Two UWA students have been awarded Rhodes Scholarships to study at the University of Oxford in England.
If you've ever visited UWA for a school excursion, you may have met Dustin Stuart, one of the tour guides in the Prospective Students Office. Having completed a Bachelor of Science (Advanced Science Program) last year, Dustin won the 2009 Rhodes Scholarship for WA and plans to study a PhD in laser physics.
"My project will involve laser-cooling atoms to a fraction of a degree above absolute zero, and using them as a quantum computer," Dustin says.
Jessica Panegyres, an Arts/Law honours student who attended Lesmurdie Senior High School, has been named one of Australia's three Rhodes Scholars at Large. She plans to enrol in a Masters of Philosophy in Politics at Oxford and hopes to become an active contributor to Australian public debate.
"I want to learn what the best minds are saying about the things that matter and bring that knowledge back home," she said.
Both of these UWA students have a strong sense of social responsibility. Jessica has worked as a volunteer for organisations including the Centre for Advocacy, Support and Education for Refugees; the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee; Unity of First People of Australia; the Red Cross; and the Environmental Defender's Office.
She has also taught English as a second language to Aboriginal children and refugees, and has assisted in providing emergency accommodation for refugees and people with mental illness.
Dustin, a 21-year-old who aims to be a university researcher also aims to help change young people's lives. He says he's had the best experiences of his life teaching children and teenagers, and wants them to discover and share his passion for science.
"I hope one day to start a science extension program to give kids the opportunity to discover science in the same way that has been so life-changing for me," says Dustin.
"That's why I want to teach," he says. "I believe education truly has the power to change people's lives for the better. In addition, fundamental research in physics has that potential too - to have a real effect on people's lives."
Teaching English in India as a volunteer, running a science holiday program for primary school children, and coaching teenagers competing in science Olympiads have all fuelled his passion for teaching.
While at high school, Dustin was selected to compete in the International Chemistry Olympiads competition involving some 60 countries and has returned each year to lecture at the Australian Chemistry Olympiads summer school in Melbourne.
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 to study at Oxford, with selection based on qualities of character as well as intellect. The Rhodes Trust offers 11 Rhodes Scholarships in Australia each year, one for each State and three for Australia at Large.
Dustin and Jessica join other prominent UWA graduate Rhodes Scholars such as former Premier Geoff Gallop, former Federal Attorneys-General Peter Durack and Daryl Williams, former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke and former Opposition Leader Kim Beazley.