On the 2nd of May I'm honoured to be hosting Dr Sandra Knapp from the Natural History Museum (http://www.nhm.ac.uk/) for the Holden Botany Lecture.
The Holden Botany Lecture is a public seminar held once every two years and named after Prof. Henry Smith Holden who, in 1932, was our first Professor of Botany at the University of Nottingham. The first of these lectures was held in 1975 with the intention that the ‘lecture be given by a distinguished botanist, biologist, or an industrial or horticultural specialist, and would emphasise the importance of basic botanical and biological research work’.
With this in mind Dr Sandra Knapp's impressive career working with the taxonomy of Solanum, Capsicum, and Lycianthes with the Natural History Museum clearly makes her a natural choice for this year’s seminar.
The seminar is open to all so if you find yourself in the East Midlands do come along! More details for the event can be found at: www.nottingham.ac.uk/go/holdenbotanylecture or you can email me with any questions.
See you on the 2nd May!
It's been a while since I posted so prepare yourselves for a longer than usual blog! I was going to separate some of these topics into separate entries but honestly I can't be bothered so you'll just have to read (or skim) the whole update!
First to Students (and no they aren't related to stress!) - I've had the great pleasure of having Jordan in my lab for a DTP rotation for the last 7 weeks. She has been learning about maize growth and the soil-plant-air continuum. Some of the techniques she has learnt include 15N uptake (which is what we are doing in the images below), shoot and root biomass measurements, CT imaging of roots, leaf pigment stuff (which is sort of my loose connection to stress!) and microdialysis sampling of soil nutrients. The last 7 weeks have been a lot of fun and I'm sure whatever project Jordan chooses she will go on to great things!
Now to Stress - not mine - and actually not really stress but rather plant pigments which can indicate stress! Those of you following me on Twitter will see that I recently obtained a Dualex meter. This measures chlorophyll, polyphenols (flavonoids) and a ratio between the two (for more detail see Force-A page: http://www.force-a.com/en/capteurs-scientifiques/dualex-scientific/
and download the brochure).
The reason I am so blatantly advertising the for Force-A is because of the support they showed me during the nightmare of having the device delivered. Firstly - to order a piece of equipment like this is a serious decision when there is a limited budget so I put a lot of thought into weighing up my options. Having decided to order one Force-A were fantastic with getting it packaged up and sent. However a certain delivery company who can remain unnamed (but whose initials are U. .P...S) seem to have lost the delivery but refuse to accept their error (details can remain out of this due to further investigations - however it seems I'm not the only person to have problems with this company!). The device should have arrived the first week of November 2016 but has still not been located. Force-A are not at fault so have no obligation to do anything further, however despite this they stepped up and provided a replacement device (via a different delivery company) and the device arrived 2 working days later! It has been rare for me to experience such charity and support and I truly appreciate it - in particular as a new academic with a tight budget.
Since the Dualex arrived we (I mean Jordan!) has had a play and measured a bunch of random plants around the place....data below....definition of the ratios are given in the picture above. In future the dualex will allow us to do continuous measurements of leaf status. At the end of experiments we'll make a final measurement, harvest that tissue and use colorimetric methods to measure whole tissue pigment concentrations. Fun times to come!
So thanks again Force-A :)
That brings me to stuff!
I watched this fabulous TED talk (link below) recently on mentoring and how to get the most out of your team. I personally have had more bad than good experiences with supervisors and I'm always on the lookout for good advice. This one however hit home hard regarding the chicken-run of academia and the encouragement of superchickens rather than ensuring all the rest of us chickens are happy, healthy and as a collective more productive. It's a fantastic talk (like most TED talks) and I think if this way of thinking and behaving could be incorporated more into institutions it will not only improve overall productivity but also make a community of much happier chickens!
Finally - AR-Lab is moving....Again! This time by choice - just across the Sutton Bonington Campus to Gateway building. It's been two days (and most of today I was teaching) but already I feel very welcome among my colleagues and have been able to pop in and ask questions or have a chat with people as I've bumped into them when previously I would have had to walk across campus to see if they were in! So thanks to you all for making me welcome! My email contacts stay the same, phone number will change (see my contacts page).
If you've read all the way to the end then I thank you for thinking this was more interesting than spending your time on something else! :)
Congratulations to Olivia Cousins (an Adelaide-Nottingham joint PhD candidate and one of our team!) who won the student poster prize at the 2016 New Zealand Society of Soil Science and Soil Science Australia conference held in Queenstown, New Zealand 12-16th December this year. A full version of the poster can be found at: soilecology.org/conference-posters
Well done Olivia!
I thought it was about time for an update from the AR_Lab!
Aside from full recruitment mode there have also been some fun stuff going on wtih the plants. The new rhizoboxes are in the glasshouse and the plants are very happily growing. I'm still amazed (even as a root physiologist) by how extensive the root system can be for a comparatively small shoot - and these are all growing with sufficient nutrient availability.
