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Top seven PhDs win $10,000

by Katrina Phelps

The 2011 recipients (L-R) Susan Christo, Lakmuthu Anuradha Wickramasooriya, Sandra Davison, Vice Chancellor Peter Høj, Dean of Graduate Studies Philip Weinstein, Stephen Berry, Louise Hynes, Matt Selway and James Walsh.The 2011 recipients (L-R) Susan Christo,
Lakmuthu Anuradha Wickramasooriya, Sandra Davison, Vice Chancellor Peter Høj, Dean of Graduate Studies Philip Weinstein, Stephen Berry,
Louise Hynes, Matt Selway and James Walsh.

A PhD is an opportunity to explore and discover – and 150 new PhD students at UniSA won scholarships this year to help them do exactly that. For the top seven, the icing on the cake is the award of $10,000 each in the form of a Vice Chancellor and President’s Scholarship.

”These scholarships give our students additional opportunities to gain international experience as part of their research training,” said Vice Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj.

“Hopefully they will enjoy their research even more, and benefit from the enhanced opportunities for creativity and productivity that result from international collaboration.”

Previous recipients of these awards have used their money in exactly these ways, presenting at an international conference, collecting data at an overseas institution, collaborating with international experts, and buying specialised equipment for their research.

The seven 2011 recipients – Stephen Berry, Susan Christo, Sandra Davison, Louise Hynes, Matt Selway, James Walsh and Lakmuthu Wickramasooriya – come from a broad range of disciplinary backgrounds.

In presenting the scholarships to the recipients, the Vice Chancellor thanked them for choosing to study at UniSA.

“These students also have an ambassadorial role to play in promoting the significance and innovation of their research findings and for that it is appropriate to thank them in advance,” Prof Høj said.

The recipients have contributed short summaries of their research directions.

Matt Selway is one scholarship recipient already looking to use the scholarship to attend conferences and get published.

“There’s a symposium that I want to attend next year and aim to get a paper published in that,” he said.

Matt’s PhD with the Knowledge and Software Engineering Lab in the Advanced Computing Research Centre focuses on natural language processing, which has the potential to make software development much easier.

“I find natural language very interesting,” he said. “I think it stems from watching Star Trek and liking the idea of the interface with the computer.”

Fellow scholarship recipient James Walsh is also planning on using his award to attend a conference and get published.

“There is a conference later this year that I want to attend and then I am hoping to publish for it next year as I just missed the deadline for this year,” he said. “I also want to use it to get to know other people in the industry and to buy some equipment for my research that I wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise.”

James is undertaking his PhD with the Wearable Computer Lab in the Advanced Computing Research Centre after doing his honours at the Lab.

Susan Christo, whose PhD with the Sansom Institute focuses on immunology, says the scholarship is a bonus that will allow her to work on her PhD full-time.

“Trying to work while undertaking a science PhD would be really difficult as science hours can vary so much with experiment timelines,” she said. “I want to use the scholarship for anything that will enhance my project, such as overseas conferences or interstate trips to meet with collaborators.”

Susan undertook a biotechnology degree and honours at UniSA and says she was always interested in pursuing research.

Likewise, Lakmuthu Wickramasooriya has a passion research. She moved to Adelaide from Sri Lanka after applying to undertake her PhD at the Institute for Telecommunications Research (ITR).

After working for a few years as a planning engineer for a telecommunications practitioner, Lakmuthu knew that it was time to look into the research she had been thinking of doing since her bachelor degree.

“While I was working, I wanted to learn new things and felt like I wanted to do something new,” she said. “I think that the ITR is one of the best in the world for telecommunications research so I contacted them. The process was really easy and I thought it would be a good opportunity.”

Lakmuthu is still considering what to do with her Vice Chancellor and President’s Scholarship but tentatively said that using it for attending conferences is likely.

Stephen Berry is undertaking his PhD with the Barbara Hardy Institute. His PhD topic is about the technical and economic feasibility of applying a net zero carbon standard for new housing.

Sandra Davison’s PhD focuses on psychology and food waste behaviours, including developing and evaluating a psychological-based intervention for reducing household food waste. She is undertaking her PhD with the Centre for Sleep Research.

Louise Hynes is focusing her PhD on how older women perceive the changing expectations and experiences of home in an ageing Australian society. She is based in the Hawke Research Institute.

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