David Miller Bursar Scott Hayes attends Plant Molecular Biology congress in Korea

23 Jan 2013

Scott Hayes was awarded a David Miller Award Travel Bursary in 2012, enabling him to attend the International Congress on Plant Molecular Biology (IPMB). The conference was held from 21-26 October 2012 in Jeju Island, South Korea.

Scott’s interest in science began when his parents bought him a microscope for his sixth birthday. Using this microscope, Scott looked at different plants and found himself amazed at the sight of all the plant cells, and so his interest in plant science was born. This was cemented when he read From Seed to Seed by Prof Nicholas Harberd, and he hasn’t looked back since.

As a first year PhD student at The University of Bristol, under the supervision of Dr Kerry Franklin, Scott’s current focus is the role of UV-B light in shade-avoidance syndrome. By Scott’s own admission this is a very interesting and far-reaching topic, to which there is currently no available literature. Shade-avoidance syndrome is an area of great interest to agriculture as it limits the density at which crops can be planted. When crops are planted in close proximity, they strive to over-top one another, leading to an increased resource allocation to stems and concomitant reduction in resource allocation to seeds, resulting in reduced crop yields.

The research group envisages its results discover how different wavelengths of light interact to trigger shade-avoidance. An increased understanding of this phenomenon will inform future research and may help alleviating some of the food shortages we may expect with a growing global population. Scott attended presentations from Prof Roman Ulm of the University of Geneva, Prof Christian Fankhauser of the University of Lausanne, and Prof Xing-Wang Den of Yale at the event.

All three of these talks focused on light signal transduction in higher plants with Prof Ulm speaking on the negative regulation of UV-B signalling, Prof Fankhauser on the regulation of hyponasty in shade, and Prof Den on the opposing effects of the hormone ethylene in light-grown and dark-grown plants.

Attending the conference, partly with the help of the David Miller Award, has already provided Scott with opportunities to further his knowledge and improve his skills in Horticulture. He has also benefited from networking and gaining experience of public presenting. Following Prof Ulm’s talk, Scott took to the microphone to ask a question of the distinguished speaker, and has now taken the answers back to his colleagues in the research group in Bristol.

After the conference, Scott reported back to the Horticulture Group at the AGM, which gave him the chance to meet people from industry. This has already led to further meetings and the prospect of a possible industrial collaboration.

Scott commented 'SCI provides a great opportunity to foster links between basic research and agriculture. Ideally, in five years time, I hope to have finished my PhD, completed a couple of post doctoral roles and gained a research fellowship. I know it is an ambitious goal, and I appreciate that it will be hard to achieve, but I hope that the opportunities afforded to me by SCI will go some way in helping me on my career path.'

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