The overall objective of the PRoTECT Program is to provide rigorous and comprehensive training on plant defence mechanisms against microbes and insects that is anchored on collaborative international research projects. The interdisciplinary nature of PRoTECT will promote cutting-edge fundamental and applied research and prepare trainees for careers in academia, science education, government research/policy creation, or research in industrial sector.
It will include:
To prepare for their future research in the area of plant-pathogen interactions graduate students will initiate their PhD program by completing a 3-week PRoTECT flagship introductory course that will be given at UGOE or UBC. It will cover the basic principles of the plant immune system and standard experimental strategies to approach open questions. In the fourth week soft skill courses like good scientific practice and statistical methods will be offered.
All projects within the program will be carried out in a collaborative manner between Vancouver and Goettingen. Doctoral researchers from UBC will work for at least six months within the German partner laboratories at UGOE. Two months directly after the introductory course in order to get to know the team as well as the complementary methods available at the partner institution. The second visit of about 4 months will be realized during the second year of the thesis when the individual projects have been established.
Six out of 12 short methodology workshops will be offered at least once per year by PRoTECT team members, many of which will be associated with the annual retreats. The lectures will be recorded and broadcast to both UGOE and UBC campuses. Each student will attend at least two workshops.
Biweekly internal seminars will be established to foster discussion and interaction among trainees. Students will give seminars about their research, thus developing effective presentation skills. Furthermore, the PRoTECT consortium will have quarterly joint progress seminars connected through our existing video-conference facilities. In addition to research subjects, professional development will be a key component of the series. At least two skills seminars per year will be offered at each campus and diffused through live video conferences to all trainees.
PRoTECT INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIA
A symposium will be held at UGOE in the first year and at UBC in the third year of the program. The symposia will be jointly organized by the students from both campuses. Both oral presentations and poster sessions will be offered. Trainees will have opportunities to meet researchers and collaborators in person and learn the current paradigms of plant-pathogen research. The graduate students will be involved in organizing the scientific program, inviting the international keynote speakers, and chairing the sessions.
PRoTECT will provide excellent mentoring opportunities to develop teaching and knowledge transfer skills, including identifying learning objectives and outcomes, selecting proper content and delivery methods, and explaining complicated concepts. Each PRoTECT graduate student will be required to serve as a TA for at least one term, balancing teaching experience with sufficient time for research and other training activities.
The PRoTECT research projects undertaken by the trainees will likely have important future applications in crop and forest protection. Therefore, excursions will be organized to visit a number of institutions including: the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Summerland Research and Development Centre and its associated farmlands in Summerland, BC; the UBC Demonstration Forest; the Centre for Plant Health at Canadian Food Inspection Agency in Victoria, BC; Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) in Saskatoon, SK, and greenhouses belonging to the BC Greenhouse Growers Association. We will also use economically important diseases of Canadian crops such as canola, corn, fruit trees, and wheat as examples to educate the trainees on field problems and how they are dealt with by different parties at various levels. Excursions and collaborative internships to Canadian collaborating universities and companies such as Terramera Inc., the University of Manitoba and NPZ Innovation GmbH will be organized to showcase the types of careers that are available in government and industry.
OUTREACH AND PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT ACTIVITIES
Groups of 5-8 students based at each institution will organize public or scientific outreach activities. Topics may include public podium discussions on the contamination of food with fungal toxins, genetic modification of crop plants, or the development of practical lab courses in related research topics.