Harjeet Khanna

Favourite Thing: My favourite is to promote science for human welfare. If it can’t make a positive impact on someone’s life, it is no fun.



A long list of Army schools from all over India during 1965-1978. My dad was in Army, so we never stayed at one place for long.


Delhi University,and CCS University India; Cambridge University, UK

Work History:

1992-2000: Worked as Agriculture Research Scientist, India; 2000-2002 as Post-Doc Researcher, USQ, Toowoomba, Aus


2002-onwards at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Qld

Current Job:

Senior Research Scientist

Me and my work

I am a research scientist in agricultural biotechnology

My science career began with a passion for improving lives of women farmers, especially in the developing world. These women perform their dual roles as mothers and farmers, while struggling with malnutrition and poverty.
As a scientist in India, I worked on Rockefeller Rice Biotechnology program and generated India’s first insect-resistant transgenic rice, conducting one of the first public sector GM field trials in India.
In April 2000, I moved to Toowoomba in Australia and developed frost-tolerant GM wheat for frost-impacted regions of the world, a program funded by the GRDC, Australia.

In 2002, I joined QUT, Brisbane and have led several research projects since then, mainly focussed on developing leading-edge transformation technologies for difficult crop plants like, sugarcane, soybean and banana.
My current assignment, starting in 2005, placed me right in the middle of where my heart was and I took an active role in leading a major international research program, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded Grand Challenges in Global Health program to develop nutritionally biofortified and disease resistant bananas for resource poor farmers in Africa. It is a multinational research program with researchers from Australia, Uganda, USA and Mexico and has expanded into India this year .

The biggest achievement of the program has been the development of high provitaminA GM banana lines that I have personally generated as part of technology development in Australia and also in Africa where I have trained and mentored young students and scientists to generate GM banana using their own varieties and we are now doing field trials in Australia and Africa.

I played a key role in developing scientific collaboration in agricultural biotechnology between Queensland Government and Department of Biotechnology, India. This collaboration has provided an opportunity to leverage research funds and capacity with India in shared priority areas including medical and agricultural biotechnology, climate change science and renewable energy technologies.

My Typical Day

I am running around laboratories and fields in Africa or India or Australia so I don’t know if I want to call any day typical.

What I'd do with the money

I would buy research consumables for a research laboratory in Africa

I have seen students and researchers struggle for small things like laboratory glassware, identification labels, tapes etc. that we take for granted and just order and receive the next day. I have carried a lot of material with me to Africa and everytime I go to Africa, I take things with me in my baggage. I have seen just small things make a huge difference. Bill Gates is doing his large bit but if I can do my small bit, it will also matter. So I would like to use that money for buying some laboratory consumables that I know they need.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Enthusiastic, Passionate, Caring

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Jagjit Singh, an Indian Gazal Singer. Traditionally invoking melancholy, love, longing, and metaphysical questions, ghazals are often sung by Iranian, Indian, and Pakistani musicians. The form has roots in seventh-century Arabia.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

As a kid I loved climbing fruit trees and picking fruit, especially the ones I was told not to

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

1. Travel to every country in the world 2. Learn Indian classical dance 3. Be more fit than I am

What did you want to be after you left school?

I was a bit of a rebel that time, so the deal was that as long as I did not become a doctor (my parents wanted me to become one) rest was all cool.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Yes, missing classes to watch a movie with friends was not something the teachers enjoyed much

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

While the other transgenic crops I have generated are at various stages of development, the nutritionally enhanced transgenic bananas is now entering the product development phase in Uganda, and it may become the first GM banana to be released anywhere in the world. I supervised the execution of the whole program and generated the first high provitaminA banana with my own hands.

Tell us a joke.

What do you call the leader of a biology gang? The Nucleus

Sports followed

Cricket occasionally

Favourite team