Olivia Burn, PhD, BSc (Hons) majoring in Genetics and Neuroscience. In recognition of advances being made due to her research into cancer metastasis.
Inspired by working in Professor Parry Guilford's cancer genetics laboratory during her honours year, Olivia is now doing postdoctoral research in the field of immunotherapy at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research.
What was your reaction to receiving the award, and what does it mean to you?
I was surprised and hugely honoured to be recognised. I think all Otago alumni should be proud of what they achieved during their studies and this was an extra-special cherry on top to have my work recognised.
What have you done since graduation and what are you doing now?
I am a postdoctoral research fellow at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research where I research how vaccines can be used to direct the immune system to kill cancer cells.
What inspires and motivates you to work in the areas you are involved with?
Immunotherapy is one of the most promising new cancer treatments, as it can turn the power of the immune system, more powerful than any cancer drug, against cancer cells. For some cancers, such as skin, lung and blood cancers immunotherapy has shown great success and I am motivated to extend this to other cancer types so that more people live longer and better-quality lives.
What were the highlights of your time at Otago, and has it influenced you in your career and following your interests?
A real highlight was the opportunity to do my honours year in Professor Parry Guilford's cancer genetics laboratory. I developed an interest in cancer research after learning about his research in my high-school biology classes, so it was a neat full circle to have the chance to work with him. The year in that laboratory was pivotal to my further PhD studies and cemented my interest in cancer research. Outside of the lab, I loved being a part of the Otago University Hockey Club.