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Jenni Rant

 Name: Dr Jenni Rant


Age range:35

Research institution: John Innes Centre, Norwich

Research career length: 7 years

Research Council: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

Location: Norwich, England

Salary: £22-29k

Brief summary of research: Plant pathology. Now working in social enterprise through science communication

School qualifications:

Qualifications post-school:
BTEC course on hair and beauty therapy
BTEC National Diploma course on countryside management
BSc in Plant Biology, University of East Anglia
PhD in Plant Pathology at the John Innes Centre

Career path:
Postdoctoral position as part of an EU consortium on metabolic pathways in plants

“There are few jobs that can give you the freedom to explore in the way research does. You become part of a very special network where you can experiment, communicate and collaborate with a wealth of different people. It can be very rewarding to accomplish a piece of research that you have designed and has the potential to positively impact on people’s lives.”

The SAW Trust (Science, Art and Writing) works with professionals from the arts, building collaborations that enable scientists to partner with people from different backgrounds and to explore the creative communication of their research. People have varied styles of learning and so our approach enables more people to participate in science-themed activities.

I didn't do very well at school. I found most of the lessons very uninspiring ...even science! I didn't want to stay and do A-levels and so I decided to do a BTEC course on hair and beauty therapy. Having then worked in a factory, making cycle helmets for nearly two years, I went to my local careers centre, where I told them I was interested in the natural world, the countryside and particularly in plants. I was given the prospectus for Easton College and applied for the 2-year BTEC National Diploma course on countryside management, which I enjoyed and passed with a merit.

Science communication is a valuable activity. It is important for scientists to communicate their research to the general public, partly since it enables researchers to develop important skills whilst being able to reflect on how their work affects the wider community. Jenni Rant draws on an unusual academic research career path, and on the experience of an uninspiring school education, to break down traditional barriers that exist between science and the arts, and between scientists and the rest of society.

I worked for a short time as a countryside ranger, which I had previously considered my dream job, but found it to be quite a lonely occupation, and I wanted to learn more about plants. I was offered a place on the BSc course in Plant Biology at the University of East Anglia. After graduating, I applied to do a PhD at the John Innes Centre. Initially, I didn't even get offered an interview as the lack of A-levels counted against me. When you have worked really hard and you are passionate about what you want to do, it is hard to accept news like this - so I didn't! I phoned the PhD supervisor and convinced them to give me an interview and they did - offering me the PhD. It is always worth fighting your corner. I spent four excellent years doing my research and graduated with my PhD in Plant Pathology, and then did some postdoctoral research.

I have recently taken up my post with the SAW Trust, having previously been a keen science communicator during my studies and postdoc. My position as project manager enables me to dedicate time to developing the organisation to become a successful social enterprise company. My duties at present are developing training packages and business models, writing course materials, developing the website, attracting and delivering projects and publicising developments to customer groups, as well as securing bookings.

I love being in an environment with other researchers. People that are passionate to learn are a delight to be around, and the ideas that groups of researchers can come up with are very exciting. I equally love helping people like this interact with the public, especially children, to spread their enthusiasm for their subject and promote the diversity of research topics.


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