Pasifika in STEM

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. If your child can achieve in any of the STEM subjects while studying towards NCEA this provides a range of pathway options for further study or training beyond school. It can also lead to careers and broader employment opportunities.

Below you can view some of the success stories for Pasifika in STEM. These success stories capture the journey of Pasifika people through STEM, the decisions they made to get where they are and the opportunities they have recieved as a result.

James Penfold - Surgeon

My parents were always supportive of any career that I wanted to pursue. My interest in science was cultured early on with close family members that fell ill. I really wanted to be someone that could make a difference. I felt a passion to understand what was going on and could do something about it.

I found that the support of my teachers in high school and having science teachers that made the topics interesting. The environment I grew up in was a large factor in me making the decision to study STEM. I don’t think that the level of interest in the STEM fields is low among the Pacific community. However, I think there is a systemic issue where people in the Pacific community have a mind-set that limits their potential.

STEM careers are sometimes portrayed as difficult and not interesting. I think studying a pathway in STEM provides more options. I decided to study medicine at age 16, I am currently in my third year of medicine at The University of Auckland. I will be doing the medical Honours programme in 2018 which involves a year of focused research with the surgical department at Auckland Hospital. None of this would have been possible without the support networks I have at home and at University, particularly the Māori and Pacific Admission Scheme (MAPAS).


  • Year 11: Geometry, Algebra, English, Maths, Physics
  • Year 12 & 13 (IB): Maths standard level, Arabic standard level, Biology higher level, Chemistry higher level, Economics higher level, Theory f Knowledge, English
  • University of Auckland: Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery (MBChB) and Bachelor of Medical Science (Honours)

Roneima Teumohenga - General Practitioner

Roneima Teumohenga

My love of science started at a very young age. I was initially fascinated with the Milky Way and discovering new planets and then became fixated on collecting and identifying different types of rocks on this planet - and others! My parents allowed me to indulge in all things science.  They were and continue to be the consistent and active driving force behind lifting my commitment to my goals and aspirations.  Their constant words to me:

“Dream big but make sure you are prepared to lift your commitment level to achieve the goals you set for yourself”.

At the age of seven I decided to become a doctor to help people who can’t afford medical bills.  This decision influenced all my subject choices in high school. It is what brought me to the University of Otago where I am currently in my second year of medicine.

STEM subjects provide a pathway to numerous dynamic and exciting career opportunities. STEM careers offer good incomes that provide an opportunity to significantly lift the standard of living for our families. It will give us the mandate and platform to contribute to the wellbeing of Pasifika people in New Zealand and abroad.  We can and should STEM IT UP!


  • Year 12 subjects: Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Physical Education 
  • Year 13 subjects: Calculus, Biology, Chemistry and Physics
  • University of Otago: Health Science First Year Program
  • University of Otago: Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MB ChB)

Bernadette Robertson - Electrical Engineer

I am a New Zealand born Samoan with my father having distant Scottish relations (hence my surname). I attended McAuley High School in Otahuhu, Auckland and enjoyed subjects like Science (Year 11), Physics and Biology (Year 12 and 13). Before heading to University, I thought of studying Medicine and becoming a doctor, but was afraid of the long years of commitment for study and wasn’t sure if I would be at a disadvantage having not taken Chemistry.

In the end, I studied a Bachelor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Auckland city campus and graduated in 2015. This led me to a career in the Transmission and High Voltage industry. I now work for Transpower Ltd who own, maintain and operate the National Grid (NZ’s electricity transmission system).

I found Science a strong subject for me in high school and this motivated me to further pursue a career in it. Once I identified what Engineering was in my Physics class, the aspect of designing and creating a solution that in turn provides for the community encouraged me to join this field, as it relates back to my values.


