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More doctoral students spend time in the workplace


More doctoral students spend time in the workplace

Battling rheumatic fever and improving a couple’s chances of having a baby using IVF are two of the areas PhD students have explored while on a new internship scheme.

A pilot internship programme run by the University of Auckland is placing PhD students with employers with mutual research interests. This is the first time the University has arranged internships for students at PhD level.

For embryology scientist Elizabeth Hammond, a three month internship at Fertility Associates was a chance to shadow clinical embryologists and learn about technical IVF procedures.

Elizabeth’s research is based in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Specifically she is investigating how best to select an embryo for transfer to the uterus, so the patient has the best chance of having a baby, supervised by Dr Lynsey Cree.

“Being closely related to my PhD, the internship added real world skills to a solid base of theory and research,” she said.

“This practical experience helped me to understand the wider context of my PhD research, exposing new areas of importance. Throughout the internship I was also able to contribute to the organisation by using analytical skills gained through my PhD.”

Another PhD student has just returned from the ‘front line’ of battling rheumatic fever and skin infections in Auckland schools.

Catherine Tsai was placed with the Mana Kidz Programme - a school clinic-based public health project, which aims to reduce rheumatic fever rates in the South Auckland region.

“I was stunned at how prevalent these infections are in the population, and the difficulties of combatting them in the needed area. The internship gave me extra motivation and valuable experience for doing my research. Being able to work not in the lab but at the ‘front line’ instead also gives me the chance to think outside the box,” Catherine says.

Originally from Taiwan and now living in Mt Eden, Catherine has been studying the virulence factor of group A streptococcus, the pathogen that causes throat and skin infections commonly seen in disadvantaged populations, under the supervision of Associate Professor Thomas Proft in the Infection and Immunity Lab in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.

While on her placement Catherine conducted a review of the antibiotic dispensing pattern and overall usage. She also spent time in schools in Papakura, Otara and Mangere where she helped with the daily clinic work such as throat swabbing, skin infection assessment and health education.

Her findings could help relieve a concern that programmes such as Mana Kidz could lead to overuse of antibiotics in the population. Catherine plans to submit a paper she has written as a result of her placement to New Zealand Medical Journals with her internship supervisor Dr Philippa Anderson.

Catherine Stephens, Manager of the University’s Career Development and Employment Services (CDES), said the internships are an opportunity for PhD candidates to explore the linkages between their studies and the world of work.

“It allows PhD students to develop the soft skills all employers are looking for and showcases the contribution PhD candidates can make to employers,” she says.


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