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My summer at CONNECTED

My name is Lucy, and I am a final year Msci Biology student at the University of Bristol.

I wanted to work with CONNECTED as it targets help towards sub-Saharan Africa and some of the vector-borne plant viruses that it faces. CONNECTED helps to spread awareness of these viruses by training people across sub-Saharan Africa in diagnostics (among other things), enabling them to then share their knowledge with others. CONNECTED is helping build a global network of researchers who can share their expertise to ultimately improve food security across Africa. Being a part of an organisation that wants to aid food security is one of my future career goals, so working with CONNECTED was a very valuable experience for me. 

During my time at CONNECTED, one of the activities I worked on was summarising a workshop that they held with international academics focusing on improving human health and nutrition through understanding and tackling vector borne plant diseases. My task was to make sense of all the information, so I summarised the content into key themes and facts and tried to suggest what could be done next.

However, my main project involved checking the data that was going to be uploaded into their new website directory to help visitors to their website access a wide range of organisations involved in plant diseases and agriculture. This task included proof checking just under 180 organisations’ contact and address information and adding in data to make sure that each could be easily located on google maps once the data was imported into the website directory.

Another task that I enjoyed was finding resources for a climate and health literature review, in which I looked up recent and well-cited publications that mention the climate and human health (particularly nutrition) with respect to insect-borne plant diseases. The weekly catch up calls I had with members of the team were very useful as well and kept me on track of my tasks – it also made me feel like I was truly part of CONNECTED.

From working at CONNECTED I have realised that I want to follow a career path less focused on laboratory work and more focused on communicating research and policy in relation to plant diseases, the environment or climate change.

I have also realised that alongside experts in vector-borne diseases, experts in climate change and nutrition are also needed to get a full picture to questions in the plant disease field. I think I would like to continue working at an organisation that focuses on solving issues with an interdisciplinary approach.

Overall, my time at CONNECTED has helped me consolidate the next steps in my career by helping me understand the areas I would like to work in after I have graduated.

Thank you CONNECTED for allowing me this opportunity!