Laboratory placements beyond the big cities with Kathryn Merrick

When Kathryn Merrick arrived to begin her placement at our Taranaki laboratory in July last year, it was the first time she had ever been to New Plymouth.

Kathryn had just completed her completed her Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science at Otago University and there was strong competition for the university’s placements in cities such Christchurch and Dunedin.

“These are often the places students prefer to go and I really wanted a haematology placement. There was one in New Plymouth so I headed north,” says Kathryn.

“I had never been to New Plymouth and my first day here was when I arrived with all my things packed into my car. I didn’t know anyone and found a place to live by putting a post on Facebook asking if anyone had a spare room to rent.”

Recruiting scientists to the regions can be a challenge for laboratories, but student placements benefit our organisation, says Laboratory Manager Sally Scouller.

“Having the opportunities to offer graduates a role is a way we can meet the challenge of bringing people from the larger centres to work with us in the smaller towns and laboratories.”

“Kathryn has no ties to Taranaki so otherwise would not have thought to move to New Plymouth for work. But after spending the semester with our haematology department, we had a vacancy at the end of last year which Kathryn applied for, she has been a wonderful addition to the team.”

For Kathryn, it was definitely worth moving to New Plymouth, which she says is great for the outdoors, hiking, the beaches and a great lifestyle.

“I would recommend any graduate who is going on placement and considering moving to a new town and region to do it because it is worth the experience. It was a big decision to come from Dunedin where I was with lots of students, around my same age and studying, but I am really happy to be here.

“I have met new people and everyone at the lab has made me feel so welcome. I always wanted a haematology placement but it has been amazing to work in both haematology and biochemistry, broaden my knowledge and have the learning opportunities. You may not get this experience at a larger laboratory.”

Kathryn says she has different tasks each day in each department which adds a lot of variety to her role.

“Overall, coming to New Plymouth has been about taking whatever opportunities which come your way, even if it is not your preferred department in the lab. The skills, experience, and knowledge you get will be invaluable and you may even end up liking a subject or area you thought you wouldn’t while at university.

“For students who are going on a placement, keep an open mind as to where you might end up, even a smaller town. You never know what you can get out of it. I am still here, and it has been over a year now, so it has got to be good.”

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