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Otago student gains Woolf Fisher Scholarship to Oxford


Monday 18 October 2010 2:57pm

A University of Otago student has been awarded a prestigious Woolf Fisher Scholarship to undertake doctoral study at Oxford University.

Otago’s Ross Haines was one of three Woolf Fisher recipients selected nationally last week. He intends to undertake a DPhil at Oxford using advanced statistical techniques to explain how the English language has evolved over time.

Currently completing his BSc (Hons) in Mathematics and Statistics at Otago, Ross is due to take up the scholarship in October 2011. With an annual value of close to $100,000, it will provide him with full college and university fees and a living allowance.

At Oxford, Ross will be using Bayesian statistical models to analyse thousands of medieval manuscripts to calculate where they are from and when they were written.

“By looking for patterns in their language, we can apply mathematical models to pinpoint the manuscript’s origins and their historical context.

“In the long term I want to gain knowledge to keep tackling problems from as many different fields as possible.”

Through an Otago summer research project and his honours dissertation he has already applied Bayesian techniques to studying sports. This work involved analysing the eye movements of soccer goalkeepers during penalty kicks, to understand what they look at when trying to pull off a save.

Ross was dux of Taieri College, grew up in Mosgiel and is the son of scientists. When he isn’t putting his mind to mathematical solutions, he is likely to be playing hockey, cricket or a good game of squash.

The Woolf Fisher Trust offers up to three scholarships each year tenable at the University of Cambridge or the University of Oxford for three or four years of post graduate research leading to a doctoral degree.

Recipients are selected for their outstanding academic and potential leadership abilities. They will possess many of the qualities admired by the late Sir Woolf Fisher, co-founder of Fisher and Paykel; integrity, kindness and generosity, leadership, boldness of vision and exceptional zeal, keenness and capacity for work.

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