Plant & Food Research Kicks Off 2020/21 Summer Studentship Programme

Expect bright, new faces at Plant & Food Research this summer. The organisation has welcomed their new cohort of 36 summer students, of whom 19 identify as Māori. They will spend the next three months learning and conducting their own project at nine sites across the country under the supervision and mentorship of both science and support staff.

“We’re really excited to have this fantastic group of talented students joining us. They’ve all been through the rigorous selection process to be here. We want to give them a head start in their science career or a career supporting science with this experience,” said Philippa Stevens, Group GM Science Services, Plant & Food Research.

“Over the years, many past students have continued to work or embark on their PhD or post-doc journey with us, and some have gone on to become very successful in their own area of expertise.”

The programme has also reached a milestone this year for having the most students identifying as Māori since its inception. In a pilot initiative called Māori Career Cohort, these students will be paired with Māori mentors within the organisation who will provide them with pastoral care, based on the tuakana/tēina mentoring model, and guidance to build intentional pathways for rangatahi into science.

“We’ve had a significant increase in both internal interest to host more Māori students and Māori relevant research projects because of the organisation’s continued efforts to align operations to our key strategies, such as TONO, and our Growing Futures commitment to invest in more Māori relevant research,” commented Stacey Whitiora, Group GM Māori, Plant & Food Research.

“The pilot initiative is designed to create a meaningful student experience where rangatahi Māori thrive in science and have pathways to high-value careers and to support the government’s Vision Mātauranga policy.”

The vast majority of the summer students are undergraduate or postgraduate students from New Zealand universities (with the exception of one recent high school graduate). These students major in a broad range of subjects, from biological sciences to construction engineering, from marketing to anthropology, and from finance to Māori & indigenous studies.

In addition to receiving leadership training and help with career planning, they are each assigned an individual project, some are science-based and some to support science. Topics include digital twin, understanding the impact on COVID-19 on horticulture, food, and seafood industries, taonga species, Māori economy, biosecurity, molecular & digital breeding and site engineering.