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 1 July 2014

We're on the Today Programme...Tomorrow!

"If you just take a seat here Dr Clissold and German public Radio should be phoning you any minute now...'
I am alone in a quiet room with an academic I have had a lot of contact with over the past weeks but have only just met for the first time. The stillness in the room is at odds with the thriving hustle and bustle of the general conference. Yesterday I received an email request from a German Radio Station for a telephone interview with Dr Fiona Clissold, whose work on locust diets I covered in a press release. It feels slightly surreal but suddenly the phone rings and we are connected through to Deutschland...
Whilst Dr Clissold answers the journalist's questions, I field more enquiries on my iPad, juggling information and tasks; ask Dr Sagi for more photos, who wanted the video on the ants story?, is that the correct embargo date? ... Fortunately the conference organisers are as good as their word and we are not disturbed. My first interview to organise on behalf of the external media!

Dr Lauren Nadler has a telephone interview with German Public Radio

The morning passes in a similar stilted frenzy of answering enquiries, and I feel surgically attached to my iPad at times. The afternoons highlight for me is the 'Public Engagement' session, featuring a 'celebrity' - television broadcaster Alice Roberts- most famous for her appearances on Coast but also the face of the Don't Die Young series. She conveyed her passion for 'science storytelling' using the example of a carved ivory bison figurine whose origins she researched during time spent with aborigines. Unfortunately she had to dash off so I wasn't able to nab her for an interview! The following speakers then gave a series of 'quick fire' selling pitches of ideas for the future of public engagement - these included commissioning plays, having bioscience students run training sessions for journalists and 'citizen science' projects where the public can play a part in sorting through the masses of data generated by researchers. Although the ideas flowed and conversations thrummed with vibrancy, there was the nagging sense that SOMETHING else needs to happen to keep the impetus up outside these sessions....
Fielding press enquiries

Whilst sitting in on the 'bidder' lecture ( William K Milsom on the evolution of breathing control in vertebrates) a VERY exciting email comes in....The Today Programme want to feature one of the press stories on their show tomorrow! Cue a frantic emailing and texting session but we manage it! Dr Hamilton will be picked up early tomorrow morning at his hotel to be taken to the recording studio for the LIVE interview. I feel a bit sorry for him as he probably had no idea what he was letting himself in for when he agreed to do a press release... But he is very nice about it! Meanwhile the rest of the delegates are suddenly keen to explore the trade stands...mainly because they have been turned into a 'wine trail' with a prize for anyone who can guess the provenance of the entire selection on offer. This seems a little more excessive than 'wine tasting' judging by the size of the glasses... It gives me a good chance to catch up though with colleagues from Durham University, where I did my undergraduate degree. Instead of heading off to the bars and nightclubs afterwards though, I headed back to the hotel. Still three days left and I need to be on form!
The SEB wine trail

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