While we're talking about plants in action the second edition of this very useful text book is now online and freely available for all to use. You can find it at http://plantsinaction.science.uq.edu.au/
These boxes will never look this clean ever again! This was the evening they were delivered. :)
This is my advertising shot - beautiful blue skies at Sutton Bonington that day :) Boxes filled with potting mix and ready to go! (by the way blue skies are not actually unusual here!)
Plants in action! Measuring nutrient uptake from root types without disturbing the plants. Check out how long the roots are compared to the shoots! After half an hour the treated roots were cut off and the windows were replaced, retilted and recovered with opaque plastic as if nothing had ever happened!
So many great experiments to do! :)
I was just reflecting on my day today and I think there's a good analogy that can be instructional regarding what plant physiology means.
The analogy comes from my medical check-up at the hospital today (hence having the time for two blog posts! - all good for another year by the way ;) ). At the hospital I'm always greeted by "Hi, I'm Joe Blogs and I'll be your physiologist today". That physiologist then connects an ECG, and logs in to my pacemaker and checks the readings from the two are comparable and then they download all the data from the time in between which has been recorded by the pacemaker and check certain features of the functioning of my heart. They then manipulate the heart rate using the pacemaker to see how everything responds.
This is exactly what plant physiologists try to do. Instead of a person as a patient, it's a plant, instead of an ECG it might be a LiCOR or a pressure bomb and instead of a pacemaker it might be a heat pulse velocity kit (which has various other names), or a dendrometer, and the data is collected by data loggers (just like the pacemaker) or by us (just like the doctor).
There are lots of other techniques that we use - all of which measure processes. observing the shape or colour is of course of interest - particularly when we can do this many times- because they tell us something about the outcome of the processes.
Note the use of the word 'outcome'. Without knowing something about likely processes involved we can't use a single image or set of images to understand physiology.
Having said that, once we know the processes that lead to a visual outcome we can very effectively use images of that outcome as an indicator of the processes (by inference so it's important to check from time to time). - I'm of course referring to phenotyping.
The other thing I'm going to say is that of course just like it's possible there is a genetic basis for my heart defect (which we have no evidence for currently) many plant physiology process defects (or changes) are related to genetic effects but just because changing one set of genes leads to a set phenotype - there are many possible processes that may have changed to come up with the resulting image and there are many different process-paths that could have been taken and without studying the processes, we can not know which processes changed or responded.
Again the genetic tools available now are opening physiology doors that were not possible 20 years ago - these are essential tools developed by fantastic molecular biologists and geneticists (and bioinformaticians).
So what is my point in all this rambling?
My point is that with the previous revolution in genetics and molecular biology and the current revolution in phenotyping technologies, the physiology skills and knowledge have become untrendy (is that a word?) and so are dwindling - but they are essential! In the UK this has been acknowledged (at least in writing) by the BBSRC - so I'm not making this up - at least not entirely (it is of course a biased perspective of a physiologist!).
So why is physiology untrendy? I have no idea! This is an exciting time for plant physiologists! We now have the ability to adapt the tools and technologies that have been used in medical physiology for plants (those pesky cell walls tend to make adapting essential but modern materials are making this possible).
Anyway I think the first step is to remind the world what physiology is! So think about the pacemaker and the physiologists who monitor all the heart processes- and then replace the patient with a plant.
Small disclaimer: If any human physiologists read this - I know they are doing a lot more when I go in for tests than what I listed here, so I'm sorry for not doing that justice!
Hi global team! You don't mind me calling you that do you?
So it's been another exciting/busy/crazy/tiring week in the glasshouse (and at training courses and doing admin for the new academic year - but let's pretend it was all glasshouse!)
Two days harvesting an experiment in pleasantly cool weather. I don't ever remember doing a glasshouse harvest in Australia and thinking how much I want a hot steaming shower! Usually a cold bath or sitting in front of the airconditioner for a few hours was top priority! This is one of many things I truly love about living in the UK.
My new rhizoboxes arrived as well. So many exciting experiments to be done with these! I filled them on Thursday - thats 60 x 25 litre bags of potting mix that I carried in, broke up and poured into the boxes! Not a trivial exercise - but exercise it was! Pic below is a red-faced dirt-covered me just after watering them in.
There's also a fabulous picture of my boxes with Spongebob trying to get out somewhere on twitter! :) - you'll have to look it up to see the reason!
So that's my update. So many other things going on too - never a dull moment!
It's been a while since I posted - been rather busy.
My fantastic team of short term visitors have almost all left :( Richard, Findi and Marianna have been wonderful students and good fun to have around! I hope they've learnt what they'd hoped during their time with me!
This week has also been my first proper experience of the struggle of being a new academic without a team of minions (I mean students and post-docs) to help out with harvests. The last two days I harvested a maize experiment entirely alone. No need to queue the violins but it was definitely not as fun as with a team of people working and joking around! Also surprisingly slow. Having worked with a team of plant physiologists at UQ on a previous experiment (and helping out with their harvests back in time), I definitely underestimated the time commitment for dong it alone! Meanwhile I'm still expected to submit project proposals for PhD studentships, support a post doc applying for a fellowship to join my lab, plan the next grant proposal and carry on the other experiments I also have running, not to mention the administrative duties that I'm expected (and I agreed) to do.
