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Outstanding Rotorua student wins Myers scholarship to Cambridge

A multi-talented mathematics ‘Olympian’ from Rotorua’s John Paul College has been awarded the prestigious Sir Douglas Myers scholarship to study at Cambridge University in England.

Eighteen-year-old Ishan Nath – deputy head boy, academic captain and leader of the academic committee – plans to apply to study the Mathematical Tripos at Cambridge, after receiving the $60,000 per annum scholarship, set up by the late Sir Douglas Myers 18 years ago. The former businessman established the award for the benefit for academically gifted students intending to return to New Zealand to become leaders in their chosen fields.

Ishan’s academic achievements include gaining Outstanding Scholarships in calculus (the first as a Year 11 student) and Statistics alongside Scholarships in Earth and Space Science, and Physics. His special interests lie in number fields, logic, quantum mechanics, quantum computing and general relativity.

Ishan has also represented New Zealand in the International Mathematics Olympiad for the last three years, achieving a bronze medal in 2018 and 2019. In the 2020 edition of the Olympiad, Ishan’s score landed him a Gold Medal — only the second awarded to a New Zealand competitor in the history of the competition. Ishan also received a perfect score in the Australian Mathematical Olympiad and a Gold medal in the Asian Pacific Mathematical Olympiad.

Music, speech training and community service also feature prominently in Ishan’s achievements. He has learned both piano and guitar to a high standard and played in the school orchestra, was a member of the school debating team, and completed Speech New Zealand certificates and diploma. His community service includes volunteering with Trade Aid in Rotorua, and working as a volunteer fire brigade member with the Lake Okareka Fire Force.

Sharing his passion for mathematics has been important to him. “My passion for mathematics ignited when I was exposed to Olympiad mathematics, firstly with the New Zealand Maths Olympiad Committee Camp Selection problems, then with the camp itself,” he says.

“I learnt that mathematics was not a subject meant to be rote-learnt but was instead full of creativity and artistic interpretation. Even after finishing my career as an Olympiad mathematician, I keep on returning to these problems as a problem-solving challenge and to explore mathematical ideas that I have not yet seen.

“After numerous experiences teaching mathematics, as an invited lecturer, an online workshop volunteer, and as a paid tutor, I have always been inspired by seeing students solve these problems with their own creative processes.”

Ishan’s ambitions and future plans are connected to his activities through his school years. “Both aspects of physics and computer science interest me, so while pure mathematics is appealing, I would enjoy entering an applied field and working on problems with real-world impacts…or fundamental problems in modern physics,” he says. “Service towards my community is an important part of my life at the moment, and I hope that in ten years it will remain that way…I wish to remain involved with Fire and Emergency New Zealand and keep on helping out as a volunteer firefighter, and possibly become a crew leader and help people get into volunteer firefighting. I aim to also continue my passions in music and drama, by playing in orchestras or bands and by partaking in local productions.

“I am sure to be involved in the Olympiad community, no matter where I am located. Both my love for maths, as well as my desire to give back to this community that helped me develop my mathematical skills, have inspired me to help the next generation of mathematicians.”

John Taylor, Chair of the Myers Scholarship Selection Committee, says “We were delighted to hear from the Caius Director of Studies in Mathematics that Ishan was up with the best students he had interviewed over the past 25 years! Given that the Mathematics Tripos is traditionally regarded as the toughest degree at Cambridge, Ishan has shown that our top NZ mathematics students can compete with the best in the world. We will be following this hugely talented young man’s career with great interest in the years ahead.”

Sir Douglas Myers, a well-known businessman and former leader in the brewing industry, graduated with a BA in History from Gonville and Caius College. He was a significant supporter of education, business, sport and the arts, and this scholarship continues his outstanding legacy of finding ways to create opportunities to encourage young New Zealanders to succeed in global competition. 

The scholarship provides tuition and college fees and a living allowance and is worth approximately £34,000 or NZ$60,000 per annum.

Universities New Zealand, formerly the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee, administers this scholarship in addition to around 40 other undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships. 

Applications for the 2022 Sir Douglas Myers Scholarship close on 1 December 2021. 

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