Maya Ghazal Dian

Maya Ghazal Dian

Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Master of Science in Biomedical Science with Honours (First Class)

She has always been passionate about human anatomy and physiology and the pathology of diseases, says Maya Ghazal Dian who graduated with a Master of Science in 2020 and is currently completing a PhD in biomedical sciences.

“I decided to pursue a degree in biomedical sciences because it gives you a broad understanding of human anatomy and physiology and the pathology of diseases, and enables you to research a health concern and develop new therapeutic or prevention strategies. My main motive to do postgraduate study was my interest in doing research and creating novel treatments, especially for diseases that current therapies can’t sufficiently control.”

Enrolling in a PhD was an easy decision for her.

“In my opinion, doctoral study gives you the required discipline and management skills to lead a research project. You have an opportunity to awaken your inner creativity and express novel ideas that might push science borders a bit further. At the same time, you’re being supervised and directed by highly educated and experienced researchers all the way during your degree.”

Making a positive impact
For her PhD research, Maya is developing a novel nano-carrier for the delivery of cannabinoids, specific extracts of the cannabis plant. Her research is supervised by Associate Professor Ali Seyfoddin from AUT’s School of Science.

“Because they have a wide spectrum of therapeutic potential and a high safety profile for humans, cannabinoids can help billions of people around the world who are suffering from unmanageable chronic pain, neurological diseases and cancers. The therapeutic potential of cannabinoids is huge, so designing an appropriate drug delivery system for them might unleash their potential and could have a great impact on our healthcare system.”

Meeting her PhD supervisor was a bit of a life-changing moment for Maya who would love to have her own pharmaceutical brand with cutting-edge formulations in medicine and cosmetics one day.

“When I enrolled at postgraduate level at AUT, I knew that I wanted to do something novel, with a huge positive impact on current health and treatment plans, but I had no idea what exactly that was. I never forget the initial meeting I had with Associate Professor Ali Seyfoddin who suggested researching cannabinoids and their therapeutic potential. From the very beginning, I understood that these cannabis-based therapies are what our current health system lacks.”

The right choice
There have been plenty of highlights throughout her time at AUT, says Maya whose PhD is supported by an AUT Vice-Chancellor’s Doctoral Scholarship.

“Having supportive and friendly staff is one of the things that sets AUT apart from other universities I’ve studied at before. Another high point of AUT is that students also learn industry knowledge and skills as part of their studies, which will help them understand how the theory they’re learning can be applied to the real world and will also prepare them well for their future workplace.

“I’d recommend AUT’s postgraduate science programmes to anyone who is passionate about science, development and creation. Postgraduate study gives you the necessary knowledge and opportunity to be able to define, shape and express your bright ideas in your field of interest.”

The opportunity to share her work with others in the field has been one of highpoints of Maya’s studies so far.

“I got to present on the neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids, based on my master’s degree dissertation on why cannabinoids could be used daily by older adults. I was happy to see the many attendees, and was proud to see them happy and satisfied with the novelty and importance of the information I presented. I’m also proud that our team at the Drug Delivery Research Group and our industry partner Helius Therapeutics received a lot of media coverage as New Zealand’s lead researchers in the medicinal cannabis field. It’s a good example of how university and industry can work together.”

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