Bath undergraduate named top bioscience student in Europe

25th Oct 2013

A student from the University of Bath's Department of Biology & Biochemistry has been named the top European student in Biological Sciences for 2013.

Michelle Hulin, who specialised in identification of a major fungal disease in the laboratory of Dr Richard Cooper, was the winner of the Best Biology Student 2013 in the SET (Science, Engineering and Technology) Awards and was presented with the award at a ceremony held at Kensington Town Hall, London.

Michelle Hulin impressed the panel by describing her research project that focused on preventing the global disease spread of a major commodity crop. She developed a rapid and robust molecular method to detect specifically the DNA of the pathotype of the fungus Fusarium oxysporum, which causes the devastating vascular wilt in oil palm in Africa. Oil palm provides almost 40 per cent of the world’s edible oil, so this research has significant implications for the global population.

Michelle’s work has now been included in a patent application with the potential to help quarantine laboratories prevent the spread of the disease from Africa to Asia, which now provides nearby 90 per cent of the world’s palm oil. She had previously developed skills in the same laboratory here at Bath, working on yeast identification with Dr Alan Wheals.

The Society of Biology judges tasked with the tough decision of choosing a winner were Professor David Coates, Dr Gerhard May and Dr Francesco Michelangeli. The judging criteria looked at the technical depth displayed by the students, the level of achievement of the student and their project, the originality that the student applied in their project, the quality of the synopsis and explanation of the background and context of the project, as well as the overall quality of candidate.

After receiving the award Michelle said: “I’m overjoyed to have won the award. I’ve been interested in plant pathology for a very long time. My project helped inspire me to do a PhD. I believe crop science and control of disease is really important for the future of global food security.

Richard Cooper commented: “Michelle is an exceptionally talented and dedicated, yet modest student, who deserves to build upon this truly prestigious and challenging award. This award also highlights the inspiration to students that working on solutions to combating the enormous crop losses caused by microbial diseases can bring.”

Michelle received an outstanding first class degree (top of all Bath Bioscience students), and of a remarkable three awards received, was the recipient of the Society of Biology Top Student Award 2013 here at the University of Bath.

Michelle has just started her PhD in bacterial plant pathology at the East Malling Research Centre, Kent and the University of Reading.

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