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1) What is your research about?
I have now retired but when still doing research, I studied DNA replication, especially the initiation of replication and its control
2) What is the best and the worst thing about your work?
Best – gaining insights into the most fundamental of biological processes, the replication of the genetic material. The regulation of the initiation of replication is awesomely and beautifully complex.. and I need to say, as a scientist who is also a Christian, I feel privileged to look into the work of the Creator. Also loved the camaraderie of the lab, collaboration with scientists in other countries, discussing DNA replication with other scientists …
Worst- undoubtedly those many occasions when, after hours of difficult and detailed lab work, the experiment does not yield clear-cut results (or even any results at all)
3) How did you become a plant scientist?
Since about the age of eight, growing up on a council estate in south London, I have had a love of nature, probably stimulated initially by family walks in London’s green belt (we had no car). This gradually turned into a more academic interest and eventually led me to a degree in Natural Sciences at Cambridge, followed by a PhD in Plant Biochemistry. My specific interest in plants came about for many reasons but becoming a professional plant scientist reflects my strong desire to ‘feed the world.’
4) What do you do to get your mind off work?
Running, bird-watching, walking, (especially but not exclusively in the mountains), music, reading, following Crystal Palace Football Club. I am also very involved in the work of my church
5) What advice would you give to students?
Try as hard as possible to follow your dream.
This picture is lovely because we used the EM to ‘see’ a biochemical reaction. We had isolated a DNA-binding protein and from biochemical experiments deduced that it bound to nicks in DNA and to double-strand/single-strand junctions. We constructed DNA molecules with these structures in them, incubated them with our protein and then looked at the DNA with the EM. This picture shows the protein (dark blobs) binding to nicks in plasmid DNA. Copyright: Sara Burton, John Bryant and Jack Van’t Hof. See Plant Journal 12, 357-365 (1997).