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Graduation

Julia, Angie, Beth and Jason all graduated with their PhDs last week. Congratulations!

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The Conversation

Angie is spending a busy few weeks revising a paper, analysing her experimental data, and moonlighting as science editor at The Conversation. Since articles published there can be reproduced under the Creative Commons licence, we’ll be reposting some recent pieces by lab members in the coming days.

PhD opportunity

Leverhulme Centre for Advanced Biological Modelling

University of Sheffield

Project

Intermediate complexity models of plant metabolism and growth

Supervisors

Colin Osborne (Dept. of Animal and Plant Sciences), Nick Monk (School of Mathematics and Statistics), Richard Clayton (Dept. of Computer Science)

Project Outline

Improving crop photosynthesis is a major international research priority, which aims to deliver transformative improvements in yields. However, the translation of greater carbon-fixation into improved yield depends crucially on whole-plant processes of carbon export, allocation and utilization. Although the molecular basis and interactions of these processes are well characterized, we currently have no way of quantifying when and how strongly each controls growth. Flux balance models simulate the relevant metabolic processes but are applied at the tissue scale, while crop production models simulate whole-plant growth and yield but lack the necessary molecular mechanisms. The PhD project will bridge this important knowledge gap by developing an entirely new class of intermediate complexity models (ICMs) to investigate metabolic processes and interactions at the whole plant scale. The modelling challenge for the student will be to identify the metabolic components with the greatest influence on whole-plant physiology. A two-pronged approach will initially be used, first testing a priori hypotheses about the key metabolic pools, fluxes and feedbacks that influence growth, and secondly through sensitivity analysis of the flux balance models using emulators. Our goal is to devise ICMs providing novel mechanistic insights into the plant-scale limitations and controls on crop production, as modified by genotype and environment.

The Centre for Advanced Biological Modeling (CABM) will harness cutting edge mathematical and computing skills to address major problems in biology. Biology at the University of Sheffield is defined by its strength in combining approaches across time-scales from ecological to evolutionary, and has been the subject of significant recent investment. Exploiting this breadth of research excellence, the CABM will extend cutting edge research in basic biology at Sheffield by harnessing the latest mathematical and computational techniques. Its legacy will be a cohort of research scientists at the cutting edge of biological modeling with the skills to tackle major societal problems.

We welcome applications from students with backgrounds and training in physics, maths or computer science or those with advanced numerical skills from a biology background (e.g. through masters-level training). Students may be UK or international. The PhD is fully funded for fees and bursary, and will start in September 2015.

Further Details

For further details and questions about the project, email Colin at c.p.osborne@sheffield.ac.uk. Applications should be made via the university postgraduate system http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/postgraduate/research/apply, and will be considered as they arrive. The deadline for applications is 13th Feb 2015.

 

In the field

Colin has been in the field with Mark Rees and Glynis Jones, scoping out potential sites in Turkey for future work. We’ve been working with Turkish colleagues Ferit Kocacinar and Hakan Ozkan in places where wheat, barley, lentil and chickpea all grow wild, right in the heart of the Fertile Crescent close to the River Euphrates.


Parliamentary Shadowing

Rebecca and Catherine were both selected to take part in the British Ecological Parliamentary Shadowing scheme this year. Rebecca spent two days in Brussels at the European Parliament shadowing Chris Davies MEP and Catherine was at the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff with Alun Davies AM. Both experiences were extremely enjoyable and useful insights into the way that science informs policy, and much was learnt about the complexity of the parliamentary process.

The Senedd in Cardiff.

The Senedd in Cardiff.

Angie went to Parliament!

Angie attended Voice of the Future on Wednesday 19th March 2014.  This is an event where young scientists pose questions to MPs; Angie’s account can be found here:

http://www.sheffieldscienceinpolicy.com/blog.html

SEB PhD students Angie and Tina in Parliament

SEB PhD students Angie and Tina in Parliament

Angie’s trip to the US

Angie US

Angie spent an exciting few weeks in snowy New York working at Brookhaven National Laboratory.  She analysed the carbohydrate content and composition of barley leaf samples from an experiment carried out in Sheffield.  Angie’s thrilled with the new dataset and is looking forward to designing her next experiment accordingly!

Tanzania Expedition!

Marjorie and Pascal-Antoine embarked on a trip to Tanzania in January to find the grass Alloteropsis semialata in the wild. They were lucky enough to find some populations using the C3 photosynthetic pathway as well as other populations using the C4 pathway. On this successful trip, they gained important insight into the habitat characteristics of populations from this one species that use different photosynthetic pathways.

 

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A visit from Dr Rubén Milla, Rey Juan Carlos University, Madrid.

We were pleased to host Dr Rubén Milla this week, who flew over from Rey Juan Carlos University (Madrid) to give a seminar and meet with the Origins of Agriculture team. Rubén works on ecological strategies in crops and their wild relatives, therefore it was very useful to get together to discuss our current projects. It was great to hear all about Rubén’s research, and he was especially excited to meet two eminent Sheffield ecologists – Professor Phil Grime and Dr John Hodgson. This visit was funded by a Santander travel grant, which was awarded to Dr Catherine Preece, in order to facilitate collaboration between the two research groups. Catherine is excited to be heading out to Madrid in the spring to continue the collaboration!

Rubén, Catherine and Colin in the Sir David Read Controlled Environment Facility.

Rubén, Catherine and Colin in the Sir David Read Controlled Environment Facility.

 

New PhD Students!

A warm welcome to our two new PhD students Kim Mullins and Emma Jardine!