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 12 April 2015

Gatsby Training Weekend 2015 - Last Day but plenty of time to learn ...

Where had the time gone? It seemed too sudden to be waking up on the last morning of the training weekend. Although we had a slightly later start today, some arrived at the first session a little worse for wear...apparently the Cambridge pubs did a good business last night!

The second year PhD students and undergraduates started with 'Communicating your work to the Public', led by invited speaker Harriet Truscott, who works for Science and Plants for Schools ( SAPS). This organisation provides free teaching resources for schools, to improve the quality of plant Sciene education at Primary, Secondary and A Level, besides examples of the latest plant- science research - hopefully these will inspire teachers so that they don't feel the need to 'apologise' to their pupils when plant science comes up on the curriculum! For more information see http://www.saps.org.uk

Harriet introduced us to the latest initiative called 'IntoBiology', an interactive website where students and early career researchers can submit their own podcasts, videos or blog posts to explain an aspect of plant science or their own research. We were encouraged to consider what the key elements of a good story are and to write out our own research int he form of a compelling blog post. For some people, working on very specific aspects of plant-science such as ion channel regulation or lead air spaces, it was a little daunting at first to envision how this would seem important to the wider public. By sharing ideas amongst ourselves, however, we were able to create compelling accounts of each other's work. It reminded me of my Media internship for the Society for Experimental Biology (SEB) where I was constantly reminded of the need to capture the audiences' attention, the draw them in to the compelling climax!

After a final chance to sample the herbal tea collection of Jesus College, we all convened for the feedback session. We all agreed it had been a highly valuable and enjoyable week with particularly good choices for speakers in the careers session. It looks as though we will be visiting the Cambridge Botanical Garden next year, a place I would certainly like to see again.

 Then, the final flurry of activity as people collected cases, exchanged quick farewells then departed to their various institutes. It's always a bane to leave the 'Gatsby Crowd' but I inevitably carry away much with me; encouragement and support, visions for my future and practical ideas for my next experiments. 'Thank You' doesn't seem enough but I'll say it anyway: Thank You Gatsby for another brilliant weekend!

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