Hello and welcome to my blog! My name is Caroline and I am a PhD student at the University of Sheffield. My research project focuses on Striga - a genus of parasitic plants that devastates harvests by infecting food crops. I am exploring the defence reactions that can make host plants more resistant against Striga. Due to my ongoing battles with anorexia, I haven't made as much progress as I would have liked but I am determined to finish the course.
This blog charts the ups and downs of life in the lab, plus my dreams to become a science communicator and forays into public engagement and science policy....all while trying to keep my mental and physical health intact. Along the way, I'll also be sharing new plant science stories, and profiles of some of the researchers who inspire me on this journey. So whether you have a fascination for plants, are curious about what science research involves, or just wonder what exactly I do all day, read on - I hope you find it entertaining!
Saturday, 7 December 2013
Firstly, the growth chambers have now been cleared out for their maintenance overhaul between December- January. The remaining potted maize plants were put to good use in the Annual Departmental "Christmas Lecture". Based on a Royal Society Lectutre, but for an audience of primary school children, the topic this year was "Eating Sunlight: How plants harvest energy from the sun". Although I wasn't able to help out in the end, apparently this was a resounding success, in both content and for squeezing 1,200 children into the Octoagon Building. If even one of them is inspired to become a plant scientist, it will have been worth it! This made me consider what made me first interested in science; ultimately, I think my interest was first touched by the David Attenborough TV series, especially "The Blue Planet" with the episode featuring the curious creatures that lived at the darkest depths of the oceans. This does sound like such a cliche though! Even my supervisor says that David Attenborogh was partly responsible for her becoming a biologist. At that stage, however, I wasn#t really considering the plants (when I thought that studying whale sharks was still a realistic career option and not a chance in a thousand). It took a week long plant-science summer school, hosted by the Gatsby Plants Charitable Foundation, to change my mind. Featuring highly stimulating lectures and practicals (letting young students loose with temperature probes and cameras is always a recipe for madness), gorgeous accommodation, wonderful food, too much frisbee playing... this basically "brainwashed" (albeit in a very agreeable way!) the attendees to devote themselves to a career in plant research. But how did I end up working with Parasitic Plants? My super visor was invited to give a talk at Durham University as part of the Departmental Seminar Series; a weekly lecture conducted by a visiting speaker, followed by questions and refreshments. Many people still remember it as the "best seminar of the year" and after describing her work, she was good enough to mention that she had a PhD available if any undergraduates were interested. Happy twist of fate!
Hundreds of bejewelled fir trees meanwhile, have sprung up everywhere but no one seems to be researching the cause of this phenomenen, as everyone is too concerned about Christmas approaching. Indeed, a veritable scrum of events seems to be jostling for inclusion before the end of term: the Departmental Christmas Seminar, The Animal and Plant Sciences Christmas Party, the Lab Christmas Meal...not to mention the various festivities that postgraduate students organise among themselves!
I hope you are all coping with the mad rush of festivities. I hope I can make it out to the end of this busy term!