Only a few years out of her diploma, and Sahiba Kaur is working on the frontlines of New Zealand’s COVID-19 response. A laboratory technician, Sahiba is part of a specialist team responsible for virus testing.
“I moved to New Zealand to study in 2016. I’m originally from Himachal Pradesh, India. I was looking for something to do with laboratory science, but I didn’t want to do a big degree; I wanted to keep it short. So I chose UCOL’s National Diploma in Science (Level 5 & 6) - it was a two year course, more practical and very hands on.”
When Sahiba graduated in 2017, she was thrilled to be offered a job almost immediately.
“I got a position working for MedLab Central right after I finished my diploma, working in their specimen services team. After five or six months they were impressed and promoted me to the micro department. They offered to help me study further with their in-house programme, and now I am a fully registered medical laboratory technician.”
When New Zealand’s COVID-19 response started ramping up, there were limitations to the testing that was possible – which lead to the creation of MedLab Central’s own COVID-19 testing laboratory. “It was a pretty interesting start! An email came around the office, talking about how they were thinking about setting up a new lab, and asked for volunteers who had experience with pipette work. I was well-practiced with that from my UCOL study, so I put my name forward to help. I didn’t hear anything for a few days, then suddenly there was a message on Sunday to start on Monday!”
“I was nervous to start, but I feel really proud to be a part of this team. We’ve been working pretty much every day to get the testing done, dividing it into manageable day and night shifts.”
Sahiba isn’t the only UCOL connection in the lab either –
Dr Rebecca Lucas-Roxburgh, the lead scientist, is a UCOL Applied Sciences lecturer.
“Rebecca and Dr Bob, who was my UCOL lecturer – they’re such amazing people. The success of who we are is thanks to them - whatever I am now, is because of them. My study made such a huge difference to my skills, and I see I made the right choice picking UCOL.”
While Sahiba hopes that the COVID-19 testing lab isn’t a permanent fixture, she’s pleased to have been a part of it.
“I hope this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it’s never needed again – but it’s been amazing to learn, and to give back.”
UCOL now offers the updated
New Zealand Diploma in Applied Science (Levels 5 & 6).