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Photo of the entrance to the Biochemistry building on a sunny day

Entrance to the Biochemistry building.

The Otago Department  of Biochemistry, te Tari Matū Koiora,  is proud to announce the winners of the annual department 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 2023.

The Edson Prize in Biochemistry (300-level)

For the student who has reached the highest attainment in biochemistry in the 300-level BSc(Hons) class.

Bonnie HuangBonnie Huang

Bonnie was born and raised in Auckland, and came down to Dunedin to study at the University of Otago. Her interest in cancer led her to complete a Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences degree where she became further interested in the intricate details of molecular biology.

Now at medical school starting her Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, Bonnie hopes to pursue a career in oncology as she aspires to help patients in a hands-on manner.

Outside of her studies, Bonnie enjoys baking and spending time with her friends and family.

The Edson Prize in Biochemistry (400-level)

For the student who has reached the highest attainment in biochemistry in the 400-level class.

Hunter DicksonHunter Dickson

Hunter was born and raised in Mount Maunganui in the Bay of Plenty. He always had a keen passion for science from his early days, whether it was making baking soda volcanoes or watching Mythbusters on TV . This keen interest in science led him to Otago to study forensic science, but in his first year he discovered that he was also interested in biochemistry and cancer research. From there he double-majored in forensics and biochemistry, enjoying both subjects immensely.

Last year he completed his BSc(Hons) in biochemistry in the Cancer Genetics Lab, and decided to return this year to complete a one-year masters. In his project last year, he investigated the metastatic potential of two different genes involved in Oestrogen-Receptor Positive Breast Cancer. This year he continues this work, developing an improved metastatic ER + breast cancer model for future research.

Outside of the lab, Hunter is an avid sports fan of many different types. He particularly enjoys getting out on the golf course to work on his handicap, and playing rugby for the best club in Dunedin, Taieri. After he’s finished his degree he wants to travel overseas for a few years before settling down into a cancer research job.

The Petersen Prize

For the student who has shown the greatest promise for original research in the 400-level class.

Bochen ZhuBochen Zhu

Also awarded the Davd T Jones prize for the top student in the BBiomedSc(Hons) class.

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 carried out his Honours year project under the supervision of Dr Adam Middleton and Professor Catherine Day, solving 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.

Bochen has recently received a Melbourne Research Scholarship from the University of Melbourne for his PhD study. He plans to use the emerging technology of expansion microscopy to study cell death proteins there at the Structural Biology Division, and at the Centre for Dynamic Imaging at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.

The Mervyn Smith Prize

For the student with the highest level of attainment in the first year MSc class.

Annabel WalshAnnabel Walsh

Growing up in Wellington on a steady diet of David Attenborough and space documentaries, Annabel was always interested in understanding the world around us through science. When deciding what to study at university, her scientifically-minded parents and enthusiastic high school teachers inspired her to pursue a science degree. She explains that this was her entry into the world of biochemistry.  “Once I began my undergrad here in Dunedin, I discovered biochemistry and became fascinated!”

She is currently working towards her Master’s in the Mace lab, researching protein structure and interactions to understand their role in disease. In coming years, she is really interested in pursuing further research opportunities investigating the mechanisms of health and disease.

Annabel enjoys running, tramping, and getting into the outdoors in her downtime, and has recently been attempting to rekindle some creative hobbies.

The Joan Mary Anderson prize

For the student who shows greatest promise for contributing to plant science in the 400-level class.

Nicole SamuelNicole Samuel

Nicole was born and raised in Dunedin. She worked for a few years after finishing school, but was motivated to go to university and study for a genetics degree, minoring in Plant Biotechnology, after becoming more aware of environmental issues. “I watched a few documentaries which really opened my eyes to the issues of sustainability and climate change, and how innovations in biotechnology may be able to help.”

She is currently working on a research project with Associate Professor Lynette Brownfield, excited to finally put into practice the techniques and knowledge acquired as an undergraduate. “I get to work on Arabidopsis! I am studying protein interactions in pollen, related to male germline differentiation.”

Outside of academia, she enjoys thrift shopping and reading too many crime novels.

In the future, Nicole would love to continue working in the plant genetics field, potentially pursuing a PhD, or working for a CRI, and incorporating her passion for Aotearoa and its future.

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