join the network

This month we are profiling Alyssa Martino, PhD Candidate (The University of Sydney) and Scientific Officer Biodiversity Research (Research Centre for Ecosystem Resilience).

Links to professional profile(s):

How did you find yourself on this career path?

When I first started university, I took an immediate interest in genetics and plant sciences. This led me to move to Sydney from Western Australia to complete an Honours degree in biochemistry, which focused on investigating the genetic basis of leaf shape development in model plant species. This set me up with solid research and technical skills in molecular biology.

It was during this time I met my now PhD supervisor, who had funding available for a project to investigate the genetic basis of resistance to the pathogen causing myrtle rust disease in Australian native Myrtaceae species. During this time, I developed a passion for plant conservation. Now, at the tail end of my PhD, I have taken up a part-time role in the Research Centre for Ecosystem Resilience team at the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens, allowing me to continue working in plant conservation beyond my PhD.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

Every day is different. During my PhD, I spent a lot of time between the glasshouse and the molecular biology lab, extracting DNA and RNA from myrtle rust-infected plants. More recently, my days mostly consisted of running -omics analyses on the University of Sydney’s high-performance computer and of course, thesis writing.

How long have you worked in this area?

I’ve been working in this space since the start of my PhD in 2021.

What roles have you held previously? 

Prior to beginning my Honours year, I undertook a 12-week studentship at CSIRO in the Molecular Plant Pathology and Crop Genomics Lab in Floreat, where I researched and tested the use of a novel RNA interference molecule to be used as a biological herbicide.

What training/education have you received?

BSc with a double major in Agricultural Science and Genetics, Honours in Biochemistry, and currently completing a PhD in Molecular Plant Pathology. A lot of self-taught bioinformatics.

What is your most memorable career achievement?

Being awarded a Dahl Fellowship from Eucalypt Australia to establish a citizen-science project to monitor the spread of myrtle rust in Australia has been my most memorable career achievement. This funding provided me with an opportunity to engage with the public to raise awareness of the impact of myrtle rust in Australia. Importantly, it educates the public on how to detect myrtle rust and report sightings in their home gardens or the natural environment.

What advice would you give anyone starting or changing their career?

Careers can be non-linear and it’s okay to not know what you want. If you’re not working on what you love right now, keep networking and exploring new opportunities until you find what drives you.