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.
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!
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).