Community wide engagement is a crucial way to future proof our research communities, support the development of a thriving Māori workforce within STEM fields, and to enrich our own research experience through community involvement. A key strategy to advance this goal has been through education outreach programs facilitated by Brain Research New Zealand (BRNZ). These initiatives are designed to strengthen capacity development by investing in the promotion of the skills, knowledge, and confidence required to fulfill aspirations in STEM related fields.
The opportunity to welcome students of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi Marae to BRNZ and the Centre for Brain Research (CBR) was a fantastic way to reinforce the relationship between rangatahi Māori and the wider community of Early Career Researchers. The visit also coincided with the 5th International Day of Women in Science, established by the United Nations to recognize the contribution of women in STEM, and to promote equal access to and participation in science for all women. The timely visit was a reminder that the ability to contribute to the story of human progress through research should be accessible to everyone, and that research institutions would benefit greatly from expanding the repertoire of experience and knowledge employed to tackle intractable research questions.
The visit represented an opportunity to introduce four outstanding young women from Hoani Waititi Marae to the breadth of research underway at our centres, meet our early career researchers and share in the personal journeys underpinning their varied research trajectories. It was also a chance to showcase the range of future research opportunities available to them in neuroscience including world class resources such as the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand Human Brain Bank. Students were given the opportunity to watch neuroscientists in action, from tissue clearing procedures that render olfactory bulbs transparent, to high resolution imaging of Huntington’s disease affected tissue.
Welcoming the students of Hoani Waititi Marae to BRNZ and the CBR alongside Research Fellow Dr Malvindar Singh-Bains and BRNZ Māori Strategic leader Dr Hinemoa Elder was an amazing opportunity to draw a clear line between the values we represent, the research we undertake and the communities that are affected by this work. Reinforcing cross cultural partnerships through liaising with Māori community partners is an important way to improve the reach of our research and widen the scope of its vision through building bridges within and across communities. It is also fundamental to the principle of a socially engaged and responsible research community.
– Written by Nicole Edwards, PhD student at the University of Auckland