The 7 Books Every PhD Student Should Read

By Alex Wakeman

Let’s be honest. If you’re nerdy enough to be doing a PhD, you probably love a good book. Whether you’re looking for entertainment or advice, distraction or comfort, the seven listed here can each, in their own way, help you through your frustrating but uniquely rewarding life of a PhD student.   

  1. Isaac Asimov – I, Robot  

“1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2) A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.  

3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.”  

The Three Laws of Robotics. Simple. Elegant. Watertight. What could go wrong? These three, now legendary rules are printed on the first page of ‘I, Robot’ then are immediately followed by a series of masterful short stories in which Asimov dismantles his seemingly perfect creation before your very eyes. With ‘I, Robot’ (and many of his other works) Asimov displays dozens of ways rules can be bent and circumvented. As it turns out, a lot can go wrong.   

In some ways, this collection of short stories about misbehaving robots acts as a training manual for one of the most essential skills any PhD student must develop: discerning truth. Has that experiment proved what you think it proves? To what extent does it prove that? Are you sure? You might be convinced, but will everyone else at the conference see it that way? At first glance, Asimov’s Three Laws seem like a pretty good crack at a clear and concise system to prevent anything from quirky, metallic shenanigans to an anti-organic apocalypse. Are you sure about that? Look at them again, have a think, test them as vigorously as you would any real-world proof. Then go and read ‘I, Robot’ and find out how wrong you were.  

  1. Sayaka Murata – Convenience Store Woman  

You could probably be doing something better with your life, you know. Most people doing a PhD are a pretty effective combination of intelligent and driven. You almost certainly got a 1st or a 2:1 in a bachelor’s degree, probably a masters. Someone with this profile could certainly find a career with a starting salary above the RCUK minimum stipend level of £15,285 a year, likely one with a much more concrete future ahead of them as well. For most people it doesn’t make a lot of sense to do a PhD; it’s a huge investment of time and energy directed towards a very specialised end. But there are plenty of good reasons to do one as well and if you’re currently working on a PhD you are probably (I sincerely hope) aware of one of the main ones: it’s fun. It really can be fun, at least for a very peculiar type of person. But, of course, it’s not a particularly normal idea of fun. Most people have had their fill of learning by the end of school, or at most university, and it can sometimes be tough convincing a partner or family member that this genuinely is what you enjoy, despite the dark rings they’ve noticed forming under your eyes.   

Keiko would probably understand. She feels a very similar way. Not about PhDs or learning, making novel discoveries, or changing the world for the better; but she does feel a very similar way about her work in a convenience store. She enjoys everything about the convenience store, from the artificial 24/7 light to the starchy slightly ill-fitting uniforms, it provides her with enough money for rent and food and she wants for little else. Murata presents us with a tender and often hilarious portrait of a woman attempting to claim agency over her own, unique way of living, and convince others of the simple joy it brings her. If the average PhD student is twice as strange as your typical person, then as a PhD student you have twice as much reason to follow this proudly comforting story of an atypical person and her atypical interest.    

  1. Viktor Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning  

Suffering is relative. It is certain that I will struggle with my PhD. I am still in the early days of my studies, but I am aware that studying for a PhD is likely going to be the hardest thing I have done with my life so far.  In all the interviews I had for various funding schemes and DTPs, not one failed to ask a question that amounted to: “How will you cope?”. But at its worst my PhD still won’t cause me to suffer nearly as much as Viktor Frankl did. Don’t think I’m recommending this book to remind you to ‘count yourself lucky’, or any similar nonsense; Frankl isn’t concerned with pity, or one upping your struggles, he just wants you to feel fulfilled, even in the worst moments when nothing’s going right and you’re starting to doubt if you’re even capable of completing a PhD.   

The first half of ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ is a stark, sometimes unpleasant autobiographical account of Frankl’s time imprisoned in various Nazi concentration camps. But the difficulty of the subject matter is worth it for the fascinatingly unique perspective of the author: Viktor Frankl was one of the 20th Century’s foremost neurologists. The first-hand experience of one of Europe’s blackest events – viewed through the lens of a Jewish psychiatrist – could quite easily paint a rather bleak and hopeless image of humanity. This, however, is not the case. Instead, Frankl uses the second half of the book to explain in layman’s terms the psychological basis behind his biggest contribution to his field: Logotherapy. Frankl emerges from the immense suffering of the holocaust to clearly and kindly encourage us to find meaning and joy in all parts of life. Far from being a depressing read ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ is instead likely to leave you feeling inspired, cared for, and capable of getting through whatever nonsensical data, failed experiments, and frustrating failures your PhD might throw at you.   

