Lee Rabbidge

Lee Rabbidge

Scientist (Virology), Plant Health and Environment Laboratory, Ministry for Primary Industries
Master of Science (Research)
Bachelor of Science in Microbiology

For Lee Rabbidge, it was a bit of a quarter life crisis that launched his career in science.

“I decided at the age of 25 that I wanted to change careers. I had always been interested in the sciences and was inspired by friends working in scientific fields. Microbiology and genetics had always interested me and AUT offered a degree that covered both – which intrigued me. After further investigation into the university, and hearing friends comment on the interactive learning at AUT, I decided to take the plunge.”

It was a decision he hasn’t regretted, says Lee who won the School of Science’s Most Outstanding Bachelor of Science Graduate Award and the AsureQuality Most Outstanding Microbiology Graduate Award. He also received a bursary fund from the Australasian Plant Pathology Society to attend its conference in Melbourne and present his master’s degree research.

“AUT’s science programmes focus on teaching contemporary and next-generation knowledge. The inclusive, social and exciting environment at AUT also helps with achieving your academic goals.

“The friends and connections I made along the way were definitely one of the highlights for me. Sharing the struggle of exams or helping to get that assignment in on time with good marks was stressful at the time, but looking back it truly was the best of times. We still all meet up and chat often.”

A valuable contribution to biosecurity
Lee now works at the Ministry for Primary Industries, providing molecular diagnostic services for exotic and emerging pests and diseases affecting plants and the environment.

“What I love most about this career is learning new things every day, working with an expert, talented and friendly team, and knowing that my work is contributing to the biosecurity of New Zealand’s primary industries.”

He constantly draws on the skills he developed during his studies at AUT, Lee says.

“My Bachelor of Science was filled with practical lab experience that I now use every day in the laboratories at the Ministry for Primary Industries. My master’s degree research allowed me to develop these skills further, particularly with contemporary molecular diagnostic techniques and knowledge. My studies at AUT also involved developing my interpersonal and networking skills, which has benefitted me greatly.”

Advice for other students
Don’t be afraid to take a shot at that opportunity, Lee advises other students.

“My whole career trajectory can be pinpointed down to one decision where I took an opportunity to do my undergraduate project in a discipline I initially knew very little about. My project focused on the lettuce necrotic yellows virus, a plant virus infecting lettuce and other species, and involved molecular techniques and knowledge I didn’t quite have yet as I had yet to take papers on genetics and molecular genetics.

“That decision introduced me to my master’s research supervisor, the world of plant virology and eventually led me to work at the Ministry for Primary Industries. Plunging into the unknown was scary, but it ended up being the best thing I did at university. You never know where that opportunity could lead.”