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John Innes Centre International Student Bursaries for Early Stage Training

Final Activity Report Summary - JICIBSET (John Innes centre international student bursaries for early stage training)

1. Project Outline
The contract ran from 1st April 2004 to 31st March 2008, providing research training in the field of plant molecular biology and microbiology (total 396 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. From the final reports of EST Fellows, 8 rated the quality of research training received as "Excellent"; 6 as "Very Good"; 1 as "Satisfactory"; and none as "unsatisfactory".

2. Scientific Highlights
The main research objectives associated with the EST programme 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. Research undertaken by EST Fellows has led to important discoveries in the fields of plant breeding, developmental biology and biotechnology. For all EST Fellows, 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. Some research training also involved links with industry, and the development of patents in the field of biotechnology.

2. Outstanding Achievements
High quality scientific research and science communication was recognised in many instances: -
* Three national science communication awards;
* Four invitations to speak at prestigious international meetings;
* Eight awards for best posters at national/ international/ local meetings;
* Five short-term visits to international laboratories;
* Four international postdoctoral research fellowships awarded (with more applications currently being prepared).

3. Economic and Social Impact of the Project
This programme has provided an excellent training environment and a springboard for careers in academic or industrial research. All EST Fellows have received extensive training in research methods, thus contributing to an enhancement of knowledge and skills in the labour pool in the European Research Area. Fourteen EST Fellows have progressed towards PhD degrees; and one took a Masters-level degree in computational biology before progressing to an MBA.

As a result of research conducted under this training contract, there have been important scientific advances some of which will lead directly to commercial application. There has been an important advance in the understanding of chromosome pairing in meiosis which could have applications in the development of strategies for plant breeding, for example of hexaploid wheat. One patent has been filed that describes a high level expression system for production of introduced proteins in plant tissues from plant virus vectors. There have also been major advances in the use of plant viruses as agents for nano-technology: this has a wide range of potential applications in therapeutic medicine, electronics, materials science and bioinorganinc chemistry.

4. Dissemination of Knowledge
Research has already led to 20 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 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (Norwich, 2006).

5. Equal Opportunities
Fifteen EST Fellows were recruited from nine countries: The gender balance (M:F) was 7:8.