A summer of science spent at Scion

20 February 2019

It’s been a busy summer of science for seven Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology (Toi Ohomai) students, who have completed internships at Scion.

The students have been working on a range of projects including microplastic pollution, biobased batteries (microbial fuel cell), tissue culture, wood plastic composites, and forestry management (or precision forestry) in Eucalyptus. And they’ve each had a taste of one of many career paths available to them.

Broadening horizons

When talking with the students it was obvious there were common themes in their experiences.

Anita Lewis, who worked on a microplastics project with Scion researcher Jamie Bridson and Meeta Patel, hadn’t considered that research was a way for her to work on her passion for the environment and sustainability.

“I believe in finding solutions and both positive outcomes for both industry and the environment.

“This internship has definitely broadened my horizons and scope on the endless possibilities my qualification holds. I have come to realise that I can make an environmental contribution through a research pathway.”

>Inekah Latoja also found herself doing things she’d never thought she could do, like soldering or fixing reactors.

“The internship has provided me with an insight that I can further expand my skills and knowledge and pursue a different path that I was passionate about,” she says. 

Arpit Puri says: “[The internship] made me fall in love with the research field. There is so much to explore and you’re always looking to find something new or better as a way of improving things.”

Careers that connect with nature and sustainability

The opportunity to work on issues that focus on sustainability, environmental conservation and have a large outdoors component proved to be a highlight.

“One of my highlights is the importance of the project I am working on, as microplastic pollution is an ever-increasing global issue,” says Anita.

Mawaddah Badrul Azmi worked with geneticist Cathy Reeves on somatic embryogenesis (the process when a plant or embryo is grown from a single somatic cell). She says she particularly enjoyed working with trees and is looking forward to doing more. 

“I’m mostly working with the cones, and seeds, it’s the early stage of the growing process of a tree. As the growth process goes on, the cell is lined and then it grows a baby plant. It is just fascinating work.” 

Arpit Puri worked on a project to make wood plastic composites (using biopolymers like corn-based plastic PLA). The project focused on the adhesive properties of PLA with various wood veneers like Birch, spruce and radiata pine, to make 100% sustainable wood products. 

He says it was really exciting to work at Scion.

“I was part of developing a product that could help the industry as well as can provide great benefits in terms of safe guarding the environment. This keeps you motivated to try new things until you get the desired results.”

Meanwhile Manasvi Singh and Ian Legge enjoyed the variety and fieldwork elements of their project measuring variation between sites on the productivity of two eucalyptus species.

Manasvi says the work also helped to keep him healthy and active.

“I’ve always had interest in working near the nature and here I am working in the forest.”

After the summer

As the sun sets on summer and students go back to school or begin their post-graduation job hunting, they reflect on their experience and Scion.

Arpit says: “It is lovely place to work. This place makes you feel like you are working with the people, not for the people. That is a great feeling to have.”

Chair of Sustainable Forestry at Toi Ohomai and Scion, Professor Tim Payn organised the internships and was able to offer twice as many students places this summer than the previous year because of the benefits to all involved. “These internships a palpable way for the scientific community to share their knowledge and inspire the next generation of STEM [science, technology, engineering, maths] workers.” 

These internships were made possible through a partnership between Toi Ohomai and Scion, the two biggest education and science providers in the Bay of Plenty.

For more information contact Professor Tim Payn tim.payn@scionresearch.com

Warren Grigsby & Arpit Puri

Warren Grigsby & Arpit Puri

Gerty Gielen & Inekah Latoja

Gerty Gielen & Inekah Latoja

Catherine Reeves & Mawaddah Azmi

Catherine Reeves & Mawaddah Azmi

 Dean Meason, Ian Legge & Manasvi Singh

Ian Legge, Dean Meason & Manasvi Singh

Meeta Patel, Jamie Bridson & Anita Lewis

Meeta Patel, Jamie Bridson & Anita Lewis