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 21 July 2013

IUPS 2013: First impressions and Opening Ceremony

"Five days of Outstanding Science" Professor Walter Boron, Secretary General of the IUPS

From the outside of the ICC Exhibition Centre and Symphony hall , there is little to bely that the major event in the Physiological Sciences Calendar - the 37th International Congress of Physiological Sciences - is on the brink of launching. Inside however, the flow of international arrivals, babble of foreign tongues and dynamic mixing of reunited colleagues is reminiscent of a thriving airport, as is the long line of "check in" desks, where badges and conference packs (containing an impressively stodgy abstract book) are being rapidly distributed. I particularly like the stairwell listing the previous venues - it gives a feel of continuity as one ascends to register. As one familiar with the Birmingham area, I wonder what impression "the city of a thousand trades" has had on the foreign delegates. In the Opening Address, Professor Bridget Lumb, Chair of the Organising Committee, sets the event in context through some select statistics; 2020 abstracts submitted,  535 lectures, 202 symposia and over 700 speakers, not to mention industry sessions, workshops and the public outreach activities. What really strikes me, however, is that this singular event has been in the planning process for eight years, on a par with the Olympic Games. Professor Walter Boron, Secretary General of the IUPS emphasises how such events don't happen through "the random aggregation of particles" but rather rigorous and comprehensive preparation. It is thrilling that the congress has arrived again in the UK, the last time being in Glasgow twenty years ago. Professor Jonathan Ashmore, President of the Physiological Society, outlined the historical presence of the congress and how the event had consistently attracted the leading physiologists of the time. This was portrayed succinctly by a photograph of delegates at the 1923 gathering in Edinburgh, which featured, among others, Ivan Pavlov, Edward Sharpey-Schafer (a pioneer in endocrinology who gave us the word "insulin") and Archibald Hill (a founder of Biophysics). Such an introduction lent a natural progression to the opening lecture, given by Sir Paul Nurse, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his research which identified the protein components which regulate the cell cycle. The opening event had a refined, restrained feel - there was no attempt to enforce awe through special effects or overbearing graphics. Instead, the palpable excitement tingling in the audience as the lectures started made it clear that this was a group who had converged from all corners of the globe to hear great science and discuss it - and that they were very much looking forward to doing so. Bring on the next five days!
Delegates "checking in" on arrival

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