Lots to learn at MilkTestNZ for Waikato grad

13 October 2014

Courteney Nielsen

University of Waikato science graduate: Courteney Nielsen.

University of Waikato science graduate Courteney Nielsen is enjoying the ‘aha!’ moments, in her position as a Laboratory Technician at MilkTestNZ.

“I love being able to use my degree in a practical way and the times when a piece of information just clicks, which is usually because of something I learnt at uni,” says Courteney.

In the lab at MilkTestNZ

MilkTestNZ test farm supplier milk samples from across the country for both milk composition and microbial quality. Courteney works in a lab environment across a range of different tests and machines with a team of 15-20 technicians.

“The lab work involves sample sorting, component testing, BactoScan (a machine that provides a quick approximation of total bacterial count), plating and colony counting for specific organisms, and inhibitory substance testing. We are regularly rotated around the different roles in the laboratory and we are always learning new things, which means it’s always kept interesting and no two days are the same.”

Languages also a passion

Although science is the focus for her current job, Courteney also has a passion for languages and completed the Bachelor of Science majoring in Biotechnology as a conjoint degree with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in French, with supporting papers in Spanish.

“When I was in my final year at Cambridge High School, I wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted to do, but I really enjoyed both languages and science. I figured that if I studied what I enjoy, it would lead on to a career that I’d enjoy. I’m happy to say that the plan worked!”

Hands-on lab time a big help

Courteney says her Bachelor of Science gave her a good springboard to start from. “On-the-job training will always be necessary, but the practical training at university meant I was familiar with lab equipment, and the theory I learnt has helped me understand the reasons why we do what we do in the lab.”

As for the future, Courteney is happy to have found such a great role straight out of study. “The company have a clear progression up the levels of technician, so I will always be up-skilling while I’m at MilkTestNZ.”

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