PhD student wins research excellence award

PhD student Philippa Borrill has won the 2014 early career excellence award from MonoGram.

The award recognises outstanding young scientists and researchers in the field of small grain cereal and grass research in the UK. Applications were judged on the originality, excellence, and the significance of the work to the discipline.

Philippa is the second John Innes Centre recipient of the award in as many years. It was launched in 2013, when Dr Christopher Burt was the winner for the work he presented on eyespot, a fungal disease in wheat.

Philippa works on a gene called NAM-B1 which increases protein, iron and zinc content in wheat grain. Increasing the levels of micronutrients such as zinc and iron in wheat and other staple cereal crops could improve the health of millions of people worldwide and help avoid preventable diseases and deaths.

Approximately 25% of the world’s population suffers from iron deficiency anaemia (WHO, 2008) and ~17% of people worldwide are at risk of inadequate zinc intake. Zinc deficiency leads to estimated annual deaths of 433,000 children under the age of five (WHO, 2009).

Philippa is trying to understand the mechanism by which the NAM-B1 gene controls the nutritional content of grain. She is seeking to identify the genes which this transcription factor turns on and off. With a greater understanding ofNAM-B1 it might be possible further improve micronutrient and protein content in wheat grain.

“I am delighted to have won the Monogram Early Career Excellence Award because it gave me the opportunity to present my work at the Monogram network meeting 2014 to the UK small grains cereal research community,” says Philippa.

“The recognition of early career researchers by awards such as this helps to raise the profile of young scientists.”

Philippa also presented her work to MPs recently at a SET for Britain event at the House of Commons.

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