Position: Senior research scientist Field: Vitamin C biosynthesis and function in plants Organisation: Carbohydrate Team, Breeding and Genomics Group, Plant & Food Research

Sean Bulley attended Long Bay College, then the University of Auckland, where he obtained a BSc in biology. Further study in England resulted in a master’s degree in plant breeding and biotechnology at the University of East Anglia and a PhD in plant biotechnology from the Open University (London, UK).

Back in New Zealand, Sean became a research scientist at HortResearch, Auckland (now Plant & Food Research). He joined a group of researchers, led by Dr William Laing, who were investigating why vitamin C content varies between plant varieties.

William Laing was a superb mentor. The group made significant contributions to the field of plant vitamin C biosynthesis, and it has gone from being unknown in the area to becoming one of the leading research groups. The group is now working on the role of vitamin C in plant development and how to apply this knowledge to plant breeding.

In 2008, Sean was awarded a prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship for experienced researchers. Sean travelled to Germany with his wife Cherie to live and work in Berlin. The experience and contacts gained from working at the Max-Planck Institute of Plant Molecular Physiology were invaluable, and the insight Sean gained there has set up years of work.

Sean enjoys the flexibility and freedom that a career in science provides. “There is the mundane work but there is also the chance to explore new concepts and really challenge oneself by constantly learning new things. Great results and interesting findings also give a huge buzz,” he says.

The greatest satisfaction comes from appreciating how a project has evolved from inception to its current form, knowing this will change again – and probably not in the way one envisages.

Sean enjoys social sports such as football, tennis and squash. He also enjoys DIY, gardening, drawing/painting, travel and spending time with family.

Useful links

Find out more about William Laing on the Biotechnology Learning Hub.
www.biotechlearn.org.nz/nz_biotech...william_laing

This article is based on information current in 2011.

    Published 18 March 2011