Supporting New Zealand’s future scientists (2010)
The inaugural Future Science Day convened by the Maurice Wilkins Centre in 2010 provided advice, mentorship, networking, and science communication opportunities to 150 New Zealand postgraduate students and young scientists.
“The Maurice Wilkins Centre is committed to training New Zealand’s future leaders in biomedicine,” says Director Professor Rod Dunbar. “Future Science Day is an opportunity for some of our most experienced and successful investigators to share tips and pass the torch to the next generation.”
Professor Bill Wilson of the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre spoke about creating and sustaining successful research relationships, Professor Peter Hunter discussed productive interdisciplinary collaborations involving the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, and Dr Anthony Phillips described how to build connections between scientists and clinicians, based on his experience in The University of Auckland’s School of Biological Sciences and Department of Surgery.
The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman (pictured), spoke more broadly about changes in New Zealand science and its future. He highlighted the importance of science to the economy, and the value of bridging the boundaries between traditional scientific disciplines and between public and private sector science.
Young scientists learned about career prospects in New Zealand, with representatives from the public (Industrial Research Limited) and private sector (Douglas Pharmaceuticals and Androgenix Ltd), outlining their recruitment criteria. Professor Gillian Lewis from The University of Auckland offered insight into academic careers and Professor Margaret Brimble, chair of the Rutherford Foundation selection panel, spoke about fellowship opportunities.
“Through events like these we want to promote networking and interdisciplinary collaboration between young investigators, but we also need to encourage them to learn each other’s languages,” says Rod.
Students were therefore challenged to explain their research, in three minutes or less, with the mixed-discipline audience scoring their ability to communicate with non-specialists.
Thirty-one students took part, speaking on topics from immunology to medical imaging and drug design. First, second and third prizes went, respectively, to University of Auckland students Stefan Hermans and Kimiora Henare (Molecular Medicine and Pathology) and Lucia Tang (Biological Sciences).
The delegates also learnt about Maurice Wilkins Centre funding opportunities, including a new research seeding programme that allows emerging scientists to pilot ideas outside their main projects, fostering key skills such as scientific creativity and independent grant-writing.
Image: Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman speaks at the Maurice Wilkins Centre's Future Science Day.