By Jackey Locke
Mechanical engineering student Laura Pittman has adjusted exceptionally well to university life. The St. John's native, who began a bachelor of engineering degree at Memorial in September 2007, has been awarded numerous awards and scholarships, been named to the Dean's List every year, earned national recognition this past February when she won the 2011 Canadian Association for Co-operative Education (CAFCE) Co-op Student of the Year award – a first for a Memorial University student – and was recently named the newest Rhodes Scholar from Newfoundland and Labrador.
"It is an incredible honour to be named the next Rhodes Scholar for Newfoundland and Labrador, and I am very excited about this incredible opportunity," said Ms. Pittman. "For me this scholarship is much more than simply educational funding – it means becoming a part of a group of motivated and passionate people who are driven to improve the world."
Dr. Greg Naterer, dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, was thrilled to learn of Ms. Pittman's latest honour and believes she will do extremely well in the future.
"As a dean it is so wonderful to see our student achievements," he said. "Ms. Pittman has certainly earned this honour and I'm certain she will have many great accomplishments in her life. She is an inspirational role model for young women and for all engineering students. We can not express in words how proud we all feel about her achievements."
Dr. Nick Krouglicof, head of mechanical engineering at Memorial, said he was not surprised when he heard that Ms. Pittman had been named the province's newest Rhodes Scholar.
"It's hard to imagine a more qualified candidate for what many consider the most prestigious scholarship in the world," he said. "Ms. Pittman epitomizes all the virtues by which Rhodes Scholars are judged including making the most of one's talents, achieving academic excellence, and demonstrating leadership and devotion to duty."
With the prestigious title comes an opportunity for Ms. Pittman, who will graduate with a bachelor of engineering in April 2013, to pursue her graduate studies at the University of Oxford. She is excited about the opportunity to study abroad and to gain an international perspective.
"With the world becoming a more interrelated community and the economy depending on global interactions, I think it is imperative to gain a global perspective if I am to achieve my goal of leading a successful business enterprise in the future," she explained.
Ms. Pittman plans to complete a master of science in biomedical engineering followed by a master of business administration at Oxford. In the short term, she plans to focus her biomedical research on developing a device to improve the quality of everyday life of individuals and lead a socially responsible company.
"I am currently completing my final co-op internship with the University of Calgary's Scoliosis Research Group. This internship has provided me with an amazing opportunity to gain exposure to the field of biomedical engineering. I believe biomedical engineering provides a unique opportunity to help improve the lives of others and I am attracted to this discipline by both the technical challenges and its potential to make an impact. My long term goals include working in industry and I believe an MBA will help prepare me for this," she explained.
During her time as an undergraduate student at Memorial, Ms. Pittman was vice-president academic of Memorial Engineering's Student Society, a professional development director with the Newfoundland Atlantic Council of Engineering Students, competed on Memorial's Sea-Hawks women's soccer team, coached junior high and high school volleyball teams and was named to the Jubilee Senior Women's Soccer All-Star Team in 2010 and 2012.
The Rhodes Scholarship is an international postgraduate award for study at the University of Oxford and is widely considered the world's most prestigious scholarship. The qualities that the founder of the scholarship, Cecil Rhodes, expressly said that a scholar must exhibit are proven intellectual and academic attainment of a high standard, integrity of character, sympathy for and protection of the weak, the ability to lead and the energy to use their talent to the full.