Complaint?? not really. I love collecting data and planning the next steps. I'm loving doing the physiology with new technology or modified techniques which I have the flexibility to do thanks to my fellowship. And I have great people applying to join my lab so it's just a matter of time. But I do sympathise with other early career academics out there!
Hang in there brethren...you're not alone in the struggle!
In the meantime here are a few new pics from the glasshouse!
It's been a busy time but today the team got together and talked about each project and then bonded over a yummy pub lunch. Present was Marianna (Erasmus student), Findi (Masters student), Richard (visiting postdoc) and me. Olivia was absent ... but we'll forgive her since she's in Adelaide and it's a bit far to come for lunch ;)
I'm not much of a women's libber- I do think we need to work towards better balance in the work force (or in any non-traditional-women's activity) but I've been pretty lucky with supportive parents and mentors both male and female. Since moving to England I've been more conscious of the biases - some of the comments I've heard are so extreme they're funny...but that's a story for another day!
Yesterday I gave a talk in a series about redressing the balance in Biosciences. The series is open to all and addresses a lot of issues that both men and women face but with a focus in particular towards helping women see that it is possible to be a woman and an academic - so most (if not all!) of the speakers are women.
The forum yesterday consisted of 4 female academics and the diverse pathways we have taken into academia and, perhaps not surprisingly, there were a lot of common themes - including linked to being brave - take opportunities even if you're not sure you can do it perfectly - stand up for what you need or want - don't be afraid to say 'No' if you are too busy or it isn't in line with your goals -
Rather timely, I was flicking through my twitter feed and saw this TED talk which is directly on this need to teach women to be brave not perfect so I thought I would share the link here.
It's very true - I've always been afraid to make mistakes - it wasn't until my first post-doc I learnt bravery. That first post-doc was one of the most difficult times of my life with a supervisor who feels that the only way to succeed in science is to be a bastard (apologies for the language - his words, not mine). Two years of being crushed and insulted and having the confidence kicked out of me. But everyone has a cracking point and everyone reacts differently - I snapped back and told them stick it - I had reached a point where if that's what it meant to be a scientist then I was absolutely ready to quit science. I realised that this was an ethical/moral/personal line I was never, ever going to cross. This meant that at 32 I found bravery. The bravery to really stand up for what I think is right, or fair under the circumstances, to say 'No' if I don't want to do something, to not worry whether I might fail.
2 years on a downward spiral until I hit the bedrock just to learn that.
In the past I was pro-active and I did get involved in lots of things - but I did worry about failing - I did get things 'right' before I shared them - I never wanted to admit if something had failed - and it IS a handicap. We shouldn't be afraid of failure.
That bad experience taught me that no matter how many mistakes I make, at least I wont be as bad as some of the people I've worked for! Sad that I need that bad comparison to be brave but I'm gaining confidence with every new thing I do (whether I fail and learn from it, or succeed and celebrate). And I'm not afraid to fail or share those failures anymore (you can read a summary list of my failures on my blog from the 30th April here). -Ok there are still certain people I wont tell failures to because those people impact my confidence - I'm not perfect - but I'm learning bravery! :)
Day 1 of leadership training with a fantastic bunch of new academics and senior postdocs from The University of Nottingham and The University of Birmingham. Fun but hectic day getting to know our support teams and learning about ourselves.
At the core of the day was the Myers Briggs Type Indicators. Interestingly I've done one of these before and it came out really similar again this time...the only difference being that instead of being just on the extrovert side of the line I was just on the introvert side of the line...but otherwise the categories (and position on the continuums) were much the same as last time! So I'm an ENFJ or INFJ...
The four dichotomies are:
Extrovert - Introvert
Sensing - iNtuition
Thinking - Feeling
Judging - Perceiving
These are not right or wrong, or yes or no, but rather occur on a continuum. If you're interested you can look up more details elsewhere.
Also important is just because people have a natural preference for one or other of the dichotomy choices, doesn't mean people can't work (or learn to work) in their non-favoured preference. Learning about this can help understand why other people might have different ways of working.
So I'm either ENFJ or INFJ
The short summary's of these are:
INFJ: Seek meaning and connections in ideas, relationships and material possessions. Want to understand what motivates people, and are insightful about others. Conscientious and committed to their firm values. Develop a clear vision about how best to serve the common good. Organised and decisive in implementing their vision.
ENFJ: Warm, empathetic, responsive and responsible. Highly attuned to the emotions, needs and motivations of others. Find potential in everyone, want to help others fulfil their potential. May act as catalysts for individual and group growth. Loyal, responsive to praise and criticism. Sociable, facilitate others in a group, and provide inspiring leadership.
All 16 combinations have different strengths - and weaknesses!
As to which of these two types I fall most in I shall leave to the decision of people I work with.
So that's who I am....who are you?