The BSPP wishes to encourage and reward undergraduate students interested in plant pathology. To publicly recognise the achievements of these students, and mark 40 years of supporting the plant pathology community, the BSPP initiated a new set of prizes for final year undergraduate students. We invited universities (and other higher education institutions offering Level 6 courses) throughout the country to nominate their best student or students for two separate awards.
Our congratulations go to:
The BSPP prize for best undergraduate research in plant pathology (2021)
For best dissertation, literature review or research project.
Jiefeng Tan (University of Cambridge)
The BSPP prize for examination performance in plant pathology (2021)
For best performance in a final year exam paper or module.
Grace Duncan (University of Nottingham)
“The BSPP decided to establish these prizes during our 40th Anniversary Year to promote the study of plant pathology at the undergraduate level. Research projects done by this year’s winners focused on a wide range of topics, from molecular biology to bioinformatics to mathematical modelling. Exam entries covered a similarly broad range of topics, with – like all plant pathology – real implications for food security, ecosystem services and society. In all cases, nominating academics highlighted the high quality of experimental work and presentation of results and conclusions. Following the success of the prizes this year, we will repeat this exercise in future years. All in the Society can be reassured that the future of our discipline appears to be in the very safest of hands!” BSPP Education Secretary.
Jiefeng Tan (University of Cambridge)
“Having studied the devastating socio-economic and environmental impacts of infectious plant diseases as an undergraduate Plant Scientist, I wanted to apply my knowledge of mathematical modelling and epidemiology to investigate better strategies for managing real-world plant disease epidemics.
I hope to pursue further work in the control of crop diseases, which I believe will be critical for global food security in the coming decades.”
Jiefeng Tan graduated in July 2021 with a First Class degree in Plant Sciences. His final year project was entitled: ‘A reactive proximity based survey strategy for effective detection of plant disease.’
His supervisor, Nik Cunniffe, commented: “Jiefeng was absolutely outstanding. With relatively little direction given by me – and coming, as far as I am aware, with no advanced pre-existing knowledge of computing – within a few weeks Jiefeng was able to programme quite complex spatial stochastic models and use them to design and test ecological hypotheses.”
Grace Duncan (University of Nottingham)
“I would like to thank BSPP for this prize. Having finished my undergraduate degree in Environmental Biology, my next adventure is undertaking a PGCE at the University of Cambridge, specializing in secondary biology. I look forward to sharing with my students the importance of plant pathology, particularly regarding global food security which featured in my paper. Pathology is still often considered to pertain more to humans, hence, especially with changing climates, busting the misconceptions is ever more pertinent to the next generation.”
Grace Duncan graduated in July 2021 with a First Class degree in Environmental Biology.
Matt Dickinson, supervisor for Grace shared: “Grace’s pathogen profile on Burkholderia glumae was an excellent, well-researched report that incorporated molecular details into a cohesive and focused account. Graduating with a first class degree in 2021, her performance in the plant pathology modules and her understanding of the subject were excellent, as was her motivation for this topic.”
Winners of University Nominated Prizes
Charlotte Stewart for Best Undergraduate Research in Plant Pathology at the University of Birmingham (2021)
“Plant pathology is increasingly important to study as we can improve food security by studying plant-pathogen interactions to mitigate the effects of the infection (and increase yield). I would love to follow a career in plant pathology research and I am currently looking into relevant PhD options. One of my favourite elements of plant pathology is the evolutionary ‘arms race’ between phytopathogens and plants. For example, how certain phytopathogenic fungi and bacteria have evolved to copy RALFs, found in plants naturally, to improve their infectious potential.”
Charlotte won this award as part of her final year research proposal which explored: ‘The role of plant defence hormones in response to Fusarium oxysporum.’
