Plant science

A key goal of Gatsby’s plant science programme is to nurture, sustain and increase the number of high quality researchers for fundamental studies in plant biology. The programmes which stretch back almost 25 years, aim to inspire an interest and excitement in plant science at all levels – from schools student to graduate researchers – while also attracting world class talent to the UK by creating centres of excellent in the field. Outside of Government, Gatsby is the largest single funder of plant science research.

In 1987 the Foundation set up the Sainsbury Laboratory at the John Innes Centre in Norwich to focus on research in to plant disease resistance. Gatsby has been main funder of laboratory ever since and has provided over £63M of support. In May 2010 Times Education showed that scientific papers from the Laboratory and the John Innes Centre had been cited more frequently than those from any other plant science organisation worldwide over the past decade.

In 1995 Gatsby agreed to make is largest ever commitment to plant science by funding the creation of an international research laboratory in the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge. The Sainsbury Laboratory at the University of Cambridge opened in January 2011 and when fully operational will house over 120 scientists providing them with the latest technology for pioneering research on plant growth and development. The knowledge produced by this work we believe will be of great value as the world seeks to feed a population of 9bn people in 2050. Originally conceived by John Henslow, Charles Darwin’s guide and mentor, to present his early 19th century research programme on the nature of species, the Botanic Gardens provide an inspirational setting for the advancement of curiosity driven research.

Beyond these two major research institutions Gatsby has sought to widen access to the excitement and opportunities of plant science to young people by supporting school engagement activities, providing teacher training and resources, funding undergraduate summer schools and bursaries, and offering PhD studentships. Hundreds of undergraduates and postgraduates, and thousands of school students and teachers, have benefited from Gatsby support over the last two decades, in an area of science that has been traditionally overlooked by other organisations.

So far 59 post-graduate students have received a Sainsbury PhD studentship, 603 first year undergraduates from universities around the UK have participated in a Gatsby Plants residential summer school and 133 undergraduates received grants to undertake a research project in the summer of their second year

More than a 1000 schools, 13,500 students and over 18000 teachers have in some way been involved, supported or experienced Gatsby’s Science and Plants for Schools (SAPS) programme which aims to create opportunities for teachers and student to become more knowledgeable about plants and instil a greater interest in plant science