Travel grants for conferences

Categories: funding
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Published on: January 30, 2013

There are a lot of good conferences coming up this year, some small and some very big; some free and some rather more expensive. If you are put off by registration or accommodation fees, you don’t have to be. There are grants available for people to travel to conferences and workshops, and I’ve listed some below. I haven’t mentioned grants for specific conferences, but most learned societies offer grants for students and new post-docs to attend their events. Please let me know in the comments or via email (charis @ or Twitter if you know of any general funds which I haven’t listed.

Not that I’m biased (of course…) but the GARNet workshop on Plant Synthetic Biology and UK PlantSci 2013 are excellent opportunities to use these funds! Plant Synthetic Biology registration starts from £175 for students, including accommodation, lunches, and conference dinner. Early bird registration for PlantSci 2013 starts from £80 for students, including lunch and refreshments, but you will have to arrange your own accommodation.

Company of Biologists travel grants from the Society of Experimental Biology: if you’re a PhD student or young post-doc, apply by 31 March for funding to attend a UK or international conference. You have to be a member of SEB, or to buy a multi-year membership.

Society of Biology travel grants: Undergraduate and postgraduate students can apply for £500 for overseas travel in connection with biological study, teaching, research, or attending conference.

Honor Fell travel award from the British Society for Cell Biology, sponsored by the Company of Biologists: grants of up to £300 for UK meeting attendance, or more for international meetings, are available to students and post-docs.

Biochemical Society travel grant: Members of the Biochemical Society can apply for a travel grant between £200 and £500 to attend a meeting.

Genetics Society Junior Scientist Grants: up to £750 is available to PhD students and post-docs within two years of their viva to cover travel, accommodation, and registration cost for conferences and meetings. There are quarterly deadlines, you will need to apply by 1 Feb for spring conferences.

The British Society of Plant Pathology: Travel funds are available for BSPP members to assist with expenses for conferences, study tours and visits. The amount available varies, but will not be more than half the cost of your trip. The next deadline in 28 February.

If you’re a student, you can use your training grant to pay for conference fees and travel. Attending and presenting posters or talks at conferences is an important part of a PhD studentship.

Your institution may have a conference fund for student and post-doc travel to conferences, so speak to the graduate school or your supervisor if you want to find out more.

This fund is only applicable to Biochemical Society meetings but it is an excellent initiative, and definitely worth highlighting. If you want to go to a Biochemical Society meeting but you’re on parental leave, or need to take your children and a carer with you to a conference, apply for a Stay Connected bursary. The bursary will cover free registration and/or free accommodation for a child care provider.

Two services for plant scientists to consider

Categories: resource
Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: January 28, 2013

Sometimes, experiments are too big, too expensive, or too specialist to do yourself or to negotiate a collaboration with someone who can. Fortunately there is a way for some of you to get those experiments done – but as ever, it involves competing for funding. Today I’ll highlight two service providers who are taking applications from researchers for a limited number of fully funded services. 

The BBSRC are funding the Community Resource for Wheat Transformation at NIAB. NIAB scientists are wheat transformation specialists, and use a non-commercialized method with over 30% success rate – higher than standard Agrobacterium-mediated wheat transformation (Harwood, 2012). The ‘Community Resource’ is 50 single gene transformations, which researchers must apply for. Half of the transformations are reserved for model plant researchers wanting to test a gene of interest in wheat. The application form is fairly straightforward, requesting information about the proposed gene and research; and how it links to BBSRC food security targets. You need to apply by Thursday this week. If successful, the researcher provides NIAB with a gene in an Entry construct flanked by aatL sequences. NIAB performs the transformation, and delivers the researcher 30 inpendent transformed plants as either plantlets or T1 seed, having confirmed transgenesis by PCR or QPCR.

