A Whangārei student is one of 40 from around the country who will be challenged with finding answers to questions posed by scientists.

Huia Webby, a Year 13 student at Whangārei Girls' High School, will head to Wellington next month to take part in Powering Potential, an event which brings together science students from around the country who will work in teams of five to solve a question submitted by a scientist or PhD student, who will also act as their mentor over three days.

"The teachers at my school decided to nominate me, because each school can nominate two people, and I had a look at it and it sounded really cool.

"I found out I'd been selected on my birthday. It was a really good birthday present," she said.


The event, organised by Royal Society Te Apārangi in partnership with Freemasons New Zealand, runs from December 10 to 13.

Some of the questions asked at last year's event included how to best manage kauri dieback and myrtle rust to ensure the long-term survival of unique New Zealand species, how can vaccines limit the burden of antibiotic resistance, and can paleo-climate data and marine fossil records be used to identify groups of animals that were vulnerable to ocean acidification and warming?

Webby said although she didn't know exactly what her group would be asked, she was told it was around gene editing.

Dr Andrew Cleland, chief executive of Royal Society Te Apārangi, said students had been selected for the event because they are serious about going on to study science at a tertiary level and demonstrated a passion for science.

"The calibre of the students who applied was excellent and some tough decisions had to
be made by the selection panel to get the number down to 40," he said.

Webby says she is planning to do a Bachelor of Science majoring in marine biology and mathematics at Victoria University of Wellington next year.

"I wanted to be a marine biologist since I was 9 because I did the Experiencing Marine Reserves programme at school. Maths has been more of a recent thing, I've been doing statistics and calculus next year."