The Plant Innovation Centre (PIC) offers a range of opportunities for science students. We provide valuable experience in biosecurity research.
Want to become a professional scientist?
We’ll help advance your knowledge and skills beyond your undergraduate training and prepare you for a future career in the life sciences.
- industry exposure to a leading employer of scientists
- the chance to work in a state-of-the-art biosecurity containment facility
- modern, well-equipped laboratories
- opportunities to build networks with government and our industry partners
- pathways to real employment opportunities and prospects
- hands on experience working with professional, leading scientists in their fields.
Students will need to:
- be professional, motivated and self-driven with a positive 'can do’ attitude and an open mind
- meet with the PIC team as part of the selection process
- undergo a Federal Police check
- be able to provide 100 points of certified ID
- complete an induction process
- complete online e-learning modules
- meet all requirements applicable to working in a Biosecurity Activity Zone.
Our Honours/Masters co-supervision courses will help you develop the necessary skills to become a successful professional scientist. This is also a very exciting and challenging period as it may be your first opportunity to work on a project you are genuinely interested in.
In addition to the benefits above, we offer:
- a $5,000 stipend (payable in 2 x $2,500 instalments)
- the opportunity to help develop your network
- early career experience.
Interested? Contact the PIC team today: PICteam@aff.gov.au or speak with your university Hons/MSc coordinator about co-supervision opportunities.
Have you completed Honours and/or Masters, or are already in the workforce and have considerable experience in a relevant field? You may be eligible to undertake a co-supervised PhD with the PIC team via one of our partner universities.
This is the highest level of study in Australia and can open the door to:
- further employment
- better wages and conditions
- greater independence and autonomy in your science field (you can work on what interests you, not what someone else thinks is interesting)
- industry recognition.
At the completion of your studies, you will submit a thesis which demonstrates you have made a significant contribution of original research to your scientific field. If approved, you will be eligible to use the title of ‘Doctor’.
You will develop innovative solutions to real-world biosecurity problems and help protect our country from dangerous exotic pests and diseases.
As well as the benefits above, we offer:
- a scholarship of $35,000 (tax free) per year
- up to $25,000 per year to attend conferences and build your professional network.
- the option to work 1 day per week to earn extra income.
Your university will provide all other financial support (for example, study fees) via a Research training program fees offset scholarship through the Department of Education.
Interested? Contact the PIC team today: PICteam@aff.gov.au or speak with your university PhD coordinator about co-supervision opportunities.
Completing undergraduate studies?
Apply for our University Vacation Employment Program (UVEP) here.
If you have a keen desire to work in plant biosecurity and a strong academic record with professional references, please get in touch with us: PICteam@aff.gov.au
Discover your future in science on our website.
Thomas Farrall, PhD candidate, University of the Sunshine Coast and Plant Innovation Centre
I completed a University Vacation Employment Program as a student. After uni, I worked as a molecular researcher with the PIC. I took the opportunity to further my scientific knowledge and start my PhD studies. My enthusiasm for new technologies drives me to improve our ability to detect diseases. The focus of my PhD is developing cost-effective third-generation sequencing pipelines for plant virus detection.
Dr Adrian Dinsdale, Director, Plant Innovation Centre
I have been a part of the PIC team since 2018 and have extensive experience in industry, academia, and state and federal government. I provide strategic direction for the team and ensure we align with the department’s priorities. I also engage with other scientific institutions and identify and secure resourcing opportunities. What I love about my job is the opportunity to get involved in interesting and amazing science. I also enjoy the applied nature of our work. Outcomes from our research result in real improvements to Australia’s biosecurity system.
Dr Sonia Fiorito, Assistant Director, Plant Innovation Centre
I completed a PhD in plant molecular biology and joined the department as a Biosecurity Officer. I have since worked in the PIC as a Plant Pathologist and Plant Scientist. Part of my role is screening medium-risk plant material. My career journey has helped me appreciate the department’s role in safeguarding our nation from animal diseases, plant pests and pathogens. I am also proud to work with and lead a dedicated team of scientists. Our work focuses on trialling new and emerging technologies. This helps improve our diagnostic capabilities and treatment options.
Dr Alicia Hetherton, Senior Scientist, Plant Innovation Centre
I spent several years field-testing the efficacy and safety of chemicals for the agricultural sector. I joined the PIC as a Research Scientist in 2020. I am involved in projects that are investigating novel treatments to prevent seed-borne pests and pathogens from entering Australia. In my current role as Senior Scientist, I also contribute to the running of the group and our facilities. I love working at PIC due to the applied nature of the research and the amazing support of colleagues.
Dr Shamila Abeynayake, Molecular Research Scientist, Plant Innovation Centre
After completing a PhD in plant molecular biology I undertook post-doctoral studies in Europe. I joined the PIC as a molecular scientist. I develop innovative projects for biosecurity, such as DNA barcode sequencing. It allows rapid identification of invertebrate pests using MinION technology. I also supervise and manage projects. I love working at the PIC. It has a supportive team environment and provides an opportunity to develop novel solutions that protect Australia’s agricultural industries.
Dr Frank Bedon, Molecular Research Scientist, Plant Innovation Centre
As a plant lover, I studied plant science throughout my education and career. I am particularly interested in the emergence of new molecular biology techniques. These allow me to research and publish new developments in plant science. As part of the PIC team, I am leading innovations into the field of molecular diagnostics using the latest CRISPR-Cas technology. I enjoy helping protect our plant-based economy and beautiful native plants.
Dr Sharareh (Sherry) Heydari, Molecular Research Scientist, Plant Innovation Centre
After completing my PhD in plant molecular biology, I joined the PIC as a Molecular Scientist in 2021. My work involves developing diagnostic assays for detection of exotic seed-borne pathogens that are of biosecurity concern. What I love the most about my work is that it allows me to carry out research that is impactful and contributes to strengthening Australia's biosecurity.
Dr Matias Silva Campos, Molecular Research Scientist, Plant Innovation Centre
I joined the PIC after completing my PhD research in molecular techniques on the diagnostics of plant pathogens. I now focus on developing new detection tools for exotic seed-transmitted pathogens. I love being part of a team that is at the forefront of Australia’s preparedness for emerging threats to the agricultural sector. Also, the amazing and experienced team makes PIC a unique workplace. I am learning new skills and applying all my knowledge.
Submit a project idea
We welcome project suggestions related to plant disease and virus detection, identification and management. Submit your idea via PICteam@aff.gov.au