Irene Teixidor-Toneu was studying in her home country of Spain when she started looking for a PhD opportunity in botany and ecology. She was interested in experiencing the UK academic environment, and her mentors recommended the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Reading.
“My previous mentors at the University of Barcelona, along with a colleague who had just graduated from Reading's MSc in Plant Diversity, recommended Reading as the place in England to study botany. I was lucky enough to be interviewed and granted a PhD position!"
Within the School of Biological Sciences, Irene investigated the impact medicinal plant use has on healthcare implications for communities in developing countries, how they can inform public healthcare programmes, and how it can provide new leads for drug development. In the current globalised world, traditional medicinal plant use is changing in a continually evolving culture.
Irene studied accounts on how knowledge is transmitted and passed between generations and across cultures, and how medicinal plant use can contribute to the conservation of biocultural diversity whilst understanding the mechanisms of cultural evolution.
Irene found working collaboratively with other students and researchers extremely enriching.
“"Reading is an inspiring environment where I have met many experts across different schools and departments who have inspired me throughout my PhD.
"I enjoy the environment and the personal and collaborative relationships I have built with my colleagues, especially those in my research group, whose friendship and support I appreciate so much."
Managing external collaborations proved to be one of Irene's biggest challenges, as her fieldwork was threatened at one point. However, through the relationship between the School of Biological Sciences and the University of Reading Herbarium, her fieldwork was moved from its original location to Morocco, which gave her a successful and enriching experience.
Irene also made use of the wider training and support on offer at the University.
“The Graduate School has been key to my professional development through the training activities and courses they organise, and by providing answers to my many questions on how to carry out and finish a PhD!"
Irene now holds a Post-Doctoral position at the Natural History Museum (NHM) of the University of Oslo, Norway – this collaboration stemmed from links established during her PhD studies.
Irene is undertaking a comparative study of botanical knowledge across Scandinavia using a cultural evolution research approach. Together with a botanist and a cultural historian, she is examining the variability of plant usages and knowledge among Scandinavian countries and how this has changed through time.