Ministry of Awesome’s new Startup Activation Coordinator recent graduate

If Christchurch becomes even more awesome in coming months it may be in part due to recent UC graduate Jacob Varghese.

After a five-week internship at Ministry of Awesome in January, Jacob Vargh now works as Ministry of Awesome’s Startup Activation Coordinator. Ministry of Awesome’s Startup Activation Programme works as a launch pad for entrepreneurs in the city, giving them support and mentoring to make their venture market ready.

Jacob moved from India to New Zealand in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Economics from the Loyola College, Madras University, India. In December 2017 he graduated with a Postgraduate Diploma in Business (PGDipBus) at UC.

A day in the office involves one-on-one business mentoring with multiple Christchurch startups.

Jacob found his PGDipBus, a UC Executive Development Programme (EDP) course, very helpful in honing his business skill set, stepping up to a more senior level and preparing him to tackle a managerial position. He was also a student at UC Centre for Entrepreneurship (UCE), participating in Bootcamps and coming along to guest speakers, his highlight being Bill Reichert.

“The best opportunity UCE gave me was inviting me to a talk by Bill Reichert, Managing Director at Garage Technology Ventures. To engage with someone like that in a university setting was great and definitely a highlight.”

Jacob says he has found UC Centre for Entrepreneurship and Ministry of Awesome to be closely linked.

“They both have an aligned vision in wanting to make Christchurch the city of opportunities, constructing a good ecosystem and creating jobs for our future workforce.”


2018 Global 3Rs Award – apply before 1 June

Apply before June 1 for a 2018 Global 3Rs Award.

The Global 3Rs Awards program is a collaboration between AAALAC International and the IQ Consortium , recognizing significant innovative contributions toward the 3Rs of animal research to advance ethical science, by any researcher (nominated author, principal investigator, or research team leader) in academia or industry in any area of biology (e.g., basic science, discovery, development, teaching, testing, manufacture for new medicines, vaccines, medical devices or healthcare products for humans and animals).

Up to four Global Awards (North America, Europe, Pacific Rim, and the Rest of World) will be presented in 2018 in the amount of USD$5,000 each. Award nominations should be based on a primary research paper that advances any of the 3Rs (i.e., the Refinement, Replacement or Reduction of animal use) and is published in a peer-reviewed journal in the last three years.

You are my sunshine – staying well in winter

UC Health Centre Nurse Wendy Risdon says the sun’s rays are free and essential for life – and there is research that supports the need for some sun exposure in winter.

You would be excused for thinking all you need to do to stay well this winter is have a flu vaccination. How about the virtues of good old soap and water when handwashing and a daily dose of sunshine?

The sun’s rays are free and essential for life. It is the sun on bare skin that creates vitamin D which strengthens the immune system and is essential for the regulation of hundreds of body processes. It is hard to obtain enough vitamin D from dietary sources alone though there is some in fatty fish, egg yolk, organ meats or cod liver oil, the best utilized source is the sun.

This is a reason to leave your office or work place at lunch time because in winter UVB rays aren’t strong enough in the early morning or late afternoon to trigger vitamin D production, only at midday or when the sun is at least 30 degrees above the horizon. This happens to be the exact time some experts tell us to stay out of the sun!


You need 10-30 minutes of sun exposure, depending on skin pigmentation, in the middle of the day. This can improve mood, help depression and actually decrease cancer risk. It can also help with fat loss, building muscle and blood sugar control.

So where is my evidence? A recent review, led by the Queen Mary University of London, looked at 11,321 people across 25 separate trials in order to see if there was any definitive correlations present in this regard. These studies looked at a range of infections, from common cold strains to full-blown influenza.

They came to the conclusion that, for every 33 people regularly taking Vitamin D supplements as part of a balanced diet, one of them would not experience a cold or flu infection during the year. This would make it more effective than the flu vaccination.

Overall, extended to the entire UK, this works out to be three million people without the sniffles. This would not just be great for their own health, but would be a huge boost to the British economy in terms of work hours not lost to sickness. I am sure we could extrapolate this out to have a similar impact in New Zealand.

If you can get outside regularly around midday, in winter and spring you don’t need a Vitamin D supplement, but if you are office or library bound, day after day, you are likely to be low in Vitamin D and susceptible to colds and flu and other respiratory illnesses.

So my Winter Wellness tip is to take regular small doses of sunshine and watch your health improve.

Wendy Risdon