PlantSci 2014 and Plant Science Careers

Categories: resource, UKPSF
Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: April 8, 2014

The GARNet team travelled up to York last week for the PlantSci 2014 conference. It was a fantastic event and I highly recommend it for future years. The variation between talks, which were all perfectly pitched for a general plant science audience, made the sessions exciting and maintained everyone’s interest.

A highlight of the conference was the Panel Discussion on the Future of UK Plant Science. The Panelists – Mike Bushell, Mark Chase, Sarah Gurr, Sandy Knapp and Dale Sanders – responded to the Status Report (download the PDF here) and spoke briefly about what they felt were the most important challenges for the UK plant science community to deal with.

To me, the most significant issues were put forward by early career researchers from the floor. The Panel and the report, which drew data from a community-wide survey, emphasised skills shortages and a lack of young talent entering the field; but several young researchers present spoke out about lack of support for those young scientists that are working in the field.

One person on a PhD program with funding for a short internship in industry or policy found it difficult to find a placement related to plant science. Two final year PhD students from very different research backgrounds spoke of their frustration in not knowing where to look for post-doctoral jobs. Despite being highly trained in areas within the ‘skills gap’ often referred to in reports, including the UKPSF report, they felt that academic post-doc positions (and the uncertain future that comes with them) were the only options they had.

If you feel passionately about education, training and/or plant science careers and career paths, see UKPSF working group call document (PDF) on information on what the UKPSF is doing to tackle these challenges. There will be UKPSF working groups on Training & Skills, Funding, Portfolio Balance, Regulation, and Translation.

Looking for a plant science job?

At GARNet we publicise adverts for post-doc positions frequently. At certain times of year, we share several UK vacancies a week! Although students might be uncertain about post-doc jobs requiring very specific skillsets, I can encourage you that if you lack one or even a few of the requirements, it is still worth applying. To stay up to date, sign up to our mailing list and follow us on Twitter, where we often share international positions.

With regards to R&D positions, ADAS and Fera both regularly recruit and seed companies TowzerLimagrain and Elsoms have R&D teams. Keep an eye on all their websites and social media. Unfortunately you may have to look outside of plant science though, as I’ve done a brief search (I’ll save in depth research the working group!) and couldn’t find any plant science-related positions in the UK with Bayer, Syngenta, Monsanto, ADAS, Fera, Towzer or Limagrain.

For non-R&D plant science careers (for example in outreach, communications, policy…) you might have success with AHDB or BBSRC, who have quite large specialist workforces, Kew and the other Botanical Gardens, or the Eden Project. If you’re interested in publishing, keep an eye on the Twitter accounts of plant science journals New Phytologist and the Journal of Experimental Botany too.

For careers advice, have a look at Sarah Blackford’s website. Sarah is an expert in bioscience careers, and works closely with the UKPSF.

Future Generations session

Having said all the above, the PlantSci 2014 session on Future Generations showcased the variety of work going on in UK plant science brilliantly. Three PhD students and three post-docs presented their work in concise 10 minutes talks.

The post-doc talks demonstrated the breadth of the community encompassed by UKPSF: Jenny Tomlinson from Fera presented a DNA analysis method to use in the field; Kalani Seymour from Plant Heritage explained her work in cultivar conservation, and Sarah Harvey from Warwick spoke about molecular mechanisms in plant-pathogen interactions. The student talks by Fabio Fendi (Exeter), Carla Turner (Sheffield) and Presidor Kendabie (Nottingham) were all very impressive.

The Future Generations winners were Presidor Kendabie and Sarah Harvey.



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  1. […] audience, and all were clear about why their research is important. The highlight of the conference for me was the panel discussion about UK plant science challenges, achievements and future needs and […]

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