Caitlin Elborough

Horti-Science / Plant and Food Research


School: ACG Strathallan, Auckland.

Training Institute: BSc (Hons) – University of Otago

Current Employment: Plant and Food Research

I was born in an industrial town in the north of England, to parents who were both first in their families to go to university, to study science. They immigrated to New Zealand’s greener pastures when I was 3, so the majority of my upbringing was surrounded by the beauty of nature and encouragement of scientific curiosity. When the time came, I ventured out of the family home in Pukekohe, and settled at the University of Otago where I found true passion in genetics and biochemistry. Every summer I returned to Auckland and completed a Summer Studentship, the first two being at Landcare Research (ecological genetics) and my final one, after I graduated with my bachelors, at Plant and Food Research. That summer defined my career as I fell in love with plant molecular biology. I returned to Otago to complete my BSc (Hons) with the new goal of breaking into plant research.

Toward the end of my honours project a research associate position became available within the same Plant and Food Research team I did my summer project with. The position was perfect for me, investigating the transcriptional regulation of colour and health related compounds within fruit. Working within crops instead of model organisms is really important to me as it allows me to visualise the immense differences we can make in the world of horticulture.

What I love about this industry is the people, from a research perspective collaboration is a huge part of everyday life and provides an extensive range of projects, which means every day is unique. I also really enjoy the outreach aspect, communicating what I do alongside what Plant and Food Research does to the general public is an honour. My favourite groups of people to interact with are current university students, from first years to post grads, taking time to listen to their passions and discuss how they could harness that to expand the NZ industry (or worldwide!) brings me great joy. If I could give them all one piece of advice, it would be to get out there and try everything they can get their hands on. I never thought I would enjoy plant research as much as I do, and I only discovered my passion because I put myself out there and gave it a go!