These conference reports are written by the beneficiaries of our travel fund.
Click here to read more about the fund and apply yourself
A recent trip to China gave me the opportunity to visit three different Universities and attend two different conferences. This was a very exciting trip which was packed with lots of exciting science and travel. A day either side of the tour let us explore some of Beijing and Shanghai. Our first tourist day saw us visit the Forbidden City and The Great Wall in Beijing. This initial induction day also turned out to be very important as it gave us some time to practice using chop sticks before our hosts could laugh at us, even then I can say there were definitely a few chop stick malfunctions from all our party along the way! Our final day in China was a tourist day in Shanghai and a trip to see the famous Shanghai skyline was the top priority before flying home.
The first university that our party visited was Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan (19th-21st). This university has more than 37,000 undergraduate students and 19,000 postgraduates with a very large campus surrounded by lakes on all sides it looks like a wonderful setting to study. We were visiting the Potato Research department of the university presenting work from The James Hutton Institute and the University of Dundee in hopes of further collaborations between the two sites. This was a great introduction to the lovely hospitality of the people of China.
The second university that was visited was Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University in Fuzhou (21st-25th). Some areas of this university campus have been newly renovated, including a lovely lake in the middle of the campus which is a really nice area to walk around and relax. This university was hosting the 2nd Fuzhou International Symposium of Plant Pathology. This symposium saw many leading scientists from around the world invited to present their work to around 80 delegates.
This conference exposed many of the students from local universities to the wider international community. There were 7 sections at this conference which were split up over two days. All of the presentations were of very high quality. Some of the excellent presentations that I enjoyed were from Brett Tyler, Barbara Howlett, Fengming Song and Youliang Peng. Brett Tyler described how the knowledge being gathered from oomycete and fungi genome sequences are focusing the current research on what are believed to be the key effectors allowing these pathogens to become so successful at causing disease. Barbara Howlett’s presentation on the fungal disease blackleg which infects Canola, a cultivar of rapeseed, described the importance of crop rotation on the reduction of disease. Fengming Song described current research in his lab investigating rice genes induced by rice blast disease focusing on the role of a ubiquitin E3 ligase (OsBBI1) in cell wall mediated defence responses and characterising its interaction with a NAC transcription factor. Youliang Peng also talked about rice blast fungus and a novel component of the Prp19-associated complex that is essential for the regulation of intron splicing of pathogenicity genes within this pathogen.
The final destination of this trip was to the Oomycete Molecular Genetics Meeting in Nanjing (26th-28th). This was an action packed conference with many talks from the local Nanjing university students. There were 5 main sections of this meeting with the talks spread out over 3 days. This conference saw many talks on the topic of effector translocation via phosphatidylinositol 3- phosphate binding. Shan Lu talked about how PI3P generation by Phytophthora sojae PI3Ks important for infection and that a PI3K-specific inhibitor or silencing of the PI3Ks could decrease pathogen virulence. Another interesting talk was from Xiangzi Zheng who has identified RXLR effectors from Phytophthora infestans which have the ability to suppress the early defence signalling MAPK cascade that is triggered by the bacterial PAMP flg22 in both Arabidopsis and tomato. Rays Jiang also gave an interesting presentation on using computational biology to investigate the evolution of organisms and how these tools can highlight patterns and insights that drive the understanding of how pathogens develop. This knowledge can then be used to focus and direct the ongoing research. This conference also included a trip to the National Park of Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum. This was a very interesting trip, the National Park is located within the city of Nanjing and spans 31 square kilometres. Not only does it contain the Mausoleum of Dr Sun Yat-sen but also a Ming tomb and stone carvings that line the path to the tomb.
I greatly appreciate the funding from the BSPP which afforded me the opportunity to take this trip, visit these universities and both conferences and present my work. It allowed me to present and discuss my work with researchers’ who may not readily attend conferences within Europe. Overall this trip was of great value and a wonderful experience.
The James Hutton Institute & University of Dundee