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Research Assistant

An interview with Ginny

What is your work here? What are you hoping to discover? Why will it be important?

I test colorectal cancer vaccines to see if they can change the body's immune response to fight the cancer.

What attracted you to this area of research? What excites you about it?

I like that this research has real world implications and is constantly evolving.

What is the most difficult element of your work?

Experiments almost never work the first time! You have to try several times to get an experiment to work, and then you need to repeat it several times to make sure your results are accurate.

What's it like working in a Lab? How did you come to be working here in this Lab?

Working in a lab you do a little bit of everything- preparing and doing experiments, analysing data, reading papers, making graphs, editing work, attending meetings and seminars. I started working in my lab after I completed my Master of Science in the lab.

What direction do you want your career to grow in?

I'd like to learn more techniques to analyse the immune response to colorectal cancer- currently I do most of my experiments using the technique of flow cytometry.

What are the most important things you've had to learn to do well at your work?

Be organised! I am a very organised person, but I've had to learn to be even better as a scientist. With multiple experiments running at the same time, you have to be very organised to make sure you can complete the experiments in a timely manner but also have time for analysis and future experiment planning.

What advice would you give to someone in school who aspires to research?

Find a mentor or supervisor who you work well with. The research you do and are interested can change, but the person supporting you will be a constant.

Where did you grow up? What things interested you about the world as a child?

I grew up just outside Seattle in the US. As a child I was fascinated by anything medical and was always the one who wanted to hear anyone's medical stories.

What subjects did you enjoy most at school? The least?

My favourite subject at high school was surprisingly English, which is very important as the thing you do the most in health science is actually writing rather than performing experiments.

Looking back, were there people in your family or community who influenced your field of study or sparked your interest?

My family moved to New Zealand so my mum could get her Masters (in business rather than science) which showed me that there is no barrier too great to study what you are passionate about.

Where did you do your undergraduate study?

The University of Otago

What do you enjoy outside your work here?

I love to bake! Some people say baking is a science, but I actually think it's harder than the science I do. At the end of the day, if the experiment generates data it has succeeded, but with baking, so much more has to happen for you to succeed- it needs to taste good and have a balance of flavours, have the correct texture, be baked correctly AND look good.

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