The environmental aspects of Applied Geology have long interested Amanda Black. While studying for her Master's degree at the University of Otago, she focused on environmental impacts of mining, and its effect on water quality.
Now that she's graduated, Amanda works in the field of applied science for the Otago Regional Council, as an Environmental Compliance Officer specialising in contaminated sites. "Basically," she says, "I'm responsible for ensuring that contaminated sites within the Otago region are suitably managed."
In her role, Amanda keeps a close eye on operations such as active mine sites, timber treatment plants and historic land fills, as well as looking at sites contaminated with potentially hazardous material such as pesticides and petroleum products.
"It has been a challenge," Amanda says. "We deal with real people, and real situations. But there is a good feeling that we are making progress, and initiating change."
"I wanted to get a degree that was directly applicable to the workforce."
Mark Preece (Te Iwi Morriori, Te Atiawa) was born on the Chatam Islands; his dad was a crayfisherman, and Mark wanted to stay working at sea. So he studies at the University of Otago, gaining a Masters in Marine Science. While studying, Mark researched a sea-cage cultivation of paua – research sponsored by Southern Ocean Seafoods.
He explains "I wanted to get a degree that was directly applicable to the workforce. My Masters was a straight line into what I'm doing now."
What Mark is doing now is working as the Aquaculture Manager for King Salmon, which is the new company formed when Southern Ocean Seafoods merged with Regal Salmon. So how does farming paua translate into farming salmon?
"The principles of aquaculture are the same, so it really doesn't matter what the species is, you try to minimize the cost which are generally associated with feeding fish, while maximizing the profits you can make from sales bu capturing and adding value along the production chain."
Mark has worked for the same company for 12 years now, and the three promotions to different roles with increases responsibility have ensured the job has remained challenging and interesting.
So what was the best thing about studying Aquaculture at Otago? Mark says "There are great facilities, with the Portobello Marine Laboratory and the research vessel – there's a new one now, the RV Polaris II – and then there are the other supporting departments at the University; Microbiology, Chemistry which all have relevant areas for Aquaculture. What I like about Aquaculture is that it's a more environmentally efficient and sustainable method of meeting consumer demand compared with harvesting from a wild fishery."
"That's one of the good things about Clothing and Textile Sciences - such a broad range of other disciplines are genuinely relevant pairings."
Braid stumbled upon the Clothing and Textile Sciences at a careers expo when he was at school. "I was involved in a lot of sport and had developed an interest in the technical aspects of clothing such as outerwear for skiing, snowboarding or tramping."
"Invariably our interaction with the wider environment is influenced by what we wear and issues that arise from this interaction are often exacerbated during sport or other physical activity. Without being able to articulate it at the time, that's what I had a rough idea I was interested in and it turns out that studying Clothing and Textile Sciences set me up quite ideally to follow that interest. I took a paper in physiology in my first year and, for what I wanted to do, quickly saw the benefit of also understanding the human body."
Braid combined his study in Clothing and Textile Sciences with Physiology at undergraduate level as a double major and with Exercise/Environmental Physiology at postgraduate level (MSc).
"That's one of the good things about Clothing and Textile Sciences - such a broad range of other disciplines are genuinely relevant pairings. Subjects like chemistry, forensics, or microbiology if you're interested in the physical properties of textile products; statistics if you're interested by things like injury prevention, marketing if you like the sales/promotional side of things, and anthropology, psychology, or history if you're interested in social aspects of clothing and textiles.
Jake now works for the New Zealand Defence Force as a Technical Advisor within the Solider Systems Equipment Management Group.
"Our group looks after combat clothing, body armour, packs, boots, personal support items, and helmets. The role is varied and spans providing technical advice where necessary, investigating defective or unsatisfactory items, liaising with others on various R&D projects, and meeting industry vendors."
Otago - the only option.
Choosing to study at the University of Otago seemed like the only option for Jake Roos. Jake grew up in Dunedin, meaning Otago was literally right on his doorstep. More importantly, Otago was (and still is) the only university in the country offering an undergraduate degree in Energy Management.
"I'm concerned about the world's environmental and impending energy supply problems. Studying Energy Management offered a way to do something about it."
It was also a way of putting Jake's strengths in maths and physics to practical use. He was attracted to the course for its variety of papers, applied focus, and work experience component.
"The job placement I obtained at the end of my second year turned into a long and profitable association between myself and the company in question - I ended up working for them throughout the rest of my degree, and based my honours project on one of their facilities."
The experience also encouraged Jake to take his education further, and he is now studying for a Master of Applied Science while teaching in the Energy Management programme part-time. With such highly sought-after skills, Jake knows that once he graduates, the future will be wide open.
