Plant Whisperer. Looking forward to hear your questions :D
I went to school and university in Germany; I did my PhD at the John Innes Centre in conjunction with the University of East Anglia (UEA) from 2009-2013
German undergraduate degree in Biology (Diplom; equivalent to a Master's degree); PhD from the University of East Anglia
I was a student helper for 4 years at my old university in Germany (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg im Breisgau), before working as a PhD student and later as a Post-Doctoral scientist at the John Innes Centre.
John Innes Centre (JIC) is an independent, internationally renowned research centre with a focus on plant and microbial (bacteria, viruses) research. You can find out more about it on the official website (http://www.jic.ac.uk/).
Favourite thing to do in my job: I love it when an experiment works! I work with wheat, so I have to plan my experiments a long time in advance (usually 6-18 months). When your experiment works after that long time, it is very satisfying! #geek
I am a plant geneticist and I try to create better varieties of wheat to help feed the growing world population.
I am a Post-Doctoral scientist and my work focuses around the genetics of plants. That means that I am trying to understand how different genes in a plant affect the look and size of a plant (what scientists call a ‘phenotype’).
I do work with the plants myself in the greenhouse and in the field, but I also do a lot of laboratory work and also a lot of work on the computer. This mix of different activities is what I like the most about my work: It is very diverse.
My Typical Day
No day is like the other: That is the best thing about my job :)
I plan my days in advance, which helps me to get the most out of my time. Even though my days are very different from each other, there are some things that keep coming up.
Looking at and after my plants in the glasshouse is very important, as I need healthy plants to analyse, collect leaf tissue from (for different experiments) or cross two different plants with each other. This is something I do in the morning, as it is a) very important and b) cooler in the glasshouse (you do not want to work in a hot glasshouse! *yikes*)
In late spring and during summer I will also nip out to the our fields to look at and collect leaves/grains/etc from my plants growing there: That can take up quite some time, but it is nice to get out of the laboratory/greenhouse/office. Again, the best time to do this is in the morning (nice and cool).
And of course I also spend lots of time in the laboratory performing experiments, which can be great fun. This takes up most of my time; some experiemnts are short (1 hour) and some can take several days to finish.
I also spend a lot of time in front of my computer reading scienfitic articles, writing my own scientific articles, exchanging emails with other scientists, performing scientific analyses and doing a little bit of coding (which is called bioinformatics). I mostly do these things in my “spare time” between working with plants and doing experiments.
Since becoming a parent to twin boys, all my remaining time in the day/night is spent rasing and having fun with them 🙂
What I'd do with the prize money
I would probably donate the money to a local school for them to buy scientific equipment. Alternatively, I would use the money to organize trips for school students to come to the John Innes Centre: We have a lab designed specifically for school classes where the students can do experiemtns with scientists.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
curious & friendly scientist
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Together with a few other PhD students, I have organized an international conference for 140 PhD students. It was hard work but also very rewarding to organize such a big event.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
I was inspired by the scientific community as a whole: There is this bunch of people who devote their lives to make the lives of other people better. They don’t do it for glory or money, but because they care (and to feed their curiosity).
Were you ever in trouble at school?
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I don’t have a favourite band or singer. I like a lot of different music styles, so depending on my mood I listen to Taylor Swift, Muse, The Prodigy, etc…
What's your favourite food?
Lasagne! I could eat it every day.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Whitewater kayaking: It’s amazing to feel the power of a river and use it to get around and have fun!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1. money to pay for all the science experiments I want to do, 2. a lifetime supply of lasagne, 3. enough time to finish playing all my favourite video games
Tell us a joke.
A neutron walks into a bar and asks “How much for a beer?” The bartender says, “For you? No charge.”