The Department is proud to announce the winners of the annual student academic awards and scholarships.
Each year the Department awards prizes and scholarships to outstanding students, encouraging them to continue research careers within biochemistry. The prizes are funded by generous donations from former staff, students, and their families.
The following students have been awarded prizes and scholarships on the basis of their academic performance in 2022:
The Edson Prize in Biochemistry (300-level)
For the student in the 300-level BSc(Hons) class who has reached the highest attainment in biochemistry.
Bochen grew up in Beijing, China. He first came to New Zealand in 2017 for a university foundation course in Auckland before moving south to study at the University of Otago. His growing interest in molecular biosciences led him into a Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences Honours degree, during which he developed a passion for protein biochemistry and structural biology. “I am the kind of person who is interested in the underlying mechanisms of the world,” he says.
Bochen is doing his Honours year project under the supervision of Dr Adam Middleton and Prof Catherine Day, and has already solved his first protein crystal structure while investigating peptide-based modulators of an E2 ubiquitin conjugating enzyme called UBE2R1.
When not working hard in the lab, Bochen enjoys listening to classical music, especially Bach's keyboard pieces and Tchaikovsky, and reading philosophy.
In the future, Bochen plans to embark on a PhD in protein biochemistry, structural biology, and/or structure-based drug design.
The Edson Prize in Biochemistry (400-level)
For the student in the 400-level class who has reached the highest attainment in biochemistry.
Judy's journey into science was originally guided by her mother's career in breast cancer research. But she hadn't anticipated the “sheer joy” that studying biochemistry would bring her.
“What began as a degree chosen by process of elimination quickly became a genuine interest.”
As she has made her way through her BSc Honours in biochemistry, bioinformatics has become a particular passion. From here, she intends to pursue further education internationally, focussing on medicine and forensic pathology.
Outside of study she enjoys bouldering and rock climbing, as well as spending time with her friends and family.
The Petersen Prize
For the student(s) who have shown the greatest promise for original research in the 400-level class.
Theresa was born in Glasgow, Scotland, but has been living in New Zealand since she was four – first in Christchurch, then in a small Canterbury town called Little River, where she went to Lincoln High School.
Theresa's enjoyment of the molecular biology and genetics she learned about in high school biology led her to choose biochemistry as her major subject at Otago. Over the course of her undergraduate degree she became interested in how biochemistry relates to health and disease. She has been studying for her Master's degree with Dr Louise Bicknell in the Rare Disorder Genetics group, researching a rare neurodevelopmental disorder.
Theresa is also interested in the environment and sustainability, and enjoys reading and making jewellery.
After she finishes her MSc, she plans to work in research jobs. Theresa is particularly interested in Antarctic research, and one of her life goals is to visit Antarctica.
Cait grew up in Cromwell. Coming from a small school, she had never heard of biochemistry before but decided to study it because the name combined her two favourite subjects in high school, biology and chemistry.
Cait has been working on a research project in Associate Professor Liz Ledgerwood's lab, studying a network of genes that help to alleviate the oxidative stress on cells caused by everyday living, called the peroxiredoxin-thioredoxin network.
She learned more about the regulation of genes in this network and look for clues that could lead to interventions which may aid in slowing the biological ageing process.
Cait is an avid skier and enjoys playing the guitar. She is currently unsure on her career plans but is hoping for a job working in the biotech industry, and would also love the opportunity to work and travel overseas.
The Mervyn Smith Prize
For the student with the highest level of attainment in the first year MSc class.
Sarah was born and raised in Dunedin and is currently undertaking the second year of her Master's degree in the Cancer Genetics Lab, researching breast cancer.
She has always had a strong interest in human and animal health and disease, and towards the end of high school was considering going into veterinary or medical school. However, Sarah decided to study biochemistry right from her first year at university. “I was more interested in contributing to improving human health and preventing disease from a research standpoint rather than hands-on with patients”.
Sarah has always maintained a busy life outside of study - dancing and playing piano (which she has done since she was five years old), and teaching both of these too.
Although she does not have any specific career plans at the moment, she is keen to continue using her biochemistry knowledge to further research in human health and disease.
The Joan Mary Anderson prize
For the student in the 400-level class who shows greatest promise for contributing to plant science.
Maddy has always been interested in science and sustainability, but after finishing high school wasn't sure at first where to direct this passion. After enrolling at Otago as a biochemistry major, she took the first-year paper 'BIOL123 Plants: How they shape the world', and fell in love with plants. To combine her twin interests in biochemistry and plants she decided to major in plant biotechnology, graduating last year, and has just started a master's degree in the same subject.
Once she has completed her studies, Maddy plans to continue in the world of plant research. “I would love to work towards advancing New Zealand's agricultural sector through improved plant breeding, but I am happy to go wherever life takes me.”
Maddy's interest in plants extends to her personal life: “I have a passion for plants of all shapes and sizes.” She also enjoys camping with family, hiking with friends, and listening to too many podcasts.
Marjorie McCallum MSc Scholarship
Awarded to a promising MSc student.
Oli grew up in Katikati until he was 9, then moved to Wellington. He attended Rongotai College where he first became fascinated by genetics and the different ways a single cell can develop into a complex, highly advanced organism. As an undergraduate, he became aware of the necessity for good plant biotechnology, and its fundamental role in feeding, housing and maintaining the overall wellbeing of our ever-expanding population. This realisation led him to begin his postgraduate studies in this field.
Moving forward, he hopes to move into areas such as crop improvement, forestry genetics and biotech, and in the 'Blue carbon' space. “Developing new crop and forest plantation varieties that provide enhanced quality and yield whilst requiring less human input… is something I wish to contribute to throughout my career.”
When not on campus, he spends his time skating, surfing, mountain biking, and tramping and exploring the beautiful landscapes here in Aotearoa.
The Mike Murphy and Rob Smith Postgraduate Scholarships in Biochemistry
Awarded to students undertaking 400- or 500-level research on the basis of academic ability and potential for research and other attributes.
This year these scholarships are awarded to:
Storm Voyce McCulloch
Photo (from left): Kate McPhail (inset), Akalanka Dinudaya, Daisy Power, Storm Voyce McCulloch, Taylor Gallagher, Annabel Walsh, Bochen Zhu.