Richard’s current job involves investigating the genetic basis of how plants control the way they make colour, for example, in fruit.
The work ranges from beautiful orchards in Hawke’s Bay to the high-tech lab in Auckland, and I love that variety and the opportunities to keep learning.
These colours, or plant pigments, are important sources of dietary health, so the work combines his interest in the health component of fruits and basic research into the genetic control of these important compounds.
This research will contribute to developing new fruit varieties with novel colour characteristics such as apples with red flesh that have health benefits from high levels of antioxidants.
At school, Richard enjoyed biology but never considered a career in science. He started working in the newspaper industry but after 10 years decided he wanted to combine an increasing interest in plants and biology with a return to higher education. He completed a BSc in horticultural science at Reading University where he became very interested in the possibilities of biotechnology, so he joined the plant science division at Syngenta in the UK and worked on banana biotechnology, looking at ways of improving the nutritional content, in particular of pro-vitamin A.
Richard moved to New Zealand in 2002 to join Plant & Food Research and completed a PhD in molecular biology at The University of Auckland. In 2009, Richard was named one of the MacDiarmid Young Scientists of the Year for his research in apple genetics.
Outside of work, Richard likes spending time with family and friends enjoying good food. He is also interested in Italian motorcycles and enjoys the outdoors.
This RNZ article highlights one of Richard's latest research projects: a 'super' hybrid blueberry. This fruit combines the the taste and growing characteristics of blueberries with the colourful flesh of bilberries