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Life-changing opportunity for Woolf Fisher scholars

Life-changing opportunity for Woolf Fisher scholars

Three outstanding young New Zealanders with the potential to be leaders in their field have each been awarded a life-changing Woolf Fisher Scholarship to study at Cambridge.

The 2018 scholars are: Josh Brian, aged 23, a Master of Science student at Victoria University of Wellington, Nat Walker-Hale, aged 22, a Bachelor of Science (Honours) student also at Victoria University; and Oliver Hailes, aged 25, a graduate of the University of Otago and currently a Judge’s Clerk in Wellington.

The Woolf Fisher Scholarship, which covers the study and living costs at Cambridge, is estimated to have a value of $300,000 for each scholar, making it one of the most generous scholarships available to New Zealand students.

The Chairman of the Woolf Fisher Trust, Sir Noel Robinson, said, “Josh, Nat and Oliver exemplify the qualities admired by the late Sir Woolf Fisher. These young people all demonstrate that same integrity, leadership, boldness of vision and exceptional zeal, keenness and capacity for work he so admired.

“We look for Woolf Fisher Scholars who will make a significant commitment to New Zealand and become leaders in their fields. We look forward to working with these outstanding scholars throughout their studies and to following their progress and contribution to New Zealand.”

This year’s scholars are:

Josh Brian studied at Wellington College before completing a BA at Victoria University and is currently completing his Masters of Science in Marine Biology. At Cambridge, he will pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Zoology. This is a three-year research-based programme, where he will undertake a significant independent research project and students are expected to become a world-leader in their field.

Josh’s proposed study is the development of socially beneficial marine conservation practices in low socio-economic countries.

He says, “As a leader in the South Pacific, and a propensity for achieving above our weight, New Zealand can be at the forefront of socially beneficial conservation.

“I would love to generate a system where communities in poverty-stricken countries could be encouraged to better manage vulnerable near-shore marine resources (corals, mangroves, seagrasses), while still maintaining vital social benefit.”

Josh’s interest in biology was inspired by a character in Nickelodeon’s Wild Thornberry’s, who travels the world with her parents and who talks to and helps native animals in various countries.

In addition, he is a keen distance runner and has completed half marathons and the Abel Tasman Coastal Classic through the National Park.

Nat Walker-Hale attended Lower Hutt’s Raphael House Rudolf Steiner School before completing a Bachelor of Science and is currently studying towards a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Ecology and Biodiversity at Victoria University of Wellington.

At Cambridge, he will study for a PhD in Plant Sciences which is a three-to-four-year programme of full-time study. Josh will use cutting-edge genomic resources to investigate trait evolution in Caryophyllale, a species which includes the salt-tolerant coastal stabilising ice plant, as well as food crops such as quinoa, sugar beet and New Zealand spinach.

He plans to study the evolution of traits that are highly significant in the context of plant evolution, as well as human health and nutrition. The study will include several economically important species as well as those which are tolerant of extreme environments: salt, heat, drought and cold.

Nat, who aims to become a leader on the field of evolutionary biology, says, “This research is important for crop improvement to challenging environments and is also economically important to New Zealand growers.

“Food security and climate change are two of the most pressing issues facing ever-growing

global populations. Understanding the evolution of plant traits, particularly tolerance to

abiotic stressors such as drought, cold and salinity is key for the development of high yield stress tolerant crops.

Nat is also a talented fencer and was selected for the Junior Commonwealth Fencing Championships in Cape Town in 2015.

Southlander Oliver Hailes attended Saint Kevin’s College in Oamaru, before going on to complete a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and then a Bachelors of Law with First Class Honours at the University of Otago.

He is a barrister and solicitor and is currently a Judge’s Clerk in the Court of Appeal. Next year he will begin with corporate law firm Chapman Tripp before pursuing his studies.

In his first year at Cambridge, he will study towards a Master of Law focusing on international investment law, international environmental law, the economics of law and regulation and the Law of the World Trade Organisation. For the next three years, Oliver will undertake a doctoral research programme to complete a PhD.

His interest lies in developing domestic and global legal structures that will allow governing institutions to tackle major economic social and environmental issues facing the world. He wants to break down institutional barriers that address social injustice and climate change.

While working summers at a freezing works, noting the impact of dry conditions, a recession and the proposal by a multi-national cement producer to build a coal-fired plant, he noted, “People would speak of the Economy and the Environment as if these concepts were autonomous and incompatible. Yet their active engagement in debate disclosed how the relationship between society and nature is hammered out through political discourse and ultimately regulated by the law.

“As a small country dependent on complex supply chains and ecological systems, New Zealand has a strong interest in ensuring that international economic and environmental treaties reflect the needs of people and the planet, while ensuring these instruments are palatable to the vested interests at stake.”

“I hope to return to New Zealand as a legal leader for a truly globalised century that will

require constant international collaboration to ensure sustainable prosperity at home and


In addition, Oliver volunteers for Kaibosh Food Rescue, Generation Zero and the Social Change Collective (law and policy research on housing) and contributes to Kenya’s Give Directly Universal Basic Income pilot.

Universities New Zealand acknowledged the work of the Trust, and their investment in young New Zealanders and in academic research and innovation.

Sir Woolf Fisher (1912-1975), co-founder of Fisher and Paykel, set up his Trust in 1960 to recognise and reward excellence in education. The Scholarship selects young New Zealanders based on their outstanding academic ability, leadership potential as well as their integrity, vision and capacity for work.

Universities New Zealand administers around 40 nationally available school leaver and postgraduate awards, worth nearly $2 million a year.

The closing date for 2019 applications is 1 August 2018. Details are available on Universities New Zealand’s

This release is on our website at


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