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Zarina D'Costa

Sun striking the Clocktower

Zarina D'Costa
Zarina D'Costa

Student
Microbiology

"An immunologist is kind of like a military analyst with a microscope," says third year microbiology honours student Zarina D'Costa.

"You get to learn about different pathogens attacking the body, and it's so interesting to watch how the body defends itself. And then of course, you get the microbes fighting back as well."

Zarina's fascination with this branch of microbiology encouraged her to apply for a summer studentship - a 10-week paid position carrying out research work for the University - taking part in a world-leading research project.

Zarina clearly did not move from India to Dunedin for the weather - instead she'll be spending her summer transferring bone marrow cells from special transgenic mice that express a fluorescent protein (known as eGFP mice) to normal mice, and watching how those cells respond to a range of skin treatments.

It's a step in a project with wide-reaching possibilities. "Some of the treatments include milk products, for example," explains Zarina. "So, in the future, it could pave the way for using these sorts of compounds in treating inflammatory skin disorders."

But what's most exciting about the project is that it involves a scientific model that has never been used before - a novel in-vivo skin assay using eGFP mice. This will be the first time scientists have studied the migration of immune cells during inflammatory responses using this model.

"It's the chance to actually advance science, to produce something new - I feel like a real scientist!"