Scion awards Suffrage Scholarship to Rotorua student

1 December 2010

Crown Research Institute Scion today awarded its Suffrage Scholarship to Rotorua Girls High School student Alivea Smith.

Alivea received a cheque for $2,000 towards her university studies, and the guarantee of summer vacation work at Scion for the duration of her undergraduate degree.

The Scion Suffrage Centennial Scholarship is an annual award to promote science as an attractive career option for women.

Alivea will be starting a Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science at Massey University in February 2011. She says she was over the moon when she learned she had won the Scholarship.

“I’m one of these people who always gets near the top, but I never quite make it. When I found out that I had won something at last, I was so excited,” Alivea says.

Alivea’s interest in medical science is not only academic, it is deeply personal. Many of her family members have been diagnosed with a genetic mutation that carries with it an 85-90% chance of getting cancer.

Although Alivea has not yet been tested for the gene herself, her mother’s battles with cancer have made her painfully aware of the link between genetics and disease - a rapidly growing area of medical science.

“I have always been interested in genetics, but my family history has made me realise the importance of this subject. I know it’s what I really want to do.”

Scion has a wide range of programmes that include genetics as an important component so Alivea is excited at the prospect of working with scientists in this field.

Dr Christine Todoroki, Scion senior scientist and scholarship judge, says it is pleasing to see how Suffrage Scholars use the opportunities that science presents.

“I’m confident that Alivea will grab these opportunities with both hands. She is clear about what she wants to do and is very dedicated,” says Dr Todoroki.

During the long hours that Alivea has spent with her mother in hospital, she managed to continue her studies for final exams.

“Although this isn’t part of the criteria for judging, it does say a lot about her character,” Dr Todoroki says.

Rotorua Girls High School Principal Annette Joyce wholeheartedly agrees that Alivea is a worthy recipient of the scholarship.

“Alivea has the maturity, determination and high work ethic which will see her succeed. She is clearly destined to make a huge contribution in the future,” Mrs Joyce says.

“Her commitment to her school, her academic studies and involvement in school life make her an excellent role model.”

Previous scholarship recipient Nicole Woodsworth, also a former Rotorua Girls High School student, is pursuing a career in medical science as well.

Nicole is currently working with Scion’s green chemistry team after completing her first year at the University of Auckland.

Although industrial chemistry seems a far cry from medicine, Nicole says that the practical experience she is gaining at Scion can be applied to handling chemicals in other applications.

This experience also helps to reinforce her preference for chemistry over biological sciences, which has guided her choice to do a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree.