Emma Bennett

Favourite Thing: Coming up with new and often wacky ideas is so much fun but getting to play around with all the gadgets and chemicals has to be the best part of being a scientist. Liquid nitrogen is amazing, this is a liquid which is really cold (between -210°C and -196°C) but when it comes into contact with warmer objects it boils and becomes a gas that looks like fog, this often makes part of the lab appear like a scene out of Harry Potter.



Broadwater school, 1998-2003. Godalming College 2003-2005


Cardiff University, Biology BSC, 2005-2009

Work History:

Many summer and part time jobs means that I have worked in a variety of places including a library, electronic manufacturing company, a major retailer and medical genetics research lab.


The University of Reading

Current Job:

PhD Student – so I’m still studing.

Me and my work

I’m looking at plants to try and make crops with bigger and more nutritious seeds that can help feed the world.

My work is all about looking into how the nutrients plants contain are moved into the seeds when a plant dies or its leaves turn yellow and fall off. These nutrients could have come from the soil and have been taken up by the roots or formed in the leaves by a process called photosynthesis – this is where the energy from the sun is used to make sugars and oxygen. The goal is to understand this process of moving resources around the plant so it can be made even better and more of the plant nutrients can end up in the seeds. This way the improved seeds will hopefully be more nutritious if they are to be eaten or produce crop plants which have higher yields.

As a plant scientist I’m always growing things and the plant I work with most is a weed , so you can’t eat it, but we study this as it is a great model for other plants and lots of work has already been done on it. I do also get to work on a proper crop called oilseed rape though and if you’ve ever seen fields full of yellow flowers then that is probably this crop.

My Typical Day

Each day is unpredictable but it usually involves watering and looking after plants as well as running experiments in the lab.

Working on many different projects means that I can keep switching between them which often make my days hectic but far more interesting.  The day normally begins with some computer work, usually from the comfort of my own bed so I can stay in my pyjamas and eat breakfast whilst answering e-mails and planning what needs to be done, all before getting stuck into some exciting lab work. This lab work could be anything from using fancy machines to look at the oil content of seeds to simply counting the numbers of leaves a plant produces. At some point during the day I will always try to go and look at the plants I’m growing, water them and check that they are happy and still alive. I also try to spend some time reading articles which other scientists have published to keep up to date with what’s going on in my field of research and get ideas of where to go next with the project.

What I'd do with the money

Buy equipment for a school so that they can record their plants growing and make time lapse videos.

Plants are great but the problem with trying to study them is that they grow so slowly that you can’t spend all your lessons just sitting around watching them. The answer to this is to provide equipment so that the students can record the plant growth and then play it back at much faster speeds. This way they can actually see things such as the leaves moving or how plants respond to different environments. This will allow the students to set up fantastic experiments and share with others what they have been doing.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Quirky, carefree, energetic

Who is your favourite singer or band?

This is always changing but at the moment I’m loving Mumford and Sons.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Living with some great friends throughout uni provided years of complete and utter madness that was such great fun, I have never laughed to the point of crying so much.

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

To become a wiser person, to help solve world hunger and to be able to fly (A superhero power would be excellent and flying everywhere would make things so much more interesting).

What did you want to be after you left school?

I always dreamed of being a film or theatre director.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

No, I was fairly good at school but did manage to get away with a lot. The trick was to get a good reputation in the first few years and then the teachers never believed it was me misbehaving….

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world to go to conferences which has been an amazing experience and this has enabled me to see lots of new and exciting science developments.

Tell us a joke.

Bronze and silver are sitting having a drink in a bar when Gold walks in to join them but silver shouts Au get out of here. (Sorry I’m terrible at jokes and sadly this is the only one I ever seem to remember).