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!

Wednesday 1 January 2014

A Happy Start to a New Year...

It is hard to believe that I am actually being paid now to do science, but it is still a wonderful feeling to earn a little money by my own initiative. As you have probably gathered, I love to write, especially about science, and I have been very lucky in the past to have had two articles accepted by Catalyst magazine, a resource for secondary school and A Level science students. This publication is designed to complement the school syllabus but to broaden the horizons of interested pupils. My previous articles were nothing to do with plants - one explored the physiology of diving mammals (how can whales and dolphins stay submerged for so long without breathing?) and the other gave a basic introduction to stem cells.

At the close of this year, I was thrilled to hear that another of my articles had been accepted; this one explored "Turing mechanisms" as a way to explain how animal patterns (tiger stripes, leopard spots, etc) spontaneously arise in nature. I had found this a tricky subject to understand at university and enjoyed the challenge of trying to explain it to a new audience. They say the best way to understand something is to teach it to somebody else! I was especially pleased that this article even made the cover! (see below).

But more was to come. Over the summer, I had also written an introduction to the world of parasitic plants - this wasn't related specifically to my work but to parasitic plants in general, including the more well-known stem-parasites mistletoe and dodders. You may have also seen my June posts on the IUPS (International Union of Physiological Sciences) Conference held in Birmingham this year. I used this as an opportunity to produce an article entitled "What is a scientific conference?", using photographs I had taken at the event (having obtained permission from the organisers first!). I was particularly pleased with it as it felt very "home grown" - I had taken all the pictures myself and even mustered the courage to approach people for quotes (and discovering that most people are really quite friendly once you've said hello!). I divided the article into sections including the lectures, seminars, poster sessions, trade stands and public outreach activities. Anyway, I was stunned to find that BOTH of these articles had been published in the most recent issue making me one of the main contributors! It is so lovely to see the finished articles in print (it's not the same as a computer screen!) and, although it's not Nature or Science, I am so grateful for this opportunity to publish my work and feel a bit like a proper science writer. Thank you Catalyst for making my year!

Thank you very much for reading and I wish you a very happy and healthful 2014!

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