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Trisha McAllister

Part of Women in STEM

Job Title: PhD student, School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee.
Area of Science: Plant Science.

Introduce yourself - who are you and what is your job?

My name is Trisha McAllister, and I am a PhD student at the University of Dundee. As a PhD student, I do research. This means I’m always trying to learn new things.

What do you research, why and how does this help people?

I am a plant scientist, so I spend my days researching plants. I want to know how they grow up and what’s happening inside them to make them the way they are. I find plants that look a little different than they should and try to figure out why. All plants have DNA, just like you and every other living thing. This DNA is what decides on our eye colour and hair colour, as well as a plant’s flower colour and how tall they can grow. When a plant looks different, I try to find the reason in its DNA. Changes in the DNA are called mutations. They can be really useful, or sometimes really bad for the plant. For example, one mutation could change a purple flower to white! Another mutation could stop it from growing at all. Learning what a mutation does helps us to understand how plants grow. We can use this information to grow better plants!

If you want to learn more about what DNA is, watch this video:

Tell us about your career journey so far

My career journey has been an interesting one! I wasn’t the best in school, I didn’t enjoy it and I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up. But one day I discovered science. I went to college and university to learn all about chemistry and biology and I loved my time there. I started doing really well! I learned all about research, working in a laboratory and doing experiments. I had so much fun that I decided to continue learning and researching by doing a Master’s degree. After this, I volunteered in a lab for experience before starting a PhD. I changed subjects a few times along the way, but that didn’t matter. I just wanted to do research and find more interesting problems to work on! Now I really want to stay in plant science. Every day I can research different things and I get to spend time surrounded by pretty plants!

What subjects/qualifications are useful in your role?

Biology is the most useful subject for my work, and writing is really important too. Lots of plant scientists also use chemistry, and this is great if you want to research lots of different things!

Trisha McAllister
Trisha McAllister, PhD student, School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee.

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