A macro-molecular chemical scientist from The University of Western Australia has been awarded this year’sEzio Rizzardo Polymer Scholarship.
The scholarship will enable Charmaine Hee (24) from Bayswater, to pursue cross-disciplinary polymer science projects with industry leaders and academics from around the globe and inspire the next generation of students through outreach activities.
Polymer science is a specialised field of materials science that focuses on the study of synthetic polymers such as plastics and is of increasing importance for everyone’s daily life.
The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering administers the award, which recognises the potential impact of an outstanding PhD candidate in polymer science or engineering whose work will benefit Australia.
Ms Hee, a PhD candidate from UWA’s School of Molecular Sciences, is researching the development of polymers that can self-assemble to form complex structures.
She said she felt deeply honoured to be awarded the scholarship that would allow her to work on cutting-edge research with some of the most brilliant minds.
“The award will enable me to communicate my findings to a broader audience, from local to international conferences, and support future outreach programs,” Ms Hee said.
“There's always more to learn and discover, and when you're the one asking questions, you could also be the one to make those discoveries.”
Her PhD supervisor, Professor Swaminatha Iyer, said Charmaine’s research could advance understanding about interactions within living cells and assist in the development of advanced drugs.
“Charmaine’s research could help in a very simple question that remains unanswered to date – that is, how does a collection of molecules and reactions become alive – to define the chemical complexity that we see in life,” Professor Iyer said.
Ms Hee is a passionate science communicator and has participated in several STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) engagement activities since the beginning of her undergraduate studies.
In 2016, she introduced the UWA Education Lab, a student-led club dedicated to providing free academic support and tutorials to high school students in STEM fields.
“I enjoy talking to students and being able to learn from each other,” Ms Hee said.
“My hope is that they get inspired like I did to carry on their studies in STEM.”
The scholarship will provide $10,000 per year for up to three years, plus a $5,000 travel fund.
The 2020 Innovation & Excellence Awards can be viewed online here.