Success builds a path to higher learning for new Institute Masters student

Kaore he aukati i a koe – “There is no stopping you” is the family proverb for Simone Frame, a new addition to the Riddet Institute team of Postgraduate researchers. Simone (Ngāti Kahungunu me Ngāti Maniapoto tona iwi) will begin work on her Master of Science research in 2021, funded through a scholarship by High Value Nutrition National Science Challenge. She is working on foods that have cultural significance for New Zealand, with pre-biotic characteristics that have the potential to tackle non communicable diseases. Her work will contribute to three HVN programmes, using in vitro digestion and fermentation to study food breakdown and health.

Simone grew up in rural Tararua near Weber, leaving school in Dannevirke to join the workforce and thinking tertiary study was not for her. Her interest in human anatomy and how things work led her back to study when she was searching for a more fulfilling career. Finding she felt quite at home with scientists, she decided to study applied sciences at UCOL in Palmerston North. This led to her passion for biological science.

At the start of her scientific career, Simone interned at Agresearch Grasslands, working within a forage science project investigating properties of endophytes (grass seed mixed with fungus) during her 2nd year of study. Her taste of commercial research and experience meant she was recommended for a final year project with Jane Mullaney, AgResearch scientist and Riddet Institute Associate Investigator. The project formed part of her degree and she joined the Institute in August 2020 for a four month stay. After Christmas, Simone turned her internship into a temporary position and then a master’s as funding became available, becoming a valued member of the research team.

“I realized from my experiences in the last year, that I really want to be in research science” says Simone. “I wasn’t sure where I fitted in. But I want to be developing the investigation – the methods that are being used. I like to learn and develop ideas.”

Simone will complete her masters by research over the next year, graduating in 2022. But she hasn’t ruled out continuing her educational journey and completing a PhD too. “I would love to do a PhD – I had zero intention of getting a degree when I first returned to study, but I am taking small steps, one at a time!” she says.

Simone has enjoyed her time within the new Te Ohu Rangahau Kai community of food researchers, spending time with the scientists from three organizations (AgReseach, Massey University and the Riddet Institute). She has taken time to consider a variety of scientific ideas and viewpoints, enjoyed the ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity within the group, and learnt different languages. In return, she has enjoyed sharing te reo Māori.  As she arrived, New Zealand’s Māori Language week was being celebrated and she was immediately drawn into the atmosphere of scientists learning te reo.

It seems that Simone has maximized the amount of activity she could squeeze into her time so far and has absorbed the experience. Learning about critical thinking and making independent research decisions, she is gaining a lot more confidence in herself and a sense of pride in her achievements.  She has helped to set up the new Te Ohu laboratories too. She also helped a recent group of Pūhoro STEM Academy interns, welcoming them and assisting them to make the most of their opportunity to learn.

Simone is the first to encourage anyone to take up science and wants to give back to those who have helped her along the way. She is taking part in a new advertising campaign for UCOL soon, featuring in a promotion. “I would like to eventually be a part of something that encourages people with similar backgrounds to me to get into science. Looking back to when I left high school, there was no way I would have pictured myself being capable of doing this. I am grateful to the people who made me feel I was in the right place. So much so that I would like to eventually have a career in which I can help Māori youth begin a career path in a scientific field, much like I feel Jane Mullaney has done for me. We are all people and in the same waka together. He waka eke noa.”

Simone working in the Te Ohu Rangahau Kai laboratories

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