Get to know… your WRDTP student reps: Evie Farnham

It’s time to introduce our first student rep from the University of York! Evie is currently in the second year of her PhD. She also did her undergraduate at York, with a year working in the agriculture industry in Gloucestershire. Her PhD allows her to combine her interests in crop protection, microbial evolution and genetics into one project. Evie thinks time has really flown by and she can’t believe she’s already halfway through her PhD!

Evie Farnham

Read on to find out how Evie’s interest in crop protection has evolved to bring her to her current project and what it entails, what she loves doing in her spare time and one of the misfortunes she’s had during a late night in the lab (don’t worry, it has a happy ending)!

Describe your research in one tweet.

I work on a plant bacterial pathogen called Ralstonia solanacearum, which infects hundreds of crops world-wide. Using a large collection of this bacteria isolated from 1945 to now, and from across the globe, I aim to see the diversity (phenotypic and genetic) of this pathogen throughout time and across different countries.

What is the potential application of your research in agriculture?

My research aims to increase our understanding on how plant pathogens evolve and disperse on a global scale. By looking at these differences between environmental and agricultural samples we can better understand disease transmission dynamics, gaining important knowledge to help prevent the spread of this plant pathogen even more in the future.

How did you get started with it/why?

During my undergraduate degree I did a year in industry working in crop protection conducting field trials, which involved driving combine harvesters as well as identifying weeds and diseases in the field. This introduced me to the impact plant pathogens have on agriculture and inspired me to continue doing research in this field.

 What do you do when you’re not sciencing?

Before lockdown I could normally be found in the pub having a drink of gin with my friends – I feel that having a good support network is essential for surviving your PhD. However, now I’m normally found at home watching TV with my rabbits.

What has been your favourite thing to watch during lockdown?

This is a hard choice, but I have to say I’ve particularly enjoyed watching The Good Place over lockdown.

We all mess up sometimes… What’s your biggest lab mistake?

Having stayed late in the lab to run an electrophoresis gel (a terrible idea as I usually make mistakes when tired) I managed to drop the agarose gel on floor. I ended up having to pick up the pieces off the floor and try and put it together, like a puzzle, in order to take the UV image – which surprisingly worked!

What was the biggest challenge you faced when settling into your PhD?

The nature of my PhD meant I did not get any results for almost a year and a half, which was very challenging when so many people around me had so much data. Now I wish I knew not to worry about it as everyone’s PhD is different and everything seems to work out eventually.