'I have a unique opportunity to liaise between scientists and those working in procurement and management...'
Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Mathematics
Master of Engineering in Management
Science Support Coordinator, Institute of Environmental Science and Research
It was while studying her first-year science courses that Alison realised she would like to work in the healthcare industry.
‘I took a range of courses in first year, from Physics to Biology,’ she explains. ‘What really stood out for me in each of them was how that knowledge could be used to help people. I would love to work in medicine in some way, whether it’s through the relatively new area of mathematical physiology modelling human organ systems, or in an area such as inorganic chemistry.’
Alison says that a science degree was always the natural choice for her, but choosing an area to specialise in was the difficult part. When she was choosing what university to go to, one thing that stood out at UC was the opportunity to take a range of papers in the first year.
‘This really allows you to get a good idea of each subject before you start specialising. It’s also a good chance to try something new and find out where your study can lead.’
She adds: ‘I love the diversity of the field of science and the opportunity to continue to learn and grow in it.’
Moving to Christchurch from Marlborough was quite a step for Alison, but through various opportunities offered by the University she was confident it would work out.
She was awarded a UC Emerging Leaders’ scholarship, which included a special development programme.
‘It made the transition to university easy,’ she says. ‘Before lectures had even started I already had this group of people I knew. Then the ongoing development programme provided me with other opportunities throughout the year to get involved in university life, through helping with events such as “The Concert”, and through mentoring. Staying in Rochester and Rutherford hall of residence was also something I was really excited about coming here for.’
Alison continued to immerse herself in a lot of activities during her studies, including being a Mentor and Tutor, and being a part of the executive committees for BioSoc and the Student Volunteer Army. Alison organised several major events for the SVA, including introducing the SVA Camp.
After completing her Science degree, Alison next took up the Master of Engineering in Management (MEM) as a means to apply her scientific expertise into business opportunities. For her final project, Alison completed research through the Medical Physics and Bioengineering departments at Christchurch Hospital on commercialisation of medical devices and services.
‘The MEM was a challenge, but one which I learnt a lot from,’ she says. ‘That extra year was extremely valuable and I believe it has helped me in terms of my broader understanding of how organisations work and how my own background fits in with that. It opened up a lot of opportunities, including at my current job.’
Shortly after finishing the MEM, Alison started working for the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), which offers solutions such as lab testing and data analysis for a variety of organisations and government.
‘What I love is that I can use the knowledge I gained from my undergraduate degree – particularly in biochemistry – together with the lessons learnt from MEM. I also found other experiences from club involvement helped significantly: communicating with sponsors, running major events, needing to prioritise quickly, the long term planning and working on contracts all transferred well into work.
‘I have a unique opportunity to liaise between the scientists and those working in finance, legal, procurement and management teams among many others. Whether working on a bid, putting together a contract or helping to coordinate events, every day is different so it’s a pretty exciting place to work.’
Combining her science and business backgrounds is her ultimate career goal, due to the growing need for people with knowledge in both industries.
‘There are some real challenges in bridging the gap between more scientific or technical areas and business. I am looking into the areas of operations management and public health as where I want to be heading in the next few years.
‘I enjoy the complexity of those, the challenge that comes with understanding the systems you’re working in and then seeking to improve them. Medical technologies are also on the rise and after doing my master’s project that has become another area I would love to get involved in.’