Published: 03 August 2016

PhD student scoops coveted best presentation award

Emily James has won the Director’s prize for best presentation by an early career researcher at the key annual conference in her field of research.

Emily, who is in the final year of her PhD in the Department of Chemistry at Surrey, gave her presentation at the High Value Chemicals from Plants (HVCfP) Annual Meeting. This brings together researchers and companies in the field of natural products from around the UK and is an important forum for sharing innovative research and promoting opportunities for commercialisation.

"The HVCfP community gave me a great platform to be able to present and discuss my research with like-minded, multi-disciplinary researchers" - Emily James.

Emily’s award-winning presentation gave an overview of her PhD research, supervised by Professor Dulcie Mulholland and Dr Moses Langat, which promises to have a huge impact on the wine industry. It focuses on using larch bark – a readily available, low cost and sustainable raw material – to replace the use of copper-based fungicides in the prevention of grapevine downy mildew, which is one of the most harmful diseases in European wine growing regions. Copper-based fungicides are currently the most effective way to prevent the disease from causing huge crop losses but, since copper has a negative impact on the environment and will eventually be banned, there is an urgent need to find an environmentally-friendly alternative.

Having submitted an abstract to the organisers of the HVCfP conference, Emily was one of four early career researchers to be selected to give a flash presentation. She impressed the audience with her engaging style – particularly researchers from other disciplines, many of whom commented that the presentation was very easy to follow.

Already showing signs of being a talented science communicator, Emily also won the ‘Academics’ favourite’ and ‘People’s choice’ awards for her oral presentation at the University of Surrey’s postgraduate conference in 2015.

She says, “I’ve realised how important it is to make research relevant to people’s lives – for example I generally describe my PhD research as ‘saving the wine industry’ since if we can’t find a solution to replace copper, we may be left with nothing that can stop grapevine downy mildew from infecting all of our grapes.

“I really enjoy presenting and talking about my research and science in general, and eventually I would love to do something that involves communicating scientific research. The HVCfP community gave me a great platform to be able to present and discuss my research with like-minded, multi-disciplinary researchers.”

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