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Helen Bostock

Helen Bostock is a Senior Researcher in sedimentology and paleoceanography at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.

Helen, in sea going gear

What do you do on an average work day?
There's no such thing as an average day. I spend some days in the lab, other days in my office on the computer, catching up with my students, the occasional meeting… but usually a combination of all of the above. Over the past 8 years I have spent a couple of weeks at sea each year on the RV Tangaroa (New Zealand's only deep water research vessel) collecting samples and measuring environmental parameters.

What did you study at school? And after high school?
At high school I studied Maths, Chemistry, Economics and Art (and history of Art). As an undergraduate I studied Natural Sciences and took classes in Biochemistry, Ecology, Chemistry (physical and organic), Geology, Geophysics, Geochemistry and Maths, and majored in Geology for my final year. I then undertook a Masters in Geology, then moved to Australia to do a PhD in Quaternary Sciences working on marine geology.

Was your study directly related to what you do now?
Absolutely. I use all the things I studied at University (and I still love to go to art galleries – but not as often as I would like).

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

  1. Keep your options as open as possible as STEM careers are constantly changing and you have to be able to change too.
  2. Learn to use computers.
  3. Writing and presenting your ideas is as important in science as doing the science – so make sure you do subjects that also give you writing and presenting skills.
  4. Apply for internships to get experience.
  5. Find a mentor or someone who will champion you.  

What are some of your career highlights so far?
Leading a successful voyage to the Southern Ocean on the Research Vessel Tangaroa in 2011 was a great personal achievement. I also enjoy working with some really great postgraduate students.

At the end of 2015 I was a co-author on a high profile journal article, which was the culmination of a project that I co-lead with many international collaborators.

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?
Science and technology are everywhere and it is really important for everyone to have a good grounding in STEM so that they can understand very complex issues that affect all of us. This may lead to interesting and inspired solutions to some of the major environmental or health issues.

Science and technology are also fascinating….. it opens your mind to some amazing things.

Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?
It is important to have the best minds working in STEM, and some of these are women. I also believe women approach problems differently, often more collaboratively, and sometimes that helps to solve them.

Helen Bostock is a Senior Researcher in sedimentology and paleoceanography at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).

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