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Student story

Aaron Millar

20 July 2023

"You can experience field work, lab work, and technical work in a whole variety of different areas..."


Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Political Science and International Relations, and a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences

Studying towards a Master of Science in Biological Sciences



Why have you chosen to pursue Biology?

I have been passionate about ecology and the natural world since a young age. As a child, I thought the natural world offers us so much to learn and discover, and passion I have carried through as an adult. But we also engage with the natural world in so many ways; in business, agriculture, forestry, and recreation. 

I studied at UC to follow my interests, and then to gain the skills and qualifications to do valuable work with people and environment.

What drew you to study at UC?

It was in the same city as me, and had a good reputation. In undergraduate, to be honest, I didn’t think too hard about it. But the experiences I had then, the connections I made, and the quality researchers I saw encouraged me to actively choose UC for postgraduate study. The staff are fantastic, with plenty of people willing to go above and beyond to help students succeed. It makes the experience much more worthwhile.

So what kind of experiences did you have?

I have done field trips over the course of Biology study, summer courses, and did a summer scholarship. Doing a summer scholarship helped me evaluate whether postgraduate study was right for me, and gave me the connections I needed to hit the ground running.

I was also part of clubs throughout university. Being involved in clubs allowed me to make new friends, feel at home at UC, and make some of my best university memories.

Tell us more about your postgraduate study.

I work with invasive plants, investigating what makes some introduced species such a big problem in New Zealand. My research focuses on monkeyflower, Erythranthe guttata, a famous model species for scientific studies and pest plant in New Zealand.

What’s the most interesting part about your research?

I find it interesting to learn practical scientific skills while getting to stretch myself academically. Studying a master’s encourages me to push myself and excel. Working in Biology specifically gives me the opportunity to get stuck in with all sorts of practical and academic challenges. I can do outdoor work locally or go on research excursions, and then bring my findings back to the University to research or work on in labs. That flexibility keeps the experience fresh and engaging, and lets me experience in as wide a range of things as I want, which is very fulfilling.

How do you recommend other Biology students choose their specific field? 

Studying biology covers a wider range of areas than many other subjects, so use that opportunity to investigate what works for you. You can experience field work, lab work, and technical work in a whole variety of different areas, and figure out exactly where your interests lie. 

Where would you like your degree to take you?

I would like to use my skills to help people work with New Zealand’s environment, such as in a government or consulting sphere.

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