When Emeritus Professor John Love, in the final years of his life, decided to establish a scholarship for deserving students whose circumstances might prevent them from coming to ANU, he could have had Jharna Chamlagai in mind.
The first-year science/law student, who left her birth country of Bhutan as a refugee, says the Love Scholarship is “the only reason I could come to ANU.”
Jharna met Professor Love before he died in June this year, and says she told him the story of “who I am, where I came from and how I got to Canberra.”
The connection between this story and Jharna’s studies seems inseparable.
Her interest in science and the human body, she says, was fueled by a kidney disorder she suffers from, and her personal research into the condition.
And her interest in law developed as a result of her parents’ background.
“My parents’ ancestry is Nepalese but they were living in Bhutan. Because Bhutan is a Buddhist country, my parents and other Hindus were discriminated against and they had to flee the country.
“But when we went back to Nepal, Nepal didn’t accept us as citizens, they said ‘You’ve lived in Bhutan all this time, you’re from there.’
“We couldn’t live in Bhutan. We couldn’t live in Nepal. So we became refugees and moved to England when I was five years old.
“The more I learned about that history, the more I learned about the world and social justice issues, and I became interested in studying law.
“I did have this feeling in the back of my mind, though, that if I did law, I might have to give up on my love for science, so finding out about this double degree at ANU was amazing.
“Now I’d like to find a career where I can help people.”
Jharna describes the experience of meeting Professor Love, the person whose career helped her, as “incredible.”
Professor Love was a pioneering researcher in fibre optics at the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering for 40 years. He said his one million-dollar donation to establish the Love Scholarships was, without a family of his own, simply his way to help others.
“I am so thankful I got to meet him before he passed away,” Jharna says.
“He was so lovely. He wanted to get to know the three of us who received his scholarship, and I think he really understood us.
“It was good to meet and hear from the other recipients too. We’re all in the same boat. The three of us, we have a bond.”