Oxford winner to ‘change the world’
Peter Clark read as far as, ‘‘ We have great pleasure in offering you a spot,’’ before he went into shock at being accepted to Oxford University with a scholarship worth $100,000 a year.
Mr Clark, a ‘‘ proud Titahi Bay boy’’, was one of three science masters students in the country to be awarded the prestigious Woolf Fisher Scholarship last week.
The 22-year-old chemistry student travelled to Auckland with eight finalists to face a panel of judges for an interview.
‘‘Towards the end of my interview I actually caught a wink between two of the judges, so I was silently hopeful.
‘‘I didn’t sleep much the night before the awards. The next day the panel were handing out these white envelopes and as they shook each person’s hand they’d say, ‘‘Well done for making it this far,’’ then one slipped up and said ‘‘congratulations’’ as he shook my hand. My envelope was a lot thicker than the guy next to me as well.’’
Woolf Fisher Scholarships are given to three Kiwis each year and is one of the highest accolades for postgraduate studies – its closest equivalent being a Rhodes scholarship.
Early next year Mr Clark winds up his masters then begins a PhD at Oxford in October in multi-component domino reactions.
Put simply: ‘‘Instead of getting one reaction out of one experiment, it’s getting three or four reactions out of one experiment.’’
A beer can aeroplane hanging from the ceiling, and a lab-coat dyed green and decorated with bells – the product of a series of practical jokes – indicate his years at Victoria University were not all lab and no play.
‘‘I’m a fairly sociable person, I’m not a lab geek. I don’t let my work rule my life. I’ve played rugby most of my life and I’ve lifted a few weights in my time too,’’ he said, laughing.
On the serious side, Mr Clark hopes his research will reduce chemical waste and mean more affordable pharmaceuticals for patients in the long run.
‘‘The opportunity is unbelievable. What it has given me the chance to do is amazing. I’m gonna change the world for the better.’’
Payback: Chemistry masters student Peter Clark’s lab mates dyed his lab-coat and adorned it with earplugs, stickers and bells as payback for a prank he pulled on St Patrick’s Day. He doubts he will don it at Oxford University where he has a $100,000-a-year scholarship to complete his PhD.