Rights: University of Waikato Published 1 July 2011 Download

Jane Mullaney is a PhD student at Plant & Food Research, Palmerston North. Jane describes her career pathway from graphic artist, to busker, to microbiology technician and PhD student. She has always had a questioning mind and believes that science is just as artistic as being able to paint, sing or play an instrument.


Jane Mullaney

I think I’ve always had a questioning mind, but I’d have to say that I wanted to be an artist when I was at school. I started off actually as a graphic artist and I went farming and then I started busking to make money, but that became something I couldn’t see myself doing when I got older.

As an adult student, I was able to come back to university, and I started doing a degree with psychology as my major. And I took a science paper just as an interest, in microbiology of all things, and I sat through the lecture with my mouth open thinking, “Wow, this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” And I immediately changed my major and completed a Bachelor of Science in microbiology. The title of my PhD is The biotransformation of glucosinolates and the impact on human health, but it basically means I’m looking at the microbial population in the gut and how that interacts with broccoli.

I think science is about dreaming and imagination, it’s just as artistic as being able to paint or sing or play an instrument. It’s that imagination, it’s “What if?” You really just need to have a passion for finding answers to scientific questions. There are jobs that pay much more than science but you’ll never find a job like science where you get to travel all over the world. You get to follow your passion and find the answers to questions that maybe other people can only imagine.