For self-confessed “study addict” Rebecca Gladstone-Gallagher, her graduation from the University of Waikato with a PhD in biology is another step in her study journey, and she has no plans to stop.
Rebecca is working as a postdoctoral researcher on the Tipping Points project, funded by the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge. The project aims to investigate how estuaries respond to multiple human induced stressors, such as sedimentation and nutrient run off, and whether these cause tipping points.
She has received numerous scholarships for her postgraduate research, including the Shirtcliffe Fellowship, the Waikato Graduate Women’s Charitable Trust Merit Award for Doctoral Study, the New Zealand Coastal Society PhD Scholarship, as well as a University of Waikato doctoral scholarship.
At Hamilton’s Sacred Heart Girls College, Rebecca considered a career as a vet, but she vetoed the idea as she was “too squeamish with blood”. She enrolled in the Bachelor of Science at the University of Waikato and credits the university’s broad and flexible degree with giving her exposure to a variety of disciplines.
During a summer research programme working with Professor Conrad Pilditch and NIWA marine ecologist Dr Carolyn Lundquist, Rebecca discovered marine ecology research. From then on she was determined to continue with it at postgraduate level, studying for a Master of Science in Biology specialising in soft-sediment ecology and, finally, a PhD.
Rebecca’s thesis ‘Cross-boundary detrital subsidies: Detrital export and efforts on receiving intertidal soft sediment ecosystems’ was submitted last year and has already resulted in three papers published in international journals.
She says working towards a PhD was tough at times, but getting papers published kept her motivated. Rebecca encourages students wary of a PhD workload to “just do it”. A healthy work-life balance was also beneficial. She says she treated her research like a job and kept weekends free for “weekend adventures” of hiking, diving and camping.
Rebecca stresses that you “can’t do a PhD without family support” and says her key supporters have been her parents, Martin and Gillian, who always provided her with the “encouragement to achieve”.
Rebecca plans to remain in research and hopes to soon work overseas. “I’m open-minded about things that come my way and will seize opportunities if they come along.”