  1. John Ratey – Spark!  

We’ve all had times in our lives when we felt that we couldn’t afford to exercise, when life is just so overwhelmingly occupied, there’s too many important things going on. At some points in your PhD, when you feel too busy to take a break, see friends, or cook a proper dinner, having a go at the ‘Couch to 5k’ certainly doesn’t look like it’ll be getting any of your valuable hours any time soon. But after several decades of researching the human brain, Professor John Ratey is here to argue that you can’t afford not to exercise.  

I’m sure it isn’t a great revelation to you that exercise is vital for your physical health, but ‘Spark!’ instead implores us to think of exercise as an essential activity for our brain. With an abundance of examples from modern publications in psychiatry and neuroscience, Ratey explains the effects of regular exercise on the human brain. Better memory, improved problem solving, better pattern recognition, longer periods of focus, reduced procrastination and improved mood; I struggle to believe there’s a single human being who would not benefit from every one of these and the countless other benefits discussed throughout the book. But for PhD students, whose work is especially dependent on the functioning of their brain, the effects are potentially even more transformative. You wouldn’t dream of mistreating the expensive lab microscope. You’d never work with equipment that had been left dysfunctional due to lack of care: why treat your own brain any differently? 

  1. Hermann Hesse – The Glass Bead Game 

 PhD students are students. Sometimes this is painfully clear, sometimes it is easy to forget. But nevertheless, learning is at the centre of a PhD and learning is a two way-street. There is no learning without teaching, even if the learner and the teacher are the same person. ‘The Glass Bead Game’ is a novel about learning and teaching, it is a realistic portrait of two sides of the same coin, simultaneously superimposed upon one another. 

The story takes place in an imaginary European province in which experts, scientists, scholars, and philosophers are allotted unlimited resources and are permitted to follow any interest or whim to their heart’s content. In many ways this place may sound utopian compared to the current state of academia, so ruthless in its limitation of funding, and so stringent in its selection processes. Yet this is not a utopian novel. But neither is it a dystopian one. Hesse somehow manages to create a world that feels genuine and authentic, despite its fantastical premise. Though he uses the extreme concept of a country entirely focused on pedagogy to explore the nature of learning, this extremity never becomes fanciful with regards to the positives and negatives of such a way of living. Rather than leaving the reader with a melancholic longing for a fantasy world where the streets are paved with postdoc positions, the realism of ‘The Glass Bead Game’ is more likely to help you find a balanced appreciation for life in academia, better able to accept it’s many blemishes, and in doing so more able to appreciate it’s many joys.  

  1. Plato – The Last Days of Socrates  

A PhD is a doctor of philosophy. As PhD students we are all therefore philosophers-in-training. We are learning how to ask precise questions, and how to answer them in a convincing, conclusive manner. We are learning to fully understand the nature of evidence and proof, to recognise when something is proved and when it is not. The word itself comes from the Greek ‘philos’ (loving) and ‘sophia’ (wisdom), an apt description of anyone willing to spend several years of their life researching one extremely niche topic that few others know or care about.   

Although the Classical philosophers arrived long before any concept of scientific method, and they often came to some conclusions that now seem laughable, a small understanding of their world can do a lot for any 21st century philosopher. This book in itself won’t come to any ground breaking conclusions that haven’t been long since disproved, or better communicated, but it’s place in this list is earned as an essential introduction to the history of asking questions. At a time in which more and more people are recoiling from the influence of experts, this story of a man being put on trial for asking too many questions remains as relevant as it was 2,000 years ago. And ultimately, this book would still earn its spot on this list solely as the source of the famous scene in which Socrates insists that the only reason the Oracle named him the wisest of the Greeks, was because he alone amongst the Greeks knows that he knows nothing – a statement that may haunt and comfort any PhD student, depending on the day.  

