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Bridget Brox

Dr. Bridget Brox is an Animal Welfare Advisor at Wellington Zoo.

Dr. Bridget Brox with Tisa, one of the beautiful Giraffes at Wellington Zoo

What did you study at school? And after high school?
In high school I pursued the regular curriculum that was required for all secondary students. Beyond high school I attended the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis where I started as a Spanish major but after two years decided to change to Speech/Language/Hearing Science to pursue a growing interest in speech language pathology, audiology and neuroscience. After I received my Bachelors degree I considered preparing for medical school but in the end decided to pursue a Masters program in Behavioural Neuroscience at Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana. It was the right decision and a good fit for a new scientist.

After I received my Masters I was hired as adjunct faculty in the Department of Psychology at Montana State University; at that time a complete overhaul of the Introduction to Psychology program had been commissioned. I had the honour of leading that effort; this included teaching pilot lecture sections as well as developing a brand new hands-on laboratory component. After three semesters of pilot work the new program was rolled out full scale (700+ students each term). It was a great project!

Then I decided to pursue a PhD program in Behavioural Neuroscience at Victoria University of Wellington.  In 2016 I successfully completed that program. Part way through I realised that I wanted to do animal welfare research and so I starting attending conferences and volunteering with Wellington Zoo (as a data collector). About the time I was finishing my PhD Wellington Zoo implemented the new role of Animal Welfare Advisor. In the end I applied and was offered the job – a dream come true!

Was your study directly related to what you do now?
Yes and no. As stated above I studied a variety of topics throughout my tertiary education. However, in the end, my combined experience (in the classroom and the laboratory) gave me a strong foundation for stepping into a research role that was new to the organisation and to me as a Scientist. Moreover, my time as an instructor provided major gains in organising, presenting, writing and most importantly a major boost in confidence.

What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?
I would advise young women to try a variety of different things. My initial focus through high school and a portion of University was language, music and art. I never would’ve imagined that I would find such fulfilling work in the sciences. And I would say that it’s almost impossible to know until you try. Most importantly, even if you feel intimidated, pursue what interests you. I’ve never been confident however I realised along the way that you gain confidence by doing. I’ve been able to accomplish many great things (for me personally) because I decided to keep going even when I didn’t feel confident in myself.

What are some of your career highlights so far?
I never imagined that I would pursue a Masters degree let alone finish a PhD. These have been significant personal achievements for me. Beyond that I’ve had the privilege of working as an instructor at the University level which I enjoyed immensely. Lastly, I’ve just started my career in what I would consider a dream job. I am incredibly fortunate to have had these experiences.

Why do you believe engaging in STEM – whether it’s working in the field, studying it or just educating one’s self around the issues – is important to New Zealand?
New Zealand, as a small first world country, has the unique opportunity to implement changes (many based on STEM related issues) within a relatively rapid timeframe (compared to larger countries). But to do this we need people working in these areas in New Zealand.

Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?
We need more people working in STEM. That statement can stand on its own. We need more women (and men too). Historically, women have been under represented in STEM fields as they study and move into jobs. Unfortunately, this is still the case in some fields. The entire STEM community misses out when brilliant, passionate women decide to forgo STEM study and work due to traditional ideas about gender roles or other issues that hold them back. Women need to know that they CAN.

Dr. Bridget Brox is an Animal Welfare Advisor at Wellington Zoo.

This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM. 
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