Tuesday, 4 March 2014

An internationally recognised plant nutrition expert, an Arts/Law graduate and a postdoctoral fellow from The University of Western Australia have been awarded Fulbright Scholarships for 2014, joining an elite worldwide group that includes Nobel Laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners in its ranks.

Winthrop Professor Zed Rengel, from UWA's School of Earth and Environment, was awarded the Fulbright Senior Scholarship.  Professor Rengel researches nutrient uptake and ion toxicity in the soil-plant-water-microbe continuum and his work has had a positive impact on agriculture and land rehabilitation in Australia and around the world.

The Fulbright Senior Scholarship is sponsored by Kansas State University, where Professor Rengel will undertake his research between July and December this year.  His work will focus on the identification of molecular markers associated with specific wheat root traits and the incorporation of that knowledge into a simulation model.

"The next ‘green' revolution is likely to come from breeding for improved root systems because the arable area in the world is limited and has been declining," Professor Rengel said.  "Computer simulations of root systems will allow scientists to reduce costs associated with field trials aimed at finding new crop genotypes that are efficient in taking up water and nutrients from soils."

Dr Jean-Paul Hobbs, postdoctoral fellow at UWA's Oceans Institute, was awarded the WA State Category Postdoctoral Scholarship.  Dr Hobbs's work focuses on the conservation of marine biodiversity.

He will study at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii from August 2014 to May 2015 with a focus on determining and mitigating the risk of extinction for marine endemic species.

"America and Australia contain and are therefore custodians of global hotspots for endemic marine species and my project will provide real-world solutions for conserving marine biodiversity in Australia, the US and elsewhere around the world," Dr Hobbs said.

And the WA State Category Postgraduate Scholarship was awarded to Arts/Law graduate Joanna Vincent, who is currently working as associate to the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Robert French (also a UWA graduate).

Ms Vincent plans to undertake a Master of Laws, starting in August 2014, focusing on WA's anti-discrimination laws and how state and federal governments can work more effectively to address workplace discrimination.

"The United States experience is particularly instructive in Australia, due to the shared feature of federalism and vision to combat discrimination," she said.

"I am motivated and committed to making a difference to US and Australian employment law frameworks; I aspire to contribute to the law through comparative research and instil in law students an excitement and eagerness to explore the social justice contribution that law can make."

The Australian-American Fulbright Commission will announce the 2014 Australian Scholarship recipients during a dinner at Brisbane City Hall this Thursday 6 March.

Media references

David Stacey (UWA Public Affairs)  (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716


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