Introducing a new blog series – just five answers to five quick questions! Thinking about doing a PhD? Find out more about what it’s like as a PhD Student at JIC. Already a PhD? Learn more about what your peers are doing.

Today we have third year student Elliott Atkins talking about his PhD experience!


1. Who are you?IMG_20181012_212753_575

Although emotionally I am yet to accept it, I am now a 3rd year PhD student in the Met Bio department. My name is Elliott, and I was born in the Lake District. I moved to Newcastle for my Bachelor’s degree in Ecology & Environmental Biology, before spending a year in the plant tissue culture team next door to JIC at TSL. Starting my PhD here marked my final transition into a molecular biologist!


2. What is your PhD about? 

Surprisingly, no one quite knows how lemon fruits can become over 10,000 times more acidic than your average plant vacuole. I have been taking a CRISPR-Cas9 approach to develop my own acidless mutants while analysing the limited natural ones available. By understanding citrus fruit acidity we hope to better inform the production of juicing oranges which are less acidic, reducing the need to add sugars to processed products like juices.


3. What is your favourite PhD moment so far? 

The most rewarding part for me so far has been the opportunity to supervise my own student. She had a background in metabolic analyses of citrus, so it became a learning experience for both of us, rather than just for the student. We managed to get lots of work done, and it was much more enjoyable having someone else just as interested in my project!


4. What do you do to switch off from PhD? 

Norfolk has the perfect mix of city amenities and rural areas. To forget about PCRs repeatedly failing I like to visit the many nature reserves around the county, either just for an easy walk or for birdwatching. I also play squash at the free onsite courts!


5. What advice would you give a new PhD student?

I find it too easy to compare my progress or work ethic with other students in my year, especially when in year 1. It can lead to imposter’s syndrome when you see your peers publishing papers, giving great seminars, or presenting posters. My advice would be to focus on you and your project. Everyone has their own difficulties and successes, the latter will come.


PhD Profile was concocted by Shannon Woodhouse. If you would like to be featured on PhD Profile, please email or find Shannon on Twitter @shwoodhouse.

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