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Nipuni Peththa Thanthrige

Food researcher

From fungi to drought-resistant crops, food researcher Dr Nipuni Peththa Thanthrige is helping grow the future of agriculture

With a background in genetic and molecular biology, Nipuni is using science to help feed the world’s growing population in the face of climate change.

Globally, we need to increase food production by 50% to meet demand by 2050, and Nipuni says plant scientists will have a crucial role to play. “By improving plants to make them more stress tolerant and nutritious, we enhance crop performance and quality,” she says.

Nipuni is an academic at the Centre for Crop Science, part of the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation. Her current project involves sorghum, one of Australia’s vital cereal crops. “We’re aiming to improve the quality of sorghum, using genetics to make it more digestible.”

Nipuni’s fascination with science began as a child, watching fungi grow on the Discovery Channel. Today, her work addresses real-world agricultural problems. “I love talking to farmers about their challenges and providing practical solutions.”

The diversity of tasks is a real highlight of the job. “Each day is different,” says Nipuni. “One day I might be doing experiments in the lab, the next I’ll be applying that out in the field, and the following day writing an academic article or teaching undergrads!”

Nipuni’s study and career pathway

  • Bachelor of Science (Microbiology) (Honours), University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka
  • PhD in molecular biology and plant biotechnology, QUT
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Integrative Research, University of Queensland
  • Sessional Academic and Lead Tutor, QUT
  • Research Assistant, Centre for Agriculture and the Bioeconomy, QUT
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Crop Science, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, University of Queensland.

This article was originally published in Careers with STEM: Science.

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