Doctor of Philosophy candidate
The calibre of her academic supervisor is what attracted her to AUT, says Ruth Cink who is currently completing her PhD in chemistry.
“I wanted to work on my PhD under Professor Nicola Brasch’s supervision as she’s a leading researcher in bioinorganic chemistry, specialising in elucidating the mechanisms of chemical reactions and the chemistry of vitamin B12. Previously, her research lab was located at Kent State University in the USA, which is where I originally applied. When she moved to AUT, I was invited along.
“I wanted to work with Professor Brasch because she has high standards and it’s great to work in a research group that takes such pride in the quality of science they produce. She is also an expert in many chemical techniques and has helped me master a wide skillset. Because of her high standard and expertise, her students gain the right tools to tackle interesting and complex research problems.”
Research that matters
For her doctoral research, Ruth is focusing on HNO; a molecule that could be central to medical advancements.
“Research suggests that we can use HNO for useful medications, like heart medications. But HNO is difficult to study because it reacts with itself. Essentially, I can’t go and buy a bottle of HNO because by the time it arrives, it will no longer be HNO. To study HNO, chemists like me use molecules that decompose to release HNO.
“My supervisor helped me select the project. In an effort to understand HNO’s reactivity with vitamin B12 and other important biological molecules, Professor Brasch has established a collaboration to design and develop molecules that generate HNO rapidly upon light activation.”
Part of an international collaboration trying to generate HNO via photoactivation, Ruth’s research explores how molecules are achieving photorelease of HNO.
“The more we understand about how this happens, the better we can make the next generation class of photoactive HNO donors. These types of molecules will enable our research group and other researchers worldwide to more easily study HNO’s reactivity than what we’re capable of now.”
An inspiring community of researchers
She has enjoyed the diverse community of postgraduate students, says Ruth who received a Vice-Chancellor’s Doctoral Scholarship to support her studies.
“I’ve met so many inspiring people from all over the world who are at AUT to study science. It’s been incredibly cool to hear about other people’s areas of scientific research, from Antarctic deserts to New Zealand birds to squid taxonomy.”
Throughout her studies, she has had many opportunities to share her work, including participating in at the Gordon Research Conference on Photochemistry in the US, the 24th International Society of Pure and Applied Coordination Chemistry Symposium and the Asian Biological Inorganic Chemistry Conference.
She also enjoyed being the student representative for the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry (NZIC), and helping to organise seminars and research showcases for AUT’s School of Science.