General news

2016 Sir Theodore Rigg Scholar, Cicely Barron
23 December 2016

Cawthron is in her blood says 2016 Cawthron Scholar

Cawthron’s 2016 Sir Theodore Rigg Scholar, Cicely Barron, grew up in Nelson and attended Nelson College for Girls. She has been enthused by the Cawthron Institute from a young age, competing in the local Cawthron Science and Technology Fair, and visiting Cawthron facilities as part of her NCEA Biology course.

Cicely is working alongside Dr Mike Packer and the rest of the Aquaculture group, looking at microbial fuel cells driven by algae and cyanobacteria.

These devices, developed at Cawthron, are an easily constructed, cost-effective photosynthetic microbial fuel cell design with highly reproducible electrochemical characteristics that can be used to screen algae and cyanobacteria for photosynthetic electrogenic activity. They are being trialled in this project for their use to drive the production of high value product.

Dr Packer explaining the inner workings of a fuel cell at the 2015 Cawthron Open Day

2016 was Cicely’s final year of a Biochemistry degree at Otago University. Next year she hopes to complete postgraduate study, but is still in the process of deciding in what area this will be.

She says “I look forward to gaining more of an idea after this studentship finishes. The ten weeks that I am spending at Cawthron is a great opportunity to be in a real work environment, working amongst scientists. I am perfecting my practical lab skills like media making, algal culturing, chemical extraction and analysis of extracts from the algae. It is fantastic to be able to put into practice, skills I have learnt at University”.

A highlight for Cicely is being able to work with world-class scientists. She had read about Dr Packer’s work in the field of algal biology and is intrigued by the high-value products such as bioactives that are being produced.

Nelson is an important hub for aquaculture research and industry development and Cicely says that her time at Cawthron “provides a great opportunity for innovation, working closely with the aquaculture industry in the region.”

Watch more videos from Cawthron on Vimeo

Cicely says “it is great to be back in the sunny top of the south region, after a whole freezing year down south. I always look forward to coming back to Nelson and becoming reacquainted with all that is on offer. I enjoy spending time with friends and family, reading, drawing and the outdoors. We are so lucky to have three National Parks on our doorstep.”

Cicely is one of two New Zealand university students who have been awarded prestigious scholarships from the Cawthron Foundation to undertake research at the Cawthron Institute this summer. The other 2016 scholarship recipient is Grace Newson, who is studying at Victoria University.

Chairperson of the Cawthron Foundation, Dr Morgan Williams, says “it is important for our young emerging researchers to gain experience with practicing scientists and the summer scholarships are a way to achieve this”.

“The scholarships are specifically designed to provide a balance of hands-on learning experiences and scientific excellence. While at Cawthron, students will undertake fieldwork, analysis techniques and learn what it means to work as a professional scientist”.

The scholarships are named after agricultural chemist Sir Theodore Rigg and mycologist Kathleen Curtis – two highly-regarded scientists who contributed a remarkable amount to both Cawthron Institute and New Zealand. Coincidentally, they both relied heavily on scholarships early in their careers.

The Cawthron Foundation supports research developed at Cawthron Institute. It raises donations, bequests and endowments towards public-good science and scholarships.

For more information 
Contact Elizabeth Bean or go the Foundation page.