Everyday plant health heroes

Professor Calum Wilson

Professor of Plant Pathology, Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture

I love challenges and love to see my work make a difference, in plant pathology there are very real-world problems that need some innovative thought to address.

How did you choose your job? Or did it choose you?

I have always loved working with plants from a young age. At university I became intrigued with microbiology, so combing the two led to the study of plant disease. I love challenges and love to see my work make a difference, in plant pathology there are very real-world problems that need some innovative thought to address.

How long have you worked in this industry?

I have been with the University of Tasmania for 25 years and a few years prior to that with the Tasmanian State Government, working in plant pathology research and teaching.

What does plant health mean to you?

Healthy productive plants. All plants suffer from some stress or disease, but a “healthy” plant is one that performs to a satisfactory level. From an agricultural perspective this generally means excellent yields and quality of produce.

What are your three greatest achievements in this role?

My group has had great research success around understanding and developing novel management solutions for some rather recalcitrant diseases. These have led to new controls adopted by industry, some important publications, and recognition including an industry nominated Research of the Year award in 2012 at the AUSVEG National Awards of Excellence

Being recognized as the Premiers Tasmanian Scientist of the Year in 2016 was a particular highlight.

Mentoring a new generation of research scientists many of whom have now sparkling international careers in science.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Writing grants, editing papers and discussing science with my postdocs and students. A lot less time in the lab these days unfortunately, however it is very rewarding to see the younger scientists in the group develop and produce some really outstanding achievements.

What advice would you give anybody wanting to get into the industry?

Follow your passion, be proactive in searching for opportunities and always keep the door open, you never know when your next big thing is going to come from. I believe it is really important to remain close with your clients, you will learn more than you will ever teach in that way, and the likelihood of your work making a difference is greatly enhanced.


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