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Abhishek Kumar

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Photo of Abhishek KumarAbhishek Kumar
PhD candidate

He is hoping to live the dream of all Antarctic researchers and take a rare trip to the icy continent...

The oceans and the icy polar regions are the last areas of our planet that remain largely unexplored, and with climate change threatening to radically alter both environments, it’s no surprise that scientists are in a great hurry to unlock their secrets.

University of Otago student Abhishek Kumar’s PhD research on the metabolism of Antarctic fish combines both of these little-understood worlds, and his enthusiasm for the subject is infectious.

He is looking in detail at an enzyme that plays a vital role in converting the Antarctic ocean’s scarce oxygen into energy, a project that he hopes will shed light on how animals are able to survive in this inhospitable environment.

“This kind of research is important, because we know that as the climate changes, the oceans will warm and become more acidic,” Abhishek says. “It’s not implausible that in 50 years we won’t be able to find these fish in Antarctica anymore. So now is a golden time for us to study them, learn their way of living and maybe even find a way to save them.”

He says that the University of Otago’s leading role in Antarctic studies was a major motivation for him when he decided to move from his native India and undertake doctoral research in New Zealand.

“When I discovered a PhD programme that offered such a good combination of Antarctic research, biochemistry and proteomics, it seemed to offer everything I wanted,” Abhishek says. “I decided to give it a go, and it’s turned out to be a really good decision. Otago’s Biochemistry Department offers a very rich and nourishing learning environment.”

This year looks to be the most rewarding yet for Abhishek. He is hoping to live the dream of all Antarctic researchers and take a rare trip to the icy continent, where he can collect some of his own samples, or as he puts it: “drill a hole in the ice and drop in a line”.