Celebrating Student Excellence

Celebrating Student Learning, Experiences and Excellence

The University of Newcastle is a world-class university that supports and celebrates the success and achievements of its students. We are committed to developing motivated and talented students, regardless of their background or circumstances; not just to gain entry, but to thrive in their field of study. We celebrate our students who strive to achieve their goals and engage in life-changing experiences, contributing to their own learning development and communities.

Jodie Cochran

Bachelor of Electrical Engineering / Bachelor of Mathematics

Reaching Goals through Determination, Application and Contribution.

First year University of Newcastle student, Jodie Cochrane, is determined to make her mark in the Australian engineering industry, a domain in which less than 12 per cent* of employees are women. However, as the inaugural recipient of the Catherine and Peter Tay High Achiever Engineering Undergraduate Scholarship, Jodie isn't fazed by the fact she is entering an industry that has traditionally been male dominated. 

"I've wanted to study engineering since I was 11. As I got older and started to learn more about what engineering was, I thought, this is the degree for me. I've always been really interested in maths and physics, and their everyday application."

With the ultimate goal of using her degrees to work in power supply and renewable energy, Jodie aims to eventually undertake a PhD in this area. Achieving an ATAR of over 99, combined with her burgeoning passion for sustainable resources, Jodie is well on the way to realising her dream.

"You continually hear in the media about global warming and I've always thought: why don't we just swap to renewable energy? I think the reason we haven't is that it's more expensive than other options. I chose electrical engineering because one day I'd like to work in renewable resources and learn how to make them more efficient – I've always had a strong opinion about this."

Although holding three academic scholarships, Jodie has continued to work at a local café to help balance her studies. To remain motivated throughout her HSC, she used the possibility of winning an academic scholarship as incentive.

"I always used it as a form of motivation. I'd tell myself: if I do this extra study, I might be able to get over 99 in my HSC, and in the end it worked."

To high school students hoping to gain entry into engineering, Jodie has the following advice:

"I'd recommend studying higher level maths and physics in years 11 and 12 – this will provide a solid groundwork for engineering, especially electrical. I've found that summaries are a great study tool, particularly for my science subjects. For maths, I'd always be doing practice papers and practice questions."

Having just joined Robogals, a UON student volunteer organisation that aims to get more females into Science, Engineering & IT by offering schools free workshops, Jodie is keen to do her bit to promote this cause from an electrical engineering perspective.

* Source: Engineers Australia Statistical Overview, 2011.


1.       What's your most inspiring quote?

My most inspiring quote would have to be 'it's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up.' It reminds me that we can achieve success if we are resilient and continue to motivate ourselves to try again.

2.       Who inspires you and why?

The person who inspires me most is Albert Einstein. The way in which he was able to think outside of the box, and suggest theories that at the time seemed physically impossible, teaches us that as great as the barrier may appear, there are always ways to overcome them.

3.       If there's a secret to a happy life, what is it?

The secret to a happy life is to make a living out of something you are passionate about.

4.       What's your greatest goal?

My greatest goal is to be successful in both my personal and professional life. On top of pursuing a career as an electrical engineer, I would love to have a family.

5.       If you could have one wish, what would it be?

If I had one wish it would be to make our world sustainable; to remove our dependence on non-renewable resources and ensure that anything we take from the environment is replaced.

6.       Finish this line: I'm grateful for…the society that we currently live in; that women are free to continue their education at university and enter into a professional career.

Joshua Manvell

Bachelor of Physiotherapy / Bachelor of Medicine

From small country town to first-class honours student, internationally published writer, and National Student Group President.

Growing up on the outskirts of the rural city of Tamworth whilst helping run the family bakery, instilled UON second year medical student, Joshua Manvell, with an unwavering work ethic. Early morning starts combined with twice daily elite sport training sessions and long days in the classroom laid a solid foundation for Joshua. Having completed a Bachelor of Physiotherapy with First Class Honours, and receiving a University Medal, Joshua has now progressed into studying medicine. A keen sportsman, Joshua has also represented Australia in softball and NSW in a raft of sports including cricket and baseball, and says this strong enthusiasm to achieve derived from the hard work of his parents.

"My motivation was initially fuelled by the opportunities afforded to me by my folks – I felt if they were willing to make the sacrifices to ensure I could get an education, I best make the most of it."

The first person in his family to attend university, Joshua decided a career that combined his love for sport with his similar passion for science was the path to take. The Bachelor of Physiotherapy was therefore a logical choice.

"Physiotherapy opened many opportunities, and I knew I had found my place in the physical health sphere; but I still felt I needed to gain a greater capacity in order to make a difference in that space so medicine was the next progression."