The Centre for Plant Integrative Biology at the University of Nottingham and the National Plant Phenomics Centre at Aberystwyth University is just one of 14 participants in the European Plant Phenotyping Network (EPPN; Ruth blogged about the centre in Julich a few weeks ago). Researchers can apply for access to CPIB (or another European EPPN installation) to do a phenotyping experiment. ‘Access’ includes:

  • free access for eligible user groups to research facilities;
  • support for travel;
  • on-site logistic support by the infrastructure staff;
  • access to knowledge and know-how at the research infrastructures necessary to complete the proposed experimental work

Root development with Malcolm Bennett

Categories: Friday Film, GARNet, UKPSF
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Published on: January 25, 2013

Malcolm Bennett, Professor of Plant Sciences at the University of Nottingham, discusses here about his research into root development, the ‘hidden half of plant biology.’ He talks about working with computer scientists and soil scientists, and explains how they work toward improving water efficiency and nutrient uptake in the model plant Arabidopsis. As the four previous scientists in this series also said, he hopes the work will be translated to crop species. He also discusses funding for UK plant science, and the progress that has been made by the community in recent years.

Ash trees and human health

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Published on: January 24, 2013
A lone ash tree in Worcestershire

I have to admit that as a plant scientist plugged into the major social media networks that when I was inundated with articles and posts about ash dieback (Chalara fraxineai) in December, I got a bit fed up with it. Of course I appreciate all species have intrinsic value and it will be sad if Britain loses its ash trees – but I have no emotional attachment to ash trees, and pathogens are a fact of life. British countryside is managed land, so with effective management other trees will fill the gaps. However, a paper published in the February issue of American Journal of Preventive Medicine (Donovan et al., 2013) suggests the health effects on humans of losing trees are significant, and that serious loss of ash trees in the UK could have consequences beyond the financial burden on the forestry industry and the short-term loss of trees. 

Adult emerald ash borer on a penny

The research paper is an analysis of the effects of emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) damage to North American ash trees. Emerald ash borer is a green beetle native to Asia, and was introduced to North America in 2002. It causes significant damage to all North American ash species and an infestation can kill a mature tree within four years. For this study, Donovan et al. looked at human mortality data from 1296 counties across the 15 states where there were confirmed emerald ash borer infestations in 2010. (more…)

GARNet Workshop: Plant Synthetic Biology

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Published on: January 22, 2013

It is important for UK plant scientists to consider synthetic biology, both as a tool for understanding and furthering basic science and as a means of producing commercially important plant products – the BBSRC has even chosen synthetic biology as an important emerging scientific sphere. To demonstrate the potential of synthetic biology in plant science and introduce synbio methods, tools, and resources to researchers new to the field, GARNet is having a workshop on Plant Synthetic Biology. Go to for more information.

Developmental genetics with Zoe Wilson

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Published on: January 18, 2013

In the fourth of our series of video podcasts from PlantSci 2012, Zoe Wilson from the University of Nottingham discusses about her work on Arabidopsis developmental genetics. She works on pollen, which she explains is important for food security and the cut flower industry. Like the previous interviewees Eric, Katherine, and John, she also talks about the future of plant science. She says, “The link between plants and science had been quite tenuous, more people are understanding the importance of that.”

Investigating photosynthesis

In today’s highlighted article, the authors use traditional and far more modern biochemistry to uncover why photosynthesis is inhibited by Streptomyces spp., and characterise a previously unknown step in cyclic electron flow. This is also a good opportunity to point out these great photosynthesis outreach and education resources from Science and Plants for Schools. Admittedly, they don’t have anything on AA-sensitive CEF, because it’s unlikely anyone without a plant biochemistry PhD needs to know about that! But they have brilliant basic photosynthesis teaching resources, including these amazing algae-jelly-balls.

Photosynthesis background: Broadly speaking, photosynthesis is the process by which light energy from the sun is absorbed by Photosystems I and II (PSI and PSII), where it is channelled into electron transport chains and stored in ATP and NADPH. One electron carrier is ferredoxin (Fd).

There are two types of electron flow, cyclic and linear (CEF and LEF), which generate ATP. Though they are different processes, both CEF and LEF require PSI and PSII, two other thylakoid proteins, PGR5 and PGRL1, and electron carriers Fd, plastoquinone (PQ) and plastocyanin.

