University of Waikato Biological Sciences student Sarah Appleby has won a C. Alma Baker Postgraduate Scholarship for her agriculture-focused masters research project.
Bovine embryonic stem cell research
The Massey University scholarship, worth $13,000, will go towards Sarah’s research into bovine embryonic stem cells.
“I’m working with Dr Bjorn Oback at AgResearch on bovine embryonic stem cells and testing their functional potential. Embryonic stem cells have really only been fully isolated from mice and rats, however the group at AgResearch (Ruakura) have developed a method that isolates cells from cows that have very similar properties to the mice embryonic stem cells. Tests have already shown that the cells perform well in the lab, so my work will be focused on seeing if they improve cloning efficiency,” says Sarah.
“The aim of this work is to improve our understanding of bovine embryonic stem cells for their use in accelerated animal breeding and biomedical applications. If we can effectively capture the best traits using embryonic stem cells we could develop better biotechnology-based breeding systems to have animals that are more efficient and sustainable to farm.”
Hands-on work placements
The former Whangamata Area School student completed a Bachelor of Science (Technology) at Waikato University and is half way through a Master of Science majoring in Biological Sciences, with an emphasis on physiology and genetics.
This is not the first time that Sarah has worked with Dr Oback. During a BSc(Tech) work placement, she spent three months at AgResearch (Ruakura), on a bovine karyotyping project. During another placement, Sarah also spent seven months at AgResearch (Invermay), working under Dr Jenny Juengel on a number of projects related to sheep fertility and reproduction.
“I absolutely loved being part of those teams and getting some hands on lab experience, especially in the IVF field.”
Sarah heard about the BSc(Tech) degree while at school. “Nowhere else offered a degree like it, so I chose to come to Waikato. I really liked the idea of the placements, which sounded like the perfect way to get real world experience while completing my degree.”
In addition to the C. Alma Baker Postgraduate Scholarship, Sarah was also the recipient of a University of Waikato Taught Postgraduate Fees Scholarship this year. During her undergraduate degree she received the Anne Shannon Undergraduate Scholarship and the David Johnstone Charitable Trust Scholarship, alongside a number of other awards for academic excellence.