Making waves: Former Mandurah student to study in USA as part of scholarship program

Paul Branson will spend six months studying at the Oregon State University after being named as a recipient of the Fulbright scholarship program. Photo: Supplied.
Paul Branson will spend six months studying at the Oregon State University after being named as a recipient of the Fulbright scholarship program. Photo: Supplied.

Paul Branson formed his passion for the ocean in Mandurah.

Growing up in the city and attending Mandurah Catholic College during his high school years, he spent his time as most of our local teenagers do, hitting the beach and enjoying the surf.

It's those roots that ultimately led Mr Branson to his field in Oceanography, and now he's hoping to take his knowledge and research even further having been named as one of the University of Western Australia's Fulbright scholarship recipients.

The scholarship will see the 38-year-old, along with his wife and three children, travelling to the United States where he will spend six months researching and exploring new advancements in his field at Oregon State University.

I grew up surfing in Mandurah and always had this fascination with wave energy and beach erosion...

Paul Branson

There he will examine the ocean conditions that wave energy converters and devices that interact with ocean waves are exposed to during extreme weather events such as during storms.

Improved understanding of this area will allow energy device manufactures to improve their designs to minimize engineering costs and damage during extreme conditions.

"This is a fantastic opportunity with a lot of potential to create collaboration with some of the world leaders in the field and bring that knowledge back to Western Australia, so it's really exciting to be named as a recipient," Mr Branson said.

"Obviously for my family, packing our lives up and moving overseas for six months is going to present its challenges, but it's a great chance to try living in a different country and experiencing a different culture so we're thrilled for that.

"The whole focus of the Fulbright program is to soak up the knowledge on offer and bring it back home with you, so I'm looking forward to getting started."

Graduating from Mandurah Catholic College in 1998, Mr Branson originally set out to study mechatronics and computer science at university, before deciding his passion lay in a different field and testing the waters in oceanography.

"I grew up surfing in Mandurah and always had this fascination with wave energy and beach erosion, so I eventually made the switch in my studies," he said.

"To be able to work in this field has been excellent and I'm really looking forward to getting over to the USA."

UWA Vice-Chancellor Professor Dawn Freshwater congratulated the recipients.

"Being selected as a scholar for the prestigious Fulbright program is a tremendous achievement," Professor Freshwater said.

"Fulbright scholars contribute their expertise and learn from other global leaders in all sorts of fields. They improve people's quality of life across the world and help to solve some of the most complex problems we face."

The scholars will be officially announced at a Presentation Gala Dinner in Canberra at Parliament House on 27 February 2020.