University of Dundee

Sarah McKim awarded tenure

12 Nov 2019

Dr Sarah McKim from the Division of Plant Sciences has been awarded tenure. Sarah’s research explores genetic and molecular mechanisms which control how cereal plants develop. In particular, her lab focuses on understanding the developmental genetics of architectural traits in barley which can influence grain yield and quality. 

Sarah joined the School of Life Sciences as a Visiting Research Fellow in March 2012 and started as an Independent Investigator in October 2012, supported by a Royal Society of Edinburgh Personal Research Fellowship. In March 2013, she became a tenure-track Principal Investigator.

Sarah completed her PhD in Botany (2009) at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada) where she revealed the genetic control of abscission zone formation in plants. Sarah came to the UK as an EMBO and NSERC post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Oxford where she studied the genetic and environmental control explaining differences in floral form between plant species. 

Alongside her research, Sarah greatly contributes to the wider research community, teaching and public engagement. 

Sarah regularly reviews for Plant Cell and Development journals among others, acts as a referee for the BBSRC and Royal Society, an Editor for Frontiers in Plant Science and is an elected member of the GARNet Advisory Committee. 

Sarah also teaches widely within the undergraduate curriculum, from delivering overview lectures about plant development to case studies of plant biotechnology. She currently manages the Level 3 Plant Sciences module which has excellent student feedback and performance. Sarah also trains numerous Honours, ERASMUS and summer students in her lab, demonstrating her commitment to lab training and opportunities to provide valuable opportunities for her PhD students and post-docs to develop their own supervisory skills. This year, Sarah was recognised by the Student Association with the Postgraduate Supervisor of the Year Award.

Sarah believes that long-term, public trust in science depends upon people viewing scientists as members of the community. As Public Engagement Lead for the Division of Plant Sciences (2013-2017), Sarah coordinated and led multiple engagement activities, including Plant Power Day, and contributed to the Gatsby Plant Science Education Programme. This work led to Sarah winning the School’s Brian Cox Award for Public Engagement in 2018 on behalf of the division. Sarah also engages with artists, such as through the LifeSpace exhibition ‘That was Then. This is Now’ and within her recent BBSRC grant to commission an artist to develop an exhibition about her research.

Professor Paul Birch, Head of the Division said, "We are happy and proud that Sarah achieved tenure last Thursday. She has developed an excellent team over the past few years performing world-leading research to understand development in the important crop plant barley. We look forward to her making many cutting-edge discoveries in the years to come.

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