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Carolina Loch

Carolina is a lecturer and researcher at the Faculty of Dentistry, University of Otago. She studies a variety of teeth - including animal and fossil teeth.

Carolina with fossil teeth

What do you do on an average work day?

My work days can be quite varied, but on an average day it would involve teaching or preparing lectures, some administrative tasks here and there, talking to students, preparing and analysing samples of teeth and bone of different animals, and a bit of writing about my research findings.

Sometimes I also visit schools and do science outreach activities with the kids, or I can be called to help out on a whale stranding. You never know!

What did you study at school? And after high school?

I attended school and university in my home country, Brazil. At school we studied a range of subjects from maths, languages, physics, chemistry and biology. Because I studied in a military high school we also had some military education subjects, which has taught me organization, discipline and working as a team.

From early on during my school days I discovered my passion for biology and sciences. I studied Biological Sciences at Uni with a major in science teaching, then a Masters in Zoology and more recently a PhD in Palaeontology and Oral Biology here in New Zealand.

Was your study directly related to what you do now?

Yes, definitely. During my first year as a Biology student I started researching about animal teeth, in particular dolphins, whales, fur seals and sea lions. That led me to many rewarding research projects and made me network and collaborate with dentists and other dental researchers.

I now teach Biology to dentistry and oral health students at Otago, which gives me the opportunity of combining my passions for sciences, biology, teeth and teaching.

Carolina with sea lion

What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?

Be true to yourself and trust your choices. You will spend many years of your life at work so it is better that you are doing something you enjoy and it is meaningful to you.

Do not be put off by what other people say or think about your future, just go for it.

Also allow yourself to experience other areas and to interact with other professionals as widely as possible – if it doesn’t help with your career choice directly, at least it will help you be a well-rounded person.

Jane Goodall and Carolina Loch

What are some of your career highlights so far?

Inspiring students and contributing to their career advancement and growth is definitely a big highlight of what I do. It is just an amazing feeling to see the positive impact you can have on someone else’s career and life in general, and it is a big motivation for my work.

I also enjoy the opportunities of travelling the world that my research career has provided me, and the amazing collaborators and friends I have made along the way. I guess that meeting Dame Jane Goodall and talking to her about some of my research projects was also a major highlight, as she is one of my science idols and definitely a life inspiration.

Why do you believe engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is important to New Zealand?

I think STEM is all around us and we reap from its benefits every day, no matter if you’re not working in the field or studying it.

The more aware we are about STEM, in particular about sciences, it is more likely we will be able to make informed choices about how we live as a society and how we interact with the planet.

So I think engaging with STEM in New Zealand is about living the present the best way we can, in order to prepare for the future.

Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?

Women have an important role to play in all sectors of society, and STEM is no different. I think we bring a different perspective to STEM and can help finding alternative and more inclusive solutions to some of our current problems.

I think we can bring passion, care and inspiration into this field, which are all good things. We work hard and are incredibly persistent, which can only benefit other people in STEM as well.

Setting up an outreach table

Carolina Loch is a lecturer and researcher at the Faculty of Dentistry, University of Otago. 
Read a story about her outreach work (supported through the Unlocking Curious Minds fund).

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

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