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 2 August 2015

And there was evening and there was morning...

I thought life had been busy before the Prague conference.... Now I have discovered another level! During the main part of the day, it is a rush to fit in all my experimental work (which has picked up again alarmingly quickly): booking slots to use the microtome for making sections of harvested root tissues, preparing stock solutions, scoring plants for infection,preconditioning parasite seed, etc. Then, as evening comes on, I head to the library to carry on wading through my notes, interviews and email correspondences from the conference. Slowly, the articles I have been commissioned to write are taking shape but it is a convoluted progress due to the number of different researchers whose work I am featuring! So probably not the best time to take on yet more work by offering to write a few peices for the "Student Guide to Sheffield Univeristy 2015"... When will I learn to say "No"?

Staying so late at work makes me really appreciate my new location close to the Department. I have really settled into my new flat now, and can't now imagine going back to Univeristy Halls - I have finally made the break! My parsley plants have happily colonised the windowsill and I have even started to use them to accompany my fish dinners. I can begin to understand the fuss behind organic food - the taste was so superior to the supermarket varieties - could it be due to the lack of pesticides and chemical inputs?

It has also been a busy week as I have, as they say so often at The Works, been "clearing everything out to make way for fabulous new stock"! I have set up an ambitious experimental plan to test four new mutant Arabidopsis lines, each defective in a certain defence signalling pathway, to see if this makes them more ( or less?) susceptible to infection by the root parasite Striga gesnerioides. But I have found that it is much more fun to plan a slew of experiments than to clear up everything afterwards.... However, I only have so much space in my cabinets so I have had to devote some time to bagging up my poor finished plants and chucking them out. I'm not the most popular person in the annexe when I take over all the sink space to wash hundreds of rhizotrons at a time! 

At least when I am on my way to work, trying to clear my head through the fug of morning tiredness, this wonderful array of wildflowers gives me a lift. It is only a narrow strip in an otherwise ecologically barren desert of lawn but it fairly thrums with bees and butterflies. Judging by the number of posts of Facebook, it has been giving plenty of other people a boost of pleasure as well! I wish I knew who the inspired landscaper was so I could thank them. One of the things I really like about Sheffield is that these little nuggets of greenery are often left to the benefit of wildlife, rather than cleared up to make everything neat and tidy. And it really does make a difference, both to people and animals. I even heard owls on my way home last night...

I hope you are having a more relaxing weekend than me! Right, better get back to these articles....

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