First published 26 November 2020

After leading and growing QUT’s STEM Widening Participation program for eight years, Maria Barrett decided she wanted to do something special to inspire and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds to continue their science studies through to university.

To honour her experience in leading the program that encouraged thousands of students to attend university, Dr Barrett made a significant donation to create a new bursary to support students enrolling in a QUT Bachelor of Science degree.

Valued at $1,000, the first Widening Participation in Science Bursary was awarded in 2020 to former Narangba Valley State High School student Kenneth Bautista to undertake a double Bachelor of Science / Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) degree.

Kenneth said the bursary has provided a significant boost to his studies.

“I’d like to thank Dr Barrett for her generosity and to let her know how good it felt to be awarded the bursary,” Kenneth said.

“It meant I could afford to buy my textbooks. Our family didn’t earn a lot, so it was harder to pay for them.”

While at high school Kenneth was encouraged to continue his studies at university by his teachers who recognised his talent for mathematics and physics.

Kenneth chose QUT as his university after keenly participating in Widening Participation workshops and a presentation from QUT at his school when he was in Year 10.

He said it also helped that his sister started studying Nursing at QUT two years earlier.

“Moving to QUT from school was a big change for me but I’m enjoying my first year of university, even with having to move to fully online learning in Semester 1 due to COVID-19,” he said.

“For my science degree, I’m majoring in physics because it helps you to figure out how things in life work mathematically, and I like that it’s more practical in the real world than theoretical.”

Kenneth is also planning to major in Mechatronics (robotics) through his engineering degree.

Dr Barrett’s generous donation will allow QUT to offer two $1,000 Widening Participation in Science Bursaries in 2021 to students who meet the following criteria:

  • entered their first semester of full-time study in a Bachelor of Science or double degree that includes a Bachelor of Science
  • completed Year 12 (or a gap year) at a QUT Widening Participation Program partner school
  • submitted an application for a QUT Equity Scholarship (students do not need to be successful in being awarded an Equity Scholarship to be eligible for one of these bursaries).