Toloa Tertiary Scholar is a born problem solver

posted: 9:00 am - 7th September 2020
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(Picture caption: Piper Mortimer says receiving a Toloa Tertiary Scholarship has allowed her to focus purely on her Chemical and Process Engineering studies.) 

Piper Mortimer is a born problem solver. 

From a young age, the now 19-year-old says she has been interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects – especially Maths. 

Born and raised in Whangarei, Piper is of Samoan descent, and grew up surrounded by Samoan and other Pacific cultures in Northland.  

The former Whangarei Girls High School student decided a career in STEM was calling her; and she is currently completing her first professional year of Chemical and Process Engineering at the University of Canterbury. 

Piper is being assisted by a Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) funded Toloa Tertiary Scholarship, which she received at the start of this year. 

The Toloa Tertiary Scholarships initiative offers significant opportunities for Pacific peoples to participate in New Zealand’s future growth areas of STEM. 

Receiving a scholarship has meant Piper can focus on her studies without the extra pressure of a holding down a part-time job or managing financial struggles. 

“It has meant I have been able to use this precious time to be a mentor and tutor through the Pacific Development Team at UC,” Piper adds. 

Although her interest in Chemistry began at high school, it has really evolved during her time at university, she says. 

“Engineering was something that I had always been drawn toward because of the problem-solving aspect and being able to see the applications of maths in real world situations. 

“I have always loved learning new things, particularly how things work, and challenging myself so I really enjoy most aspects of my study.” 

Her favourite thing is learning how things people take for granted in their everyday lives work, she says. 

“I have also loved meeting so many new people from around the country who have similar interests as me at university.”   

Piper’s future ambitions include working in the Pacific region, on projects that will have a long-lasting positive impact on the community. 

“I really want to take the skills I learn in my degree to help improve the quality of life for people in the Pacific; I also hope to show we can do everything that anyone else can do.”

Applications for the Toloa Tertiary Scholarships in support of Pacific students pursuing STEM-related studies in 2021 open on September 14. 

Now in its fifth year, the Toloa Tertiary Scholarships initiative encourages Pacific young people to explore STEM studies in anticipation of the increasingly technology and science focused economy of New Zealand.

With the increased funding allocated in Budget 2020 this year, the Toloa Tertiary Scholarship fund will double the number of scholarships offered since its inception.

It will provide 50 scholarships at $10,000 per academic year for outstanding undergraduate and postgraduate Pacific students who are pursuing STEM related studies in 2021.

Piper says without a doubt, Pacific students should apply. 

“Even the process of completing the application made me seriously consider what I want to get out of my degree and career – absolutely apply.” 

Visit MPP for more information about the Toloa Tertiary Scholarships and how to apply. Applications close on October 23, 2020.