BEES student wins future leader award

PhD candidate Gurinder Nagra has been named as one of 22 young Australians to receive a prestigious 2017 Westpac Future Leaders Scholarship 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. 

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.

“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, who plans to pursue a Masters of City Planning within UNSW’s Faculty of Built Environment, was the other UNSW scholarship winner. She hopes to find solutions to the urban challenges faced by Australia’s fast-growing cities – challenges that are common around the world.

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.