Therese Featherston

Age: 19


What are you studying?

2nd year BSc majoring in Biomedical Sciences


At what university are you studying? 

University of Auckland


When were you at the GMRI?

I am currently working at the GMRI as a student for the summer of 2016/17.  I have previously completed another summer studentship at the GMRI in 2015/16, and I also undertook a research project at the GMRI in the summer of 2013/14 towards my two-year International Baccalaureate diploma, as a Year 12 student.


What are your career aspirations? 

I am currently completing my undergraduate degree, then I plan to complete further research through post-graduate study and then possibly go on to do post-graduate medicine.


Why did you decide to do a studentship at the GMRI?

I find the work they do here so intriguing and exciting. There aren’t many opportunities out there for undergraduate students to be doing this kind of research.  I have a passion for biomedical science and enjoy the hands-on work I am exposed to at the GMRI.


What research were you involved in during your studentship at the GMRI?

Last summer, I looked into the renin-angiotensin system being expressed within cancer stem cells of buccal mucosal squamous cell carcinoma.  This summer, I am looking at oral tongue squamous cell carcinoma, and am specifically looking at the expression within the cancer of different cathepsins that are involved in the renin-angiotensin system.


What’s the most important thing you have learned while you were at the GMRI?

I have learnt to look at science with an open mind.  A lot of science is taught these days as if it is set in stone – what the GMRI demonstrates is that science is a continuously changing subject that requires people to think critically about everything.  It has challenged me to think outside the “norm” when it comes to science research, which was difficult to begin with but I am slowly becoming accustomed to it.


What’s the thing you liked most about your studentship at the GMRI?

I personally enjoy the people that work here and the opportunities they all provide for me.  Everyone works as a cohesive team and all the research completed here is never done solo.  The support around the place is incredible and provides such a great environment for research.


What’s the most exciting thing you have done/been involved with during your studentship?

The most exciting thing to come out of all of this is getting two papers published in a scientific journal.  It is not very common for undergraduate students to have this opportunity, let alone being first or second author! I felt very proud and privileged when the papers were first published.


Would you recommend the studentship at the GMRI to other students? If so, why?

Absolutely! It is such a unique and generous opportunity that you won’t find in many other places.  The awesome thing about here is that all the students are treated as if they are part of the team, not just students.  You really do get a taste of what research is all about, how difficult but also rewarding it can be.


What has your practical experience at the GMRI taught you that university can’t, or hasn’t?

You don’t get exposed to much practical work as a university student when it comes to labs, so being thrown into the lab, and doing mostly everything by ourselves, is unusual.  It has taught me how to critically analyse data and how to interpret it all so that it makes sense.


Do you think the studentship at the GMRI will help your career development?

Most definitely, if anything it has made me want to do research even more than I did before. The studentship has opened me up to many more opportunities and has exposed me to what research is really like.  Having this kind of experience under my belt as an undergraduate student will be extremely beneficial when it comes to post-graduate study and future careers.


What stood out during your studentship at the GMRI?

The thing that stood out to me the most during this experience was how significant the research that is being carried out at the GMRI is. Hearing of the progress that the GMRI has made in such little time and the effectiveness of it all is inspiring, and hopefully I will be able to take part again in some work in the future to help them along this journey.



The winners of the NIWA Wellington Science Fair

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