Plant pathogens and science festivals: News from the College

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A diseased leaf in someones hand

Here’s a batch of fresh news and announcements from across Imperial.

From plant diseases to science festivals, here is some quick-read news from across the College.

Art-science programme

Illustration depicting art and scienceSpearheaded by Professor Roger Kneebone (Department of Surgery & Cancer) and designed in collaboration with Performing Science Coordinator, Giulia Frezza, Serendipity Coordinator, India Smith, and the Royal College of Music, the Serendipity Programme brings seemingly disparate areas of expertise together. Staff and students across Imperial have been participating in workshops that have explored topics ranging from light design and tailoring to voice training, philosophy, and magic tricks.  

Launched in February the pilot programme, funded by Research England's Enhancing Research Culture fund, ran from March-July and there will be a celebration on 6 September with further workshops to be announced in the new academic year – provided that the scheme receives new funding. 

“If you look at a lot of interesting and important discoveries and you trace them back, often in their sort of germination phase there are conversations, unexpected conversations” said Professor Kneebone.

“This Programme enables people from diverse disciplines to come together, find common ground, and exchange stories, skills and knowledge. In academia, it is too easy to become siloed. The Serendipity Programme aims to counter this by offering unique opportunities to experience and consider the world through another lens and to break down those barriers that are often present in a ‘purely verbal’ interaction."

Plant pathology prize

A leaf with signs of diseaseEmeritus Professor John Mansfield (Department of Life Sciences) has won the 2023 RKS Wood Prize from the British Society of Plant Pathology (BSPP). The award celebrates outstanding research in plant disease biology and its application to protect plants from pathogens. 

Professor Mansfield has made numerous contributions over his career to our understanding of plant-pathogen interactions and plant immunity. He has also been instrumental in educating the next generation of plant pathologists – with many of his former students having established careers in pathology both in the UK and overseas. It was also Professor Mansfield’s presidency of the BSPP that oversaw the launch of the Molecular Plant Pathology journal. 

The prize is named after Professor Ronald Karslake Starr Wood, a pioneer British plant pathologist who worked at Imperial College London and helped found the discipline of Physiological Plant Pathology. 

Professor Mansfield, who was also one of the founding members of the BSPP, said: “I am delighted to receive this award particularly as l completed my PhD in RKS Wood's section of the Botany Department from 1968-72. My supervisor was Brian Deverall. 

“The award recognises my group’s contribution to research on plant pathogen interactions and also to training numerous students who have found careers in plant pathology and related disciplines in the UK and overseas.” 

As this year’s prize winner, Professor Mansfield will deliver a presentation at Plant Pathology 2023 meeting in Birmingham from 6 to 8 September. 

Read more about the prize on the British Society for Plant Pathology’s website

Stemettes turns 10

Mary Ryan stands in a lab smiling, in front of lab equipment Stemettes is partnering with Imperial’s Global Challenge Institutes to host a science festival to celebrate turning 10 this year.

Stemettes is an organisation created to inspire and support young girls, women and non-binary people who want to work in careers at the intersection of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (known collectively as STEAM). It aims to improve representation by reaching out to underrepresented groups and providing them with life-changing opportunities that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.

The festival will take place at Imperial on Wednesday 26 July. It will feature a keynote speech by Imperial’s Vice-Provost for Research and Enterprise, Professor Mary Ryan, and a series of activities designed and delivered by our world-leading Global Challenge Institutes.

It will be the first joint event hosted by all seven Global Challenge Institutes, bringing together teams of researchers to deliver interactive workshops highlighting some of the key issues affecting humanity, from climate change and the energy transition to human health, innovation and security - with a dash of data science and AI.

Professor Ryan said: “We are extremely excited to have the opportunity to host Stemettes’ 10th birthday at Imperial and share the inspiring research of our incredible women scientists working at the cutting edge of some of the world’s biggest challenges.

“Diversity of thought is critical for achieving the most innovative and creative outcomes, and so increasing diversity and participation in STEM is a key part of our mission to deliver excellence in research and translation. The problems of today and the future need us to bring together all talents, and working with Stemettes will help us bring young diverse people into science.”

Read more about how to join the event in-person or online on the Stemettes website.

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Conrad Duncan

Conrad Duncan
Communications Division

Ellie Cawthera

Ellie Cawthera
Communications Division

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Bryony Ravate

Bryony Ravate
Communications Division


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