Ranui Baillie

Photo credit: Stephen A’Court. COPYRIGHT ©Stephen A’Court

Age: 26


What are you studying?
Final year Medicine.


At what university are you studying?
The University of Otago – Wellington Campus.


When were you at the GMRI?
I undertook research at the GMRI working towards a BMedSc(Hons) degree in 2014 and summer studentships in the summer of 2012/13 and 2014/15.


What are your career aspirations?
At the moment I am focussing on finishing medical school, but I have immensely enjoyed my surgical experiences, especially in plastic surgery, so this is something I would really like to pursue further.


Why did you decide to do a studentship at the GMRI?
I had always wanted to participate in some research prior to graduating from medical school, and a friend had highly recommended the summer studentship programme at the GMRI.


What research were you involved in during your studentship at the GMRI?
My project investigated the presence of cancer stem cells within tongue cancer. There is a theory that proposes that these cells are responsible for driving tumour development, and could provide a new treatment target for cancer. We used multiple techniques to identify marker proteins and genes within tongue cancer samples, and found that these cells do indeed exist. However, there is still a lot more work to be done on this.


What’s the most important thing you have learned while you were at the GMRI?
Patience and persistence! Experiments don’t always go to plan, so keeping the big picture in perspective is really important.


What’s the thing you liked most about your studentship at the GMRI?
I really enjoyed the collegiality amongst the students and working so closely with the more senior members of the team.


What’s the most exciting thing you have done/been involved with during your studentship?
Giving a presentation at an international Head and Neck Cancer conference in Darwin was a challenge for me, but also hugely rewarding. I was humbled to receive the top science prize for my presentation.


Would you recommend the studentship at the GMRI to other students? If so, why?
Yes, definitely, for science students who are interested in research, either as a career in itself or alongside a medical career. The GMRI provides really good practical experience of what working in an independent laboratory is like.


What has your practical experience at the GMRI taught you that university can’t, or hasn’t?
There really isn’t any basic research taught during medical school, so the GMRI provides a unique insight into what is involved in real-world science – everything from developing new ideas about pathogenesis of disease, to planning and executing research and developing scientific writing skills for publication.


Do you think the studentship at the GMRI will help your career development?
Absolutely. I think having an understanding of how research of this nature is carried out will be a huge advantage going forward, both for understanding basic science publications, as well as having some understanding of how to identify gaps in our knowledge and how these could be filled with research.


What stood out during your studentship at the GMRI?
I really enjoyed my time at the GMRI and gained a lot of transferable knowledge that I will take with me into my training and future career. The generosity of the Institute, and the immense opportunities provided for me, have stayed with me.


What have you achieved since you completed the studentship at the GMRI?
I have been awarded a BMedSc(Hons) degree by the University of Otago in 2015 and a paper on my work on the identification and characterisation of cancer stem cells in tongue cancer is being published in an international medical journal.



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