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Ngāti Maniapoto and Ngāti Maru, Hauraki

Georgia has a Bachelor of Science
 and has recently completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Science in Microbiology and Immunology.

Pumped up to progress

Georgia Bell remembers school friends joking that one day they would find a cure for cancer.

“It seemed impossible at the time, but I've been actually doing that work.”

She didn't discover science until her last year at high school, when she sat in on a biology lesson and was fascinated by the subject. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the University of Otago in 2011.

A summer research project looking at new experimental processes for studying the importance of vitamin D in the development of our immune response to colorectal cancer had Georgia “pumped up” to progress her studies. She then embarked on a a Postgraduate Diploma in Science (PGDipSci).

Finding her feet

Georgia was born at Piopio in the King Country and grew up on her tūrangawaewae at Whangamata on the Coromandel peninsula.

“I needed to move away from my whānau to learn how to live on my own properly, and Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington didn't seem as cool as Dunedin. It took me a few years to find my feet because I didn't really know what uni was,” she says. “Coming from a small town you don't really know what to expect.”

Originally she wanted to study physiotherapy but changed course into molecular biology, encouraged by Otago lecturers who inspired her with their passion for the subject.

New path to expand skills

After completing her PGDipSci Georgia has woven another strand of research into her career path. She is embarking on a master's degree in marine biology. Her motivation for this was to become a well-rounded scientist in fields important to both herself and the communities she is involved with.

"My master's project is looking at fecal contamination of an estuarine environment and the health effects on shellfish, and those that consume it."

Georgia keeps in touch with colleagues in the Kemp lab and attends presentations and meetings. She's committed to sharing her knowledge and continuing to remain connected with the immunology sector.

Giving back to her community

When she completes her research Georgia would like to return to where it all started for her.

“I'd love to go back to my community to teach young students that you don't need a lot of money, or to come from a flash background to excel academically.”

She has already started down that road, volunteering her time to set up a support network for Māori science students at Otago.

“We wanted to show science students there are a lot of other avenues if they don't get into medicine or physiotherapy. It's not the end of the road.”

Photo of Georgia Bell working at a lab bench.
Georgia Bell in the lab.

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