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Source: University of Otago

Now that the Ta Panui Taura postgraduate website and newsletter are up and running, the remainder of the “Members of Microbiology” series will be shared on this platform, in addition to the Otago Bulletin Board. In case you missed the first few stories in the series here are links to what has happened so far:
• Cara Adolph• Cecilia Wang• Emma Voss• Lupeoletalaleleiamaima Isaia
Postgraduate student Sharon Iose shares why she is pursuing Microbiology as a career and why other Polynesian people should as well.
Having been born-and-raised in Auckland, the Samoan-New Zealander has witnessed health disparities first-hand and believes that there is a need for more diverse perspectives in scientific research.
“There aren’t many Polynesian microbiologists out there and so I wanted to be one of them because there are gaps in current knowledge that effect these communities and we need to meet their needs,” Sharon says.
Sharon further explains how Polynesian people are disproportionately affected by certain diseases like obesity, rheumatic fever and other respiratory diseases, when compared to other ethnic groups.
This includes a specific strain of tuberculosis, which is only found in Polynesian communities, that she will be investigating in her postgraduate studies.
“We want to know why this strain only affects this community, adding to existing research on why immune systems respond the way they do and the genetic components of this,” Sharon says.
She believes in the power of education and that through the gaining and exchanging of knowledge, Aotearoa’s most vulnerable communities can be given a voice and the power they need to change these statistics.
“I hope to see other Polynesian people following their hearts and pursuing scientific study because we can be the building blocks to bigger and better things; together making a real difference for our communities,” Sharon says.
The 21-year-old begins her first-year interning in Dr Htin Lin Aung’s lab this year, as he inspired her to continue her studies with postgraduate research.
“My supervisor saw my potential and created this internship for me so that I could continue learning and working towards ways to support my community,” Sharon says.
“I have always loved learning and hope that I can be an example to other Polynesian people because I am only touching the surface of what can be explored.”
Before joining the University’s School of Biomedical Sciences, Sharon received Pacific Excellence Scholarships and Dux Scholarships from the University of Otago and the University of Auckland.
She decided to “follow her heart” and come down to the School of Biomedical Sciences because it presented the best opportunities for Sharon to explore her passion; it was also her first time seeing the South Island.
“Homesickness had me in that initial semester and I could feel great strain on my hauora because my family is my biggest strength and so it was hard to be so distant from them,” Sharon says.
“Ultimately, it was so rewarding and if I could go back in time, I wouldn’t change a thing because I learnt and grew so much.”
School of Biomedical SciencesDepartment of Microbiology and ImmunologyDr Htin Lin AungFulbright New Zealand Scholarships