Graduating with a biological sciences degree opens up a world of possibilities

21 September 2017
Renee Johansen at Los Alamos National Laboratories, grinding up grass for a decomposition experiment in microcosms. Microcosms are used to examine carbon cycling in soils.
Renee Johansen at Los Alamos National Laboratories, grinding up grass for a decomposition experiment in microcosms. Microcosms are used to examine carbon cycling in soils. Photo by Sandra Valdez.

Renee Johansen and Mike Hudson both made a conscious choice to pursue their postgraduate degrees with the University’s School of Biological Sciences – and it’s a choice that has paid off.

They graduate on Tuesday 26 September and are already working in their respective fields.

Mike says he was drawn to the School of Biological Sciences based on the reputation of his supervisor and the opportunities he would have for working abroad.

Now employed as a senior technical advisor, environmental, for Maritime New Zealand in Wellington, he believes that following his passion has contributed to finding his new job so quickly.

“By focusing on my research, and following others’ advice to stay engaged through the ups and downs of the learning experience, I feel the PhD adds a level of credibility to the work I do and likely helped my candidacy for the job.”

During his time with the school he felt very well supported at every level – “from the excellent supervision, equipment and support staff, through to job-seeking assistance.”

Renee says she enjoyed tremendous research support and freedom while she was studying with the School of Biological Sciences. It meant she was able to be based at Landcare Research, and also spent around 18 months offshore at Duke University in the USA.

“It would have been impossible to complete my project without the resources of all three institutions and my research experience was much richer for the international collaborations that developed,” she says.

“The school also continued to support me when my project changed direction mid-stream due to methodological difficulties and I will be forever grateful for this.”

Now working 11,000km away, at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the USA, Renee says her research career is exciting, and it’s a privilege to contribute new knowledge to the world.

“I was fortunate because I was encouraged to add an international component to my postgraduate studies and to undertake projects that would be publishable.

“I would not have gotten the opportunity I am currently enjoying if I had not had papers published and in submission at the time of application. That was well understood by my supervisors and mentors, who pushed me to take my work as far as I could, and to aim for results which would be publishable.”

 The School of Biological Sciences congratulates their 2017 undergraduate and postgraduate students who will have their hard-earned degrees conferred next week. With 160 graduands either attending or receiving their qualifications in absentia, the school can be justifiably proud of the quality of its graduating cohort and their achievements to date.

”We are delighted to see our PhD students graduate, confident that they are well equipped to contribute immediately to national and international research programs. We wish them the very best for their future scientific careers,” says Professor Eileen McLaughlin, head of school.

Eleven of the PhD students will receive their doctorates and join the ranks of the school’s highly accomplished alumni. They represent the next generation of biological researchers, who are important for the future prosperity of New Zealand. The diversity of their research demonstrates the depth and breadth of expertise within the school and highlights the hard work of the doctoral graduands and the academic staff who have provided support and encouragement.  

School of Biological Sciences 2017 doctoral graduands

Natali Delorme Juri: Thermal biology of the New Zealand sea urchin: Evechinus chloroticus
Supervisor: Professor Mary Sewell

Michael Hudson: Sperm performance and fertilisation in the sea urchin Evechinus chloroticus under increasing pCO2.
Supervisor: Professor Mary Sewell

Ho Yeung: Snakin-1: A case study in racemic protein crystallography
Supervisor: Distinguished Professor Margaret Brimble

Craig Simpkins: Assessing landscape connectivity estimation techniques using a virtual ecology approach
Supervisor: Professor George Perry

Erin Kennedy: A spatio-temporal approach for exploring human-wildlife conflict using the kea (Nestor notabilis) as a case study
Supervisor: Professor George Perry

Renee Johansen: Hidden complexity: Exploring the biogeography of dune grass root fungi with next generation sequencing
Supervisor: Dr Bruce Burns

Mahjoub Ejmal: Can mycoviruses be used as biological control agents against Aspergillus?
Supervisor: Professor Mike Pearson

Jully Lopes Pinheiro: Investigating the role of the NlpC/P60 cysteine peptidases in Trichomonas vaginalis
Supervisor: Dr Augusto Simoes-Barbosa

Francesca Casu: The effect of linoleic acid on Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Supervisor: Dr Silas Villas-Bôas

Lutz Hampe: Investigation into the assembly of adiponectin as a target for countering obesity related diseases
Supervisor: Associate Professor Alok Mitra

Chen Wu: Reproductive genomics in the stick insect Clitarchus hookeri
Supervisor: Associate Professor Thomas Buckley