Position: Lecturer, Centre for Neuroendocrinology and Department of Physiology, University of Otago.
Dr Rebecca Campbell is passionate about her work. A neuroendocrinologist at the University of Otago, she studies how fertility is controlled by the brain. Her special interest is in a small group of brain cells that take information from our bodies and the environment and ‘make the call’ to switch fertility on.
Making a difference
Rebecca first got interested in studying fertility after working in a women’s health clinic during her undergraduate study. There, she learnt how devastating infertility can be for women and their families. Rebecca hopes her research will make a difference for couples with fertility issues. She says, “The more we understand about the regulation of fertility, the better we will become at treating fertility disorders.”
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is the leading cause of female infertility. Rebecca is working on how changes in the brain are associated with the pathology of PCOS.
A change in direction
Rebecca is originally from the United States. She grew up just outside Los Angeles and did her undergraduate study at a university in California (she studied biological sciences and dance!). Rebecca had always planned on going into medicine, but a year-long exchange programme with Lincoln University in New Zealand gave her a taste for scientific research. She decided to pursue a research career and returned to the US to study for her PhD.
The Kiwi connection
Rebecca’s time in New Zealand was life-changing in other ways too – she met her future husband (a Kiwi) at Lincoln. When Rebecca heard of an opportunity to do neuroendocrine research in Dunedin, they leapt at the chance to return to New Zealand. It has been a positive move. Rebecca says, “The research grouping I am a part of and the supportive work environment here have been really fundamental to my scientific career.”
I wanted to be able to address all the questions I had about how things worked and why they sometimes didn’t.
Life outside the lab
Aside from her research, Rebecca’s major focus is her family. She and her husband have two children, and Rebecca says, “Enjoying my own brood helps keep me focused on what my research might ultimately achieve for others less fortunate.” She also finds time for the occasional run and yoga class – an oasis of calm in a busy life!
This article is based on information current in 2012 and 2018.