join the network

Career profile | Cathryn Todd

Cathryn Todd

Job title

Horticulture Pathologist (Diagnostics)

How did you choose your job? Or did it choose you?

After combined work in pathology research projects and the diagnostic lab for 8 years I had an appreciation for operation of the lab, including the difference between research results and requirements for traceability and consistency/controls in diagnostic tests, when the previous diagnostician was considering retirement.

What does a typical day look like for you?

1-2 samples a work day, some are sent to collaborators or put through standard tests, others I look at get sucked down the excitement of the symptoms & microscopes. Procedures are followed for the next few days & timeframes intermingle so organisation becomes important. Until, hopefully a diagnosis based on morphology & sometimes sequence results. Lots of paperwork and requirements of being a government employee, research commitments and lab/test research and improvements run in parallel with only with 1 part-time casual assistant.

How long have you worked in diagnostics and what roles have you had?

NATA accredited potato virus testing involvement for 8 years and samples related to research projects (woody, fungal isolations) prior to a succession planning position.

What training/education have you received to allow you to be a diagnostician?

PhD in Plant Disease – Rhizoctonia Disease on Potatoes led to collaboration with SARDI and then work positions including technical assistance in the diagnostics lab.

Almost 12 months of succession planned hand over and an online CABI and week course in nematology diagnostic course prior to taking the reins.

What is your greatest achievement as a diagnostician?

Yet to come, give me time and something to look forward to!

How do you see diagnostics changing/improving in the next 2-4 years?

6 months ago I would have said getting back out in field engagement activities and adapting those diagnostic tests to fast field based results. With Covid restrictions this might be delayed.

What advice would you give anyone wanting to start a career in diagnostics?

Consider what is a diagnostic test, what the goal is, limitations, sample type and lab environment you would like to be in.

There are very different roles under the catch all phrase ‘diagnostics’ around Australia.