Student leaders win Westpac awards

21 Mar 2018
Joseph Rowlands, Grace Constable and Shakif Shakur

Three exceptional UNSW students have been awarded Westpac Future Leaders Scholarships worth up to $120,000 each to undertake postgraduate study.

Joseph Rowlands and Grace Constable of UNSW Science, and Shakif Shakur of UNSW Medicine, will also receive a nine-month bespoke leadership development program and international experience as part of the program, aimed at helping young Australians become future leaders.

In total, Westpac gave scholarships worth $2 million to 17 students at nine Australian universities.

Susan Bannigan, CEO of Westpac Bicentennial Foundation, says Westpac Future Leaders come from diverse fields and backgrounds with a common goal – to shape a better future for all Australians.

“From researching new molecules that are capable of killing cancer cells by attacking their DNA, to innovating digital intercultural education programs – the Westpac Future Leaders Scholarship attracts an incredibly high calibre of talented and driven individuals.

“All the 2018 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. Westpac is proud to help realise their full leadership potential,” she says.

The UNSW winners are:

Joseph Rowlands: Joseph graduated with First Class Honours for his experimental research in aeroacoustics, and is now focusing on quantum computing. His PhD will be under the supervision of UNSW scientist Professor Michelle Simmons, Director of the Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, and 2018 Australian of the Year.

“Quantum computing will change the digital world by providing an exponential increase in computational power over traditional machines. This will create new industries, allow currently impossible research to be carried out, leading to new technologies not yet even imagined,” he says.

“Australia is leading this ‘space race of the computing era’. For both economic and strategic reasons, it is imperative that Australia stay at the forefront of this exciting technological development.”

Joseph likes to follow Gandhi’s advice: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

Grace Constable: Grace’s PhD project will focus on creating new molecules that stick to DNA in unusual ways, for future applications in anti-cancer therapies. Alongside her research, she will also use her experience in teaching to help remove social barriers to education, so diversity is truly valued.

“My ambition is to contribute meaningfully to my local and global communities through my two passions: chemical research and education. I aspire to lead multidisciplinary research at the interface between chemistry and medicine," she says.

“The best advice I've been given is ‘remember to look up at the sky and smile’."

Shakif Shakur: Shakif is a junior doctor and University Medallist who is pursuing a Masters of Public Health/Masters of International Public Health with the aim of helping to improve the health outcomes of communities experiencing disadvantage. His areas of interest include antibiotic resistance, infectious diseases, and immunisation.

“Being a migrant doctor, I hope to form relationships with research facilities overseas, perhaps paving the way for exchange of information between countries and increasing the skills of other doctors and health professionals,” he says.

“The Westpac Future Leaders Scholarship sets me on an exciting journey with an incredibly motivated group of individuals. A wealth of opportunities will open up as I network with individuals and industry leaders from a range of different disciplines – people that I would not otherwise have had a chance to meet.”

The 17 students will also gain lifelong membership to the Westpac 100 Scholars Network.

“Scholarship funding can help launch a vision but it takes a network of inspired and inspiring people to sustain it. That’s why every Westpac Future Leaders Scholarship recipient will be part of the Westpac 100 Scholars Network. Growing by 100 scholars a year across our five scholarship programs, this network will connect those with bold ideas and help to build a better future for all Australians,” Ms Bannigan says.