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International opportunities enhance PhD perspectives

Monday 29 June 2020 11:41am

Evie-Dolomites hike
Evie Templeton in the Dolomite Mountains of Italy’s Tyrol region.

When Evie Templeton began her PhD she was not expecting overseas travel, so when she found herself standing in front of a 12th century monastery in northern Italy, she had to pinch herself.

“Kloster Neustift is in the Dolomite Mountains of Italy’s Tyrol region. I was there for a one week summer school course in Advanced Proteomics and I was blown away. Not only by gorgeous mountains, the beautiful abbey and its grounds, but most of all, by the opportunity to study with a range of high-calibre international students.”

Evie is completing her PhD with the Christchurch Heart Institute’s (CHI) Omics Laboratory, looking at acute kidney injury in patients with heart failure.

“Part of my research is to look more closely at proteins released into the blood when kidney injury has occurred. I am hopeful this may contribute to the development of a blood test to see whether a person with heart disease also has kidney injury.”

The summer school was run by the Federation of European Biochemical Societies and provided Evie with a new perspective on her research.

“I was accepted to the summer school following submission of an abstract about my kidney injury work. I am fortunate to have great supervision and mentorship by senior researchers at the CHI who encouraged me to apply for the summer school. The experience deepened my understanding and knowledge, with the additional benefit of an international perspective.”

Despite the course being held in a monastery, life was far from quiet for the students, with plenty of opportunities for socialising and networking.

“Meeting so many international students who are all interested in similar research and making great connections with them, not only as friends but as scientific contacts, was definitely the greatest gain for me. In medical research, forging links with other scientists and clinicians in the same field of study is vital for the sharing of information and collaboration in progressing research.”

The Dolomite Mountains were the stage for activities that exposed the students to Northern Italy’s natural world, history and culture.

“We all took part in hiking. It was incredible! We began at a place called Zanser Alm, walking up to an alpine hut called Schlutterhutte which was at 2306m. The views the entire way were amazing - lots of green slopes and wildflowers, mountain streams, cows with bells. A great part was that the hut at the top was also a pub of sorts - so we all bought a beer and enjoyed the sunshine at the top....more NZ hikes need this!” Evie commented.

There was also a choice of four other activities for an afternoon - rock climbing, white water rafting, downhill carting or sightseeing at the nearby town.

“I chose sightseeing - as I thought you can do the sporting activities here in NZ - and got to go on a guided tour of the nearby medieval town Bressanone, including the medieval city gates, the cathedral and cloisters.”

Funding for Evie’s summer school came through the University of Otago, Christchurch Department of Medicine PhD fund, which supports the development of PhD students to enhance their early careers. Unfortunately, in the current economic and health climate post the Coronavirus in NZ, these types of trips are on hold. We look forward to when our students (and all researchers) can take part in career enhancing international opportunities once again.