Top Scholarship Awarded to Waikato Student
A Waikato University biochemistry student has been awarded a prestigious Woolf Fisher Scholarship, worth $100,000 a year for up to four years, to study for a PhD at either Oxford or Cambridge University in the UK.
Ashley Easter is one of three recipients and the first Waikato student to win a Woolf Fisher Scholarship, which rewards exceptional young New Zealanders who possess integrity, kindness and boldness of vision – qualities admired by the late Sir Woolf Fisher, co-founder of Fisher and Paykel.
Easter, who’s from Cambridge, New Zealand, has chosen to pursue his doctorate at his hometown’s UK namesake. This year, he will complete a masters on enzyme dynamics and for his PhD wants to research an area of molecular biology that has beneficial effects on human health. “I’m dead set on looking at protein folding or mutations and I want it to have some kind of implication for health or disease…there has to be a follow-on benefit of the research,” he says.
Easter’s supervisor, Associate Professor Vic Arcus, himself graduated from Cambridge in 1995 with the help of a Prince of Wales scholarship. He says he’s glad Ashley is getting the same opportunity he did.
“Ashley’s very independent and very inventive in his approach to research. He’s able to combine intelligence in multiple areas of interest, and has a breadth as well as a depth of knowledge.”
The 22-year-old says he’s always been inquisitive. His father played a big role in exposing him to the fundamentals of science. Michael Easter graduated in 1979 with a Masters of Science in Chemistry, when Waikato’s Science and Engineering department was just 10 years old.
Once he’s finished his doctorate, Easter is keen to return to New Zealand for a post doctoral position. “New Zealand has a lot of advantages in biochemistry. We’ve got natural resources like the Rotorua geothermals, and we are an isolated island with lots of indigenous flora and fauna. Who’s to say there’s not a strange plant or animal here that has some kind of cure for a disease.”