Colleen Higgins


Vice President, Australasian Plant Pathology Society

Colleen Higgins is an Associate Professor at Auckland University of Technology (AUT). She is also the current Vice President of the Australasian Plant Pathology Society. Colleen is fascinated by how something tiny like a virus can control something complex like a plant. Using molecular tools, her lab studies emerging plant viruses, diagnostic tools, virus evolution and host plant molecular responses.

Colleen has broad experience in molecular biology. She received a BSc (Hons) from the University of Queensland [UQ] in plant molecular pathology, and a PhD from University College London studying the genetics of ankylosing spondylitis- spinal arthritis. Realising the plant world is her natural home, Colleen held post-doctoral positions at CSIRO, Queensland University of Technology and UQ developing GM crops and understanding virus evolution. She worked as a Senior Scientist at the NZ biotechnology company, Genesis R&D Ltd, on projects including genomics of wood and Botrytis cinerea. She joined AUT in 2004 where she established the Molecular Microbiology Laboratory where a lively group of staff and students study tiny organisms.

Colleen teaches at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in the areas of molecular genetics and ethics, and in 2013 was awarded the AUT Vice Chancellor’s award for individual teaching excellence. She uses a student-centred and research-informed approach to help her students develop deep understanding, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Colleen gets excited about curriculum development, having led her School in this area for many years. She embraces technology and the possibilities this creates for the learning environment. Ensuring we have graduates with knowledge and skills of benefit to society is a driving force for Colleen; however, the COVID19 pandemic has changed the world of learning forever. How we adapt will be an exciting challenge.

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