  • Year 11-13 subjects: Science, Physics and Biology
  • Bachelor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering – University of Auckland

Randall Ah Mu - Electrical Engineer

Randall AhMu

I am of Samoan descent. After working for a year to save money, then two years serving as a volunteer missionary for my church, I attended the University of Auckland Engineering School studying Electrical and Electronic engineering. I was also an active participant in the South Pacific Indigenous Engineering Students (SPIES) program for Māori and Pasifika students. I graduated with an Honours degree and went on to do further studies while working full time, gaining a postgraduate certificate in Illumination Engineering from the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and recently a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with distinction from the Edinburgh Business School at Heriot-Watt University.

My career path has led me from being an Electrical Engineer consultant at Beca and SKM, to a sales engineering role at Modus Lighting and then into Construction Project Management for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Trust Board. I was promoted to the role of Area Projects Manager for the Pacific Area, heading up a team of Project Managers. The role covers a wide geographical area and I recently decided to move up to Whangarei for a better work/life balance. I chose STEM subjects as I always enjoyed learning how things worked and being able to create things, and my life has definitely been blessed as a consequence.


  • Year 13 subjects: Calculus, Chemistry, English, PE, Physics, Statistics (Auckland Grammar School)
  • University of Auckland: Bachelor of Engineering (Honours), Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Auckland University of Technology: Postgraduate in Illumination Engineering

Judeena Carpenter - Civil Engineer

Judeena Carpenter

I am of Samoan and Irish descent and attended St Mary’s College in Auckland. I currently work as an Engineer for Fletcher Earthquake Recovery (EQR).

I chose STEM subjects in order to keep my options for post-high school as wide as possible for as long as possible. I wasn’t ready to close off a number of potential areas of interest when I was only 15.

At that age, you really don’t know just how many different careers, jobs and industries are accessible to you (or how your Year 12 subject choices might help you get there). It didn’t make sense for me to close those doors before I could even see what opportunities those subjects might offer me.

The job market is changing constantly, there are jobs now that didn’t even exist five years ago. STEM subjects give you different skill sets, allow you to explore and experiment and most importantly give you huge freedom for your options after high school.

A tertiary entrance qualification (NCEA Level 3) is required to enter further training. You will need at least 14 NCEA Level 3 credits in both calculus and physics. Other useful subjects include English, chemistry, and technology subjects such as design and visual communications.


  • Year 11-13 subjects:  Physics, Calculus, History, Economics
  • University degree(s): BA- English conjoint BE (Hons) Civil Engineering

Lincoln Timoteo - Civil Engineer

Lincoln Timoteo

I am of Tokelauan and Māori descent (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toa, Te Āti Awa). I attended Rotorua Boys' High from Years 9 – 11 then St Patrick's College Silverstream for Years 12 – 13. The subjects I did in my senior years were English, Mathematics, Science, Te Reo Māori, Calculus, Statistics, Physics, Physical Education, Music and Furniture Making.

I completed a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) specialising in Civil Engineering at the University of Auckland. During the third year of my four-year degree, I applied for several internships to gain professional work experience. I was fortunate to gain a summer internship. This opportunity enabled me to get my foot in the door and was followed by an offer for a full-time position once I completed my final year of my undergraduate degree.

I am currently a Site Engineer working in the Fletcher Construction family where I have been for about 18 months. I chose STEM because I've always been interested in how things work and how they could be better. As an engineer, you are constantly faced with challenges and being a problem solver of these challenges is something I really enjoy.


  • Year 12 and 13 subjects: English, Mathematics, Science, Calculus, Statistics, Physics, Physical Education,
  • University of Auckland: Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) specialising in Civil Engineering

 Nadeen Papali'i - Environmental Engineer/Teacher

Nadeen Papalii

I am of Samoan descent from Ōtara, Auckland. I attended Auckland Girls Grammar School.

My subject selection in high school was largely based on the subject requirements to get into engineering at the University of Auckland. I completed a Bachelor of Engineering majoring in Chemical and Materials (Honours) and also a Masters in Environmental Engineering (Honours). I then enrolled in a graduate programme called Teachfirst NZ and completed a postgraduate diploma in teaching - field based, and a postgraduate certificate with Unitec, MindLab, in digital and collaborative learning.

