• charis-cook-photo
  • Charis Cook
  • I am Communication and Liaison Officer at GARNet, a network representing the plant science research community in the UK. I'd love to hear from you if you'd like contribute to our blog, Weeding the Gems, or GARNish, our newsletter which you can see at www. garnetcommunity.org.uk. I was previously a PhD student and extremely temporary post-doc at Royal Holloway, University of London and before that I did a Biology BSc at Imperial College London.
  • twitterurl

Arts and crafts with Arabidopsis

Categories: something fun
Tags: No Tags
Comments: No Comments
Published on: November 14, 2014

These past couple of weeks, we at GARNet have noticed a number of amazing Arabidopsis artistic creations cropping up on our Arabidopsis twitter search tool (yes, we monitor Arabidopsis tweets – we’re cool like that). I thought I’d round them up for you – happy Friday!

 

Arabidopsis cake
Arabidopsis cake, made by Liam Walker and Mairi Walker.

I can personally confirm that this pot of flowering Arabidopsis plants is all edible (the tiny exception being the stems, which are made of wire). It was incredibly life-like, down to green sugar-dust algae clinging to the icing pot and oreo-crumb soil. The plants even had roots! It was created for a Gifford group lab meeting by Warwick undergraduate Liam Walker and his sister Mairi, who posted this photo on Twitter and kindly let me share it here.

 

(more…)

Jackie Hunter, BBSRC: “Breakthroughs will happen where disciplines coalesce”

Categories: funding, synthetic biology
Comments: No Comments
Published on: November 12, 2014

Jackie Hunter, Chief Executive of BBSRC, delivered a lunchtime presentation at the University of Warwick’s School of Life Sciences on Monday this week. She gave an overview of BBSRC investments and strategy, and spent the final twenty minutes in discussion with the gathered researchers, who posed questions from the floor.

Supporting bioscience in the UK

BBSRC is the biggest source of plant science funding in the UK. Its charter is to fund research and training in world-class bioscience, deliver social and economic impact, and to promote public dialogue.

Hunter explained that BBSRC responsive mode funding (around £150m per year) aims “to ensure excellence in science, wherever it comes from.” It must be functioning well as the UK is top of citation impact index, and the UKPSF found that UK plant science, mainly funded by BBSRC, is second only to the US in terms of publication impact. Strategic funding, capital and campus capital funding to institutes (£6m, £73m and £30m respectively) is used to maintain skills and output in economically important areas of research at the institutes; though Hunter made it clear that ‘blue sky’ research, funded via responsive mode, is important for impact as it generates both top REF scores and top impact metrics. BBSRC also invests £29M per year in specific initiatives.

When asked for advice about increasing BBSRC funding to the department, Hunter emphasised that funding allocation is based on excellence, so departments should provide an environment where excellence can flourish. She also said, “Interdisciplinarity is important: breakthroughs will happen where disciplines coalesce.”

Training and skills

There are around 2000 PhD students at any one time in the Doctoral Training Partnerships that make up part of the £71M BBSRC investment in Knowledge Exchange, Training and Skills. During the discussion session, someone asked about support later in a researcher’s career and Hunter pointed out that investment in early career fellowships must come at the expense of something else. She suggested that BBSRC may consider the value of studentships versus early career fellowships carefully, and in consultation with the community, over the next few years.

Plant science and Agriculture

Jackie Hunter is on the Agri-tech Leadership Council, which aims to increase UK agricultural exports and the value of the UK agri-tech industry by aligning public and industry funding and building skills and research output in agriculture and agri-technology. She also spoke about future directions in BBSRC’s Agriculture and Food theme: improving the nutritional qualities of plants and biopesticides regulation are both likely to become priority areas of research.

Hunter trailed two documents intended to help make two arguments, both of value to the UK plant research community. The first is an upcoming review on animal and plant health, lead by Defra and with input from BBSRC. To be launched later this month, it will be a starting point for BBSRC and Defra to develop joint strategies in tackling current animal and plant health issues, and to work together to call for more funding in this area. The second is a discussion document about synthetic biology and other new ways of working; Hunter hopes this will help make the case for trait-based, rather than methods-based, regulation of new crops.

On-going activities

Hunter also highlighted a few current initiatives our readers might be interested in.

BBSRC has invested £18m in 13 Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (NIBBs). Here at GARNet, we’re in touch with the High Value Chemicals from Plants Network about a synthetic biology event next year and I recommend you join (it’s free) if you’re interested in high-value plant products or synthetic biology. The other plant science network is the Lignocellulosic Biorefinery Network.

One of Hunter’s objectives as CEO is to promote dialogue between scientists and a broad audience, and the first step towards engaging with the general public is the Great British Bioscience Festival. It is taking place this Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Bethnal Green, London, and there will be some amazing plant science among the exhibits. Lisa will be visiting the Festival to cover it for the next issue of the GARNish newsletter so stay tuned for her report!

All-expenses-paid networking in Thailand, Mexico, Brazil or Turkey …

Categories: funding, plant pathogens
Comments: No Comments
Published on: October 28, 2014
Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 13.28.28
Plaza de Guanajuato, Mexico. By Jose Carlos Soto.

Do you fancy an all-expenses-paid trip to a meeting where you can present your work, network with senior researchers in your field, get inspired and eat good food in the sun? If you’re a UK-based early career researcher (of any nationality), it might be closer than you think.

And if the days of your ‘early career’ are past, applications are still being accepted for funding to run similar events.

There are four Researcher Links workshops open for applications at the moment:

(more…)

Plant synthetic biology takes centre stage

Comments: No Comments
Published on: October 27, 2014

On Monday and Tuesday last week I was at the Marriott Heathrow for the Global Engage Synthetic Biology Congress. Plant synthetic biology had a dedicated track, and while this meant I regretted missing some talks in the other sessions, it did enable me to be suitably impressed at the quality of plant synthetic biology research, mostly coming from the UK and Europe, and its exciting range of applications.

