Hot summer researching flies in the cold
Building his science credentials while doing his bit sticking it to a major horticultural pest has made for a meaningful summer for tertiary student Andre Bellve.
Andre has been working at Plant & Food Research’s Mt Albert Research Centre as part of the science company’s Summer Studentship programme. In particular, he has been contributing to an international research collaboration on cold storage as a means of fruit fly disinfestation.
“My role was to collate current data on this method and arrange it into a sensible format for analysis. I then worked on creating an R data package and carried out statistical analysis to determine what the most effective cold storage treatments could be, and how these may differ between fruit fly species and fruit type,” says Andre.
The Summer Studentship programme is designed to give industry experience to high-calibre tertiary students who may be considering a career as a scientist or industry professional. It allows them to work on real research projects alongside world-recognised scientists.
Andre heard about the programme through colleagues in the statistics department at the University of Auckland, where he is studying towards a Masters of Biological Sciences.
“I intend to become a biometrician when I graduate. I saw the opportunity at Plant & Food Research as a great chance to get hands-on industry experience in this kind of work,” says Andre.
“The summer studentship has been very useful. Although I went in with a strong understanding of R programming, I had never created and documented a package before – so it’s been great for learning a new skill in an industry-relevant context.
“I’ve also gained experience in the examination of disinfestation data and how to carry out multi-trial analysis, and I wrote some of the code for the analysis.
“Although not related to my project, I even found myself heading to Matamata regularly to help look for Tomato-Potato Psyllid in potato crops as part of another of the company’s projects.
“Thanks to the generosity of the scientists at Plant & Food Research, I’ve learnt a lot about collaborative science and the exciting research happening here.” says Andre.