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Mr Hamish Symington

Postgraduate student
Mr Hamish Symington
Department of Plant Sciences
University of Cambridge
Downing Street

Cambridge CB2 3EA
Office Phone: 01223 330216

Biography:

Hamish is studying for a PhD on the BBSRC Doctoral Training Programme (DTP).

After an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at Cambridge, graduating in 2002, Hamish worked variously for the University and University Press in various aspects of IT and graphic design. In 2008 he founded a software company designing business systems for photographers. Upon selling his share in the company in 2016, he returned to science on the BBSRC DTP scheme, starting his PhD in October 2017. He is always willing to talk about life as a mature PhD student (and managing a PhD and a toddler!) with anyone interested in applying.

Research Interests

Hamish is interested in pollination and plant-pollinator interactions, and is investigating these using the garden strawberry as a model system. His PhD involves characterising the floral variation between cultivars of strawberry and testing bumblebee responses to extremes of that variation to determine their preferences and inform future plant breeding strategies. 

He is also investigating the molecular basis of flower colour in strawberry and Arabidopsis, and comparing the latter to a species of Aethionema, a genus in the Brassicaceae with cultivars having flowers ranging from light to deep pink.

In 2019 he and fellow PhD student Jake Moscrop were awarded funding by EIT Food to develop a 'Improving flowers to help feed the world', a video about his research, which is available on the University of Cambridge's YouTube channel.

Other Professional Activities

Hamish is active in education and outreach, and spent a three-month internship at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden writing interpretation boards and trails for adult visitors. He has also given talks to beekeeping and horticultural associations, and spoken as part of the Cambridge University Festival of Plants and the Science Festival. 

Key Publications

The mechanics of nectar offloading in the bumblebee Bombus terrestris and implications for optimal concentrations during nectar foraging (J. Royal Soc. Interface 2020 17:162) (Featured in the New York Times, The Times, The Independent, the Daily Mail, ITV News, Sky News, The Naked Scientists on BBC Radio & Radio National (Australia) (download the podcast), and more.)

SpotCard: an optical mark recognition tool to improve field data collection speed and accuracy (Plant Methods 2019 15:19)

Other Publications

See publications at Google Scholar.

The Department has carried out a comprehensive COVID-19 risk assessment process and has opened to allow research work to take place. To ensure the safety of our staff, a range of measures to reduce building occupancy and allow strict social distancing have been introduced, including increased cleaning and hygiene regimes. We are currently not accepting visitors so please continue to contact us by email until further notice.