Crop disease researcher Juan Carlos heads for Parliament

A John Innes Centre PhD student is to visit the Houses of Parliament to explain the science behind his research into a devastating global crop pathogen.

Juan Carlos De La Concepcion, a member of the Department for Biological Chemistry, will present his research to politicians and and leading academics.

The visit, in London today, is part of the Parliamentary poster competition, STEM for Britain.

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

The event also gives researchers the chance to discuss 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.

Juan Carlos’s research is looking to engineer new crop varieties that are more resistant to plant diseases. His team focus on rice blast, a devastating disease that destroys enough food supplies to feed 60 million people every year.

Tackling this disease is a key goal for achieving The Zero Hunger Challenge launched by the United Nations.

 Juan Carlos said: “I feel honoured to be participating in STEM for Britain 2018. This is an exciting opportunity to showcase the cutting-edge science we do at the John Innes Centre.

“As our work has important applications in agriculture, communicating our science directly to lawmakers in the UK parliament is vital to bringing our discoveries to the farmers and consumers.

“As a non-British citizen, I am especially grateful for this opportunity and to the UK for hosting me in the national scientific system. Incorporating scientists of different backgrounds and nationalities is integral to the high quality of British science; I hope this will continue in the future.”

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.”

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