Introducing Chris Diep Pham, Lily Sanson and Callum Tatton.

During the summer of 2020/21, the Digestive Health team at the University of Otago, Christchurch, hosted two students: Chris Diep Pham, funded by Zespri International Limited and a Callaghan Innovation R&D Experience Grant, and Lily Sanson, (Ngāti Apa, Ngāti Kuia, Rangitane and Ngāi Tahu), mentored by the Pūhoro STEM academy and funded by HVN.

The focus of Chris’s summer project was the analysis of dietary patterns of participants from the Christchurch IBS cohort to investigate mechanisms for gut relief and improved transit – the Psyllium and Kiwifruit translation study (COMFORT-PSYKI) and the association with mental health. During her project, Chris spent the first two weeks at the Zespri headquarters in Mount Maunganui, learning about kiwifruit and the industry before she came to Christchurch. Chris is now a Master of Dietetics finalist at the Department of Human Nutrition at the University of Otago, looking at malnutrition in Christchurch Hospital.

Lily Sanson’s project was to develop a survey to gather information on the preferences of Māori on diagnostic testing tools for gastrointestinal diseases and the identification of pathways to enhance distribution of the survey within Māori communities. Throughout her project, Lily communicated with a variety of Māori stakeholders, from gastroenterologist to health nurses, and integrated important questions and comments into the survey. She helped develop budding relationships between the Christchurch team and Māori individuals and groups, which all kindly agreed to help with the distribution of the survey. The survey is currently being finalised and will be ready for distribution in the coming weeks. Lily is now back at the University of Canterbury for her second year of studying Civil Engineering.

Callum Tatton’s childhood love of The War of the Worlds and Jurassic Park spurred him into a passion for science and discovery. Completing a Master of Biomedical Sciences from the University of Auckland in 2020, he worked with induced pluripotent stem cells to further develop organoid models of human renal development and pathology. He has experience with 2D and 3D mammalian cell culture, tissue analysis and directed differentiation.

Turning his curiosity to the human microbiome, Callum joined as Technical Officer at the Riddet Institute in Palmerston North in late 2020. Currently his work is directed towards supporting healthy digestion through investigating foods that promote favourable food-microbiome-host interactions as part of the HVN Digestive Health and Infant Health Priority Research Programmes.

This research involves using in vitro models of gastrointestinal digestion and absorption, and colonic fermentation to identify foods that contain nutrients that might better support microbiome development and function in infants and adults. It is hoped that this work will better inform future clinical trials by providing substantiation for the food interventions we focus on with the view to developing evidence-based healthy food choices that better support gut comfort in infants and adults.

In his spare time, Callum enjoys baking, lego, engaging in frivolous debates about how cooking is identical to conducting an experiment, or whatever other curio has taken his interest that day.