Every year, the Foundation is proud to support the summer studentship programmes of the University of Otago, Christchurch and the University of Canterbury. These $5,000 scholarships allow students to take a first up and close look at the ins and outs of a research project, under the supervision of senior, established career researchers. Below are this year’s students from the University of Canterbury and their respective projects.

Joshua Roberts – Determining optimal treatment for PCOS using crowd sourced data. Supervisor: Paul Docherty

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder which affects up to 15% of women of reproductive age. Surprisingly little is known about the causes of PCOS, however, recent research indicates that it may have subtypes with slightly differing hormonal dysfunctions. These dysfunctions lead to complications in both the reproductive and metabolic systems. Throughout this project I am hoping to better understand the different phenotypes of PCOS and their causes. I aim to model the hormones affected by PCOS, with a particular interest in any possible distinctions between subtypes. A better understanding in this area may prove to be crucial in improving the diagnosis and treatment of the disorder.

Jennifer Naughton – Understanding p16 protein fibril formation in cancer. Supervisor: Vanessa Morris

My name is Jenny Naughton and I have just finished the third year of my undergraduate degree, in which I majored predominantly in biochemistry and biological sciences. During my most recent, and incidentally last, semester, I was involved in a short research project for one of my courses involving the p16 protein that not only introduced me to multiple new techniques, but also piqued my interest regarding this protein. I have always been particularly interested in the potential medical applications research can yield, hence the appeal of p16 due to its role as a tumour suppressor protein. The p16 protein is often mutated to enable tumorigenesis, and this project will investigate some of these mutations to determine if they confirm a hypothesis, which states that they will increase the rate of amyloid fibril formation. Therefore, the results of this project will provide information on the factors of p16 amyloid formation. I am excited to work on this project as it is an intriguing topic linked to the much broader and increasingly severe worldwide problem of cancer, and also provides an amazing opportunity to spend time in the lab and learn from many experienced people.


Cameron Woods: Integration of Sensor, Electronics, and Encapsulation for Diagnostic, Implantable Spinal Fusion Sensor System. Supervisor: Deborah Munro

I have chosen to take part in a research project in order to learn more about various sensors and the integration of them into one complete system. I am excited to work with a team on a device that will enable faster recovery times for patients following spinal fusion surgery. The overall project is based on Debbie’s wireless, implantable sensor for monitoring the progress of spinal fusion. My part of the overall project is to integrate the sensor, housing and wireless communication and power systems together. These components have been developed independently so it will be my job to figure out the best way to integrate them together. I hope to learn more about system integration and to further my knowledge of electronic systems through this project.

Tessa Hiscox – Engineering of new endolysins for treating bacterial infections. Supervisor: Ren Dobson

I have chosen to pursue research this summer as I really enjoy learning new practical skills in the lab which unfortunately were cancelled at times this year in undergraduate courses. Furthermore, meeting new people and becoming familiar with new concepts that can assist me in a research career is an amazing way to spend the summer! I am particularly excited about contributing to an emerging field which may help to solve the consequential emergence of widespread antibiotic resistance. In my project, I am investigating modified endolysins, or viral proteins which attack bacterial cell membranes, as an alternative to antibiotics in treating infection. From this research I hope to learn many lab techniques, how to work independently and summarise novel information. I also hope to further my antibiotic resistance research interests by understanding how these proteins may contribute to improving health outcomes in Canterbury and beyond. 

William Clark – Development of objective measures of supraglottic constriction. Supervisor: Phoebe Macrae

I got into doing research due to my love of learning. I enjoy being given information and gaining understanding of it and then applying it to new scenarios. I am passionate about discovering and doing new things in engineering. Doing research gives me the ability to be at the front of what is new in engineering and science. I am excited about my project due to how this type of work has not really been done before and I get to be the guy that starts it. I am also excited about learning about the topics involved in the project. The project involves creating and developing a program which takes in photos or videos of the area above your vocal folds and then outputs an objective measurement of the tension in this area during speech. This mostly involves using computer vision methods to do this calculation as well as programming a graphical user interface so that anyone could use this program. I mostly hope to learn more about computer vision from this project. I don’t have much experience in the field, and I am looking forward to learning about the topic and applying it to this context.

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