Three female science and engineering students from UNSW have been awarded Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) scholarships.

The recipients, who will each receive up to $40,000 over four years, are: Maddison Dunster, who is studying Science and Electrical Engineering; Bryony Lanigan, Advanced Science/Arts; and Laura Hodges, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering/Science.

"The scholarship program reinforces the strong partnership between UNSW and DSTO in advancing the education of outstanding female students in the fields of science and engineering," said UNSW Vice-Chancellor, Professor Fred Hilmer.

The initiative was introduced last year for high school and undergraduate students at three of Australia's leading universities: the University of New South Wales, the Australian National University and the University of Adelaide.

The head of DSTO, Chief Defence Scientist Dr Alex Zelinsky, said the aim of the scholarships was to encourage female students to stay in or take up studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

"DSTO is committed to closing a significant gap in the numbers of female students studying these disciplines compared to male students. DSTO is introducing this scholarship scheme as an incentive for female students," Dr Zelinsky said.

"We hope that, as a result of this scholarship program, more women will consider careers in defence science and technology."

The scholarships are awarded annually to female students enrolled in undergraduate programs in either engineering, computer science, physics, chemistry or mathematics.

DSTO scientists will also mentor the recipients for the duration of their university studies and undertake projects with the students that are relevant to the organisation.

Recipient Maddison Dunster said she was extremely grateful to be awarded the scholarship.

"It will open up so many opportunities for me while I am studying at UNSW," she said.

"Having DSTO mentors will aid me greatly in my studies as well as in my future career. The opportunity to conduct research in so many exciting fields associated with the defence of our nation, as well as being able to encourage other girls to undertake studies in science and engineering where we are so under-represented, attracted me to apply."

Program selection was based on academic results and other factors such as an interest in a defence career, community leadership, involvement with extra-curricular activities and referee reports.

Media contact: Ry Crozier, UNSW Media Office, 02 9385 1933,

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Maddison Dunster (centre) with her parents. (Credit: Maja Baska)