An interview with Professor Dawn Arnold

Professor Dawn Arnold is a professor in Molecular Plant Pathology at the University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol. In this interview, she tells us about her biggest professional achievement, why she joined the Society and talks about representing the Microbiology Society on the UK Plant Science Federation, a special advisory group of the Royal Society of Biology.

Tell us about your current role

I am a professor in Molecular Plant Pathology at the University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol. In this role I lead a research group studying the molecular genetics of a group of plant pathogenic bacteria. I also teach on various courses, including leading a final year module on genomics technologies. Outside of UWE, I am currently President of the British Society of Plant Pathology (BSPP) and the Microbiology Society representative on the UK Plant Science Federation which is a special advisory committee of the Royal Society of Biology.

What is your biggest professional achievement(s) so far?

It’s hard to say one thing for this, as several achievements have meant different things to me over the years; but currently, being president of the British Society of Plant Pathology (BSPP) is something I am really proud of. I believe my research expertise coupled with public engagement and departmental service experience will allow me to contribute significantly to the running of the Society.

Where did your interest in microbiology come from?

It came from my interest in plants. I always liked growing plants and took mainly plant modules during my biology degree. When I started my PhD, I started working on a disease of watercress and developed by interest in plant pathology and therefore microbiology.

Why did you join the Microbiology Society?

I joined as a PhD student to keep up to date with trends in microbiology and also for the different funding schemes available. I stay a member because I like the connection to the wider microbiology community beyond my specific area.

You currently represent the Microbiology Society on the UK Plant Science Federation, a special advisory group of the Royal Society of Biology.  Tell us more about your role on this Committee.

My role on the committee is to attend the meetings, participate in the discussions and to report back to Microbiology Society about what is happening with UKPSF and to take to the committee anything that comes from Microbiology Society. I also participate in preparing any publications from UKPSF; for example, our recently launched Growing the Future report.

Do you have any advice for early career scientists?

I think something that helped me a lot was to collaborate with other scientists, both within but especially outside my institution. Be prepared to learn from people that are more advanced in their career than you are, they can have a lot to offer. Also, don’t give up – rejection of grants, for example, can be hard to take but the next time you might be successful and it will all be worth it!

How do you keep up to date with the latest microbiology news?

Microbiology Today is really useful for this and I still like getting the print version. I also notice things that come up on web sites such as the BBC News and, in my research field, more academic publications. I also try and go to microbiology conferences and go to talks outside my particular discipline when I can.

Why does microbiology matter?

It’s such a fundamental part of our lives and the life of the planet we live on. Understanding how to control problem microbes and harness the abilities of beneficial microbes can help very many people.

Are you a member and interested in sharing stories about your research journey? Email [email protected]