Suzanne: Joining the pea revolution!

Where do I start? Well how about the beginning? In late 1996, I decided to pursue an Honours project on some aspect of plant physiology, to commence in 1997.   There was this new researcher, Christine, who was arriving at UQ in 1997, fresh from her postdoctoral fellowship at Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), France, and who had some interesting project ideas involving pea mutants. “What was a mutant?” I asked myself.  Her project ideas seemed interesting enough, and had potential application outside the lab (which was something important to me too), so I signed up to be part of the pea lab revolution.

Towards the end of 1997, I applied for an Australian Postgraduate Award to continue my Honours project and discover more about these pea mutants, in particular, rms5. From 1998-2001, I undertook my PhD under the principal supervision of newly appointed Lecturer Christine, and like most PhD students, battled at times to make sense of it all.

As it turned out, my PhD project was highly successful, and in addition to landing me a job straight after submission of my thesis, it provided me with several high quality publications. Possibly the most significant contribution that my PhD had to the field was that I provided the first report that apical bud outgrowth in pea acts via an auxin-independent mechanism, thus questioning decades of dogma surrounding the role of auxin in bud outgrowth. Research based on my findings led to the ground-breaking discovery of a new phytohormone (Gomez-Roldan et al. (2008) Nature 455: 189-194).

After finishing my PhD, I moved to Tasmania to pursue more applied plant physiology research, and work directly with agricultural industry partners to help solve their problems. In 2004, I returned to UQ and again interacted with Christine during my Education Officer role at the CRC Sugar Industry Innovation through Biotechnology.

In the years since my PhD, I have developed a real passion for research integrity, particularly in the area of authorship management, and for assisting research higher degree students and early career researchers develop skills necessary to negotiate the rocky road to achieving a successful research career.

In 2006/07, Christine and I again teamed up to develop authorder®, a free online tool (www.authorder.com) that helps authors work through author order issues, particularly those with interdisciplinary members. Description of the authorder® rationale led us to publish our first Nature paper in 2007 (Beveridge & Morris (2007) Nature 448:508).

My passion for research integrity has led me to my current position of Research Integrity Officer at UQ, which is a position with no disciplinary bounds. The skills developed during my PhD, particularly those related to critical thinking, questioning assumptions, and challenging norms, are vital in my current role: and I must thank Christine and others for helping me achieve that.

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