10 December 2008

A University of Queensland graduate has won the Australian equivalent of a Rhodes or Fulbright Scholarship.

Engineering and science graduate Katie Quinn (Kelvin Grove) is one of just eight young Australians to be awarded a General Sir John Monash Award for 2009, allowing her to study at a top-level university in the USA, UK or Europe for up to three years.

Ms Quinn, 21, will use the award to undertake PhD studies in biotechnological responses to sustainability at the University of California or Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.

Receiving the General Sir John Monash Award is the latest in a string of personal achievements for Ms Quinn, who has also held UQ’s Hawken Memorial Scholarship and Andrew Nicholas Liveris Prize and the Chemical Engineering Student Society Bursary.

She hoped her research would improve the quality of people’s lives by using biotechnology to develop more sustainable methods of producing materials and energy.

Ms Quinn said innovations in this area would not only bring significant benefit to human wellbeing and the environment, but would also bring significant economic and technological benefits to countries that develop them.

“Though it is sometimes disheartening to think about all the problems that the world is facing, it is almost exciting to know that these are challenges that our generation must tackle and solve; and, by putting our education to good use, I really believe that my generation can,” she said.

“I think that a key characteristic of this award is, like Sir John Monash, being involved in many aspects of the community and planning to study with the objective of making a worthy or unique contribution to the community.”

The awards, first granted in 2004, are Australia’s only national postgraduate study awards offered across the whole country and in all disciplines.

They are an Australian equivalent to Britain’s Rhodes Scholarship and the United States’ Fulbright Scholarship and are inspired by Sir John Monash, who commanded the Australian Imperial Forces in World War I, developed Australia’s electricity industry and promoted public service and education.

“I'm really grateful for the work of the Monash board in setting up these awards. I think that Australians are very good at recognising and encouraging success in sport and, to a certain extent, culture but it isn't so often that academics are celebrated,” Ms Quinn said.

“I think that, with all the challenges that the world will face in the next generation, it is really important that we have really good thinkers working in all fields.

“I've always loved learning and could think of nothing better than spending the rest of my life trying to discover new knowledge and ways to use it but I realise that it is a privilege to have had an education at all – so I really want to make sure that my work, in some way, contributes to the betterment of society.”

Ms Quinn received her award from fellow UQ alumna Governor-General Quentin Bryce, AC, at Government House, Canberra, on November 26. She graduates from UQ with Bachelors of Engineering and Science with first-class honours today (December 10).

Media: Tegan Taylor at UQ Communications (07 3365 2659)