Estrella Luna-Diez, at the University of Birmingham, supervised Charlotte’s research project and was: “delighted to nominate Charlotte Steward for the prize for best undergraduate research. Charlotte was extremely proactive about academic learning and her passion for the field of Plant Pathology is evident. She is hard-working, clever and adaptive to change, something incredibly important under current circumstances…a well-disciplined student, she has proven to have the perseverance, initiative, and intellectual creativity necessary to succeed in this project.”
Hana Azuma for Best Undergraduate Research in Plant Pathology at the University of Bristol (2021)
“My journey started with a dream to become a Zoologist and I had absolutely no interests in plants until I was exposed to the world of plant diseases during my first-year lecture. It was astonishing to learn the existence of plant pathogens and their devastating impact on agriculture. Ever since, I knew I wanted to devote my life to food security by combatting against plant diseases. My next stop, after my degree, is Rome; where I will be doing an internship at Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and I aspire to become an officer here one day.”
Hana wrote a final year literature review, entitled: ‘The power of genetic engineering technologies in plant disease management; their role in current and future global food security’.
Hana’s supervisor at the University of Bristol, Andy Bailey, nominated her for the prize: “Hana has a keen interest in plant pathology and the topic area and title of the review were Hana’s own choice. Featuring several key plant diseases, her review covered three genetic engineering technologies and their impact on plant disease management: R gene-mediated resistance, gene silencing and CRISPR. Hana often achieves first class marks and is very well regarded by both her academic tutor and practical project supervisor.”
Kieran Durnford for Best Undergraduate Research in Plant Pathology at the University of Nottingham (2021)
Kieran Durnford undertook a final year project on: ‘Exploiting Bacterial Agents for Biological control of soil borne Rhizoctonia solani AG2-1.’
Matt Dickinson, at the University of Nottingham, nominated Kieran: “Independent in his work and taking initiative in developing it…he was actively engaged throughout, made excellent progress and was highly organized. His write up was an excellent paper, well-structured and developed; with in-depth critical analysis and a thorough interpretation of the data in relation to previously published studies…overall obtaining a First Class degree in Plant Science.”
Nathan Greenwood for Best Undergraduate Research in Plant Pathology at the University of Leeds (2021)
“Having just completed my undergraduate degree, I have thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to work in the Urwin nematology lab. I found plant pathology to be an attractive area of research because of the potential that research in this area has to directly boost crop production around the world.”
Nathan’s final year literature review was entitled: ‘Fighting for survival: effector mediated suppression of the host immune response by plant parasitic nematodes.’
Nathan’s supervisor at the University of Leeds, P.E. Urwin: “Nathan presented expansive use of the literature, integrating results from a wide range of studies and was beautifully presented resulting in a first class mark. He was mature, attended every meeting…and was keen to offer thoughtful, insightful discussion. Nathan is now working in our laboratory to gain the practical experience that was denied him due to the COVID19 situation.”
Shannon-Marie Murtagh for Best Undergraduate Research in Plant Pathology at the University of Plymouth (2021)
“Having graduated from my BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences degree this year, I am now working as a Cellular and Molecular Technician at the University of Plymouth. My interest in plant pathology began during my second year of undergraduate studies, following lectures discussing plant immunity and food security. A research career surrounding plant health and pathology was then solidified during my placement year at the University of Alicante, where the phytopathology laboratory was investigating biocontrol agents for major banana pests and diseases. As such, I am particularly interested in pursuing a PhD programme investigating fungal plant pathogens and their effects on host metabolism.”
Shannon’s final year project examined: ‘The circadian behaviours of the plant pathogenic fungi Magnaporthe oryzae and Verticillium dahliae under differing nutrient regimes.’
George Littlejohn, at the University of Plymouth, was delighted to recommend Shannon for this award: “Shannon has shown a dedicated interest in plant pathology throughout her degree, which included a placement year at Prof. Luis Vicente Lopez-Llorca’s laboratory of phytopathology at the University of Alicante and a BSPP summer studentship at Plymouth…The quality of the writing in her project write-up was extremely high…it is very well structured and shows a level of scholarship, discussion and selection of reference material expected of a much more experienced scientist.”