Home   Botanical education   “Apprentice botanists you’re hired!” botanical selfies continue with PhD candidate Sarah Jose

“Apprentice botanists you’re hired!” botanical selfies continue with PhD candidate Sarah Jose

The Twittersphere is a fine place for meeting and making new botanical friends and this is where Dr M met PhD candidate Sarah Jose from the University of Bristol a while back where he noticed her tweets on plant research news and other botanical and environmental stuff.

Sarah sees PhD students as “apprentice researchers” and has this advice to new PhD starters – “Make the most of your status. Take advantage of the constant barrage of opportunities to learn new skills, but use your professionalism to show that you are a researcher in your own right. Attend conferences, talk to other people, and don’t be put off by their titles. You’re not an undergrad anymore; you’re a researcher.”

So, here is her botanical story...

sarah jose

I am… Sarah Jose, a PhD Student at the University of Bristol.

I got into botany… at an early age. We lived in the countryside and my parents would take my sister and I on walks down the lane, peering into the hedges and naming flowers and trees. My primary school science teacher was a big nature lover too, often taking the class into the school field. I remember one lesson where we were looking at the different parts of the flower, and I came home and grabbed handfuls of flowers from the garden so I could “dissect” them (read: mutilate with scissors) and find the parts I’d learned. I was always trying to pollinate cut daffodils too!

I studied botany… by taking optional courses as an undergraduate. Sadly most UK universities are ditching their specialised Botany degrees, but if you find a biology department with strong plant science research you’ll be fine! I spent an industrial placement year in the Jodrell Laboratory at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, which was an absolutely amazing place to work! Everyone working there is so enthusiastic about anything and everything to do with plants – it’s infectious and I left there knowing I wanted to pursue a PhD in botany!

My research… is all about how plants avoid losing too much water. As you know, plants can’t uproot and move if the going gets tough, so they have to be able to deal with whatever the environment throws at them. Plants can prevent excessive water loss by 1) producing a waterproof, waxy covering over their leaves, known as the cuticle, which prevents evaporation from the leaf surface and 2) producing stomata, microscopic pores on the leaves that can open to take in carbon dioxide for photosynthesis but close in drought conditions to stop water escaping. There is some evidence that the production of the waxy cuticle and the stomata are linked in plants, but it is not clear exactly how. That’s where I come in!

My favourite plants… Well, my middle name is Bryallen, the Cornish word for ‘primrose’, so I think I’d better choose the lovely Primula vulgaris! Another favourite is the Wollemi pine. It was believed to have gone extinct millions of years ago until David Noble stumbled upon a small group of them in Australia. It’s the plant equivalent of rounding the corner and coming face to face with a dinosaur!

My most enjoyable botanical projects… I have been involved in some public engagement events, trying to raise the profile of plant science! The first was Fascination of Plants Day, held every May [18th May 2015], where events all over the world promote the fascinating world of plants. I was involved with the event at the Bristol University Botanic Garden and designed some snazzy leaflets about some of the stranger plants you can find in the garden. I also ran a stand at the Festival of Nature in Bristol, telling people about the importance of water for plants. We had some ace “unsinkable” plants like water hyacinth and water lettuce, which were great fun for kids!

My botanical superhero/ines… anyone trying to spread the word about how awesome plants are! Think about it: can YOU make food from sunlight, CO2 and water??

My web presence… I tweet about plants and environmental news that catches my interest at @JoseSci

You can also find my, somewhat neglected, botany blog here

My new year’s resolution is to blog much more often though, so watch that space!


Dr M says: and watching!

For more information on pursuing education and careers in plant science check out:

Gatsby Plant Science

UK Plant Science Federation

Science and Plants for Schools


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