Graduate students at UBC-Okanagan among those to benefit from a significant scholarship fund

Click to play video: 'A major scholarship funding announcement at UBC-Okanagan Wednesday morning will benefit a lot of students' A major scholarship funding announcement at UBC-Okanagan Wednesday morning will benefit a lot of students
A major scholarship funding announcement at UBC-Okanagan Wednesday morning will benefit a lot of students – Jul 25, 2018

B.C.’s advanced education minister announced a $6-million scholarship fund at UBC’s Okanagan campus on Wednesday morning.

The money will help support UBC students as they continue their post-graduate studies.

“At the B.C Tech Summit in May, Premier John Horgan announced $12 million for graduate student scholarships, I’m excited to share with you today that $ 6 million of that funding is coming to the University of British Columbia,” Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, said.

The merit-based graduate student scholarship funding will provide 400 successful applicants from the university’s Okanagan and Point Grey campuses with $15,000 each.

“We know that we are losing the best talent because of the affordability issues,” Mark said.”The cost of education was out of reach for way too long.”

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With the Okanagan being ranked as one of Canada’s most expensive regions to live in, it’s hoped the funding will make a big difference for local students.

“They won’t have to worry how they will pay for their apartment or pay for their food,” UBC President Santa Ono said.

“This allows us to give them conditions to live, where they can live comfortably and focus on their studies and their research.”

The graduate scholarships are research-focused, with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as professional, Indigenous and regional programs.

Graduate students are constantly creating new knowledge and finding solutions to pressing real-world challenges.

Matthew Noestheden is among them.

The PhD chemistry student is in the middle of a multiyear research project that is looking at the impact of wildfires on the wine industry with a focus on how smoke can penetrate grapes.

“The grapes themselves get changed chemically,” Noestheden told Global News. “And then when you make wine out of those, the wine can taste smoky or like an ashtray.”

The Kelowna man is researching what can be done to protect grapes and what can be changed in the wine itself to eliminate that smoky taste.

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Noestheden told Global News he’s delighted to learn of the scholarship fund.

He added that the extra money will help UBC recruit even more graduate students.

“I think it is critically important for the university to be able to retain the graduate students that we need to continue to solve the problems that are important to British Columbia,” Noestheden said. “Having those extra funds not only frees students up to devote more time to their research but it also alleviates some of the financial burdens especially around, for instance, affordable housing which can be a real issue here and in Vancouver.”

Ono agrees, saying the scholarship funding will help UBC attract the brightest minds from across B.C. and the rest of Canada.

“It means that the scholarship, the research coming out of UBC, is going to be absolutely globally competitive,” Ono said. “It will have a huge impact on the economy here because talent is really the limiting factor in global competitiveness.”

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