Elected President of the Australian Physiotherapy Association National Student Group, with the support of a University of Newcastle Summer Internship, Joshua undertook research in musculoskeletal science, culminating in articles published in two internationally-recognised peer-reviewed journals. Taking on volunteer work as a disability support officer and volunteer physiotherapist at the Special Olympics Asia Pacific Games while also employed as a NU Moves Physiotherapist, Joshua said juggling study with work was a steep learning curve.

"A realisation that helped me maintains some level of balance between work and life was coming to understand that excellence not perfection is sufficient. This hasn't meant that I haven't had obstacles or difficulties, because there's been many of those. If I was to boil it down to two things, a passion for what I do and developing resilience has helped me achieve a sustainable level of motivation."

With the long-term goal of completing a PhD and establishing Australia's first Centre of Excellence in Musculoskeletal Conditions, Joshua believes the past few years have been more than simply acquiring academic knowledge but developing essential life skills.

"University is not just about becoming an expert in your field, it's about growing in all domains."

Q & A with Joshua Manvell

1. What's your most inspiring quote?
Mens sana in corpore sano. It is a Latin aphorism, which means 'a sound mind in a sound body'. Professionally, it reminds me to see the patient not the problem. It also reminds me that health is the foundation on which the remainder of life is built.

2. Who inspires you and why?
I am yet to meet a more inspiring pair than my folks. They gain such great enjoyment from living a wholesome and uncomplicated life. They possess a strong faith and steadfast values. They are selfless, generous, and are rarely sidetracked by day-to-day distractions. One day, I hope that I too can utilise my skills in the same manner. 

3. If there's a secret to a happy life, what is it?
If a secret exists, it should remain one to serve as motivational fuel to feed our aspirations and dreams! 

4. What's your greatest goal?
To connect the dots! Right at our feet (within the University of Newcastle), we have brilliant minds from each profession. My greatest goal is to 'connect the dots' between these people. To harness their energy and ideas. Ultimately, to make progress to the improvement of health of all Australians.

5. If you could have one wish, what would it be?

6. Finish this line... I'm grateful for my life, and its quality!

Sophie Stanwell

Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics Graduate

Determination pays dividends at 2014 Commonwealth Games.

The heptathlon: a physically demanding and mentally gruelling track and field contest combining hurdles, high jump, long jump, shot put, javelin and a 200 and 800 metre sprint. The perseverance required to excel in this dynamic blend of events deems it a sport not for the faint of heart – a characteristic UON heptathlete, Sophie Stanwell, is renowned for. Her unwavering determination and ability to overcome a spate of potentially career-ending injuries was rewarded when the 23 year old Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics graduate recorded a personal best score at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in July this year, finishing fourth overall and cementing her spot on the international athletics stage.

Sophie, ranked the number one women's heptathlete in Australia, was recently named the University of Newcastle's Sports Person of the Year at an award ceremony at City Hall. The prize, previously presented to Cross Country Runner, Celia Sullohern, Newcastle Jets player, Ben Kantarovski, and Paralympian, Heath Francis OAM, recognises a UON student who has excelled in their sport while studying. A recipient of the Friends of the University Sports Scholarship, Sophie said the honour tops off years of persistence, both on the track and in the classroom.

"If there's something you're passionate about, you need to hold on to it. The award caps off a lot of hard work and is a nice recognition finishing my degree."

Sophie said she decided to study a Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics as it combined her sporting aspirations with her passion for healthy living – "it ticked all the boxes." While balancing study with her athletics commitments was often challenging, Sophie said strict time-management was essential.

"It's been a tough few years balancing training, study and clinical placements. Planning my time was really important – I would train before uni, go to class and be back for more training in the afternoon."

As well as continuing to train at an elite level, Sophie volunteers at the Hunter Academy of Sport giving talks on nutrition. With the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro fast approaching, Sophie has cemented herself as a top contender. Go Sophie, we're cheering you all the way! 

Q & A with Sophie Stanwell

1.       What's your most inspiring quote?

Wealth is not in your pocket, it is in your mind and heart. That quote reminds me of why I play sport.

2.       Who inspires you and why?

I'm inspired by anyone who has worked hard towards a goal and has taken extraordinary lengths to get there. I love athletics not for the amazing results people have produced but the process and journey they took to get there. 

3.       If there's a secret to a happy life, what is it?

What an easy question, do what makes you happy! If you are stuck somewhere you hate then find a way out.

 4.       What's your greatest goal?

I have a few, compete at an Olympic Games and World Championship and Australian record holder has a nice ring to it. The Australian Heptathlon record is enormous, 6695 points scored by Jane Flemming.

5.       If you could have one wish, what would it be?

To not get injured, any athletes dream.

Finish this line: I'm grateful for… everyone who has helped along my journey, I owe them everything.