An Engineering and Science student who wants to develop technology to help severely disabled people communicate has won the 2008 Rhodes Scholarship for Western Australia.
John McAnearney, 22, is passionate about robotic surgery and brain computer interface - a system that allows direct communication from a human brain to an external device such as a computer - and plans to do a PhD in biomedical engineering at Oxford University next year.
While engineering runs in the family - Mr McAnearney's grandfather and two uncles are engineers and his younger brother is also studying engineering and science at UWA - both parents are psychologists who studied at UWA.
"I couldn't decide whether to study engineering or medicine so I ended up combining my interests by doing both," he said.
The former Aquinas College student, who lives in Booragoon, joins other prominent UWA graduate Rhodes Scholars including former premier Geoff Gallop, former Federal Attorneys-General and Queen's Counsel Peter Durack and Daryl Williams, former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke and former Opposition Leader Kim Beazley.
UWA Vice-Chancellor Professor Alan Robson said Mr McAnearney would be an excellent ambassador for the University and Western Australia.
"The University of Western Australia is proud of the role it has played over many years in promoting the Rhodes Scholarship and in encouraging the pursuit of excellence among so many of our students," Professor Robson said.
Rhodes Scholarships were created under the will of Cecil John Rhodes, the British colonial pioneer and statesman, who died in 1902. He left the greater part of his fortune to establish the scholarships, with selection based on qualities of character as well as intellect.
The Rhodes Trust offers 11 Rhodes Scholarships in Australia each year, one for award in each State and three for Australia at Large.