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Mount Albert Grammar School - Paula Calver

2015 | Innovations in drug development and disease defence

SchoolMount Albert Grammar School

HostUniversity of Auckland, Maurice Wilkins Centre


Paula Calver is Head of Junior Science at Mount Albert Grammar School. After six years of teaching in Canada, Paula moved to New Zealand. She has been working in Auckland area schools since 2003. With a background in physics and mathematics, she has a keen interest in the technological applications of physics and the use of modeling in research contexts.

Hosted by Professor Peter Shepherd, at Maurice Wilkins Center for Biodiscovery at the University of Auckland Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, Paula focused on the interdisciplinary nature of scientific research and the collaborative networks that support innovation in cancer, diabetes, and infectious disease therapy. The center provided unique access for Paula to observe and discuss developments with a variety of specialists across different research areas such as the biochemical investigation of cell signaling, cell culture assays, genome sequencing, 3D modeling, chemical synthesis, mass spectrometry & chromatography, histology, drug toxicity & selectivity, and bioengineering. A special thank you is owed to the University of Auckland Bioengineering Institute for the invitation to the computational physiology and instrumentation research groups to see physics and mathematics leveraged into the engineering of improved diagnostic systems. Accompanying Dr Kruger to a clinical trial of a newly developed device, opened new perspectives on the collection of data with the human dynamics and considerations required of medical research. Over the six month placement, Paula gained insight into scientific modes of thinking, investigative processes, review structures and collaborative organisation that she will take back to the classroom to engage students in pertinent and authentic science experiences.

During her time at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Paula attended lectures and laboratory sessions to experience the pedagogy utilised at the tertiary level first hand. Discussions with professors and instructors elucidated the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that support success in this competitive environment and confirmed the importance of shifts in focus from content only to content as context for independent learning skills, scientific literacy, and modes of critical and analytical thinking.

In the wider programme offered by the Science Teaching Leadership Programme, Paula had opportunities to visit a number of different schools, educational providers, and scientific organisations. The Auckland Museum, Mindlab by Unitec, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland University Department of Physics and the Defence Technology Agency graciously opened their doors and gave their time to guiding participant teachers through their research initiatives. Reading clusters and meetings with key science, business, and educational leaders provided a strategic overview of New Zealand’s STEM needs and changes in pedagogical methods that will support the deeper learning required. Networking for citizen-science projects and writing funding proposals has developed administrative skills and awakened a strong sense of self-efficacy and agency.