Meet the ANU recipients of the 2023 Westpac Scholarships

04 Apr 2023

The Australian National University (ANU) is proud to announce the following staff and students as 2023 Westpac Scholars. 

Five ANU students and one staff member were awarded the prestigious scholarships under three categories - Westpac Research Fellowships, Future Leaders and Asian Exchange Scholarships. 

While each recipient plans to use their scholarship to explore different ventures, they're all united by a shared desire to make valuable contributions to the lives ofAustralians by influencing positive change and creating a better future for our nation.  

Research Fellowship 

As the urgency for climate solutions increases globally, Westpac Scholars Trust has awarded a Research Fellowship to Dr Kai Xun Chan, a biology lecturer from the ANU Research School of Biology, who is undertaking critical research to solve some of Australia's greatest environmental challenges. 

The Research Fellowship, the Trust's highest value program, awards a minimum of $400,000 in flexible funding to recipients and supportscrucial sustainability research. 

Dr Chan's Fellowship research seeks to solve how plants sense and respond to challenging environments to improve crop yields in the face of climate change. 

"According to the CSIRO, we need to produce more food in the next thirty years than in the entire history of human civilisation. This is a huge challenge in itself but in Australia we also have tocontend with drought and heat stress which decreases agricultural productivity by up to 80 per cent and costs the economy $1.1 billion annually," Dr Chan said.  

"My Westpac Research Fellowship aims to identify novel genetic resources and natural products in under-studied plant species through synthetic and chemical biology. These findings may provide accelerated solutions in addressing the urgent need for transformative solutions in improving crop resilience, thus providing a step change in the race against time to achieve food security." 

With the support of the Westpac Research Fellowship,Dr Chan is confident he'll be able to make significant contributions to the scientific community in Australia.  

"I see tremendous opportunities for an impactful research program, including much-needed resources to concurrently drive fundamental discovery and real-world outcomes. Becoming a Westpac Research Fellow at this point in my career is transformational." 

Future Leaders Scholarship  

Westpac Future Leaders Scholarships are among the most powerful development scholarships in Australia. As well as investing up to $120,000 over 2-3 years into students' postgraduate studies, the Scholarship will also shape their capacity to become future leaders. 

ANU PhD candidate Indigo Strudwicke is proud to be a 2023 Westpac Future Leaders Scholar.  

Her doctoral work at theCentre for the Public Awareness of Science examines decision-making processes and how they can drive innovation in science and technology to help Australians reach sustainability goals.This project is also part of the UNESCO Chair in Science Communication for the Public Good, investigating the interactions between science, technology and society.  

"I chose to pursue a PhD in this topic to investigate some of the tricky challenges that emerge at the junction between science and decision-making - think COVID-19 policies and human freedoms, inequities of climate change causes and impacts, implications of AI developments for society - and I find it really exciting to be able to spend time thinking about these messy and nuanced interactions and how we can respond to them in ways that serve the public good," Indigo said.  

For Indigo, being a part of this program is already expanding her own view of the positive changes she can make on the world through her research. 

"The Westpac Scholarship program facilitates connections with people that challenge you, support you, provide different perspectives but also bring their own brilliant ideas to the table." 

"My work is super interdisciplinary and having those connections is invaluable for making my PhD outputs stronger and more relevant to the real world." 

Indigo is grateful for the support of the Westpac Scholarships as she embarks on her research career.  

"Coming into my PhD as a first-generation student raised by a single parent meant I was going to need to supplement my research stipend in some way to be able to financially support myself through this degree. This scholarship means I'll be able to focus fully on my studies - something I feel so grateful for." 

Asian Exchange Scholarship 

Up to two semesters in Asia.  

One experience of a lifetime.  

The Westpac Asian Exchange Scholarship, valued up to $12,250, is designed to give students the leadership skills that can help shape their future. A genuine cultural experience like no other, the Scholarship will offer students networking opportunities with some of the best Australia-Asia thought leaders and support networks. 

Milie Maccallum, an International Relations and Art History/Curatorship student at ANU, chose to apply for a Westpac Asian Exchange Scholarship in Kyoto as she has an avid interest in Japanese culture, art and politics. 

"My interest in Japan ironicallybegan with my interest in France, and love for the Impressionist movement. When visiting the Monet exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia in 2019, I remember being totally surprised when I discovered that Monet was strongly influenced by Japanese woodblock prints. From there, Ibecame absolutely fascinated with Japanese culture . . . for instance, the idea of 'Wabisabi' and its principles of minimalism, modesty and embracing the imperfect is a concept I incorporate into how I live and decorate my daily life," Milie said.  

Milie is also interested in learning about Japan's approach to combatting environmental difficulties.  

"I run a beach clean-up group in Wollongong called Seaing Green, where we do weekly clean ups of beaches and second-hand markets to combat fast fashion. I hope to learn from Japanese practices around environmental issues, and maybe implement this into future policies."  

Another ANU student, Finn Maguire, has chosen to study in Taipei.  

As a computer science and economics student, Finn was particularly drawn to the networking opportunities offered by the Scholarship. 

"Asia will continue to play an important role in Australia's future, particularly in the fields I am studying. I am eager to help foster greater connections between Australia and the region," Finn said. 

"I also have a foundation in Mandarin and the Westpac Asian Exchange Scholarship is an awesome opportunity to build upon my Chinese language skills." 

While on exchange in Taipei, Finn hopes to build a greater appreciation and understanding of Taiwan and its culture, while creating lasting connections and memories.   

DhiirenMoganaraju, a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and a Bachelor of Politics, Philosophy and Economics student, chose to undertake his exchange in Singapore for more personal reasons.  

"As a Singaporean-Indian, my heritage and wanting to learn more about my culture as well as furthering my fluency in Tamil was a major factor in choosing Singapore."  

"I also undertook a subject last year called Law and Society in South-East Asia convened by Associate Professor Joshua Neoh. In this subject, I learnt a bit about the way in which Singapore has attempted to constitutionalise racial harmony being a multicultural country with four national languages. Hence, I decided to go to Singapore to learn about this first-hand and bring back this legal reform knowledge to Australia where I aim to use it in my future career in international policy or law." 

Through his scholarship experience, Dhiiren hopes to gain a deeper insight into how Singapore has attempted to use legal reform to create an inclusive community.  

"I want to bring this knowledge back to and further expand on it in Australia so that we can find ways of ensuring an inclusive community within our own society." 

"I also hope to gain lifelong connections through both the exchange and the Westpac 100 Network. Finally, I want to gain a better understanding of my culture and ways in which my dual identity of Singaporean-Indian and Australian can be used to facilitate necessary cross-cultural conversations and exchanges." 

Last but not least, Helen Tong, a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and a Bachelor of Arts student, is looking forward to learning about law and jurisprudence from an Asian perspective during her exchange at the University of Hong Kong. 

"I feel really privileged to be able to study under esteemed academics at the University of Hong Kong's law school, and I look forward to connecting with them about their legal perspectives on many issues." 

Helen is also excited to meet and network with like-minded peers from a range of cultures.  

"Since exchange is for the entire semester, I am excited to travel to neighbouring countries with new people I meet and further broaden my horizons through immersing myself in a plethora of different cultures." 


For more information about Westpac Scholarships, please visit