In CEF there are two processes by which electrons are transferred from Fd to PQ. One is a characterised NADH dehydrogenase-like compex dependent pathway, and all that is known about the other is that it is sensitive to antimycin A (AA), a product of Streptomyces spp. which inhibits CEF.

For background on AA-inhibition and the divergent electron transfer pathways in CEF, see Joët et al. (2001; Plant Phys. 24:1919). For more information on PGR5 and PGRL1, see DalCorso et al. (2008; Cell 132:273).

Gaps in knowledge of CEF:

  • What makes that electron transfer process from Fd to PQ sensitive to AA?
  • How do the electrons from photoreduced Fd get transferred to PQ and back into the electron transport chain?
  • What do functions do PGR5 and PGRL1 perform?

New from Hertle et al.: Titration and Western blotting experiments showed that PGR5 and PGRL1 dimerize to each other. Six cysteine residues were conserved in all PGRL1 proteins. Hertle et al. made mutant PGRL1 proteins in which one or more cysteine residues were substituted for serine, and tested the varients for their capacity to bind PGR5, iron, and to promote AA-sensitive CEF. They worked out that all six cysteines were essential for AA-sensitive CEF, while specific cysteines were involved in binding iron and PGR5.

In vitro assays demonstrated that PGRL1 is capable of transferring electrons between Fd and PQ analogue DMBQ in the presence of PGR5, and this reaction was inhibited in the presence of AA. Hertle et al. show clearly that PGRL1 is physically a fit for a ferredoxin-plastoquinone reductase and make a strong case for it being the mediator between Fd and PQ in CEF, and the AA-sensitive step in the cyclic electron flow.

Highlighted article: Alexander P. Hertle, Thomas Blunder, Tobias Wunder, Paolo Pesaresi, Mathias Pribil, Ute Armbruster, Dario Leister (2013) PGRL1 Is the Elusive Ferredoxin-Plastoquinone Reductase in Photosynthetic Cyclic Electron Flow. Molecular Cell – 03 January 2013, 10.1016/j.molcel.2012.11.030

Intellectual Property Rights in Plant Research

Categories: guest blogger
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Published on: January 15, 2013
A protein, a method, a plant line or variety, or many other products of plant research, may be your intellectual property and can be protected.

Frances Salisbury is a Patent Attorney at Mewburn Ellis LLP. She has a PhD from University of Edinburgh, where she researched the role of phytochrome photoreceptors in root development in Arabidopsis thaliana. She agreed to guest post on intellectual property rights in plant science – enjoy! 

Patents and other intellectual property rights can be a controversial topic in the area of plant research, and much confusion exists about what protection is available, whether such work should be protected, and how this impacts on academic research. In this article, I hope to provide a very brief introduction to some of the different intellectual property rights that are available for plant research, particularly thinking about aspects that might be protectable by a patent.

So, why would you want to protect your plant research?  Essentially, licensing and selling intellectual property rights can be used to create revenue for future research, or might be exchanged for the right to use other people’s ideas and technologies in your research. Many organisations and researchers consider intellectual property rights to be valuable assets.

Certainly, if you are thinking of working with a commercial partner, or sharing information or expertise with them, it is worth thinking about whether you should have protection in place before you talk to them, to try to ensure that both sides will benefit from the collaboration. Your institute’s technology transfer team will be able to help you with assessing whether you could protect your work with an intellectual property right.

Researchers often favour publishing over patenting, but there is no reason why the two cannot be done together, without delaying publication. If you think you have something that might be patentable, I would suggest approaching your technology transfer team to talk it through at an early stage, and particularly if you are preparing a manuscript. Patent attorneys are used to working with research scientists to draft and file patent applications before any disclosure of the work (which may be detrimental to the patent process), but without delaying manuscript submission or preventing conference presentations or posters, so you should not assume that patenting your idea will hinder publication. Indeed, many patent attorneys have once been research scientists themselves, so are well aware of the desire to publish without hindrance.

What might you protect? Well, a number of different types of intellectual property right are available to plant scientists, depending on what it is that is to be protected. (more…)

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