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Manuela attended Trident High School from 2000-2004.   Manuela describes her time at Trident as a happy time and she looks back on it with pride.  

"I started school not knowing anyone else and I think I was also a relatively shy person at first. But the community spirit of Trident is immense and it didn’t take me long to make friends and feel at home there. The friends I made at Trident are still some of my closest friends today and although I don’t live in Whakatane, or even New Zealand anymore, I am in regular contact with them and we catch up whenever I’m back home.

The values we were taught at Trident - Quality Work, Respect for Others and making the most of every opportunity - stayed with me and continue to influence the choices I make today. It was in this supportive environment that I was able to thrive, whether it was in sport or academically.

I have so many great memories of playing volleyball, netball and at some point even rugby (which for my size was pretty brave). I think the lessons that team sport can teach us should never be underestimated, as they influence and form people both on and off the court or field. Mr Graham Walker, my PE teacher and volleyball coach for 5 years, played a huge role in that and a definite highlight for me was being able to participate in the world tour group of 2002. We had such a fantastic trip and learned that hard work can most definitely pay off. Without the dedication of Mr Chris Burn and everyone else involved, this trip would never have been possible

But the academic aspects of my time at Trident probably had the biggest impact on my life today. I discovered my passion for science at Trident and for this I credit all of the very dedicated teachers that I was very fortunate to have. In particular, Ms Katie Elliott, Ms Annetjie Botha, Mr Tony Marrow, Mr Nigel Roberts and Ms Mary Thomas taught me Science at school and they were always very enthusiastic about their subjects. I think it was their passion that rubbed off on me. Overall, I was lucky to have so many wonderful teachers throughout my time at school (not only the sciences) and I often reflect on the impact they had on me during these formative years of my life.

After Trident, I went to the University of Auckland where I completed my BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Sciences and had my first real experience of experimental research science. I never looked back. I continued with my science education and won a scholarship to study for my PhD in Molecular Biology at the MRC-Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) at the University of Cambridge, UK. After a further four exciting years in the lab as a postdoctoral scientist in London, I recently moved to Zurich, Switzerland, to start my own research group at ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) with funding from the SNSF (Swiss National Science Foundation). The main topic of our research is to understand the molecular mechanisms of horizontal gene transfer between bacteria, a process that contributes to the rapid spread of antibiotic resistance, as well as other pathogenicity traits, in bacterial populations. I have two doctoral (PhD) students working with me now and it is a great pleasure, but also responsibility, to pass onto them what I’ve learned in my scientific training over the years.

I now get to do what I love every day! And if it weren’t for my time at Trident, or the teachers who inspired me to reach for big goals, I would not have this opportunity today.

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