UC student awarded major scholarship

03 October 2011

University of Canterbury science student Kane O'Donnell is heading to the United Kingdom next year after receiving a prestigious Woolf Fisher Scholarship.

UC student awarded major scholarship  - Imported from Legacy News system

UC student Kane O'Donnell.

University of Canterbury science student Kane O’Donnell is heading to the United Kingdom next year after receiving a prestigious Woolf Fisher Scholarship.

The 21-year-old honours student is one of three New Zealand tertiary students to be awarded the scholarship, which will see him start studying at the University of Cambridge in October 2012.

The scholarships provide recipients with full college and university fees and a living allowance. The annual value of each scholarship is close to $100,000.

At Cambridge Kane intends to research quantum theory and gravitational physics.

“Current theories dictate that we live in a universe where size matters. Looking at the universe through a telescope, we see our solar system, where the planets orbit around the sun in a way governed by the laws of gravity. But if we look through a really good microscope, we see things like atoms, where electrons are in a similar orbit around a charged nucleus. 

“Even though these electrons orbit the nucleus in a similar way as the planets orbit the sun, the laws that govern how electrons move are completely different – they are the laws of quantum mechanics,” said Kane. 

Kane hoped that at Cambridge he will be able to help gain insight into why we have these two different sets of laws: general relativity and quantum theory, respectively. Ultimately, his goal is to find a theory of quantum gravity that unites the two, though he admits this is a very ambitious task.

Kane recently returned from studies at the University of Oxford where he spent three months on exchange studying theoretical physics.

The Woolf Fisher Scholarship programme was established nine years ago by the trustees of the Woolf Fisher Trust to honour Woolf Fisher who was co-founder, with Maurice Paykel, of the company Fisher & Paykel Limited and foundation chairman of New Zealand Steel Limited.

Three scholarships, for three or four years of postgraduate research leading to a doctoral degree, are offered each year. Scholars are selected on their outstanding academic abilities and potential leadership. 

Trust Chair Sir Noel Robinson said this year’s shortlist reflected an outstanding calibre of scholars. 

“The quality of our candidates is just so high now. We believe they each have the potential to take up leadership roles in New Zealand and there’s no reason why all three students couldn’t become world leaders in their own right.” 

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