Jane Adams’ efforts raising young children while tackling an Otago PhD on the history of infertility in New Zealand have been supported by helpful supervisors, a performance coach and a family-friendly city.
While working as a lawyer at a large Melbourne commercial firm, Jane and her husband conceived their first child after multiple rounds of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment. Delving into IVF history, Jane discovered that New Zealand's infertility history hadn't been written and was inspired to take it on as a PhD topic, instinctively looking to Otago as an academic base.
“I had graduated from Otago in 2001 with an Honours degree in History and a Bachelor of Laws. Professor Barbara Brookes had been my Honours supervisor and I was confident I’d work well with her again - she also had the expertise in my broader PhD area of reproductive health history.
“My research centres around the history of infertility in NZ from the 1950s to 2004 with a particular focus upon medico-legal responses. My other supervisor, Law Associate Professor Colin Gavaghan, is Director of the Centre for Law and Policy in Emerging Technologies, so he had the requisite expertise in assisted reproductive technologies law. Otago, of course, is also home to New Zealand’s first medical school so the resources for studying the history of medicine are unparalleled.”
Dunedin also appealed to Jane for being a relatively affordable and compact city for young family life.
“Both my supervisors have been really supportive. I began my PhD in 2011, changed from full- to part-time in 2012 and deferred after my second child was born. The University's Personal Performance and Development coach Brian Johnston has been great, too, helping me figure out how to juggle part-time study and family commitments.”
Jane says her research interests include how the introduction of various new assisted reproductive technologies over time may have affected the way infertility was approached.
“Gaining an understanding of this can reveal what factors shaped our current attitudes towards parenting and childlessness, be that involuntary or voluntary.”