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Auckland student wins scholarship to Cambridge

Media release
Faculty of Science
The University of Auckland

03 November 2009

Auckland student wins prestigious scholarship to study at Cambridge

University of Auckland physics student Yvette Perrott has been awarded a Rutherford Scholarship to support her PhD at the University of Cambridge, where she will work in the laboratory once led by Lord Ernest Rutherford.

"Winning the Rutherford Scholarship means that I will be able to study at a highly prestigious university, and will be part of a large group doing exciting astrophysics research," says Yvette.

"Advances in astronomy are occurring at a very rapid pace, from our understanding of the evolution of the universe to the hunt for life 'out there'," says Dr Phil Yock from The University of Auckland. "Yvette is an unusually gifted research scientist in the making, and at Cambridge she will be in an ideal position to participate in these exciting scientific developments."

Yvette completed a Bachelor of Arts and Science at the University in 2008, majoring in Italian, Spanish and Physics, followed by a Bachelor of Science with Honours. While completing her studies she also participated in the international Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics (MOA) project, searching for planets outside our solar system.

The project uses a 'gravitational lens' effect, first proposed by Einstein, to detect objects in space. The effect refers to the focusing of light rays that occurs when they pass either side of a massive object and bend towards it. The technique allows astronomers to detect objects in space that do not emit light such as black holes. Its most important application is the study of planets, including Earth-like planets, orbiting stars in our galaxy.

As part of the MOA since 2007, Yvette has already contributed to the discovery of one planet, and is in the process of finding more.

Yvette will undertake her PhD at the prestigious Cavendish Laboratory once led by Lord Ernest Rutherford, the New Zealand scientist renowned for splitting the atom, and after whom the Rutherford Scholarship is named.

Her scholarship is jointly funded by the Rutherford Foundation (a charitable trust established by the Royal Society of New Zealand), the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust, and the Cavendish Laboratory. It supports up to three years of PhD study at the University and is awarded based on academic excellence and evidence of engagement with science and technology.

Yvette has earned many other awards during her academic career, most recently the AIMES award supporting young people in pursuit of excellence which was presented by the North Harbour Club at a ceremony last Saturday.


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