Emilie Wells Emilie Wells

Scholarship strengthens ties with Dutch royalty

Two UOW students with strong Dutch connections were given the opportunity to present their research to Their Majesties the King and Queen of The Netherlands, as part of a scholarship launch event in Sydney today (Thursday 3 November).

During their State Visit, Their Majesties King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima attended an event hosted by the University of Sydney to launch the New Holland Scholarship Australia program as part of commemorative activities marking the 400th anniversary of the landing in Western Australia of Dutch Explorer Dirk Hartog, who made the first recorded landfall by a European on the West Australian coastline in 1616.

The scholarship, which aims to promote academic exchange between Australia and the Netherlands, was officially launched by the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bert Koenders.

UOW Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings, CBE, who attended the function, said it highlighted the importance of international collaboration and the close relationship between Australian universities and the Netherlands.

“The scholarship increases the academic cooperation between two countries who already share strong connections,” Professor Wellings said.

“It also gives our students the opportunity to broaden their horizons, develop their skills and immerse themselves in a new culture.”

A small number of students from the Universities of Wollongong, Sydney and NSW attended the event to present their research to the King and Queen and were introduced to Their Majesties by UOW Professor of Materials Science Marc in het Panhuis and University of Sydney Professor Frans Verstraten, who both played an instrumental role in initiating the scholarship.

Third year UOW PhD students Lisanne Spenkelink and Enrico Monachino, who are both currently enrolled in a joint-PhD program between UOW and the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, presented their work on the development of new powerful microscopy tools to visualise how DNA is copied at a molecular level. Their research is intended to help with the design and development of better drugs and diagnostic tools for diseases such as cancer and antibiotic-resistant infections.

"It was a great experience to meet Their Majesties, they were both very friendly and seemed very interested in our work," Ms Spenkelink said.

UOW supervisor and Dutch national, Distinguished Professor Antoine van Oijen, accompanied his students for the presentation.

"It was really exciting. The students worked hard on putting together a short presentation that captured the excitement they have in their research while including all of the complexities of their research," Professor van Oijen said.

“The Queen asked some very insightful questions about the scientific aspects of their work.

“The students did a fantastic job and they were super excited to have been given the opportunity."

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From top left to bottom right: University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence, Her Majesty Queen Maxima, His Majesty King Willem-Alexander and University of Sydney Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson AM; UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings CBE, UOW PhD student Lisanne Spenkelink, Their Majesties King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima, UOW PhD student Enrico Monachino; bottom right: UOW Professor Marc in het Panhuis shakes the hand of His Majesty King Willem-Alexander.