Plant synthetic biology at Global Engage

A highlight for me was Matias Zurbriggen’s excellent presentation on using plant signalling pathways to remotely control mammalian cells. His objective is to understand plant pathways by reconstructing them in other systems, and via research on phytochromes he has developed a tool to remotely control gene expression in mammalian cells (1) and a light-controlled switch for plant cells (2).

Birger Lindberg Møller gave an interesting and accessible talk about plant synthetic biology for high value product (HVP) synthesis. Whatever your level of expertise, if you’re interested in this area I recommend you watch this earlier version of his talk.

Continuing the HVP theme were Brian King, Vincent Martin and plenary speaker Jules Beekwilder. They all aim to make HVPs using simple chassis instead of relatively energy-intensive, and often inefficient, plants. (more…)

Data Mining with iPlant: Published

Categories: GARNet
Comments: No Comments
Published on: October 20, 2014

Data mining with iPlant

We have a new paper published! Lisa is first author on the report from last year’s Data Mining with iPlant workshop, published last week in the Journal of Experimental Botany.

As noted in the abstract, the paper ‘provides an overview of the workshop, and highlights the power of the iPlant environment for lowering barriers to using complex bioinformatics resources, furthering discoveries in plant science research and providing a platform for education and outreach programmes.’

The full reference for the paper is: Martin L, Cook C, Matasci N, Williams J and Bastow R (2014) Data Mining with iPlant: A meeting report from the 2013 GARNet workshop ‘Data Mining with iPlant’, Journal of Experimental Botany, DOI: 10.1093/jxb/eru402

You can view the paper via this toll-free link.

Don’t forget, all the tutorials from the workshop are available for anyone to use on the iPlant Wiki pages.

Onwards and Upwards for the Global Plant Council

Comments: No Comments
Published on: October 14, 2014
DSC08585 1000
Attendees at the Global Plant Council AGM (see end of post for details)

The 2014 Global Plant Council (GPC) annual general meeting (AGM) was held 2-3 October and hosted by the Society of Experimental Biology in London. GPC Individuals representing 22 member organisations from 5 continents gathered at Charles Darwin House to share updates and plan for the future.

Officially, the Global Plant Council is a coalition of plant and crop science societies from across the globe. It aims to provide a global voice for these societies, which individually represent scientists from specific countries, continents or sub-sets of plant science. During the AGM however, it became clear that in reality the GPC is a central hub, acting to instigate change in plant science research and application worldwide. This is a critical role; coordinated global action and a unified voice are essential for plant scientists to be able to effectively play a part in meeting the world challenges of hunger, energy, climate change, health and well-being, sustainability and environmental protection, which affect all of us.

The first day of the AGM was dedicated to sharing news and updates. Two working groups, who deal with Advocacy and Finance issues, praised the progress made by Ruth Bastow, the GPC’s first dedicated member of staff, since May 2013. (more…)

Investment in plant science training

Categories: funding
Comments: No Comments
Published on: October 7, 2014

The planet needs more plant scientists.

As a headline in The Scientist last week, this statement was unambiguously qualified by its ‘Opinion’ prefix. But for the UK plant sciences community it is a dangerous fact: the skills gaps in plant and agricultural sciences expertise and very limited plant science content on undergraduate courses were highlighted in the UKPSF report on the status of UK plant science.

The news that some 375 students will receive PhD training in agriculture and food security over the next five years is therefore very welcome. On Friday, Vince Cable announced the locations of 12 new Doctoral Training Partnerships, funded by a £125 million investment from BBSRC. 1250 PhD students will be trained, of which 30% (375) will be trained specifically in agricultural and food security science, 20% (250) will focus on industrial biotechnology and bioenergy, and 40% (500) on world-class ‘frontier’ bioscience – all areas in which plant science plays a key role. The remaining 10% (125) of students will work within BBSRC’s ‘Bioscience for Health’ theme.

We at GARNet are looking forward to seeing the impacts on plant science, from food security and bioenergy to the as yet unknown, that will come from the hundreds of plant scientists starting their training and careers in the next few years. As every student in the centres will have to do a funded three-month internship working in a different area from their PhD project, it will also be interesting to see how this impact spreads into areas like policy, funding and government over time.

Congratulations to all the organisations involved in the new Centres, lead by Imperial College London, the John Innes Centre, Newcastle University, University College London (not plant science), the University of Bristol, the University of Cambridge, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Leeds, the University of Manchester, the University of Nottingham, the University of Oxford and the University of Warwick.

GARNet 2014: In pictures

Tags:
Comments: 3 Comments
Published on: September 16, 2014

GARNet 2014, Arabidopsis: The Ongoing Green Revolution, is over! We had a great two days of discussions, networking, speciality cupcakes, and of course excellent talks from researchers at all career stages, from ‘one of the fathers of Arabidopsis research’ to a few of the UK’s brightest young PhD students.

There is a report on the conference on our website, and also a Storify of Tweets. Thank you to everyone who attended and contributed to discussions in situ and on Twitter – we’re delighted to work with such a supportive, enthusiastic community!

Here are a some pictures from the event – they’re mostly of the speakers (Maarten Koorneef, Andrew Millar, Cyril Zipfel, Kerry Franklin, and Miriam Gifford) and panel sessions, with a few pictures of the networking sessions towards the end.
garnet2014 1

(more…)

«page 2 of 22»

Follow Me
TwitterRSS
GARNetweets
Categories
May 2024
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Welcome , today is Monday, May 20, 2024