Macquarie’s best and brightest alumni Cambridge-bound
Macquarie’s best and brightest alumni Cambridge-bound


Macquarie’s best and brightest alumni Cambridge-bound

/ July 14, 2014

Macquarie University alumni Rowan Nicholson and Matthew Samson have received prestigious University of Cambridge scholarships for postgraduate study in law and psychology, respectively.

Rowan was one of seven applicants out of a competitive field of 44 to be awarded a Cambridge Australia Scholarship. Beginning October 2014, he will pursue a doctorate in international law, focusing on the extent to which it has developed beyond its origins in Western Europe into a ‘universal’ legal system.

“One of the historical curiosities of public international law is that despite centuries of claims of universal legal authority – by emperors, popes and natural lawyers – the system that spread around the world rested on avowedly non-universal principles,” Rowan says.

“An example is the notion that each state must consent to the rules that bind it. This system became universal in practice only through the historical ‘accident’ of European expansion. I want to investigate the practical implications of this type of universality for a number of doctrinal questions.”

He says these include the extent to which certain rules can bind newly emergent states regardless of their actual consent, challenges mounted by developing states to the universality of investment law norms, resistance by states such as China to the prevailing interpretation of universal human rights, and the renewal and reformulation of claims of universal legal or moral authority in the twentieth century.

Matthew Samson was awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to further his research in psychology. His undergraduate pursuit of psychology investigated the clinically immoral and the phenomena that turn good people bad, tackling questions like what exactly does ‘wrong’ mean? His PhD will ask how different people judge right and wrong.

“I aim to investigate the factors that cause differential moral judgments towards issues such as gun reform and climate change,” he explains. “I hope that my PhD makes possible second-generation research investigating strategies that can strengthen adaptive and weaken maladaptive moral judgments.”

While still at Macquarie, Matthew received the 2012 Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Award (undergraduate), which is awarded to only 20 Australian undergraduates each year and allows them to study and intern in Asia. He studied and subsequently conducted research at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and worked for the Human Development Foundation: Mercy Centre, Thailand, and credits this scholarship as a key influencer of his current trajectory.

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