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!

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Gatsby Training Weekend, Cambridge: Day 3

  I was sad to find that the final day of the training weekend had come around so soon, but there was still a morning of sessions before the final departure. I joined the other first year PhD students for a session focusing on ' How to get the most out of conferences and placements'. I hadn't appreciated just HOW frequently scientific conferences are used as events for scouting out job opportunities and, in the case of lab group leaders, recruiting new talent. Increasingly, it seems that networking is an import at factor in charting the careers of early stage researchers, it's what you know, or how well you do it, but who you know - and who they know too! It was reassuring to hear that most scientists welcome interest in their work and even speculative enquiries about available lab positions... In the past I always felt too awed to approach senior scientists.
Wisteria on the building at Jesus College

We then reconvened to discuss the usefulness of the sessions and give suggestions for the next year. It was generally agreed that the event had been extremely useful, besides an enjoyable social occasion. Following Dr Barsby's talk yesterday, it was proposed that we visit The NIAB Innovation Farm as an excursion... I hope that goes ahead as I saw this project in its early stages whilst undertaking my placement at NIAB last year ( researching semi- dwarfing genes in wheat) so it will be interesting to see how it has developed.

A final lunch, a last look around the gardens laid out in the glorious sunshine then home... But not quite yet! Before catching my train, I had arranged to meet two friends who had also been on the Amgen Scholars Scheme during the same year that I was. This programme sponsors roughly twenty students each year to do an eight week research placement in Cambridge each year. We stayed together in St Edmunds college but worked on completely different things ( everything from NMR to diabetes to brain scanning) across a wide range of departments. It was lovely to catch up and we had a look at the temporary exhibition in the Fitzwilliam Museum: From Root to Tip: Botanical Art in Britain. My friends were very patient with me as I spent quite a while peering at the delicately worked petals and lustrous colours, as though by looking closely at them I would obtain the skill myself by osmosis. Although not a large collection of drawings, they were carefully chosen to show a range of compositions, from scenes of wildflowers to bunches of mixed ornamentals and single species. It has renewed my enthusiasm for botanical art and I have resolved to try and improve my skills although enrolling on a course at The Royal a botanical Gardens at Kew might be taking it too far...

Antirrhinum (Snapdragon) in the Fitzwilliam Museum Exhibition "From Root to Tip: Botanical Art in Britain"

A wonderful weekend with a lovely, supportive group of people. I remain indebted to the Gatsby Plants Foundation for their encouragement and for giving me the chance to present my work to fellow plant scientists... Besides giving me the brief experience of the student life in Cambridge! I'm already looking forward to the next.

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