Samantha Nixon ... developing better treatments for drug-resistant parasitic worms, to help Aussie sheep farmers
Samantha Nixon ... developing better treatments for drug-resistant parasitic worms, to help Aussie sheep farmers
2 February 2017

Three University of Queensland postgraduate students have received funding for study and travel, and entry to a leadership program, thanks to a fund celebrating the bicentenary of Westpac Banking Corporation.

Laura Leighton, Jessica Maher and Samantha Nixon were named this week among 22 scholarship winners nationally in the 2017 Westpac Future Leaders Scholarships and Westpac Research Fellowships.

The Future Leaders scholarships provide each awardee up to $120,000 for research or coursework studies at graduate level, and also fund leadership development opportunities and international experiences. 

Laura LeightonProfessor Doune Macdonald, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), congratulated UQ’s recipients and thanked Westpac for supporting a group of exceptional young scholars.

“UQ is focussed on creating change that will make life better for everyone,” Professor Macdonald said.

“The UQ scholars who have received these awards this year have bright futures, and we are grateful that the Westpac Bicentennial Foundation is investing in them.  The funding and development opportunities will support their progress as trailblazers in their respective fields.”

Ms Nixon, a research higher degree student at UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience, said she was passionate about making a genuine difference to the world through research.

“My research uses spider venom to develop better treatments for drug-resistant parasitic worms, and I hope it will help Aussie sheep farmers combat this multimillion-dollar challenge,” Ms Nixon said.

“As a recovering arachnophobe, I am learning to appreciate just how fascinating and talented spiders are, and that their venoms could help us solve many global health and environmental challenges.

“This scholarship will allow me to develop my research skills, make new international connections, and become a better leader and ‘ag-vocate’ for sustainable agricultural practices."

The Queensland Brain Institute’s Laura Leighton is a PhD student in Dr Timothy Bredy’s laboratory.

“Receiving the scholarship means I will be able to travel to extend my networks overseas and learn pioneering lab techniques,” Ms Leighton said.

“I am incredibly thankful for this investment in my future.”

Jessica MaherMs Maher, from UQ’s School of Communication and Arts, said she witnessed the powerful impact of communication in a development context when she spent a year and a half in Cambodia, working for a non-government organisation.

“This motivated me to come back to Australia and undertake a UQ Master of Communication, due to the program's focus on communication for social change,” she said.

“By helping to build awareness, you can transform lives.” 

Westpac Bicentennial Foundation chief executive Susan Bannigan said the Westpac Future Leaders scheme had attracted high calibre, talented and driven individuals.

“All the scholars are passionate about one or more of the Foundation’s focus areas - innovation and technology, enabling positive social change, and strengthening Australia’s ties with Asia,” Ms Bannigan said.   

“Westpac is proud to back them so they can realise their full leadership potential.”

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