Stuart has experience of a lifetime with Kiwifruit Vine Health in New Zealand.

Stuart has experience of a lifetime with Kiwifruit Vine Health in New Zealand.

Stuart Woodcock, a PhD student at the John Innes Centre, undertook his internship in New Zealand with Kiwifruit Vine Health (KVH), Mount Maungauni, as a Science and Innovation Coordinator.

Stuart initially approached his PIPS with some reluctance; “When I first arrived at the John Innes Centre, my goals were firmly fixed upon completing my PhD, I had just finished my undergraduate degree and was ecstatic that I had secured a PhD in a world renowned research institute. To my horror, shortly after arriving, our cohort were told we would have to start thinking about getting an internship in an industrial company or similar”, says Stuart. “Thus began my desire to make this undesirable break from my research into a major life-changing experience”, he adds.

When Stuart first approached KVH, his hope was to gain an insight into the industrial application of research in the New Zealand kiwifruit industry. This included communicating and interacting with a range of individuals who were involved with kiwifruit, either in growing, logistical, marketing or research areas.

Stuart undertook his internship from September to December 2016 and gained an in-depth knowledge of the industry. The main part of his work involved producing a 20,000 word report to index and critically review past, ongoing and proposed New Zealand research and development regarding the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae (Psa) since the original incursion in 2010. The report incorporated recommendations to the industry in terms of ongoing research by identifying areas of weakness or gaps in knowledge. A side project was also commissioned to index the incidence of resistance of Psa to commonly used control products; copper and streptomycin. These documents were produced to communicate with a wide range of audiences and to provide an informative and extensive reference to any persons new to the industry.

During the internship Stuart travelling around New Zealand to meet with orchard owners, kiwifruit growers, logistical managers, research scientists and biosecurity agents. Other duties included the physical monitoring of kiwifruit orchards to record any visible Psa symptoms as part of mandatory Psa monitoring, or part of monitoring confidential trial kiwifruit varieties to assess field susceptibility to the bacterium.

Stuart felt that living and working in New Zealand has provided him with a wealth of skills, work experience and personal development. Living in a foreign country is a daunting prospect, but one that was overcome and produced a stronger, independent character. Working with a variety of people from a wide range of scientific backgrounds allowed the improvement of communication skills to ensure comprehensive information was accessible to all levels of scientific knowledge and education. “This experience has changed my perspective on research and how it is applied to industry and ultimately this has allowed the better visualisation and understanding of the purpose of research; to solve a problem and to help those it effects. I have also had the pleasure of meeting amazing people and made potentially lifelong friends”, reflects Stuart.

Stuart felt the internship helped him develop many other skills and to learn about foreign policy and how science works in countries other than the UK. Working on various projects independently facilitated problem solving and time management skills, and Stuart’s confidence and responsibility were also challenged and built upon during his time at KVH.

“Although my prospective future career still remains in academic research, I would not change a thing. My time there has provided me with amazing skills, experiences and memories”, reflect Stuart. In terms of his advice to future PIPS students, Stuart says; “My advice to other PhD students would be to go for it. You can turn 3 months of your time into something amazing. Nothing good ever came from a comfort zone. Pursue the impossible”.