Amy Viljoen

Posted: Jun 13th, 2024

PhD Student

I am a molecular biologist currently pursuing a PhD focusing on developing innovative tools for controlling protein expression in chloroplasts. My research takes place within the dynamic environment of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plants for Space, where I collaborate with a diverse group of scientists dedicated to advancements that could potentially support life beyond Earth.

My passion for genetics began at age 11 after watching a documentary about scientists genetically modifying chickens to grow long tails by harnessing their close relationship to the T-rex. This fascination led me to undertake a bachelor's degree in genetics, and today, I find myself working in the exciting field of synthetic biology.

My research journey started with my honours project in the Small lab, where I developed a high-throughput system for testing designer RNA editing factors. Now, as a PhD student in the same lab, I focus on optimising synthetic start codon editing factors based on the PPR protein scaffold to initiate translation in chloroplasts.

Equipped with a robust academic background and diverse research experiences, I tackle complex biological challenges using my interdisciplinary interests in genetic engineering, pharmacology, plant biochemistry, and bioinformatics.