Post-Easter Update

Wow has it really been over a month since I last blogged?! I am now back at Imperial after a long Easter holiday and it’s lovely to be back in London after such a long time away. The trees are in blossom, the skies are blue, the grass is green and no one can judge me for buying ice cream on a (very) regular basis given how lovely the weather is.

I spent the first week of the holiday in Prestatyn, North Wales, at a five day Christian conference. It was great to spend some chill time with friends and go to some interesting seminars about how Christianity relates practically to different areas of life. We spent quite a lot of time on the amazing, giant beach, some of us even dipping our toes in to the Irish sea

The beach just went on forever

The evening meetings took place in a massive marquee but unfortunately we were only able to use it for the first couple of nights due to the extreme wind and rain! When I went to this conference last year the weather was sublime but this year there were severe weather warnings for the area we were staying in, the wind was absolutely brutal and it rained persistently. After the first night of extreme weather, many of the smaller marquees on the site we were staying on were damaged and declared unsafe for the seminars the next day, we were warned to stay inside our accommodation and it was all very scary! Luckily I survived, we had a fantastic week and I went home feeling refreshed and ready to tackle all the work I had over the holidays.

My feet remained safely inside my wellies and rightly so, I was informed by the other person in this picture that the water was freezing!
My feet remained safely inside my wellies and rightly so, I was informed by the other person in this picture that the water was freezing!

The second year biologists have all been hard at work over the break writing our tutored dissertations. The TD is a 4000 word mini dissertation which is written in the style of a scientific review (a paper which looks at lots research that has been done on a certain topic and collates it in to a concise article). We were given a choice of about 40 different topics and then asked to submit 6 choices in order of preference. The topics ranged from the ecological (How should we expect the earth’s vegetation to be responding to climate change?) to the cellular (The role of ion channels in plant development) so there was a lot to choose from no matter what your interest is. I was gunning for malaria vaccinations as my topic but, alas, it’s usually a very popular choice so I didn’t get it. I got my 4th choice which I was initially not too happy with but it ended up being really interesting!

My dissertation was about how plant pathogens mimic plant molecules and compounds to trick the plant and promote their own virulence. It’s very interesting and very clever! Plants and the pathogens that infect them are often engaged in coevolutionary arms races, meaning that the plant is evolving mechanisms to overcome infection at almost the same rate as the pathogens are evolving mechanisms to overcome plant defense systems. The result is pathogens that have very sophisticated methods of colonising the plant for their own gain. For example, one type of bacteria produces the hormone coronatine. Coronatine causes the stomata to open (openings in the leaf which allow gas exchange to occur) so that the bacteria can easily enter the plant. It also interacts with signalling pathways inside the plant to weaken plant defenses and divert resources away from attacking the infecting bacteria. Pretty clever right?

The TD has now been submitted which I couldn’t be happier about! Although it was interesting to write, I can’t say it was all that fun to spend literally the entire break at my desk writing it. College life is still busy as ever but hopefully things will slow down a little now I don’t have the threat of the TD deadline hanging over me! The next deadline is French coursework, revision is, of course, ongoing and today I start my final course of the year – immunology. I’m finding the prospect of getting back in to a working routine quite daunting but I love immunology so I’m very much looking forward to getting stuck in to my new course!

I hope everyone had a great Easter holiday and has returned to uni or college feeling ready to face the new challenges that this term will bring!



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