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Parliament visit for TSL crop disease researcher


The Sainsbury Laboratory crop disease researcher Helen Brabham is to visit the Houses of Parliament to explain her science to politicians and decision-makers.  

Helen, a third year PhD student, will present her research on disease resistance to politicians and leading academics as part of the Parliamentary poster competition, STEM for Britain. 

Helen was shortlisted from hundreds of applicants to demonstrate her science communication skills and knowledge by presenting a poster to a panel of expert judges.

The event also gives researchers the chance to discuss the implications and importance of their work with their local MPs, other researchers, and senior science stakeholders. 

Winners of the competition can take up to £2,000 home in prize money, along with a bronze, silver or gold medal. 

Helen works on mapping and identifying disease resistance genes in barley, focussing on one region of the barley genome which has been associated with resistance to many different diseases.  

She has identified substantial variation in similar resistance genes across wheat, barley, oat and wild relatives. This research could provide new resistance genes for use in crop breeding to help prevent disease epidemics.


Commenting on her visit, Helen said:  “STEM for Britain is a great opportunity to highlight current and emerging research from young scientists and engage with Members of Parliament. I am excited to share my recent discoveries and discuss the importance of plant science and crop breeding in a modern world facing population increase and climate change. 

“I hope to encourage students, and the wider public, to become enthused by plants and more aware of the challenges and potential solutions facing our food production.”

STEM for Britain takes place annually and is organized by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee with support from a number of learned societies, including the Royal Society of Biology. 

The competition is open to early stage or early career researchers engaged in scientific, engineering, technological or medical research. 

Stephen Metcalfe MP, chair of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, said: “This annual competition is an important date in the parliamentary calendar because it gives MPs an opportunity to speak to a wide range of the country’s best young researchers. 

“These early career engineers, mathematicians and scientists are the architects of our future and STEM for BRITAIN is politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work.”