Rebecca Thistlethwaite, 27, is a grains research scientist working on the vast open plains of Narrabri in western New South Wales, and an academic with the University of Sydney. Before she came to work in research Rebecca thought of scientists as ‘socks, sandals and hairy legs’ but now she realises the sexiness of the scientific world emanates from the intelligence of the people who work within it and their ability to communicate the relevance
of their discoveries to the rest of the population.

Climate change and its relevance to agriculture is very real for Rebecca who’s PhD project focused on breeding new wheat varieties for superior tolerance to heat stress, aiming to develop varieties that would improve overall wheat yields for northern NSW grain farmers, even when the growing season was extremely hot and dry.

Rebecca collaborates with scientists from around the world; all of them working with the common goal of producing more food with fewer resources for an expanding population in a time of challenging climate change. She works with farmers, agronomists, plant breeders and policy makers to make sure the work she is carrying out will benefit all areas of agriculture. It is heady work.

Most of her days start early: a cup of tea with a ginger cat lying on her lap and a pair of border collies at her feet. Then it is into the field to check trial paddocks; inspecting plants, recording data and monitoring their progress. Back in the laboratory she will analyse data and discuss her findings with university colleagues. Then she may prepare presentations for anyone from international crop growers to students at her local school.

Sharing her story with the next generation of budding scientists is one of Rebecca’s passions and in 2014 she was sponsored by the Grains Research and Development Corporation to become an Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champion. As a Young Farming Champion Rebecca is part of The Archibull Prize, an innovative artistic program connecting school students to farmers. She partners with a school for The Archibull Prize, becoming their conduit for the grains industry, and enjoys her time in the classroom speaking about her
career and the ways it can influence tomorrow’s world.

"I’m an agricultural scientist because I care about our people, our land and the way we sustainably produce our food. I love what I do because I know the work I do will benefit future generations."

Your work and research is so important for the future of the industry and we are lucky to have an AgWomen like you working for the benefit of future generations and the overall agricultural sector. We are glad you have found your work so satisfying and wish you luck with your upcoming projects.