Chelsea Grant


Age: 22


What are you studying and what year?
I’ve finished a post-graduate Diploma in Biomedical Science at the University of Auckland, but am considering doing a Masters overseas in a few years.


At what university are you studying?
None currently. When I took up the summer studentship I had just completed a BMedSc degree at Victoria University.


When were you at the GMRI?
Summer of 2013/14.


What are your career aspirations?
I’m hoping to work in fertility, cancer or genetics, hopefully eventually in a company that deals directly with the public’s health and wellbeing.


Why did you decide to do a studentship at the GMRI?
I was fascinated by the novel research the team at the GMRI are carrying out. Their passion was infectious and I wanted to be a part of it!  Both the research and the Institute were interesting and ever-changing, and the opportunity to work with such a fantastic team was a huge drawcard.


What research were you involved in during your studentship at the GMRI?
I studied the cellular characteristics of keloid scar tissue, focussing particularly on primitive cell marker detection and collagen production in cells.


What’s the most important thing you have learned while you were at the GMRI?
The most important thing I learned was that science is not all about solo work. What makes the GMRI work so appealing is the fact that everyone works closely together. There are no secrets; every concept and thought is out in the open, with everyone working together towards a common goal. There was such a sense of community when I worked there. Even though I was a mere undergraduate student, some of the greatest scientists in the country genuinely valued my input, and spent a lot of time discussing concepts and ideas with me. The people at the GMRI are very passionate about helping the next generation of scientists reach their potential, and I really respected that.


What’s the thing you liked most about your studentship at the GMRI?
I really enjoyed working with the other summer students. Even though we each had our own projects, we had a fantastic sense of team spirit. We helped each other out a great deal in the laboratory, and it was very helpful to have other summer students to bounce ideas off and help work through the more difficult concepts. I also enjoyed the process of writing a draft paper (retrospectively). It was a huge learning curve for me, and it has really helped me in my post-graduate studies. Reading such a variety of research papers and learning to think critically really opened my eyes; the ability to analyse, critique, or admire research is a valuable skill to have gained.


What’s the most exciting thing you have done/been involved with during your studentship?
The discovery of primitive cell markers in keloid-associated lymphatic tissue was something that had never been found before. I was very excited that my research uncovered something novel that broadened our understanding of tumour growth and development.


Would you recommend the studentship at the GMRI to other students? If so, why?
I would absolutely recommend the summer scholarship to anyone considering applying. The team at the GMRI is so patient, kind, and considerate. As well as being outstanding scientists, they are wonderful, altruistic people with a keen desire to help the younger generation. The scholarship offers so many opportunities and opens so many doors. The work was challenging, but I was offered a great deal of support and guidance when I needed it.


What has your practical experience at the GMRI taught you that university can’t, or hasn’t?
The GMRI taught me how to really critically analyse a research paper, and then consider the wider implications of the paper. My later post-graduate research did touch further on this, but I found I was leaps and bounds ahead of the other students in my lectures because of my work at the GMRI.


How do you think the studentship at the GMRI will help your career development?
Working at the GMRI has given me the real-life experience that most people my age are lacking. Having worked with some of the best scientists in the country before even finishing university is an outstanding opportunity for any student, and I am so grateful that I was chosen as one of the lucky few. My treatment by the people at the GMRI has helped me understand the kind of workplace I’d like to be a part of; this scholarship taught me a great deal about both scientific research and interpersonal communication.


What have you achieved since you completed the studentship at the GMRI?
I have published a paper on my work on the expression of embryonic stem cell markers in keloid-associated lymphoid tissue in an international medical journal.