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Kyoto-Bristol-Heidelberg workshop: Novel frontiers in botany

Botany is an ancient field of science and often has an (incorrect!) reputation for being outdated. The recent plant sciences workshop ‘Novel Frontiers in Botany’ shook off that image by bringing together researchers from Kyoto University, Heidelberg University and the University of Bristol to discuss their cutting edge research and form exciting new collaborations.

The workshop, held in March at Kyoto University, was part of an ongoing strategic partnership between the three Universities and their botanic gardens. It built on previous plant science meetings of the partner institutions, which have already led to ongoing international research collaborations. The plant biology research interests of the three universities, whilst overlapping, incorporate different techniques and ideas, so by working together we can synergistically accelerate plant sciences research across the partnership.

Student-led success

One of the highlights of the meeting was its student-led focus. A team of graduate student organisers, led by PhD student Yumiko Sakai, Kyoto University, designed a programme of primarily short (15 minute) talks given by graduate students and post-docs, which was key to ensuring a wide range of subject areas could be included, from molecules to ecosystems, cell biology to phylogenetics.

I think the student-led aspect encouraged more discussion too; instead of a complete story presented by professors, the speakers typically presented unfinished work, which meant attendees of the workshop gave feedback and suggested potential future directions. Graduate students and post-docs perform most of the experiments that underpin academic research, as well as being the future of plant science research, so it was great to learn new techniques and ideas from each other, as well as building our professional networks and the international research profiles of the three universities. Daily poster sessions and a number of excursions certainly helped to get the group communicating, although I’m not sure how much science was discussed at our trip to a local karaoke bar!
Several potential new collaborations have already come out of the workshop, which highlights its success. PhD student organiser Yumiko Sakai summed up the meeting, “Making new friends in our research field was a wonderful experience! Developing this student-led workshop will unite the young people that undertake frontier research”.

This meeting was supported by funding from the Kyoto University’s Supporting Program for Interaction-based Initiative Team Studies (SPIRITS) and from the University of Bristol’s Lady Emily Smyth Agricultural Research Station (LESARS).

This blog is written by Cabot Institute member Sarah Jose, Biological Sciences, University of Bristol.

Sarah Jose


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