I did a lot of my training within engineering but I had very little experience within the workforce. Towards the end of my Masters’ degree, I wasn't quite ready to enter the workforce. I still wanted to train and grow my confidence. TeachFirst NZ provided an opportunity to develop leadership, which has brought me to where I’m currently at, teaching Mathematics and directing the Health Science Academy at Tangaroa College.

I chose STEM because I loved problem solving and figuring out why things worked the way they did. Hearing there was (and still is) a need for more female Pacific representation within the field, I figured why not channel my purpose towards responding to a need, and so, my journey with STEM continues.


  • Year 11: Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Maths, and Accounting
  • Year 12: Physics, Chemistry, English, Calculus, Japanese and Accounting
  • Year 13: Physics, Chemistry, Calculus, English and Japanese
  • Bachelor of Engineering Majoring in Chemical and Materials (Hons)
  • Masters in Environmental Engineering

Paulo Naititi - Project Manager

Paulo Naititi

I am of Samoan/NZ European descent and attended Birkenhead College. Since completing my undergraduate degree in 2010 (specialising in structural engineering), I have worked in an engineering, project management and management consulting capacity in Australasia with a Deloitte Fast 50 professional service firm called Xigo. Most recently I worked in the UK with a prestigious multi-disciplinary engineering consultancy called Arup.

During this work experience, I completed a postgraduate qualification in structural engineering. This reinforced the technical areas related to my undergraduate studies. I developed many soft skills and improved my management capability. This provided me the opportunity to work on some of the most challenging and complex projects in Australasia and the UK, in progressively diversified roles beyond those traditionally associated with an engineer. I have just completed some Masters in Business Administration (MBA) modules with the University of Warwick, which form part of their programme, with an aspiration of becoming a specialist consultant in the energy industry.

I took STEM as I enjoy problem solving and science based subjects. I studied engineering because I was interested in the application of science, where positive outcomes would be seen. For example, the application of physics in bridge design could result in an aesthetically pleasing slender structure that is equally fit-for-purpose in allowing communities to transit from one side to the other.


  • Year 12/13 subjects: Physics, Calculus, Statistics, Economics, Accounting
  • Bachelor of Engineering (Hons), Civil & Environmental – University of Auckland
  • Master of Engineering Studies – Structural Engineering and Project Management – University of Auckland
  • Master of Business Administration Energy, Energy Futures Programme – University of Warwick, Warwick Business School

J'aime Laurenson - Management Consultant

Jaime Laurenson

As a kid, I dreamed of becoming an inventor. I was always trying to build things and pull them apart to figure out how they worked. I used to spend time working with my dad on houses so I inherited a strong DIY mentality.

Maths was one of my best subjects at school, and so the STEM path made sense for me. even though I was a bit weaker on the science side. Education was a big focus in my family, so I was driven to do well academically – particularly when I’d think about how much my grandparents had sacrificed to move to New Zealand, all to provide us with more opportunities for a better life.

I studied engineering (Mechatronics) at university, as that fit my interest in maths and new technologies. It also gave me broad options in terms of careers, as the problem-solving skills that an engineer develops are highly sought after by all industries. After considering postgraduate study, I decided instead that I wanted to learn more about the business world and so became a Management Consultant. I worked with many clients from a diverse range of industries, including local government, public sector organisations, banking, energy and venture capital.

Most recently I’ve been working in the Tech Start-up industry, combining my technical STEM skills and business knowledge to build software products.


  • Year 11-13 subjects: Maths with Calculus, Chemistry, Physics, Maths with Statistics and Accounting (Auckland Grammar School)
  • Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) / Bachelor of Laws (Hons) - Specialised in Mechatronics and Commercial Law
  • Master of Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship


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