The Gatsby Plants Summer School – thoughts from two of the 2005 alumni

By Celia Knight FRSB

As promised last time, this blog will focus on alumni stories.

I’m using the 10 year anniversary of the Gatsby Plants Summer School to track down current email addresses for the 94 students who attended the first school in 2005.  If you know anyone, please encourage them to get in touch with me.

Getting ready for group photoI recognized Jo Hepworth in the photo I posted previously and emailed her. Jo and I had worked together on the UKPSF Training and Skills working group last year. She replied,

“Gosh, 10 years – that’s quite a terrifying thought! I was reminded of it today in a sad way as also being 10 years since the London bombings, which we heard about while we were there. However, I more generally think of a much happier time when I remember that week – the photos are a blast from the past! I still have a CD of the band who played at one of the socials…

Reception“The blog was a most enjoyable summary too – I’d forgotten that was the first time that I would have seen Ottoline Leyser speak – the Summer School did indeed stand me in good stead, as I ended up doing my PhD with her. Although I was hooked on plants by the time I reached the School, it opened my eyes to the funding and research possibilities, and as a result I spent the following summer doing a project in Oxford with Professor Andrew Smith. Hearing Ottoline speak inspired me to apply for a PhD with her. My PhD was in plant hormones, evolution and development, and I then did about 2 years in Germany working on hormones and development, and now I’m at the John Innes Centre studying evolution and development again, as a postdoc in Caroline Dean’s lab – a position I wouldn’t have without the rest of my career background. So it’s all Gatsby’s fault really. It is comforting to think, in the wake of the UKPSF report, that there are schemes which clearly work so well in encouraging people into and supporting people within plantsci.”

Ottoline spoke again at the 2015 school, which took place 28th June – 3rd July. The 11th summer school was another wonderful week and we were blessed with beautiful weather this year.   To any 2015 alumni reading this – take note of Jo’s story.

Social, illuminations and singingSeveral alumni doing PhDs or post-docs help out with practicals at the summer school but we now also include a session at which alumni who entered plant science employment after graduation speak about their careers. Peter Bright is one such alumnus from the 2005 summer school. Pete studied Biology at the University of Leeds and decided to look for a job on graduation. He now has 8 years experience as a crop scientist, now working for Pepsico, and the undergraduates appreciated hearing about plant science opportunities open to graduates. Pete had this to say about his experience at the summer school:

Systematics practical“It’s very interesting to see the continuity of the good things from the 1st school to 2015 and you should be proud of what it stands for and how successful it is.  Brought back a lot of memories for me, all good.  It’s great to see the new kit that the students get access to, as well as access to world leading lectures.  I personally am proud to be even a small part of this project.”

That’s just 2 alumni’s stories and I have more to tell another time.

Till then,
Celia

Celia Knight is the Academic Coordinator of The Gatsby Plant Science Summer School.

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