Generating the next generation

 Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

My last few posts have looked at the excit­ing sci­ence that was presen­ted recently at the UKPSF con­fer­ence. How can we ensure there will be a new gen­er­a­tion of eager, bright plant bio­lo­gists to help turn those great ideas into real­ity? This is another major – and global – issue and was addressed by a num­ber of speak­ers within the area of ‘plant sci­ence edu­ca­tion’. Accordingly, we heard from Celia Knight (University of Leeds) on the Gatsby Plant Science Summer Schools, which gives 1st year under­gradu­ates from a select group of UK uni­ver­sit­ies the oppor­tun­ity to immerse them­selves in a plant sci­ence sum­mer school. Research sug­gests that this inter­ven­tion helps not only to pro­mote aware­ness of plant sci­ence as a career, but also has increased the num­ber of research­ers in plant bio­logy. To help this there is also the University of Leeds’ TREE (Tool for Research-Engaged Education) – ‘an online teach­ing tool giv­ing access to down­load­able lec­ture slides, on-line lec­tures, prac­tic­als, movies and other mater­ial on top­ical plant sci­ence to sup­port lec­tur­ers in their teach­ing’. Mary Williams (American Society of Plant Biologists, but based in Glasgow, UK) shared ideas from the USA’s exper­i­ences of out­reach efforts to pro­mote plant sci­ence, which might help the UK’s fledgling ‘spe­cial interest group’ [the UKPSF] inspire the next gen­er­a­tion. Incidentally, Mary is almost single-handedly respons­ible for the Plant Cell’s superb teach­ing resources – Teaching Tools in Plant Biology, sev­eral of which are freely avail­able. And, in the hope of enthus­ing impres­sion­able stu­dents before they get to uni­ver­sity, Ginny Page (SAPS, Science and Plants for Schools) made the point that plant sci­ent­ists need to pub­li­cise the import­ance of their work more. Well, there’s a chal­lenge for all of us.

My appre­ci­ation of the range of plant sci­ence under­taken in the UK was cer­tainly increased by attend­ing the con­fer­ence, but it is not people like me that the UKPSF has to win over. Its main aim must surely be to for­mu­late a coordin­ated strategy and vis­ion for Plant and Crop Science in the UK that will be util­ised to inform policy. If it can do that, it will be doing a grand job! And, if it can also “inspire, edu­cate and train the next gen­er­a­tion of plant and crop sci­ent­ists” — who will be needed from the full breadth of the multi-faceted dis­cip­line of bot­any! — along the way, so much the bet­ter! [For fur­ther back­ground to some of the global con­cerns raised in some of the posts from the con­fer­ence, see Johan Rockström et al. and Jonathan Foley et al. – Ed.]

Nigel Chaffey. ORCID 0000-0002-4231-9082

Nigel is a botanist and full-time academic at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany he contributes the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that august international botanical organ. His main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way...) about plants and plant-people interactions.

2 Responses

  1. Laurence Bindschedler says:

    Dear Nigel,
    Thank you for post­ing this very inter­est­ing art­icle.
    Being recently appoin­ted as a lec­turer in plant Biochemistry, I would be happy to know more about the list of uni­ver­sit­ies who are lucky to be part of the pro­gram?
    Best wishes.
    Dr Laurence Bindschedler
    Senior Lecturer
    Royal Holloway University of London

  2. Nigel Chaffey says:

    Dear Laurence,

    If you refer to the Gatsby Plant Science Summer School pro­gramme [http://​www​.gats​by​plants​.leeds​.ac​.uk/​i​n​d​e​x​.​php], I sug­gest you — and oth­ers inter­ested in this scheme — con­tact Aurora Levesley (a.​levesley@​leeds.​ac.​uk) to find out more.
    That site also hosts resources that may be use­ful to your teach­ing [http://​www​.gats​by​plants​.leeds​.ac​.uk/​t​r​e​e​/​g​a​t​s​b​y​_​t​r​e​e​.​php].

    All the best with your teaching!


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