understanding of the past.
Michael Price is studying physics at the University of Otago and he will join the optoelectronics group at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University, led by Professor Sir Richard Friend.
In awarding the scholarship to Michael, the Rutherford Foundation noted his passion for the practical applications of science, particularly the use of semiconducting polymers, in new types of solar cells. Michael attended the University of California, Berkeley, for an exchange year during his undergraduate degree.
Professor Margaret Brimble says all three scholars have contributed to extracurricular activities by supporting school children to engage in science, promoting science fairs, and speaking to secondary schools about science, as well as helping their peers to achieve in their areas of strength. Janina instigated a support group for women in computer science, currently a significant minority.
Two scholars will be supported by the Rutherford Foundation and the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust jointly, while the third in physics is supported by the Cavendish Laboratory and the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust.
Professor Brimble says the Rutherford Foundation will ensure strong links are maintained with New Zealand by funding annual return trips home for the students, and will encourage these students to return to New Zealand when they complete their overseas experience.
Next year, the Rutherford Foundation will implement a new PhD scholarship support programme designed to assist outstanding scholars to access the top universities of the world.