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!

Sunday, 11 January 2015


Last week felt like stepping back in time as I made a return pilgrimage to Durham to collect my undergraduate Degree ( BSc in cell Biology). Technically. I should have graduated last summer, however I had decided to defer the ceremony as it clashed with my media internship with the Society for Experimental Biology. Although it was numbingly cold, we were fortunate with the weather and the  world heritage site was bathed in winter sunshine. Whilst queuing up in our 'pairs', we did a few Mexican waves to try and warm up a little! As we processed from the Castle to the Cathedral, the scene was a curious juxtaposition of technology; above the ancient Norman shrine of St Cuthbert, fashioned with medieval technology, a modern drone whizzed up and down in the sky, capturing the scenes for the souvenir DVD.

It felt a real privilege to celebrate this achievement in such revered surroundings and although the nerves began to steal over me, everything fell into place and I was able to enjoy my moment when I was called forward to shake the Dean's Hand. After the undergraduates, the PHD candidates were presented; Durham follows a curious, but rather wonderful, tradition of reading out the Theses titles for each candidate. It was inspiring to see the (hopefully!) next stage of my career and started to make me wonder what title I will eventually give to my PhD work. Something sharp, intriguing, perhaps witty - especially if it was to be announced in such a grand way to such a large and varied audience...

But that is all in the future - before that , the thesis itself needs to be written and for that I need some data! So it is back to Sheffield and to my plants. But it was lovely to take a pause and reflect on how far I have already come. It was also very nice to meet up with some of the Academics of Durham Biological Sciences Department who had been real mentors to me. It felt a shame to take the gorgeous robes off but I am fortunate in having a fascinating subject to return to work on... And a dream of a second graduation to come!

The Castle on Palace Green

Entering the Great Hall

Robing up!

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