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.

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