I can’t believe we are halfway through the year already!
We held our annual Research Retreat at the end of May/start of June, and it was fantastic to finally be able to get many of our Plant Success members together in person. Listening to the variety of exciting research going on across our Centre and celebrating our people was so valuable. I would like to congratulate again Pauline Okemo for winning best Research Retreat presentation, Jakob Butler for winning best postdoctoral researcher poster, Hanh Vo for winning best student poster (Science Advisory Panel choice), and Beatrice Harrison Day for winning best student poster (Chief Investigator choice). I would like to extend my thanks again to our professional staff, the CORMS team, for coordinating the event and travel of all our members, we have set an amazing standard for future Research Retreats!
We were fortunate to be joined in person by some of our Science Advisory Panel members, Marilyn Anderson (Latrobe Uni), Bruce Walsh (University of Arizona), and Andrew Young (CSIRO). Having their fresh perspective helped to solidify for me that we are on the right track. It was great to see so many (29) of our Associate members at the Retreat in person and virtually. Associates play an important role in the Centre by supporting the research that is being undertaken so it was fantastic to have their valuable perspectives throughout the event. Many attendees described to me how much they valued the oral presentations from both Associates and Panel members.
I was delighted with the quality of presentations – most of which were from ECRs – and the progress ECRs are making in addressing the research goals of the Centre. Many ECRs expressed their thanks for the Intersectionality Walk activity which was coordinated by Colleen MacMillan (CSIRO) and Cate Thomas (Charles Sturt University). The walk guided us all through an exercise that demonstrated the value small changes in Centre activities can have on our diverse community (e.g., time of day for meetings).
Our ECRs stayed on a few extra days following the Retreat doing a number of development activities, getting to know one another, and providing feedback about their Centre experience. Special thanks to the Researcher Development Working Group for their organisation and to Bruce again for his energy and input.
The feedback provided both during the Retreat and ECR development days is highly valuable and will be carefully considered by the Executive Committee so that we can continue to grow and improve as a Centre of Excellence. Some of the key takeaways from the feedback for me include the desire to revisit the purpose, structure and frequency of our Virtual Lab meetings, clearer expectations for our Associate members, and some greater linkages across our workstreams for ECRs. We will be making changes to address these points in the near future.
Before I close, I would like to thank the Centre members who have taken the extra step to make nearly one hundred lab protocols in the form of standard operating procedures available online. These range from using a step ladder to phytohormone extraction.
I am so impressed with everything we have managed to achieve this year so far and look forward to seeing all the new research collaborations that will come forward following this our first Centre-wide in-person Retreat.
Professor Christine Beveridge
Centre Director and ARC Laureate Fellow, The University of Queensland