UVic biochemistry undergrad student Rory Hills, pictured in chemist Dennis Hore’s lab, has been named 2020 Rhodes Scholar. December 2019. (Courtesy of Jennifer Kwan)

University of Victoria biochemistry student England bound as Rhodes Scholar

The Rhodes Scholarship covers travel, living and study expenses to the University of Oxford

A University of Victoria student who helped establish a drug-checking pilot project has won the opportunity to travel to and study at a prestigious university in Oxford, England.

Rory Hills, 23, was awarded the Rhodes Scholarship because of his academic achievement and leadership. The scholarship covers travel, living, and study expenses at Oxford where he will be based in the fall of 2020.

“I could barely speak when I found out. This scholarship opens so many doors that might otherwise be shut,” said Hills.

Rhodes Scholars are selected based on academic achievement, exceptional character, leadership, achievement in extra-curricular activities and a commitment to solving humanity’s challenges.

Hills said there is no greater challenge today for the planet than climate change. Under the supervision of UVic biochemist Alisdair Boraston, Hills’ honours thesis will focus on studying proteins with the potential for producing biofuels from seaweed.

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During his undergraduate studies, Hills was part of a small interdisciplinary team led by UVic’s chemistry professor Dennis Hore and professor of social work Bruce Wallace. Hills helped establish a drug-checking pilot project in 2018 that operates in three Victoria locations. The project aims to provide a quick, accurate chemical analysis of drugs to prevent overdoses and evaluates different drug-checking technologies.

Hills discovered his love of science early in life. He remembers when Canadian scientist Andrew Weaver, who is also a professor at UVic’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, talked to his school about climate change.

“He told us that we not only had the ability to make change, but we had a responsibility to strive for it,” said Hills.

From the time he was in high school, Hills volunteered with the B.C. Greens. In 2015, Weaver became the leader of the B.C. Green Party. Hills was the director of communications during Weaver’s 2017 re-election campaign.

“Every day, I got to work towards a vision of a government that put evidence at the centre of its decision-making process,” says Hills of his experiences.

UVic President Jamie Cassels said Hills is an “extraordinary” student who has already made transformative contributions through his research. “The impact of his work will without a doubt improve and enrich lives, and promote a sustainable future,” Cassels said.

Before Hills, 10 UVic students have been named Rhodes Scholars. Hills is the eleventh Uvic student to win the international post-graduate award. The scholarship was established in 1902, more than a century ago.

READ MORE: UVic pronounces three new Canada Research chairs

sophie.heizer@saanichnews.com


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