Emma Te Tumanako Brown

Emma (Ngāpuhi, Ngai Te Rangi, Ngati Maru) is a current PhD candidate and Professional Teaching Fellow in Chemical and Materials Engineering.

“A conversation with an old lecturer planted the idea to return to uni. I was at a stage in my early career where I was considering looking for a new challenge, though I had initially anticipated that it would be through a new job rather than heading back to study. I thought about how I enjoyed my research experience throughout the fourth year of my undergraduate degree and knew that it was something that I was good at.

“My PhD research involves an in-depth look at cartilage ¬– the smooth covering over the ends of bones – to see the interactions between individual collagen fibres that make up the tissue. We are trying to understand how this changes over time, so we can learn more about how diseases like osteoarthritis progress, and how we might replace these natural materials with high-quality substitute materials in the event of replacement surgery.

“Research may seem a lot more individual, but you still need to work well with others. You need to be brave enough to put your thoughts and ideas forward and in doing so, ensure that you are creating a safe working environment where others feel that they can do the same. These skills aren’t unique to one particular industry – they are skills for life. Being in industry made me feel confident in my ability to manage my time, make independent decisions, and ask for help.

“I am interested in staying in research for a period of time, however, I am also aware of a growing national conversation highlighting a lack of diversity – particularly a lack of Maori and Pasifika representation – in STEM careers. Further to my research I would want to use my skills and experience gained to get involved in initiatives which help to enable and empower other young Māori and Pasifika, preparing them for a career in engineering, whether that be in industry or in academia.”