Xiaoli Sun

'I enjoy being part of New Zealand’s world-leading research...'

  • Xiaoli sun

Studying towards a PhD in Biochemistry

The opportunity to challenge herself and grow as a person led Xiaoli to New Zealand from China’s Heilongjiang province. ‘I enjoy being part of New Zealand’s world-leading research,’ she says.

Xiaoli completed a Master of Science in Food Science at Massey University in Palmerston North. Her master’s project was sponsored by dairy giant Fonterra, giving her strong links with one of New Zealand’s biggest companies, where Xiaoli then worked for three years.

However she was drawn to further study and is now at UC engaged in a PhD in Biochemistry. ‘I always ask myself, “Why?” and try to understand why things happen, so a PhD gives me the opportunity to explore and understand better.’

Studying her PhD here at UC as part of the Biomolecular Interaction Centre (BIC) gave Xiaoli access to advanced research equipment and strong professional connections in protein research that she would get nowhere else in New Zealand. ‘Studying my PhD here at BIC also gives me strong technical support from working group members and supervisors.’

Sponsored by the Ministry for Primary Industry from a Primary Growth Partnership with Fonterra, Xiaoli is able to use Fonterra’s analytical facilities as well as those at UC. Now Xiaoli splits her time between Palmerston North and Christchurch.

‘It’s good working at Fonterra and I also get to enjoy UC’s green campus environment. I enjoy that collaboration between industry and research, which is giving me a lot of freedom. I like having the opportunity to transfer the “science” to the product,’ she says.

‘My PhD project focusses on understanding how molecular interactions with and between food proteins can be manipulated in a controlled way. The challenge of developing new products and techniques is something I find fascinating.’

Xiaoli hopes her career will continue to involve food and the science behind it. ‘I want to apply my research findings to the real world and make them commercially viable. One day science and research will dominate global economic growth, and I will be part of it!’

Outside work, Xiaoli enjoys exercising at the gym and playing golf in the spacious courses around Christchurch. She is also developing an interest in growing things in her own garden.

For students considering a career in Biochemistry, Xiaoli’s advice is to persevere. ‘Do it if you love it, but the secret to success is action!’

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