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!

Saturday 19 November 2016

FINALLY - Back in the Lab!

This has been a momentous week - after being kept out of the lab for over a year due to my ongoing battle with anorexia, I have finally been cleared as 'medically fit to study'. Hurrah!

But it won't be full speed ahead to make up for lost time.... instead, it's going to be a much slower start as I am not allowed to do any practical lab work until the new year. Whilst this frustrates me, I have to appreciate that my supervisors are concerned that I will overwork myself again and neglect my health. It's up to me to prove that I can have a better work-life balance and keep going over the long term. After all, a PhD is a marathon and I can't afford to keep conking out.

But I have plenty to do in the meantime - I still need to do my First Year Upgrade Report to be able to progress to my next stage of study. I am also writing up all the methods and results from my first year, ready to form the opening chapters of my thesis. It needs to be done at some point so it may as well be done now...even though it's not my favourite sort of work: long hours in front of computer screens, bashing graphs together on Excel, etc.

My 'PhD in a box'...fortunately it survived a year of storage in a shed on the Department roof...
Although I was nervous about how my colleagues in the lab would react when I returned, I needn't have worried. There has been a big changeround in the past year with so many people leaving and others arriving, that one more 'new' person isn't particularly noticeable. I've spent most of the first week back unpacking my 'PhD in a box' and colonising my new space in the lab and office. Because I had to leave the lab so suddenly, I literally only had time to throw everything into a pile, seal it up and hope for the best....fortunately my seed stocks are still intact. I can't wait to start growing plants again and tending to 'my babies' but in the meantime I have to be patient...

But I can't complain - I finally have a toehold back in the lab and take part in departmental life again - the seminars, workshops, public engagement events.... apparently there is even a "Bake Off" competition every Monday....

It's so good to be back!

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