Wanda Henry was an outstanding scholar and researcher in photonics at ANU and the Wanda Henry Scholarship is a permanent tribute to her contributions to the university – both academically and socially. The scholarship is designed to not only assist students in their study of photonics, but to give them the freedom to get involved in campus life and provide the encouragement and support to reach their full potential.
Photonics has emerged as a new area of research, development and application following the discovery of the laser and the development of glass optical fibres. Today fibres are the backbone of over 95 per cent of the world’s communication and their ever-broadening range of applications includes areas such as medicine, security, transport, astronomy and nanotechnology.
Wanda’s interest in photonics began in the early 1980s during studies for her Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and physics at ANU, where she received a prestigious National Undergraduate Scholarship. She went on to achieve first class honours at the end of 1984 in the high-tech and rapidly developing area of optical communications, where she won a number of postgraduate awards including the Tillyard Prize for the honours student making the most contribution to the university.
During her studies at ANU Wanda was a campus resident at Burgmann College and an active participant in university life and the local community. As the organiser of the student’s Physics Society she generated talks from a succession of topical speakers in science. Her passion for ballet was put into teaching at a Royal Academy of Dancing and she was also involved with local gymnasts and the scout movement. In addition to her numerous extracurricular activities, Wanda provided care for her elderly friend Tom, a former entomologist with CSIRO, whom she met at Questacon – the forerunner to the National Science and Technology Centre - where she worked as an Explainer in the science exhibits.
In 1988, with the assistance of an Australian Postgraduate Research Award, Wanda completed her PhD in fibre devices for optical communications at ANU under the supervision of Professor John Love, who went on to become a close friend and mentor to Wanda throughout her future career. This career saw her undertake a Postdoctoral Research position at the University of Arizona in the US and, later, a Research Fellowship at King’s College, Cambridge University.
Returning to Australia in 1993, Wanda took up a lectureship at La Trobe University (where she went on to become Senior Tutor at Glenn College) and was also made a Visiting Fellow in the Optical Science Centre at ANU to enable her on-going collaboration with Professor John Love. Sadly, through 1996 Wanda suffered increasing health problems and died late that year. At the time of her death Wanda was poised to make a significant contribution to the areas of optical communications, optical sensing and bio photonics. She had established and equipped a modern state-of-the-art laboratory, was slowly building up a viable group of students and researchers in the department, and had already created a network of international colleagues who would be able to visit and collaborate with her. The Wanda Henry Scholarship continues her legacy in celebration of her lifelong achievements.
Wanda’s accomplishments in both academia and community work are incredible for a life that was cut short at the early age of thirty-four but are a result of her determination, her motivation and her courage. The Wanda Henry Scholarship is designed to inspire students at ANU to make the most of their opportunities and to give back to the wider campus community.