Scientist, Plant Health and Environment Laboratory, Ministry for Primary Industries
Master of Applied Science
As a scientist for the Ministry for Primary Industries, AUT science alumna Subuhi Khan plays an important role in protecting plants from harmful viruses.
“A key part of my job is to find new ways to identify and detect viruses that can cause harm to New Zealand’s primary industries. The test methods we develop here in the ministry’s virology team help screen plant germplasm and imports coming into the country for harmful viruses that have the potential to cause significant damage to New Zealand growers and trade."
Being part of a team that helps grow and protect New Zealand’s primary industry is what she loves most about her work.
“Throughout my career here, I’ve had the chance to develop new tests for virus detection, publish scientific articles and implement new technologies for plant virus diagnostics. I’ve led multiple projects over the years, and have directly contributed to getting several molecular tests accredited by accreditation body IANZ.
“As an IANZ certified auditor, I’ve also actively taken part in improving and maintaining the lab’s quality system, as well as staff training and induction. Other achievements I’m particularly proud of include helping overseas government agencies set up their own molecular labs, and successfully creating a range of videos and online training resources on molecular techniques.”
Subuhi, who graduated from AUT with a Master of Applied Science in 2013, says she had long been fascinated by genetics and molecular biology.
“I had previously completed a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology, and during my studies I had developed a strong interest in genetics and molecular biology. Enrolling in a master’s degree at AUT, specialising in molecular genetics, gave me the opportunity to focus on the area I wanted to pursue my career in.”
As an international student from India, she first came across AUT at an education fair in New Delhi.
“AUT immediately caught my attention due to the variety of courses this university has to offer, with a strong focus on innovation and state-of-the-art infrastructure. Back in 2009, when I was looking at postgraduate study options, AUT was also one of the few universities to offer molecular genetics as a study option. The location of the AUT City Campus and access to great student facilities made it very easy for me to choose AUT.”
An inspiring research culture
The research component of her master’s degree was the highlight of her studies, Subuhi says.
“For my research project, I was working with the plant molecular genetics team and my research focused on studying the level of genetic variability within a plant virus called Dasheen mosaic virus; a virus known to infect taro, which is an important crop in Pacific countries.
“To conduct my research, I was using the latest technology available at that time, Illumina HiSeq. Not many universities were using this platform due to the cost involved, and I was lucky that my supervisor arranged for me to use such an advanced technology at the time.”
While she had many memorable experiences throughout her time at AUT, Subuhi says collaborating with her supervisor is what stands out most.
“I found a great mentor in my supervisor, Associate Professor Colleen Higgins. I’ve learnt so much from her – from how to stay focused and how to write scientific papers, to organisation skills and the art of giving scientific presentations. She also always motivated me to push my boundaries, whether it was through my role as a teaching assistant for the molecular genetics class or through tutoring first-year students. I continue to use those skills even today in my career.”
The Master of Applied Science is now called Master of Science.