Just five answers to five quick questions!
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Today we have second year student Josh Joyce talking about his PhD experience!
1. Who are you?
Hey, I’m Josh, a second year PhD student from Melbourn (South Cambs, U.K., not Aus ☹) where I have lived my whole life. I escaped to Durham University for my BSc before returning to the sunny south for my PhD in Norwich.
During my time at Durham Uni, I undertook some research on plant calcium signalling in abiotic stress responses with the excellent Heather and Marc Knight. I also did my Sainsbury Undergraduate Studentship during this time with John Carr at Cambridge University where I explored how some viruses interfere with plant defence responses to promote their propagation by the aphids that transmit them.
2. What is your PhD about?
My PhD is a cool little collaboration between Saskia Hogenhout, Dale Sanders and Tony Miller that combines my interests in plant calcium signalling and plant-aphid interactions. In this project, I am exploring the signalling mechanisms that allow plants to perceive and defend themselves against attack from aphid pests. In particular, I image plant calcium signalling to monitor the plant defence responses to aphids, identify the genes involved and look at how some aphids can disrupt this defence response to allow them to colonise the plant.
A better understanding of molecular aphid-plant interactions opens opportunities to enhance aphid resistance in plants, knowledge which we can attempt to transfer from model organisms to crop plants. In doing so, we would reduce the need for pesticide use on crops and help tackle pesticide resistant aphids.
3. What is your favourite PhD moment so far?
Weirdly, I really enjoyed the first talk that I gave outside of the John Innes Centre (even though I was absolutely terrified). It was just really cool to share some of the science I had been doing with others and be able to see it fit it into some kind of logical story. I didn’t get too many questions but I also didn’t hear any bad feedback so I was happy with that.
4. What do you do to switch off from PhD?
I often try to get outside/active be it through riding BMX, mountainbikes or motorbikes or by skating, walking or running. I usually flank whatever I’m doing with a solid cup of coffee/tea and either some new music or one of my favourite vinyls.
I try to keep my free time quite varied and do whatever I feel like doing at that time or whatever I think I need to do to keep me loving life. Often just hanging out with friends or family does the job.
5. What advice would you give a new PhD student?
Do your thing!
There is a lot of good advice out there (e.g. PhD Profile – Sebastian Samwald) but also a lot of things that you apparently should and shouldn’t do as a PhD student. Sometimes I think the advice can be a bit overwhelming and make you feel like you’re doing your PhD ‘wrong’. Take your time to reflect on what you want to get from your PhD, what you enjoy doing, what you work for and when/how you want to work. Then make your PhD work around those things. If it isn’t working for you, try to change things. PhDs are one of the most flexible ‘jobs’ you’ll ever have and though challenging, you can really explore to find what works for you.
That being said, it isn’t always easy to do this, especially for those with less flexible supervisors. I really recommend building a quality support team who will help you make your PhD work for you (e.g. colleagues, friends, family). I really found having people who I can talk things through with and who will support my decisions, including the bad ones, really helped me progress both personally and professionally and made everything a lot more fun. If you are struggling to find a good team, hit me up, I am always happy to have a try and help out or just have a chat 😊.
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.