Future leaders look to UNSW

Two young researchers working to reduce carbon emissions and promoting the design of sustainable and liveable cities have been named UNSW winners of the 2017 Westpac Future Leaders Scholarships.

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Gurinder Nagra has chosen UNSW as the place to pursue his PhD in Earth Sciences. Photo: Westpac Bicentennial Foundation.

Two young researchers working to reduce carbon emissions and promoting the design of sustainable and liveable cities have been named UNSW winners of the 2017 Westpac Future Leaders Scholarships.

Gurinder Nagra and Elise Wood were among 22 young Australians to receive the prestigious scholarships from the Westpac Bicentennial Foundation.

The $22 million program is designed to support exceptional graduates with the potential to shape Australia’s future, with an emphasis on social change, technology and innovation, and strengthening ties with Asia.  

The scheme gives each individual up to $120,000 each for research or coursework studies at graduate level at one of the country’s leading universities and includes a nine-month bespoke leadership development program and international experiences of up to six months. 

Both scholars who selected postgraduate studies at UNSW are focused on lessening the impact of development on the environment.

The Westpac scholarship gives me the opportunity to do what I love while having the most impact possible through my work. But it also gives me a platform to inspire others to be the best they can be.

Gurinder Nagra, from Griffith in southern NSW, is passionate about renewable energy technology and innovation. The UNSW graduate with first-class Honours in Earth Sciences plans to embark on a PhD within UNSW’s Connected Water Initiative to determine the extent to which large amounts of carbon dioxide can be stored by enhancing the Earth’s silicate weathering process.  

The research will help determine the potential of enhanced weathering as a negative emissions technology to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius.

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UNSW Westpac Future Leaders Scholarship winner Elise Wood. Photo: Westpac Bicentennial Foundation

 

“This Westpac scholarship will put me in a unique position to gain international expertise in enhanced weathering at Oxford as part of my international experience,” said Nagra, who has been active in the UNSW community, a volunteer with WWF and an environmental education volunteer in Zimbabwe.

“It also gives me the opportunity to do what I love while having the most impact possible through my work. But it also gives me a platform to inspire others to be the best they can be.”

Nagra will benefit from the Westpac Bicentennial Foundation's network of industry leaders to become a consultant to both the government and industry on science and technology, and help push for change in Australia.

University of Sydney graduate Elise Wood plans to pursue a Masters of City Planning within UNSW’s Faculty of Built Environment. She hopes to find solutions to the urban challenges faced by Australia’s fast-growing cities  challenges that are common around the world.

“Being a Westpac Future Leader is an unparalleled opportunity to grow as a leader, learn from my peers, and expand my knowledge and understanding of city planning,” she said.

I have seen the tremendous potential smart policy and planning has to make our cities greener, more productive and inclusive. I want to continue to be instrumental in making this happen.

Through its specialisation in City Design, the UNSW Masters program teaches techniques than can translate broad ideas in urban planning into precinct-scale solutions.

“I have seen the tremendous potential smart policy and planning has to make our cities greener, more productive and inclusive. Having worked domestically and internationally in government and the not-for-profit sector, I want to continue to be instrumental in making this happen,” Wood said.

The Rozelle student is planning a study trip to Asia at the London School of Economics-Peking University Summer School in Beijing to study Speculative Urbanisation in Asia. She believes the course can help strengthen Australia-Asia ties and consolidate work she has already undertaken in India to advocate for innovative urban solutions for the Smart Cities Foundation.

Susan Bannigan, CEO of the Westpac Bicentennial Foundation, said the Scholarships had attracted an “incredibly high calibre of talented and driven individuals” from diverse fields and backgrounds.

As well as the financial reward, the students also gain life-long membership to the Westpac 100 Scholars’ alumni.

“Money 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 to build a better future for all Australians,” Ms Bannigan said.