Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Postgraduate Diploma in Science
For his PhD research, Praveenth Lawrence is focusing on the microbial community composition of kauri soil and its metabolic functions.
“The kauri tree is a significant and iconic native tree of Aotearoa New Zealand. Currently, a phytophthora infection known as the kauri dieback disease is killing kauri trees, and has had a significant impact on kauri ecosystems and their natural processes.
“My PhD research explores the microbial community and functional gene profiling of kauri and its habitat. I’m hoping to identify endophytes that can provide resistance against the kauri dieback pathogen. I believe that my study could contribute to the natural disease management and biocontrol of kauri dieback disease without compromising the ecosystem integrity or phytotoxicity.”
Expecting to complete his PhD in June 2023, Praveenth has already enjoyed sharing his work with other researchers at the 16th Congress of the Federation of Asian and Oceanian Biochemists and Molecular Biologists in Christchurch in 2021 and is expecting to publish papers on his research soon.
His doctoral research is being supervised by Associate Professor Donnabella Lacap Bugler from AUT’s School of Science and Dr Mahajabeen Padamsee from Landcare Research.
The path to postgraduate study
Originally from Sri Lanka, Praveenth completed his undergraduate degree in India and then proceeded to start his career.
“I completed my Bachelor of Science and then worked for five years in food and nutrition. Then I realised that I still had a thirst to learn more and that postgraduate study would help me progress in my career and create more opportunities. My interest in molecular biology increased after I completed a master's degree in science, and I knew I wanted to do a PhD in the future.”
He says a PhD offers a broad learning opportunity.
“I believe that a PhD offers us a chance to explore and examine a particular subject in depth, and also helps us develop our skills and knowledge about a specific topic. Finally, doctoral study has helped me improve my management and analytical skills, and ability to handle high-pressure situations.”
He has had many experiences throughout his time at AUT, says Praveenth who is planning to develop his career in research and investigate microbial communities in different environments in the future.
“I’ve enjoyed most of my studies so far. The most challenging part was collecting samples in the kauri forests, but it was a great experience climbing the mountains of the Waitakere and Waikato regions. I was able to learn many new techniques related to bioinformatics and data analysis. And the best aspect I like about AUT is the team I work with. Good people around me are always encouraging and motivating, and this has been an incredible journey.”
He wouldn’t hesitate to recommend postgraduate study in science.
“Knowledge is the best resource you will have when you retire. The experience gained during learning and conducting research can’t be achieved in a workplace, and postgraduate study also always opens up new opportunities to develop your career.”