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Gemma Goodfellow, 26 from New Zealand is in the second year of a CDT (Centre of Doctoral Training) in sensor technologies and applications.
Gemma's PhD, which is funded by the EPSRC and Medimmune, is looking at super resolution imaging of oncolytic viruses – viruses that preferentially infect tumour cells.
Gemma first arrived at Churchill three years ago when her partner started his PhD and the birth of their first child followed shortly afterwards. Living in the Wolfson flats, they were surrounded by the ideal family environment and were made to feel immediately welcome:
Compared to the other colleges, Churchill provides a unique environment where you can live surrounded by other student families, where all of the children can grow up together and play with one another every afternoon. Before I was studying, this meant that I wasn't completely alone and I had friends living all around me.
This welcoming environment extended to the wider academic community – she was always invited to attend dinners at College with her partner before she started studying herself, and never felt excluded; something she feels is unique to Churchill. She also has high praise for the lengths the College has gone to create a family community, organising a range of family focused events throughout the year funded by the College and the MCR; It’s something that they don’t have to do but it’s made such a big difference to our lives.
However, it was her re-discovery of Gymnastics through the University of Cambridge Gymnastics club that proved to be a real turning point. Gemma’s gymnastics journey began at the age of 8 but ballet took over until she turned 20. She loves the fact that she is pushed to set goals and master new skills – not unlike her academic career! When she first discovered the club she was unsure if it would be possible to participate due to membership and training costs, and she was hugely grateful to receive bursary support from Churchill to enable her to join the squad.
Receiving the bursary support meant that I knew that training and being a contributing member to the club was not going to financially impact my daughter. For me it meant that it wasn't stressful to pay for training sessions especially when training was ramped up for our varsity competition.
Being part of the University Gymnastics squad has led to some exciting performance opportunities that have been a highlight of her time at Cambridge. She recently performed in the sell-out show ‘Alice’ at the ADC theatre which received 5 star reviews and led to the show receiving funding from CUADC to take the show to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. However, it has been the opportunity to develop a focus outside her academic life that has proved to be a vital outlet academically.
"Having another focus in life that can allow you to set the same goals, and have aspirations and successes outside of your academic career really does help to balance your life. This is because, when things are really hard with my research and I'm really focused on it but potentially not moving forward, gymnastics allows me to clear my mind and work on something else and feel some success outside of my research, and allows me to go back to my studies with a fresh brain."
Looking ahead beyond her PhD, Gemma would like to be able to stay in academia but would also be interested in a research related role.