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!

Friday 20 January 2017

Quick, Quick, Slow...

Where is the time going?! I have only just started to remember that it is 2017, not 2016, and already half of the first month has gone. This week in particular seems to have flown by and I don't seem to have much to show for it, having spent most of it reading about the remarkable exploits of other researchers. I have been compiling a literature review on all the investigations so far into what strategies plants use to protect themselves against root pathogens (such as soil-borne fungi and nematode worms). I intend to use this to draw up a list of interesting mutants in the model plant Arabidopsis to test to see if they are more or less resistant to the parasitic plant Striga gesnerioides.

All this means spending long hours in front of the computer screen that send my eyes funny ....but it needs to be done before I can really get going with my lab work. But I have been doing some small experiments this week, mainly to check that my seed stocks still germinate. Kept properly, most types of plant seed can survive for years, or even decades...but given that mine were apparently stored in a cardboard box on the roof of the department (?!) while I was on leave of absence means it's just as well to check!

And the results so far have been intriguing... despite being kept in the same box, my tubes of Arabidopsis seed had very different outcomes: some had 100% germination, others more like 50% and others none at all. Why this is the case is a complete mystery to me...and one that is beyond the scope of this PhD!
Seed from Tube F (left) : dead as a doornail. But Tube A - 100% vitality. Why...???!

As the days speed by, they bring me ever closer to my first daunting challenge of the year - FameLAB 2017! Contestants have just 3 minutes to explain a scientific topic of their choice, without PowerPoint or audio, and only using the props they can carry on stage. I don't expect to get further than the regional heats, but to me, the experience is the main thing and it's all useful 'Public Engagement' evidence for the CV. My decided topic is a little outside the realm of plant science...so much so that this week I went to a completely different department to check my understanding with an real expert on the subject! I won't say more here....but if you want to see my make an idiot of myself, come along to the Yorkshire heats on Thursday 2nd February, 7.00pm at the Crucible Theatre (follow the link here to book- tickets are free).

Don't forget, I'm active on the TwitterSphere now, and you can share my moments in the lab by following me @sciencedestiny or #backtoworkinthelab

And with that, I wish you a happy, slow and restful weekend!

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