Skip to main content

Pre-doctoral research and early stage training in plant sciences and microbiology

Final Activity Report Summary - PLANTS AND MICROBES (Pre-doctoral research and early stage training in plant sciences and microbiology)

The contract ran from 1st April 2006 to 31st March 2010, providing research training for 23 EST Fellows in the field of plant molecular biology and microbiology (total 492 training months). The John Innes Centre served as a host mono-site for this multidisciplinary training programme. It was able to do this effectively because of its size, scope and international reputation as a high quality environment for research training.

Research undertaken by EST Fellows has led to important discoveries in the fields of plant breeding, developmental biology and biotechnology. The main research objectives were:
- to discover basic biological processes in plants and microorganisms;
to develop and apply the platform technologies that underpin modern molecular biology, and,
- to create plants and bacteria of enhanced value.

For example, there has been an important advance in the development of a high level expression system for production of introduced proteins in plant tissues from plant virus vectors. There have also been advances in the development of anti-tuberculosis pharmaceuticals based on the use of DNA gyrase as a drug target. In the field of crop science, there have been major advances in the understanding of the mechanism of innate immunity in plants and further discoveries relating to the role of micro-RNAs in the control of flowering.

High quality scientific research and training was recognised in many instances:
- Over 25 publications in refereed journals with many more in preparation.
- Six prizes for science communication at national/ international/ local meetings;%: - Four invitations to speak at prestigious international meetings;
- Two short-term visits to international laboratories;
- Four international postdoctoral research fellowships awarded (with more applications currently being prepared).
- From the final reports received from EST Fellows, 60% rated the quality of research training received as 'Excellent'; and 40% as 'Very Good'.

This programme has provided an excellent training environment and a springboard for careers in academic or industrial research. A combination of taught courses and a wide range of research seminars provided opportunities for a broad-based scientific and technical training. This was supported by an extensive programme designed to enhance complementary professional skills. In all cases, EST Fellows have progressed towards PhD-level degrees, thus contributing to an enhancement of knowledge and skills in the labour pool of the European Research Area.

Research has already led to 25 publications in high quality refereed journals with many more manuscripts in preparation. EST Fellows have attended over 30 international conferences and workshops: in the majority of cases they were active (rather than passive) participants. EST Fellows have also taken an active role in the communication of science to schools and to the general public, for example through the Centenary Science Discovery Day held at the John Innes Centre, Norwich (2009).

23 EST Fellows were recruited from nine countries within EU and five outside EU: The gender balance (M:F) was 5:18.