  1. Walt Whitman – Leaves of Grass  

Perhaps you’re wondering how a book of 19th Century poetry is going to help you be a better PhD student. Unlike the other entries on this list, I will make no claim to its ability to help you think better, nor will it help you ask better questions, nor make you feel more justified in your choice of career path. ‘Leaves of Grass’ will not help you be a better PhD student in any way, because you are not a PhD student, you are a human being, and that’s enough. Not only is that enough, that’s everything. To Walt Whitman there’s nothing more you can be. It is quite easy for your view of the world (and therefore your place in it) to become narrowed. You spend all day working on your PhD. All, or most of your colleagues are doing the same, perhaps many of your friends as well. But your PhD is not your life. The success or failure of your research is not you. The accumulation of three Latin characters at the end of your name is not an indication of value. If you are to read any of the books that I have recommended here make it this one and there will be no problem over the coming years that you will not be prepared for, not because it will guarantee your success, but because it will assure you that whilst there are trees and birds and stars and sunlight there doesn’t need to be anything more – anything else that comes out of each day is a welcome (but unnecessary) add-on. Whatever happens during your PhD, whether your thesis changes the world, or all your plans come to nothing, or you drop out halfway through, or you take ten years to finish. Just be you, be alive, be human, and know that that’s more than enough. 

10 more tips for starting a PhD during a global pandemic

By Alex Wakeman

In September, my fellow PhD student Catriona wrote our first blog post, listing 10 tips for starting a PhD during a pandemic. I read her advice before I started in the Bennett lab and recommend it to anyone who hasn’t done so already. Listed here are 10 of my own tips, drawn from the experience of my first two months working on a mid-pandemic PhD.

  1. Separate your work from your rest

When you work and rest in the same place, the two activities will naturally bleed into each other. We’ve all had those days where it simultaneously feels like the work never starts, but it also never stops; when nothing has been accomplished, but you feel genuinely exhausted. When there’s no physical barrier between work and rest, the lines between the two begin to blur, unless you construct a new barrier. This barrier could be in the form of time (committing to only work between certain hours and refusing to check emails in the evenings) or it can be created in your workspace, completely packing away your ‘work desk’ when you’re done. Different methods will work for different people, but however you choose to enforce this separation, the message is the same: when you are done, be done. It doesn’t matter when the day starts and ends, so long as you have some way of drawing a line to separate work from rest and to prevent the amorphous creep of covid-time blurring everything together into a not quite productive, not quite restful mush.

  1. Go easy on yourself

Starting a PhD is hard. Living through a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic is hard. And often, even when you aren’t starting a PhD during a global pandemic, life can be hard. Your value as a person is not tethered to what you accomplish with your PhD. Just getting the funding for a PhD is hard; if you are here, you deserve to be here, and that fact will not change because you haven’t collected any data by Christmas or haven’t read as many papers as you reckon everyone else must have. Work when you can, rest when you must – this thing’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re starting a PhD you are likely very smart and very driven; so take care of yourself, then the research will take care of itself

  1. Ask Questions

OK, yes, Catriona beat me to this one, but it is very good advice and in more than one way. Whilst asking questions like ‘Where are the measuring cylinders?’ is both important and necessary, it is probably equally important to ask: ‘How was your weekend?’. For the foreseeable future, going into work might be the only source of physical socialising permitted. No matter how busy they might seem, I’m yet to encounter anyone in this current scenario who isn’t rather pleased to strike up a normal conversation with a human being that doesn’t have a few dead pixels above their right eye, or a half-second lag to their voice. Even headphones (the universally recognised symbol for ‘piss off’) wilfully come off, in favour of a cross-bench chin wag

  1. Buy a really good waterproof

Global pandemics aren’t great for your mental health. Working, sleeping and living between the same four walls isn’t great for your mental health. I’ll allow you to draw your own conclusions about what effects the combination of the two can have on your mental health. There’s not much we can do about the first one and throughout the cold, wet, unappealing months of British winter it can often feel like there’s not much we can do about the second, either. This is why a good waterproof might be one of the best things you can buy with that unspent pub money. The weather and your location may not be ideal, but I’ve found that even central Leeds on a rainy day can be overwhelmingly transformative when I haven’t left my flat in over 24 hours. If there’s a nearby park, walk there. If there’s not, walk round the block, or explore the university campus. Just a short amount of time outside has been proven to be transformative for your mental state, even when there’s very little sun. A good coat will at least remove an excuse to stay indoors due to the weather and I promise it’s an investment worth every penny

  1. Get into a good book

‘Work’ probably looks very different for a lot of people right now. However, if you’re one of the unfortunates who started their PhD in the cursed year of 2020 then most-to-all your work probably involves a computer screen. Many of us are still required to work from home most days of the week, and this is likely on top of spending most of our downtime on screens as well, which translates to a hell of a lot of screen-gazing. Spending most of your day on a computer isn’t only bad for your eyes, it can cause back problems, headaches and even interfere with sleep. A certain amount of computer time is sadly unavoidable for your work, but more can be done about how you spend your breaks. Pick something fun. Something you want to read, not something you ‘should’ read. Maybe you’ve always meant to get around the reading Game of Thrones? Or Harry Potter, or the Sherlock Holmes books? Hell, go and re-read a childhood favorite, or a guilty pleasure (libraries are shut, you won’t have to frantically explain to anyone that you were only reading Fifty Shades of Grey because you’re interested in the plot). Find something that’ll be able to pull you away from the tyranny of the screen, and give you a break from some of the exhausting realities we’re currently living through

