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Kalyani's URSS Experience

Updated: Jul 19, 2022

I was fortunate enough to be fully funded to carry out a project under URSS last summer under Prof. Murray Grant. I researched on plant systemic immunity using whole plant imaging with novel reporter constructs. I carried this out using the model pathosystem, Arabidopsis thaliana and showed that ABA is a negative regulator of hypersensitive response, where pre-treatment delays, and depending on application, even restricts the extent of cell death, and consequently impacts signalling.

Applying to URSS was by far the best decision I made, because it gave me hands on experience with some basic lab techniques that I didn't get an opportunity to practically learn in the usual lab work like SDS-PAGE, competent cell developing, PCR (which helped me so much in my second year course labs ) , DNA purification in addition to real-time luciferase and fluorescence imaging, many of which I will definitely need in the future. Moreover, all lab work is followed by data analysis which is so important to get a hang of with various software (something we as first years didn't really enjoy with SPSS!) which I got to do for my own data and eventually didn't find it so bad in the end.

Two and a half months spent in the lab also gave me an opportunity to interact with other academics and post-docs who gave me an insight into their work, which really helped me shape my opinion about what I would like to do after graduating. Networking, after all, is extremely important in any case!

As for the application process is URSS, I was asked in quite a lot of detail about what the project was, how I would be carrying it out and why I wanted to do it. As a first year, who wasn't even sure about what areas I would want to work in, I was open to any project available. So I emailed all the professors who were undertaking URSS students that year and asked if there was room for me, and out of the ones that responded I was most intrigued by Prof Grant's work. He was extremely helpful with my application and briefed me in detail about my project so that I could answer all the questions in the form accurately. It is really important to know what you’re writing and that you state your requirements in a proper manner for the project to be granted a funding.

In the end of the two months, I had some wonderful data along with some really pretty images of the plants that I included in my scientific poster that I made to explain everything I had done. I was so happy with my experience that I applied for it again this year in the same lab! This year I plan on collecting some more data so that I can eventually submit my poster to the URSS team to be published on their page. Moreover, I will also take part in this year's ICUR to present my work, both of these things will be very helpful for my CV too.

I would also advise any students applying for URSS in the future to definitely apply in their Public Engagement projects too, it helped me understand how important it is in the scientific community to convey what you've done to other people for the better good!

- Kalyani Sharma

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