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Health Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowship profile: Dr Rose Richards Hessell

Dr Rose Richards Hessell is Co-Director of the Cancer Society Social and Behavioural Research Unit. Management skills including finance, people development, and strategic direction are important in this role. Rose also conducts her own research in physical activity promotion for reducing cancer risk.

Another role is supporting Pacific students into further success, as Associate Dean (Pacific) for the Dunedin School of Medicine.

“My goals in both these roles are about people development; supporting the amazing talent that we have so they can do great research and make a difference for communities.”

Emergent junior scientist

Rose grew up on a high country station in Canterbury. Hard work and long hours are just part of the life, but there was always plenty of time for daydreaming!

“I was very shy so watched what people did and said, and spent a lot of time wondering about it. So pretty natural to end up studying psychology really.”

Significant influencers

Rose’s grandfather passed away in her first year of university. His journey is what first drew Rose to consider applying her study of psychology to cancer research.

Along her path she recounts the impacts of some amazing supervisors, mentors and colleagues, both academic and non-academic. They have supported and challenged her to be the best researcher she can be.

“My supervisor and co-director, Tony Reeder, has been an incredible influence. I’ve been so lucky to work with someone with such integrity, work ethic, generosity, and patience. He is a legend.”

Running amok with research

“The Health Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowship was really important to me, as it was an opportunity to stretch my legs, academically speaking”.

It allowed Rose to work across different projects, research teams and methodologies.

“It was tremendously exciting to come out of a PhD and run amok like that. There are such a variety of ways to research. It’s important to find the tools that work for you and your research area, and to find your own style and ethics.”

Rose thinks that researchers need a well-rounded set of skills. That includes working on management skills, developing practical skills (like running meetings), and being self-reflective about research practice.

She is not sure where her career may lead. “Research keeps opening doors for me that I never could have dreamed of, if I sat down to plan. As long as I’m making a contribution, being buzzed on new ideas and working with cool people, I feel like I can’t really go wrong.”