Professor Mark Brown from the School of Biological Sciences is currently leading on a new five year, nine million euro research group that looks into the effects of agrochemicals in bees.
We caught up with Mark to discover more about the research group (PoshBees), how the opportunity came about, and what they hope it will achieve.
1. Could you tell us a bit more about yourself and your role within the School of Biological Sciences?
I’m a biologist who studies the impacts of parasites and other stressors on bees. Within the School I teach a number of courses, coordinate our final year research projects (with ~150 undergraduate each year this is always a challenge!), and run the research Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour.
2. We hear that you’re leading on a new five year, €9million research group that looks into the effects of agrochemicals in bees. Could you tell us more about this and how it came about?
This as an EU Consortium grant funded under the Horizon 2020 programme. The first draft call for funding came out about three years ago now – after gathering a group of colleagues from across Europe, I spent about two years writing the grant proposal. I had no idea it would take so much time, thought, and negotiation to get it right! Luckily, it all paid off, and so now I have five years of herding other academics, industry, and NGOs across Europe, as well as a chance to get some good research done in my group!
3. What do you hope to achieve from PoshBees?
We hope to deliver policy, practice, and tools that safeguard the health and sustainable future of wild and managed bees across Europe. I’m particularly excited that this project doesn’t focus solely on honey bees, but includes bumblebees and solitary bees as well.
4. Aside from bees, do you have any other research interests?
My first love was ants – I did my PhD on seed-harvesting ants in California – and whenever I get the opportunity to do something with these lovely animals, I take it. Also, I should point out that the parasites of bees are just as, if not more interesting than the bees themselves.
5. Do you have any interesting hobbies or interests?
I used to sing in choirs and play the violin in orchestras, but these hobbies have taken a backseat since I moved back to the UK 10 years ago. Most of my spare time nowadays is spent with my husband, trying to see as much of our nieces and nephew as possible, as they change so fast. Oh, and I do like tasting and buying French wine.
6. What does an average working week look like to you?
Long! More seriously, I’m not sure that there’s such a thing, as it depends upon whether it’s term-time or not, and which term it is. My ideal work week involves some teaching, one-on-one time with my lab group, time for writing manuscripts and grant proposals, and as little unnecessary admin as possible…
7. Who inspires you inside of the organisation? Who inspires you outside of the organisation?
My colleagues in the School of Biological Sciences inspire me, but also buoy me up when I’m feeling tired or stressed. I’m lucky to work with them. Outside of Royal Holloway, I am permanently inspired by my PhD supervisor, Deborah Gordon, my post-doc advisor, Paul Schmid-Hempel, and my mentor in my first academic job, Celia Holland. They are all amazing people and brilliant academics, but they achieve this in different ways, and I try to draw from them to make myself the best version of me that I can.
8. You may have seen our latest recruitment campaign, ‘Find your why’. We are interested to find out what Royal Holloway has helped you to discover about yourself…
The community at Royal Holloway has helped me to realise that I can aim for the heights without letting go of a life outside of work. And one day I’ll get that balance right!