Julia Lee

Job: Research Science     Area: Mid Canterbury

The PHD Scientist

Julia used to call herself a townie. Today, she's a PhD student conducting research at DairyNZ, and on the brink of graduating as a scientist.

Is a farming background essential for a job like yours?
No, I was born and bred in the city. People laughed at me when I got a job six years ago as a lab technician, as I knew nothing at all about cows, but I love the work and it's great to get outdoors.

So – what exactly do you do?
I do lots of interesting things, like finding out when grass is "just right". This is important work, as farmers depend on good quality grass to feed their cows.

What’s a typical day like?
Every day is different. I could be on-farm collecting samples in the mud, processing samples in the lab, or sitting at my desk writing up my findings. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to travel overseas! I go to Australia often and I present my research at conferences. A lot of scientists get stuck in the lab all day, but in the dairy industry you're outside a lot and working with animals.

What do you love most about your job?
In the lab I’ve learnt some really cool techniques - like the ones on CSI! I also enjoy the variety. And it's really exciting when you discover something that nobody else knows, and do research that’s one day going to help improve farm systems in New Zealand.

What qualifications do you need to have a job like yours?
To be a scientist you generally need to have completed a PhD, which takes about four years of study on top of an undergraduate degree (three years).

Any advice for young people wanting your career?
If you want to be a scientist in the agriculture industry, you need first to find the area of science you are most interested in. Work hard in science subjects at school and get as much job experience as you can.

Back to The Real World
"Work hard in the science subjects at school and get as much job experience as you can. People will recognise your skills.”

How did I get here:

School - NCEA: Science, Maths

University: Bachelor of Science