Foundation news

Forrest scholarships attract top early career researchers

18 December 2023

The Forrest Research Foundation has announced six new prestigious Forrest Scholarships to pursue research in Western Australia at three of the State’s universities.

The Foundation’s mission is to bring together the best early career researchers from across the world and the new Forrest Scholars are from Germany, Colombia, Peru, Queensland, South Australia, as well as Perth.

The researchers are working across areas including: using machine learning to identify the link between abdominal health and cognitive decline; understanding the role of local communities in promoting protected areas; investigating the link between positive experiences and wellbeing; the linguistic adaptation of technology to Australian Aboriginal English; the social and reproductive behaviours of coral reef fish; and compiling a biographical book featuring two significant WA Noongar Elders.

Tess Jenkins, who completed her Masters in Queensland, is returning to Perth to undertake research at The University of Western Australia in the School of Biological Sciences.

Ms Jenkins’ work focuses on understanding the complex social relations of coral reef fish along the WA coast. Changing climate conditions means coral fish have to adapt to new environments and renegotiate relations with other specialised species.

Colombian-born Valeria Mendez, who currently works in Switzerland and has studied in Italy, will join UWA’s Oceans Institute to understand how protected area programs can better be implemented to account for local communities who often feel left out of conservation plans.

Based at the University of Munich in Germany, Katharina Froedrich will join UWA’s Language Lab as part of a team recently awarded a grant from Google to ensure more inclusive technology for First Nations people.

Adelaide-born Jackson Mason Stephens will join UWA’s School of Psychological Science to investigate positive experiences and wellbeing. Through a process known as ‘decentering’, Jackson will explore how issues of mental wellbeing can be approached from a positive position.

Peruvian-born Carlos Toro-Huamanchumo is a medical doctor and will join Edith Cowan University to investigate the link between abdominal health and cognitive decline and even dementia. Dr Toro-Huamanchumo has already published 70 papers and his passion for research is driven by the desire to have a positive impact on health systems.

Perth-born Molly Schmidt will be based at Curtin University where she will undertake a creative PhD. Ms Schmidt will write the biography of two significant Noongar Elders living in Albany who perform many ‘Welcome to Countries’ but who we know little about. The biography will celebrate their long connection to land and their stories of resilience.

Director of the Forrest Research Foundation, Professor James Arvanitakis, said that the quality of the 2024 Forrest Scholars reflected the incredibly competitive nature of the program, as well as its growing global reputation.

“The Forrest Research Foundation is increasingly identified as a home of excellence, creativity and ground-breaking research,” Professor Arvanitakis said.

“We continue to attract the best emerging researchers from around the world and connect them to centres of excellence within our universities.

“Building on our growing alumni, our new scholars will continue to ensure the research undertaken positively impacts the lives of Western Australians.”


Image: Jackson Mason Stephens, Molly Schmidt, Carlos Toro-Huamanchumo, Tess Jenkins, Valeria Mendez and Katharina Froedrich.


This article is reposted with permission from the UWA Media Centre. Original article: