Making the most of sunshine

Photosynthesis Research at the Lancaster Environment Centre

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Blog post: Alice Robijns on Rubisco, the Lake District, and joining a new lab during a pandemic…

This week we have a blog piece from Alice Robijns on her time with us at Lancaster working on RIPE & Rubisco.

After a very productive year, she’s just recently joined Wanne Kromdijk and his group to do a PhD on C4 photosynthesis.

 

In a year which was characterised by coming in and out of COVID-19 lockdowns, I felt extremely lucky that I was able to join the photosynthesis group in Lancaster, and work on a subject I am passionate about.

Rubisco is such an exciting part of photosynthesis to look at: as the central enzyme, it links up the light-dependent and light-independent reactions. Despite this, there is still a lot we don’t know about Rubisco, and being able to work with the team in Lancaster, many of whom have worked on Rubisco for a long time, was so valuable for my understanding and development. Most of my lab work focused on using molecular biology to develop new tools to help us dive deeper into Rubisco biochemistry. If I’ve learnt anything about science the last couple of years, is that nothing is quite as simple as the protocol will tell you, especially for cloning. Doug helpfully described it as ‘voodoo’ when I was complaining about my PCRs not working without apparent reason… While this was frustrating at times, it was also immensely satisfying when things did finally work. It was a new experience for me to feel so independent and competent in the lab, and even being someone that other people asked for advice!

I also was reminded this year of how creative working in science is. When one of my synthesised genes didn’t arrive for a while due to COVID and Brexit-related delays, I was able to do some computational analyses of DNA and protein sequences and reviewing past literature on Rubisco regulation. I really enjoyed this opportunity to develop my scientific thinking and analysis.

Of course, the biggest reason I had such an enjoyable time was because I felt so welcomed by everyone there, despite social distancing and having to wear a mask. Days in the lab were characterised by conversations about home-schooling, adventures in the Lake District and radio on Fridays. Outside of work, I had a great time exploring the areas around Lancaster, particularly the Lake District and going for swims in Morecambe Bay. I adopted a swiss cheese plant with a friend who we named Wallace.

Now, I have started my PhD at Cambridge University, working on photoprotection in C4 plants, and my first lab work to do is golden gate cloning! I had a really great time in Lancaster: I learnt a huge amount, came to be fascinated about Rubisco and how it works, and made the most of a year that only a few months before had seemed very unsure. Lastly, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone in the lab, especially Elizabete who gave me the position and Rhiannon, Mike and Doug who supported me with my experiments.

 

 

A big thanks from the Lancaster photosynthesis team for all your contributions Alice, and best wishes for your PhD studies!

Welcome Supreeta!

A warm Lancaster welcome to Supreeta Vijayakumar who joined the team this week as a Senior Research Associate in Metabolic Modeling.

Supreeta has joined the team from Teeside University to work on the PhotoBoost project!

She’ll be working on modelling to help improve photosynthesis and productivity in the vital C3 crops rice and potato.

 

New PhD project opportunity with Marj!

Why are there so few C2 grasses?

Your PhD could be to find the answer to this!
Through the Envision DTP program, there is a newly advertised PhD position to work with Marjorie Lundgren, as well Elizabete Carmo-Silva and a great group of external collaborators.

Interested and have questions? You can find contacts for Marjorie and links to apply via this link.

 

Recruiting for CAPITALISE

We are recruiting another postdoc to work with us and a great group of collaborators on the EU Horizon 2020 project CAPITALISE!

You’ll get to join the team of Prof Elizabete Carmo-Silva and wider Lancaster Photosynthesis team, as well as the Plant and Crop Sciences group at the Lancaster Environment Centre.

This role will contribute to efforts to characterise natural variation in photosynthetic traits to improve photosynthetic efficiency in barley, tomato and maize.

Full information for this Plant Molecular Biology role can be found here.

Please carefully read the details at the linked Lancaster Jobs portal pages, informal enquiries can be sent via email, but all applications must be submitted through the portal for consideration. Applications close Tuesday 12th October.

Update 27 Aug: A couple of people have asked, so to clarify, yes these jobs are available to anyone, not just UK based people.
If you will need a work visa for the UK that is perfectly fine.

Recruiting for PhotoBoost!

We are recruiting *2* postdocs to work with us and collaborators on the EU Horizon 2020 project PhotoBoost!

You’ll get to join the team of Prof Elizabete Carmo-Silva and wider Lancaster Photosynthesis team, as well as the Plant and Crop Sciences group at the Lancaster Environment Centre.

These roles are both for 42 months initially, and will contribute to efforts to improve the productivity and sustainability of two essential C3 crops: rice and potatoes. PhotoBoost involves a large number of international partners, and at Lancaster involves Profs Elizabete Carmo-Silva, Steve Long, and Martin Parry.

Full information for the Metabolic Modelling role can be found here.

And for the Metabolic Engineering role here.

Please carefully read the details at the linked Lancaster Jobs portal pages, informal enquiries can be sent via email, but all applications must be submitted through the portal for consideration. Applications for both positions close Monday 20th September.

Update 27 Aug: A couple of people have asked, so to clarify, yes these jobs are available to anyone, not just UK based people.
If you will need a work visa for the UK that is perfectly fine.

Academic career path – an example!

Hi everyone, inspired by being asked to do something similar at a recent conference for early career researchers, I have recorded a presentation where I talk about my career path.

There are many diverse paths, no two people follow the same path, and everyone needs to find theirs. Seeing examples might help inspire someone, so that’s why I am doing this.

Examples of academic paths tend to be easier to find than alternative paths, and I would encourage you to also look elsewhere for diverse examples. Being successful is about being happy with what you do.

If you are curious to learn more about someone’s path, reach out to them and ask for a chat. Most people will be delighted to share their experiences!

Also, it is important to recognise that everyone goes through ups and downs. My path has certainly had many smiles, and quite a few tears as well! It is not all shiny, but it is my path, and one that I am happy with and proud of.

I am extremely lucky and grateful to have had many inspiring mentors and colleagues along the way, both senior and junior. Thanks so much for being there for me and making my journey brighter!!

I hope I can pay it forward and inspire others to be happy and successful too.

Warm wishes,

Elizabete

 

Congratulations to 2 of our PIs on promotions!

Massive congratulations to newly minted Professor Elizabete Carmo-Silva, and new Senior Research Fellow Marjorie Lundgren!

Very well deserved and well earned promotions both! Keep up the excellent work.

You can learn more about Elizabetes work here, and about Marjs work here.

Keep an eye on this page/twitter as we’ll have a number of postdoc opportunities appearing this week!

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