Olivia Tidswell has won one of five scholarships to Britain's Cambridge University, worth nearly $300,000, to complete her doctorate in developmental biology.

Miss Tidswell, 21, a former Tauranga Girls' College student, just finished her honours in genetics at Otago University after completing her double major in genetics and zoology.

She applied last year for the Wellcome Trust four-year PhD programme in developmental mechanisms at Cambridge University.

Only five places are offered worldwide each year.

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The scholarship is worth almost 150,000 (NZ$300,000) over the four years Miss Tidswell will be studying.

It covers her course fees and living allowance.

"I've always been interested in developmental biology and I happened to find a course at Cambridge that was perfect," she told the Bay of Plenty Times.

Miss Tidswell is working at Otago as an assistant research fellow waiting for her PhD to start in October, and is trying to get a paper published.

"I started off loving animals and loved the connecting study that evolution provided and how everything in our lives fits together."

Miss Tidswell said she was "absolutely blown away" when she found out she had got a place at Cambridge.

"I didn't believe it at first. I had to check my email about 10 times afterwards. I thought it must have been a mistake and they got the name wrong.

"I had gone for it just thinking I'm a girl from New Zealand, they only have five places all year from around the world."

After completing her doctorate, Miss Tidswell plans to do post-doctorate study "somewhere around the world".

Developmental biology
•A cross-disciplinary area of biomedical research that spans molecular biology, genetics, cell biology, imaging and bioinformatics.
•This field is increasingly significant in the era of readily available genome sequences, because functional studies of development are essential to decipher the roles of many genes.
- University of Cambridge