"I always like variety and doing new and different things, so I'm aiming to be an energy consultant, assisting with local and national governments' projects and policy," he says. "But don't hold me to that. The field of Energy Management is so broad and is increasing in importance, so there's no telling where it might lead me."
"I've never been one that's strictly into science, so I liked the idea of the Bachelor of Applied Science being a mix of business and science papers. It's the reality for most jobs out there. "
Nicola Henshaw graduated with a BAppSci in Environmental Management with First Class Honours in 2005. She says "Environmental Management uses a range of technological and political tools to achieve sustainable development, and it is exciting being involved with an industry that helps us do things smarter."
"I took a couple of papers in GIS, which introduced me to the concepts underpinning GIS analysis. The range of papers I took gave me a broader understanding of the organisations, I deal with on a daily basis. The social skills I learned are really important too: Networking and schmoozing are a big part of my job!"
Nicola works for Critchlow Ltd in Wellington as a GIS consultant in the Business Intelligence team. "I started out doing GIS analysis and map production. I also run training courses and do on-site consulting. I work with a number of Australasia's leading companies, and the travel is pretty great: In the past two years work has sent me to Texas, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra, and all across New Zealand."
Nicola also won a Transpower Scholarship. She says "Being a Transpower Scholar has made such a difference to the opportunities available to me. The financial boost while I was studying was great, and having a significantly smaller student loan has made paying it off more of a reality."
She adds " Dunedin is such a unique place. I'll never forget the people, the fun and the things I achieved… it's an experience I wouldn't trade for anything!"
"Product development is such a great job as we are always working on new and exciting products.
Lindy completed her Bachelor of Science Honours (majoring in Food Science) in 2003.
In the course of her studies she worked on product development projects with Cadburys and Fonterra, covering practical and theoretical aspects of Food Science.
"On completion of my final year I was selected for the graduate programme within the R & D department at Frucor Beverages. The graduate programme is a three month overview of the entire business, and enabled me to meet people and understand the function of each department in relation to the operation of the business as a whole.
My department (Product R & D) works on new product development projects. We receive a brief for a new product from the Marketing Department, and then it's our responsibility to research the idea and develop a physical prototype. This is the part that involves creativity, and is the part that I really enjoy!! We are also test shelf-life, reformulate til we get it right, and then run and factory trials of the new products.
Product development is such a great job as we are always working on new and exciting products. We have to look at future trends within the flavour and product market and try to get our product out before our competitor!!"
"Having it all Mapped Out"
Surveying skills, computing expertise, business nous... you could say Steve Critchlow is an early prototype of the BAppSc in Geographic Information Systems graduate. Back in 1978 he completed a Bachelor of Surveying degree at the University of Otago, which he then followed up with a BSc in Computer Science.
After working in central government for a few years and specialising in the use and application of some of the early land information systems, he set up his own Geographical Information Systems consulting business in 1986, Critchlow Associates.
"Our Wellington-based company now employs over 20 staff on contracts that span the length and breadth of New Zealand," says Steve.
Their work has included mapping information from the locations of road accidents, to cellphone coverage. They have also been able to help develop early warning systems to help agencies such as the Ministry of Health anticipate the spread of epidemics, such as measles or meningitis.
A recent project has involved finding "clear lines of sight" for wireless internet transmissions across Wellington city.
Now that Otago is offering a qualification that encompasses the sorts of skills Steve has gained over the course of his career, he is very encouraged.
"I like what I see in the Geographic Information Systems major of the BAppSc," says Steve. "It combines the key elements of Information and Computer Science with an understanding of where and how spatial data is captured and used. These are the type of graduates I want!"
Damian Camp, Chief executive officer of Ovita, is an ideal example of where mixing science and business can take you. Damian encountered Biochemistry as a first year student at Otago University. Gaining a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry he then undertook a Bachelor of Commerce degree with honours, and that combination of Science and Business enabled Damian to enter the fast paced world of commercial science.
Damian says "My study at Otago has allowed me, in my career, to combine the two very diverse fields of science and commerce and, along with the rest of my team at Ovita, translate scientific concepts as they emerge from the lab bench into bundles of intellectual property that have relevance to an end user or development partner. The translation works the other way as well in spotting issues faced by an end user. E.g. New Zealand sheep farmers, and developing research programmes that will address them."
"Our task is to turn decades of scientific research undertaken by our shareholders and turn the results of that research into products and services that can be used by NZ livestock farmers. We also look for opportunities to commercialize our intellectual property in other high value markets through partnering with large animal health companies, human pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. To do this, our shareholders, AgResearch, Meat & Wool NZ and Wool Equities and the Foundation for Research Science and Technology have contributed $90 million to Ovita as start-up capital."
