'I chose UC because of my supervisory team. The quality of their research is outstanding...'
Studying towards a PhD in Ecology
During her undergraduate studies in Córdoba, Argentina, Lupe became particularly interested in parasitoid insects and, knowing that she wanted a career as a research scientist, she decided to make these the focus of a PhD in Ecology at UC.
‘Parasitoids are insects that attack herbivore pests such as larvae, and are one of the most important biological control agents,’ she explains. ‘This means that they help us keeping under control pests which otherwise would eat a lot of our crops. By ‘using’ them to prevent pests eating our crops we can reduce the amount of pesticides we use, which sooner or later get into the food and water we consume.
‘These peculiar creatures are spread all over the globe, and are far more abundant than any big charismatic animal, but because of their size they have been studied less.’
Lupe was drawn to ecology because she is fascinated by the way organisms interact, and she is keen to conduct research which could help our understanding about the effects that human activities can have on the world’s delicate ecosystems.
‘I like testing hypotheses and trying to understand how is it that the natural world goes around,’ she says. ‘What I like about ecology, and particularly community ecology, is the understanding of the whole, rather than just smaller parts of it.’
On a practical level, Lupe is enjoying the various stages of her PhD.
‘My work is quite dynamic. I almost never do the same thing twice, and that’s what makes it exciting. Every day has a new challenge that requires imaginative strategies in order to solve problems. When I started my PhD I did fieldwork, collected insects in different habitats and identified them in the lab. Now my work consists of looking for patterns among the data I collected.’
Lupe has found UC to be the ideal place for her to become a specialist in her chosen subject, and to spend a few years living overseas.
‘I chose UC because of my supervisory team,’ she says. ‘The quality of their research is outstanding. I also think they are used to receiving foreign students – they knew how to support me on this experience far away from home, and of course, in a non-native language.
‘I like how multicultural the University is. It’s very interesting and enriching to meet people from all over the globe with different perspectives and understandings of science and life.’
And Lupe has had no problems adapting to life in New Zealand.
‘I really like it here. I enjoy outdoor activities very much, and New Zealand is an excellent place for that. I also like reading novels, going to the beach and having dinner with friends. Of course I miss things from home, but the environment here at uni, and in New Zealand in general, is quite comfortable. People are usually very helpful and friendly, which makes it easy to settle in.’