Every year, the BSPP provides funding opportunities for undergraduate students to gain experience in plant pathology and explore plant pathology research as a career option. Normally, supervisors would apply in spring to host summer studentships of 8-10 weeks, and this year around 20 projects were planned to run in this way (*).
This year, after the original set of projects had already been selected, access to the lab was challenging for many scientists due to the lockdown. So, the BSPP decided to offer a new ‘Lockdown Bursary’ for students. This summer project could be undertaken remotely to allow for lockdown restrictions.
13 lockdown projects have now been completed. These ranged from 4-10 weeks in length, and concentrated on science that could be done without regular access to a laboratory. Projects used a variety of methods ranging from traditional plant disease assessments, DNA extraction and transcriptome analysis, to epidemiological modelling, use of satellite and GIS data, and coding to analyse plant disease dynamics. Plant pathology was analysed in wheat, potatoes, oilseed rape, quinoa and trees. The students analysed data from root to leaf and from cells to fields, targeting data from molecular mechanisms to crop mixtures, weather patterns and earth observation imagery.
Projects were undertaken across the world from the Philippines, Ireland, Scotland and England. Students have come from many different backgrounds including engineering, mathematics, plant science and genetics. Students report how the projects armed them with new tools, showed them “what it takes to be a self-driven researcher”, found the projects “interesting and engaging” and “inspired me to pursue my dream”.
To highlight the diversity of the lockdown bursaries, here is Nik Cunniffe introducing the projects….
Over the next few weeks, the students will be talking about their projects – check out their Vlogs on the BSPP Instagram channel.
(*) Note that easing of lockdown restrictions by the summer meant that it was also possible for 16 of the original lab-based projects to be run, albeit in some cases with a slight change of focus, making this a bumper year for BSPP-supported undergraduate research!