After 10 years of working as a supply chain professional, I moved to South America where I volunteered on farms and lived with local people in Argentina, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. This one year journey inspired me to follow my passion for plants, health, and the environment with the aim of making a positive impact on the community at large. What better way to do this than to study plant science (botany)?!
Since returning to Australia in 2014, I have completed a Diploma of Bioscience and Bachelor of Science with Honours (First Class) in Plant Biotechnology at La Trobe University in Melbourne. In my honours research project, I investigated a number of plant genes that are involved in how a plant responds to environmental stresses such as heat waves. Global warming is increasing the frequency and severity of heat waves and this affects how plants produce pollen. Heat waves can cause severe abnormalities in pollen which in turn reduces seed and fruit yields for farmers and drives up food prices for consumers. By using gene editing technology (CRISPR-Cas9), I was able to help characterise a number of genes that are involved in pollen development and this work will be published very soon.
Currently, I am undertaking a PhD project in the medicinal agriculture field working with the world's most versatile plant, Cannabis sativa (marijuana or hemp). Working with medicinal plants is my passion and I'm very fortunate to have this opportunity. My research focuses on how biotechnology can be used to increase the yield of cannabinoids which are pharmacologically active compunds that confer medicinal benefits. Current research indicates that cannabinoids can relieve symptoms associated with various diseases and disorders, and exhibit therapuetic potential in the case of chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, tourette's syndrome, cancer, psychiatric disorders, childhood epilepsy and many more. Cannabinoids are synthesised in small hair-like glands called trichomes that mostly grow on the flowers of the cannabis plant. The better we understand how trichomes develop at the molecular level, the better we can improve the production of quality cannabinoids which will ultimately benefit patients. The aim of my research is to find out which genes control trichome development in the plant. I am also working as medicinal cannabis cultivator at Cann Group Limited, Australia's first licensed medicinal cannabis producer.
In the future, I look forward to leading cannabis research and development, improving the supply channels of medicinal plant products to patients and developing new, exciting plant output traits whilst proactively informing and educating the wider community.