  1. Experiment with your routine

Having to work exclusively from home doesn’t have to be all negative. One benefit is that it makes you the master of your own destiny – or at least, your own schedule. The hours between 9 A.M. and 5 P.M. no longer hold the value they once did. Maybe you already know whether you’re a morning person or a night owl. Maybe you’ve never before had the freedom to properly find out. What must get done in a day will vary for everyone, but if you aren’t allowed to go into university to perform experiments, perhaps you can conduct some at home. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself, realising that you’ll happily sacrifice a regular lie-in, in return for an early finish. Or perhaps you’ll find yourself enjoying a decadently long lunch break, to allow for a midday bike ride that makes the most of the limited winter sunshine. Maybe you’re happy with the times you work but could rearrange the order of tasks. I precede my writing with watering all my plants – a pocket of quiet, untaxing time to mull over whatever it is I’m currently working on. A great suggestion I had was doing the daily email check right after lunch, when you’re a bit too full and sleepy to do much else.

  1. Listen to other people’s problems

In some ways, the pandemic has narrowed the knowledge gap between new starters and other PhDs more than ever. Starting a PhD in any year can be confusing, stressful and full of new problems, however this year is unique, as this is also the case for everyone else. Further along PhDs, postdocs, yes, even PIs are adapting to new ways of working, constantly coming up against new frustrations and sometimes feeling despairingly hopeless. If you have the opportunity, talk about the problems you’re facing with people at all levels. Other first years can make you feel less alone – even if it’s just by sharing a grumble about the woes of starting a PhD in 2020. Older PhDs can reassure you that you can cope and people do get through these problems. Postdocs, technicians and supervisors ( ‘the grown-ups’) will reveal that even they can struggle, get fed up, and feel lost. Seeing others being fallible and lost and scared can give you a strange sense of relief, especially when you’re struggling to give yourself permission to feel these things.

  1. Remember why you’re here

If you’re anything like me, it wasn’t so long ago that you got the email, telling you that your PhD application had been successful. I was on holiday at the time (NB: holidays were things we did before the event where we’d travel long distances to make ourselves happier or more interesting for a bit), but knowing I might receive the email any day that week had written off the first three days for me. I won’t reveal to you how many times I re-read the email before running outside to tell my family the news, but it was an hour or two before I came back down to the surface of the earth. The global pandemic may have transformed what my PhD looks like, compared to what I imagined on that elated early-spring day, but I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. Even under these strange circumstances, I’m still undergoing a once-in-a-lifetime experience, conducting my own research, with knowledge and resources not available to an undergraduate, yet without the pressure to publish and acquire funding of a postdoc – for someone who loves learning, loved my subject at university and doesn’t enjoy jumping through hoops, I couldn’t really ask for much more. Your own reasons for wanting to do a PhD might be very different to mine, but regardless, there was surely a time when you received that scholarship funding email and, in that moment, you couldn’t have wanted anything else.

It can become rather easy to slip into the habit of focusing on what we’ve lost to the pandemic; the opportunities we could have had, the friends we could have made, the socials we could have gone on, the full immersion of PhD life. I know that it’s easy, because I do it myself. But focusing on these losses prevents us from appreciating what we still have and where we still are. Although the extent is limited, you are still doing amazing things every day, learning about and expanding knowledge most people could only begin to comprehend – no matter what, you’re still a PhD student, and I think that’s really very exciting.

