Marina first became involved with the Society when she attended Realise the Dream in 2007, which sparked her passion for scientific research. Now after a rigorous academic journey, she is working as a specialist periodontist in Brisbane.
I first became acquainted with Royal Society Te Apārangi in 2007 as a year 13 student from Otago Girls’ High School, Dunedin. After attaining the first place in the 2007 Otago science and technology fair, I was given the opportunity to compete at Realise the Dream (the National Science & Technology Fair) in December 2007. This event was organised by Royal Society Te Apārangi and involved attending and participating in a 1-week camp in Wellington. It was the most amazing week - providing a mixture of scientific seminars, visits to university laboratories, research facilities, aquariums and observatories as well as loads of social activities to draw like-minded young adults together.
Throughout the week, we competed for opportunities to represent New Zealand at an international level. I still recall the day I was selected to represent Aotearoa in the Taiwan International Science Fair (TISF). It was a rewarding, honourable, and highly motivational experience; one you remember for a long time.
Travelling to Taiwan and learning about another culture, representing my country, and coming back with a second place in the chemistry stream was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Aside from being academically interesting, this exposure confirmed my passion for scientific research, and positively contributed to my social skills, maturity and confidence. It was a very empowering experience.
Thereafter, I pursued my tertiary education at the University of Otago, hoping to qualify as a dentist. Health sciences first year was a competitive endeavour, I had to compete with 2200 students for 40-50 spots at the dentistry course. There were many days during this year where I questioned whether I would make it, or whether the competition was too great. Having had a positive experience at the Realise the Dream week, I was determined to go through it, try hard, be resilient and give it my all. At the end of health sciences, hard work paid off and I gained admission into dental school eventually attaining a “Bachelor of Dental Surgery” at the University of Otago in 2012. It was an enjoyable, yet highly challenging, 5-year course. Throughout my time at dental school, I maintained my interest in scientific research and participated in multiple dental research projects.
After graduation, it was time to join the work force. However, my passion for learning and challenging myself burnt on. I wanted to obtain fellowship with the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons in general dentistry. At this point in time, attaining a fellowship was an essential step for those who wished to enter specialist-training fields. I realised that this would mean an additional two years of studying and examinations while working full-time. Again, the challenges rolled on. I had to exercise resilience, stamina and hard work. There is nothing easier than giving up and nothing harder than holding on even when all the odds are against you. Instead of completing the fellowship in two years, I ended up having to spend an additional year to complete the qualification. However, I was so proud to finally attain this fellowship while working full time.
Equipped with the necessary qualifications, I applied for specialist training in the field of Periodontics. It was an ambitious application given the highly selective nature of specialist training and the small number of dentists accepted into the programme. However, I was extremely delighted to be offered the only position at the University of Sydney. A tough 3-year training journey followed; perhaps the toughest three years of my life, balancing family life, weekend work and full-time study. However, my past academic experiences and the fellowship journey taught me to hold on and keep going. I successfully completed my specialist training in November 2019 and was also awarded an honorary membership with the Royal Australasian college in specialist stream. It was a humbling feeling of accomplishment, analogous to the day I was chosen to represent New Zealand in Taiwan’s science and technology fair.
Nowadays, I am working as a specialist periodontist in Brisbane, Australia. I also have vowed to give back to the dental community; I have taught dental students at both the Universities of Otago and Sydney, and participated in a dental outreach programme which provided dental services to the orphaned children in Kenya. Further, I currently am a mentor for general dentists through both the Australian Dental Association and the Royal College.
Outside of work, I enjoy travel, running and spending time with my family in the great outdoors.
Regardless of what you study, a tertiary-education journey is never a simple straightforward matter. It requires hard-work and resilience, but, without a shadow of a doubt, is a journey worth pursuing. Having support from family, friends and (later on) my husband was a key ingredient in this journey. It was also essential to maintain extra-curricular activities such as sports and community involvement to avoid isolation. And so, I leave you with this quote…
"Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well."
- Theodore Roosevelt [26th US President – the youngest US president in history]