What inspires plant scientists and why is their job so important? Elizabeth Worrall explains:
Why did you want to be a plant scientist?
I always knew I wanted to be involved in some form of science, but I kind of fell into plant science. When I was studying science at university, a lecturer in plant genetics asked if anyone wanted to try laboratory work. I ended up doing a summer research course with him and got offered a job with him when I finished university. I then backpacked around Europe for a year and when I got back sent out pleas for a science job! Because of my connection with the plant genetics lecturer, I am now studying my PhD on a crop protection spray with a colleague of his.
What are the crop enhancements that you are working on?
I work on a crop protection spray called BioClay that is non-toxic, biodegradable, cost-effective and has the potential to target a wide range of pests such as insects, viruses and fungi. The spray is comprised of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) that protects the plant by activating its natural defense pathway and clay nanoparticles that help stabilize the dsRNA.
Can you describe how this technology will benefit farmers and society?
It will benefit the farmer and society by reducing environmental impact and increasing crop yields.
Can you explain what your job involves?
I work full-time in a laboratory. Testing requires lots of little experiments, like testing stability, what happens to sprayed plants and if sprayed plants are protected from viruses.
What inspires you about your job?
I love problem solving. When working in a laboratory, there is the big picture that you are trying to figure out, but to do this, there are lots of little questions that need answering. It’s like a puzzle, every day you are finding that one puzzle piece that helps you put the picture together.
Elizabeth is a PhD Student at the university of Queensland, Australia. She is researching BioClay, nano-sized degradable clay used to release double-stranded RNA, that protects plants from specific disease-causing pathogens.