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From Vineyards to Lab Coats

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Christopher Watts Student Profile

Meet Christoper, a Kiwi in his final year of an Agriculture Science Degree. Chris has always worked in the wine industry, previously in viticulture (specifically wine processing), until one day decided he wanted to get himself out of the booze trade. Having lived in multiple countries (Australia, the UK, and Spain), he was motivated to get out of the cycle of starting at the bottom every time he moved. Much like many others, COVID-19 was a major turning point for Christopher. He decided to stay put and test his determination instead.

The student life presented a myriad of challenges for Christopher. Hailing from New Zealand, he navigated the academic landscape without the safety net of financial support like HECS, shouldering the responsibility of upfront fees. Further complicating matters, he hadn’t been in a formal educational setting since high school, requiring him to master the delicate art of balancing rigorous study with full-time work to finance his degree. Yet, in the face of these challenges, Christopher’s passion for the subject matter served as his guiding light, propelling him forward when the path seemed exhausting.

Chris chose agribusiness originally, as he craved the need for a more comprehensive understanding, beyond the confines of viticulture, then changed to Agriculture Science as he loved the scientific courses in his degree. The appeal of agriculture lies in its broader scope, covering plant biology, pathogens, and various aspects of the field.

Throughout his studies, Chris came to realise his love for good grades and praise. From that passion and enthusiasm for the content, came positive repercussions, Chris secured a scholarship and made the VC list, all through hard work and determination. These achievements added to the fulfilment he found in studying his chosen degree.

Approaching the end of his academic endeavours, Christopher envisions a future in research. He sees himself making meaningful contributions to the field of agriculture, particularly in areas that align with his interests. Hearing Chris discuss his encounters in studying, industry and experience, Chris exerts passion and a real thrill of what is to come and all that could be accomplished.

“I really enjoy it… I like getting into the lab and doing wet lab stuff. The novelty of wearing a coat and playing with chemicals is not lost on me yet.”

The prospect of further education, possibly a PhD, looms on the horizon, contingent on opportunities that arise, particularly through government initiatives. His aspirations include navigating the complexities of the agriculture-environment nexus, contemplating roles in natural capital accounting, and exploring the potential of genetic screening and molecular tools in the agricultural landscape.

“I want to do something, as I’m sure everyone thinks, you want to do something meaningful with it. I’ve always wanted to go into the government and do something meaningful in that space.”

Whilst it has been a journey to get Christopher to the end of his Agriculture Science degree, there is no doubt that an extremely rewarding journey is about to start. They say good things come to those who wait, and after a moment of talking with Christopher, it is evident that great things are coming his way. His drive, dedication and passion will make sure of that.

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