Damian is also impressed with the benefit gained by taking papers in non-scientific disciplines. He adds "The marketing papers I took taught me, the discipline, to always look to the market for feedback and use this feedback to help keep research programmes and company progress on track and relevant to end users. The conundrum is that market trends usually occur over much shorter timeframes than those associated with research and development. The trick is to get the right balance between market pull and science push – and it is not always easy. My study in corporate finance showed me the importance of translating opportunities into value propositions that will turn on shareholders and customers and keep them interested in what we're doing. To hold shareholder interest and attention over long-term R&D timeframes is a challenging issue."
Damian's career has shown that the long route of a double degree has had its rewards. Molecular Biotechnology is a new initiative in the BAppSc programme designed to provide an integrated package of commerce and science. The sound training in molecular sciences plus 3 years of commerce papers specially designed for the BAppSc programme provides a mix for those with a willingness to extend their science base with a commercial awareness, and all within a four year degree that can be awarded with honours.
Steve Smith, once an Otago student himself, can quite honestly say that his team led New Zealand into the Internet age. Back in 1992, he helped create the country's second ever worldwide web site, designed for an Antarctic research organisation. "We were beaten to the first website by just four weeks!" he says.
This early experience gave Steve the strong sense that the Internet was destined for great things. "Nobody could predict the kind of shape and direction it would eventually take," he says, "but we knew it was going to be huge."
And it was from this instinct that Christchurch-based software engineering firm Alchemy Group was born. The company, managed by Steve, creates software solutions for businesses, using the Internet protocol as its delivery system. This can be a big job.
"We don't call our staff software programmers; they're software engineers," says Steve. "They are responsible for building quality, robust, future-proof business systems that take into account issues like usability, reliability, performance, scalability and supportability. They must also be able to integrate with other legacy systems."
"We try to expose our staff to as many applications as possible - that's how you move up the learning curve very quickly. You need to be incredibly flexible and adaptable to survive in this industry."
And here, Steve bemoans the shortage of graduates who have both technical skills as well as a practical understanding of the commercial world. He welcomes, therefore, the direction being taken by Otago's new Bachelor of Applied Science.
"We are a business, and our clients are businesses. They come to us because they're looking for cost-effective technology solutions that will give them a market edge, and it's imperative that our staff understand that. When they're cutting a piece of code, they should know why they're cutting that code."
"In this industry," adds Steve, "people who understand this bigger picture and who can generate good ideas get rewarded extremely well."
How does the human body cope with exercise? How can we maximise physical human potential?
These are the questions that directed Glenn Kearney's study, and these are the questions he works with every day in his career as a nutrition consultant.
Glenn first completed a Bachelor of Physical Education majoring in Exercise physiology, then he completed a BSc in Human Nutrition.
"I chose Exercise physiology to follow my passion and gain deeper understanding of how the body copes with exercise. Human Nutrition helped me gain an understanding of the OTHER half of the equation. Nutrition was the huge bonus for me and uncovered more than I ever thought it would. The field continues to amaze and excite me."
Glenn's studies didn't stop there, and he went on to complete a Masters degree in Applied sports nutrition. This wealth of understanding informs his work as a Nutrition consultant with his own company Elite Performance Nutrition Limited. His work takes him around the world with the Rugby Union and other sports people internationally – developing nutrition education for athletes, looking into safe supplementation programmes for elite players, and maximising recovery from intensive rugby campaigns, among other things.
"The quality of the facilities and teaching staff in these areas at Otago, exposure to top researchers and also the pool of like-minded young people with in the Otago campus – these things have been a huge benefit in my career. Those links are alive and kicking!"
"Technology has always fascinated me, especially the sort that's capable of sending information around the world at the speed of light. Applied Science helped me gain not only the expertise necessary for a technical role at one of NZ's major telcos, but also the wider scope to help me understand how the business as a whole operates."
Dan Kerse completed his Bachelor of Applied Science majoring in Telecommunications and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science in 2005. Dan works in the Operations department of TelstraClear, and is based in central Wellington.
Dan adds "The technical papers I took gave me a good understanding of the wide variety of technologies used at TelstraClear. A general understanding of the underlying maths and physics also makes it much easier to grasp new concepts as they emerge. Basic computer programming skills and an understanding of Unix are two things I find very useful in my role."
Dan's team is focussed on TelstraClear's IP (Internet Protocol) Operations and is involved with all aspects of TelstraClear's core IP infrastructure. This includes provisioning (connecting) larger customers, infrastructure maintenance, and issues related to infrastructure and/or larger customers.
Doing the business papers have given Dan a wider understanding of how the business as a whole operates. He adds " It's quite useful to have a grasp of the reasons behind some of the business decisions that impact on the company, regardless of whether it directly relates to my business unit."
"I think the research focus at Otago University was very important. Although my research had little to do with my current position it still helped shape my way of thinking and the approach I take to tackle a problem."