  1. Be more than just a PhD student

The pandemic has undeniably caused frustrations and setbacks for everyone this year, from school children, sixth-formers, undergraduates, postgraduates, adults starting their first job, or moving house, or planning their first child; I doubt there were many people whose plans for the 2020 didn’t involve coming into contact with another human being. The difficulties of the pandemic have affected everyone in different ways, but they can take on their own unique shade of frustration for PhD students. A PhD is an incredibly strange thing; working so intensely on a single goal can have incredible and rewarding results, but a side-effect is that a PhD is far more than just a job or a qualification, for most PhD students its their life. Maybe even more than that, for most of us, a PhD is our identity. So when our PhD is limited, when we are left feeling like we’re not 100% doing a complete PhD, that can leave us feeling like we don’t have a 100% complete identity. This is why it’s so important for you to have something else in your life to remind you: you are more than your PhD. Contrary to what some non-academics might believe, PhD students are not robots, whose skill set is almost entirely invested into a single, savant style understanding of their subject. Of every PhD student I’ve met, regardless of their field, not one has been only a PhD student and nothing more. For a PhD requires passion and I struggle to imagine anyone so intensely passionate about one thing – whether that’s biochemical signaling, gravitational waves, or tablets of Linear B script – without that innate passion transferring to many other subjects. Whether it’s music, cooking, painting, languages, sports, history, or any other niche little topic, I know you are more than just your PhD. Make the time for these things in your life. Your hobbies and interests will anchor you to a world outside of academia and help remind you that you have a place in that world as well

  1. Know when and where to get help

Several of the points I’ve discussed here relate to staying mentally healthy. However, many of us will need more than a stable routine or a walk in the park to help. Recent studies revealed that 1 in 2 PhD students experience psychological distress and 1 in 3 is at risk of a common psychiatric disorder. It is a statistical certainty that someone, probably many people, reading this are suffering or will suffer from a mental health disorder. Luckily, most universities are beginning to realise the importance of mental health care and have dedicated services that any student can access. Many of these services – from workshops to counselling – are still being run via Zoom throughout the pandemic. As much as I wish this wasn’t the case, if you’re studying for a PhD your odds of needing one of these services is far higher than almost any other demographic. Even if you don‘t need them currently, find out what your university has available before you need them, because if you do, you might need them fast. If your university doesn’t offer appropriate services your local GP definitely will, so make sure you’ve registered with one in the city you’re studying in. Nobody is immune from having problems with their mental health, any more than they are from breaking a leg or requiring glasses. I know exactly what I have to do to make an appointment with the University of Leeds Wellbeing Service. I hope I’ll never need to use the information but then, if I were that naïve, I wouldn’t make a very good scientist

10 tips for starting a PhD during a global pandemic

By Catriona Walker

2020 hasn’t gone to plan – and it’s clearly going to be a while before we get back to anything approaching normal. Starting a PhD at any time can be a daunting experience; starting during a global pandemic is going to be even more daunting. You, your supervisor, the rest of your lab and your university are going to be sussing out how the process is going to work as it happens. What follows is a list of suggestions to make starting your PhD in 2020 a little easier.

  1. Learn the current working protocols – and stay up to date

Protocols for your group/ lab/ university are likely to change often and potentially at short notice for at least the first few months of your PhD. Make sure you know where to find the latest updates and be aware that your supervisor won’t always have new information before you do.

  1. Get to know your new lab

Many universities are currently operating under flexible working hours and/or restricting access to buildings, meaning opportunities to meet your new peers will be limited. Try to meet them in small numbers outside the lab – invite a couple of members of your lab for a coffee so you can start integrating into your new group. If they have a lab group chat (e.g. WhatsApp, Slack), ask to be included so you can stay up to date with more casual conversations.

  1. Learn where things are

If possible, take the time to walk around the building or campus if it’s unfamiliar to you. Work out where things are in the lab – familiarise yourself with where the equipment is kept, where you will be working, what the waste disposal methods are in your lab etc.

  1. Make the most of opportunities

Social events might be reduced but check out what socially-distanced or virtual meetings your union or department are offering for new starters.

  1. Take the time for background reading

You should be doing this when you start your PhD anyway, but make the most of the time you get to read at home. Read the papers suggested to you, and ask existing PhD students in your lab if you can read their early reports, or if they could recommend any reviews they’ve found particularly helpful.

  1. Sign up to virtual seminars

Since the start of Covid-19, a number of virtual seminar series have been launched. Normally every one or two weeks, they’re a great way to get up to date on the latest research in the field. If you’re studying plant sciences, Plantae Presents (https://plantae.org/education/plantae_presents/#upcoming-talks-) and GARNet Presents (http://blog.garnetcommunity.org.uk/garnet-presents-webinars/) are particularly good – what’s more, they record all their talks and they’re free!

  1. Set up relevant social media accounts

You’ll find a huge amount of science discussion on various social media platforms. If you haven’t already, take the time to set up some accounts (e.g. Twitter). It’s generally easier to have separate work and personal social media accounts if you use them, and it avoids any awkward work/ life cross-overs.

