University of Otago, New Zealand

Chemistry

Te Tari Hua-Ruanuku

PhD Graduate Profiles

Kitty Lee

PhD in Chemistry
Chemist, Fonterra

For me, the greatest appeal of chemistry comes from the sheer scope of the subject - you get the feeling you would never get painted into a corner.  And so far, my career has been proof of this.

My PhD was in the field of nanotechnology, and involved combining metals and organic compounds to encourage materials to take on different properties, such as unusual magnetic or conducting behaviours.  Ultimately, this process can be used to invent new materials.

I then worked as a research chemist, looking into techniques for breaking down pesticides in the environment, and investigating how sugars can change the taste and colour of beer.

My next job was as a chemistry lecturer, and now I’m employed at the dairy mega-firm Fonterra.  In our lab, hundreds of people carry out thousands of tests daily, checking things like the fat content in cheese and the vitamins in baby food.  My role is as an all-round troubleshooter, ensuring the lab runs smoothly and sorting out problems as they arise.

Part of my job also involves talking to our international clients about their needs, and I’m enjoying the opportunity to look at issues from a big picture, real world perspective.  That’s the thing about chemistry — you never know where you’ll end up!

Rob Kelly

PhD in Chemistry
Research manager, Keratec Limited, Lincoln

Keratec is a biotechnology company creating new materials from natural sources using advanced and innovative technologies.  I lead the protein chemistry team and drive the company's research programmes.  I am involved in business development through the building of commercial–scientific relationships. 

I have been pleased, and was initially surprised, to find my training in fundamental science has opened opportunities in applied areas such as agriculture and forestry, vital to the New Zealand economy as well as the basic research often performed in an academic environment.

My chemistry background has given me a good understanding of many fundamental processes as well as a range of analysis and problem solving skills which I think employers in and outside science find attractive.

 

Rachel Fanshawe

PhD in Chemistry
Technical officer, Fonterra

When I arrived in Dunedin as a first year student, I really had no idea what my future might hold.  I started off by taking a range of science papers, but pretty soon I decided to concentrate on chemistry.  It’s such a broad reaching discipline, and can open doors into so many areas.

My PhD was in inorganic chemistry, where I designed and made artificial enzymes which can be used to “cut up” DNA.  It sounds obscure, I know, but it was actually really fascinating, and challenged a lot of the current thinking on this subject. 

In my job now, I’m working in a totally different area of chemistry — developing milk products for the international market.

I certainly didn’t have any trouble getting work — a PhD in chemistry from Otago is an extremely well respected qualification.  And there seems to be a demand for trained chemists in a number of industries.  Chemistry is everywhere, and a lot of people don’t realize that.

Greg Lynch

PhD in Chemistry
Patent attorney and partner, Baldwins, Wellington

My job is very much a mix of Law and Science.  More than half of New Zealand patents and patent applications contain chemistry subject matter.  The bulk of the patents that I deal with relate to pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals and animal health remedies.  A strong chemistry background is essential in understanding the technical matters, and over the last few years, I have learned of the legal issues relevant to patents, registered designs, copyright and other forms of intellectual property.  My former role as a Research Chemist continues to be important in understanding the needs and concerns of clients when obtaining patent protection for their important research results.