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Gretel Major, PhD Candidate

Gretel Major with a model of a knee joint image
Gretel Major holding a model of a knee joint.

What are you currently studying?

I am a PhD student from the Christchurch Regenerative Medicine and Tissue Engineering group in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Musculoskeletal Medicine. My research specifically focuses on adipose tissue engineering and developing more representative models of the adipose-rich breast cancer microenvironment.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Otago, Christchurch?

I was motivated to move to Christchurch through a desire to both explore the natural landscapes New Zealand is renowned for and to learn from some of the top researchers in bioengineering. When discussing this decision with others in my life, everyone had high praise for Christchurch and I knew I would have a great time whilst studying my PhD.

And why did you choose bioengineering as a subject?

Prior to beginning my PhD, I was working in a cancer cell and matrix biology lab where I was introduced to a range of simple biomaterial models. The flexibility of these models and ability to dictate cell behaviour in a controlled manner made me interested in developing some of these systems myself. While I am a cell biologist by training, I thought that gaining skills and knowledge in the field of bioengineering would help me understand and study cancer biology in more complex ways.

What are you enjoying about cancer biology in a bioengineering context?

The best thing about my studies is the flexibility to change model system and the ability to use a range of tools to develop the desired outcome. I also have access to patient-materials, which makes the research translational toward the clinical context.

What were you doing before you enrolled in your PhD at the University of Otago?

Before studying a PhD, I completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours) from the University of Wollongong in 2018 and then worked as a research assistant at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.

Where do you think your Otago qualification will take you?

I am hoping that I will be able to stay in research and use bioengineering tools to answer key cell biology questions.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about studying at Otago?

Go for it – you won’t regret it! While Otago is a great place to study, New Zealand as a whole has so many great opportunities for adventure, arts and friendship. There are loads of opportunities available and collaborations with different research labs and hospitals to make your research relevant!