  1. Try to have a dedicated working space

You might be doing much of your work from home for the first few months. If possible, dedicate a space to work, and set it up properly so you can be comfortable. If you don’t have the luxury of a separate space, try to ensure you put away your things when you’re finished with work for the day. It will help you to mentally switch off.

  1. Ask questions

Nobody knows what’s going on when they first start their PhD at the best of times, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. It doesn’t matter if they seem stupid to you – we all have to start somewhere, and everyone prefers answering a question to fixing something that’s been broken because you didn’t know how to work it!

  1. Go with the flow

Don’t forget, even though you’re new, the rest of your lab are likely working in a way they’ve never worked before so everyone is in a situation they’re not used to. Accept in advance that things might be more restricted than ideal and just do the best you can in the situation.

 

Finally, be sure to enjoy your PhD. Regardless of the circumstances in which you start, this is an amazing opportunity to have almost total control over your own work for a number of years. Make the most of it and enjoy it – it passes quicker than you think!

Like buses…5 More Publications…

Amid the continuing frustration at being unable to do any bench-work, there has at least been good news in the lab, with a spate of publications in May, June, July. Our publication record continues to be very lumpy!

First of all, Tom wrote a ‘preview article’ for Developmental Cell, looking at a forthcoming publication from Sabrina Sabatini’s lab, and trying to place it in context. “Root development: A go-faster stripe and spoilers

At more or less the same time, Darren was writing a similar ‘News & Views’ article for Nature Plants, looking at an article from Shelley Lumba’s lab on the role of SMAX1 in seed germination. “Two routes to germinate a seed“.

And in the very same issue of Nature Plants, Catriona’s paper on inflorescence arrest in Arabidopsis (previously pre-printed in February 2019) was published. “Auxin export from proximal fruits drives arrest in temporally competent inflorescences“. We got quite a lot of attention for this article, and were asked to write a blog for The Node about the story behind the publication: “Now we need arrest… A long journey into the end of flowering“. It’s a pretty honest view of all the wrong decisions and bad experiments we made along the way to publication! Together with her co-author Al Ware, Catriona was also interviewed by GARNet about the publication for a podcast.

Completing a successful few weeks, Cara’s review on the evolution of root-shoot and shoot-root signalling was published in Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology at the end of June: “There and Back Again: An Evolutionary Perspective on Long-Distance Coordination of Plant Growth and Development“. And shortly afterwards, Pablo and Catriona’s review of the end-of-flowering was published in Current Opinion in Plant Biology: “Bloom and Bust: Understanding the Nature and Regulation of the End of Flowering“.

 

4 publications…a good summer’s work

Very excitingly, the lab has published 4 papers over the last two months, displaying a good range of the research we are currently involved in.

Our work on strigolactone and KAI2-ligand signalling in root development was published in PLoS Genetics: SMAX1/SMXL2 regulate root and root hair development downstream of KAI2-mediated signalling in Arabidopsis

Meanwhile, we also published a Tolkein-centric review of strigolactone signalling in New Phytologist: Fellowship of the rings: a saga of strigolactones and other small signals

Completing the strigolactone theme, our work on the evolution of strigolactone synthesis and signalling was also (finally) published, in BMC Biology: Strigolactone synthesis is ancestral in land plants, but canonical strigolactone signalling is a flowering plant innovation

Finally, show-casing some of our new work on reproductive architecture in flowering plants, our work on the ‘50% rule’ was published in Nature Plants: A distributive ‘50% rule’ determines floral initiation rates in the Brassicaceae

All in all, a pretty good summer’s work!

Three pre-prints!

It’s been a really exciting time for the lab over the last few weeks, as we have pre-printed not one but three new manuscripts! This is is all work that has been started since I moved to Leeds, so it feels like the first true ‘crop’ of research from the Bennett Lab. It’s been a huge effort from everyone involved, so congratulations to all. I think the manuscripts really showcase what we are all about!

Auxin export from proximal fruits drives arrest in competent inflorescence meristems

Root density sensing allows pro-active modulation of shoot growth to avoid future resource limitation

KAI2 regulates root and root hair development by modulating auxin distribution

All of these manuscripts have also been submitted, so hopefully they’ll be appearing in press soon!

New Starters!

We are very happy to welcome two new students to the lab! Although, to be honest…they do look a little familiar…

Catriona Walker is starting her PhD on understanding the molecular basis of carpic dominance (and probably more besides) while Cara Wheeldon is starting an MSc-by-research looking at how crowding and plant-plant interactions in the rhizosphere modulate shoot growth.

We are very happy to welcome them back to the lab, even though they never actually left!