Applications for the 2022 Wine Australia scholarships are now open. We spoke to PhD student Kamalpreet Kaur about how her 2021 scholarship is improving our understanding of Grapevine Pinot Gris Virus (GPGV).
PhD student and plant pathologist Kamalpreet Kaur spends her days investigating the impact of GPGV on the Australian wine sector.
"We have identified major concerns from growers about the lack of information about the effect this virus has on Australian viticulture productivity and sustainability. By better understanding the diversity and distribution of the virus in Australia, we can get a handle on its association with disease and improve diagnostic testing,” she said.
“We also hope to develop management strategies that will empower growers to maintain the health of their vineyards and ensure high health status planting material, which is the most valuable and critical input for grape production.”
Kamalpreet is working under the supervision of Dr Fiona Constable and Professor Brendan Rodoni in the School of Applied Systems Biology at Agriculture Victoria (La Trobe University) and Dr Amy Rinaldo at the Australian Wine Research Institute. Her role involves examining the genetic diversity of the GPGV to improve Australian diagnostic capabilities and understand how the virus might contribute to disease.
She is also looking at the potential of developing a novel antiviral treatment to ‘silence’ the virus.
If successful, the treatment could be administered as a management tool to attack the virus and stop it replicating in infected grapevines. GPGV-free grapevines could then be distributed back to growers.
Kamalpreet said her Wine Australia scholarship has provided financial assistance to undertake her PhD, which otherwise may have been hard to access. “The scholarship helps fund the items I need in the lab as well as field trips to visit growers and collect samples.”
Importantly, Kamalpreet said the scholarship is assisting her to achieve her goals and increase career opportunities.
“Earning a prestigious scholarship from Wine Australia is worth listing on my resumé and it will stand out when I search for a job in future,” she said.
Kamalpreet also works part-time as a tutor and mentors high school students at the Gene Technology Access Centre (GTAC), and she encourages other researchers to apply for a Wine Australia scholarship.
“If you want to work in science in viticulture, these PhD scholarships are invaluable. The application process for the Wine Australia scholarship was very transparent and straightforward, and any questions or concerns I had were promptly resolved.”
Kamalpreet graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Zoology (Honours) from the University of Delhi, India, and said she has been intensely curious about ‘how things work’ from childhood.
“My desire for a lifelong intellectual challenge motivated me to pursue research as a career and my PhD candidature has helped me near that goal. What I love most about my work is the joy of discovery and the thrill that comes from understanding something. It brings me contentment as well as excitement.”
Keen to apply for a 2022 Wine Australia scholarship? Learn more here.