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Student story

Michael Weusten

02 August 2023

Ngāti Porou

"I’ll be able to help countless others by entering the pharmaceutical industry..."


(Ngāti Porou)

Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Mathematics

Bachelor of Science with Honours in Biochemistry

Studying towards a PhD in Biochemistry

After first attending UC through a Mathematics STAR course for advanced high school students, UC was Michael’s first choice for further studies.

"The first University course I attended was MATH 199, an advanced course that high school students with high maths scores could attend. It was an excellent course and a pleasant experience and I wanted to continue studying here," he says.

While Michael always intended to major in Mathematics, Biochemistry was a surprise choice that ended up becoming his main focus.

"Before I entered university, I did not have a clear idea of what I wanted to do in the future. This changed the day I attended one of the university open days involving the Biological Sciences Department. During the open day, there was a series of presentations from PhD students about what they were doing.

"The one I can still remember now was a presentation about extracting various biological compounds from native sponges, to identify specific compounds with potential use in pharmaceuticals, and finding ways to make them. This helped me decide that I wanted to enter the pharmaceutical industry, in either drug design or drug evaluation and steered me toward Biochemistry."

Michael’s PhD research investigates and experiments with enzymes in a PC2 lab, which means getting the opportunity to wear the "classic white lab coat and safety glasses".

"My PhD involves work with a specific enzyme from a few different bacterial species: 3-deoxy-D-manno-octulosonate 8-phosphate synthase (also known as KDO8PS). Some days, I’m growing up 1 L cultures of E.coli, other days I’m splitting them open and separating out the KDO8PS from the other cell contents, and some other days I’m investigating what those KDO8PS enzymes can do."

With a strong interest in anime and manga, Michael also took a course in Japanese language during his first years of PhD study. Since joining the AnimeSoc club when first attending UC, Michael has become the current President and keeps the social club active.

However he has made sure to balance social activities and research and was granted the Ngāta Centenary Doctoral Scholarship for being an exceptional Māori student in his studies, which also led to a presentation at the UC Māori Postgraduate Symposium.

Needless to say, Michael is very enthusiastic about how his research can benefit the industry and could lead to an exciting career.

"I enjoy the fact that I’m going to become a beneficial part of society, and I’ll be able to help countless others by entering the pharmaceutical industry to aid in designing new drugs," he says.

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