Chiasma is NZ’s premier student-led organisation that fosters connections between science and business – connecting university students to STEM industries. It has grown by folds over the years into a thriving organisation with teams in multiple cities running their own flavour of networking events, workshops, panel discussions, mentorship programmes and site visits tailored towards the local students and industry, as well as hosting the highly-attended career expo, Chiasma’s flagship event, Synapse.
This incredible organisation started out as a brainchild of three PhD students at University of Auckland in 2004 – Priv Bradoo, Swati Sharma and Daniel Sun. Eighteen years down the line, Chiasma stands tall as NZ’s leading student-run organisation with branches in Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin and Manawatu, and boasting of more than 3,500 student and industry members.
Chiasma’s story, starting from 2004, is an amazing story of belief, passion and commitment. Let’s take a walk down memory lane to understand the journey better, shall we?
In its inaugural year, Chiasma successfully hosted three major events in Auckland – Career Catalyst, I-Volve Challenge and Synapse. Career Catalyst saw 90+ students signing up for the two-day workshop with biotech industry leaders as mentors. The I-Volve Challenge – a biotech enterprising idea competition, was the first of its kind in the University of Auckland and attracted twenty entries. The winner of the challenge, LIME, went on to enter the Spark 40K competition and became one of the eleven 40K qualifiers to receive intense business mentoring and training. The inaugural Synapse was a big hit as well, with about 300 attendees and inspirational talks by speakers like Dr Siman Malpas from Telemetry Research, Dr Clair McGowan from NZBio Auckland and Prof Garth Cooper from Protemix.
With interest in Chiasma growing from cities beyond Auckland, Chiasma was keen to spread across NZ. And its first off-shoot came in the form of a branch in Wellington! The first Wellington CEO, Elf Eldridge and COO, Ben Mallet were looking for an opportunity for students to network with industries in Wellington and that’s when they came across Chiasma. They were interested in offering the benefit of Chiasma to the students of Victoria University of Wellington and that’s how Chiasma launched its branch in Wellington in 2012! Almost 200 people attended the inaugural Chiasma Wellington launch on 29th March hosted at The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Dr. Helen Anderson (deputy chair of BRANZ and NIWA director) and Dr. Andrew Coy (CEO, Magritek) were the inspirational speakers at this event.
To further the success of branching out to Wellington, in 2013, past key executives from Chiasma Auckland team banded together and formed an Alumni Committee. With the goal to further establish Chiasma in New Zealand and to ensure its sustainability as a standalone organisation, Chiasma registered as an Incorporated Society at the end of 2014 and then as a Charity in 2016.
Chiasma launched its branch in Dunedin in the second semester of 2015, spreading roots to the South Island! Chiasma Dunedin was launched to the University of Otago students with a Showcase event, which saw about 140 attendees including university staff and members from the local industry. This event included a short talk by Director of Research & Enterprise, Gavin Clarke, and Associate Dean of Research Commercialisation,Prof. Ian Tucker. Chiasma Dunedin also organised a chat with Oren Gershtein in November 2015 who gave an insightful talk about the innovative start-up ecosystem in Israel and his life experiences. After his presentation, Oren was inundated with questions from a very eager audience, right up until his taxi arrived to take him to the airport! All in all, a great start to our journey in Dunedin!
The Chiasma National team evolved from the Alumni Committee and formally came into existence in 2016 and became responsible for the day-to-day administration and support of the student-led teams. The same year, Chiasma was also registered as a Charity and thus recognised as a non-profit organisation aimed to benefit the public.
2021 saw us launching our latest branch in Manawatu and this branch burst into the enterprise ecosystem in Palmerston North with a packed and high energy launch at Te Manawa. More than 80 students and professionals from a range of STEM disciplines attended the launch, which featured home-brewed beer made by students from the Technology and Engineering Society (Techensoc). With strong support from Massey University, Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas, Dean Pacific Professor Palatasa Havea and Dr Caroline Giezenaar from The Riddet Institute attended the Chiasma Manawatū launch event. The Manawatū team also went on to organise a successful Connect mentorship programme and their first ever Synapse the same year – quite an impressive year!
As of today, Chiasma is continuing to support our members in all regions to connect with industry and alumni and build long term associations. It is our aim to serve as a link between academia and industry and we wish to serve this purpose for years to come! Keep an eye out for our different events organised by Chiasma in your city and be a part of exploring the bridge between STEM and industry!