While scientific funding comes from many places, members of a Dunedin research group admit $30.20 in cat-sitting money from a 7-year-old American girl is unusual.

Otago University chemistry researcher Carla Meledandri was visiting family in Hoboken, New Jersey, in early September when her niece Charlotte Dobson (now 8) spoke about wanting to donate to cancer research.

Dr Meledandri said Charlotte came up with the idea on her own after a distant cousin went through chemotherapy for breast cancer.

''Charlotte heard her mother talking on the phone about it and started asking a lot of questions.''

Advertisement

She asked her aunt if any of her colleagues would be appropriate to donate to and Dr Meledandri suggested the Crowley research group. They are a team researching synthetic chemistry, including working on a new delivery system for cancer drugs.

The note Charlotte sent the team. Photo / Supplied
The note Charlotte sent the team. Photo / Supplied

Charlotte loved the idea and was encouraged to write a letter to go with the money for Dr Meledandri to deliver when she returned home.

Charlotte is a ''very empathetic and caring girl'', Dr Meledandri says.

''But at the same time she's really tough and has a real strength to her.''

From her Hoboken home yesterday, Charlotte said she saved money by cat-sitting over the summer.

It was not all easy for her and her sister, who had trouble with one particular cat.

Otago University chemistry researcher Carla Meledandri (front) with Crowley research group members. Photo / Christine O'Connor
Otago University chemistry researcher Carla Meledandri (front) with Crowley research group members. Photo / Christine O'Connor

''His name was Oscar. Whenever he pooped we had to clean up after him. He pooped in the hallway and in the sink and in the bathtub,'' Charlotte said.

The temperamental feline was also known to bite his carers.

Advertisement

She eventually accumulated $US20, which she was delighted to learn converted to $NZ30.20.

She was sad one of her family members had cancer and wanted to give the money ''so that there would be a cure and she would be OK,'' she said.

Charlotte is due to visit Dunedin in December and said she would bring another $US20 she received for her birthday.

She is also keen to meet the researchers.

James Crowley said his team was ''really inspired'' by the gesture.

''It's pretty nice when a 7-year-old has given up their hard-earned cash to help out a bunch of people they don't know.''

''I said to my kids, 'do you want to contribute some of your cash?', but they said no.''