Friday, 29 November 2013

Science meets X-Factor: welcome to the S-Factor

The DTC Research Students' NobelPrize series of talk/discussions blossomed into a X-Factor-style competition in the Devonport High School for Boys yesterday. With dry ice and dodgy 1970's music, and Head of SoBHS Neil Avent as Simon Cowell, despite heroic performances by Sarah Rustage and Laura Pettit on behalf of the Higgs Boson and DDT respectively, first prize went to Emi-Jo Mawson, an undergraduate currently doing a placement project at Derriford. She presented the 1962 Prize for the structure of DNA. The event was covered by the Herald and is part of our drive to get more young people interested in scientific research as a career.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Research Bursary helps undergraduate become an author in leading scientific journal

Our new Research Bursary scheme allows students to spend eight weeks at the end of their second year assisting staff in their research. This helps them learn more about how large research projects are carried out and to develop their skills. Work done this summer by one such Bursary student, Matthew Byott,  has lead to him being an author in an article published this Tuesday in one of our leading journals: Current Biology. You can read an account of the research in the New Scientist and in the Daily Mail online. We hope to extend this scheme to first year students.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Get your flu jab! 

School lecturer Michael Jarvis explains on Radio Somerset why we should get our flu jabs - watch out for the explanation of herd immunity: click here to listen (go to minute 41:20).

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Induction week

Last week was a busy period for staff and students as we welcomed back our second and final years and met 220 excited first years who were keen to start their studies. The school held a series of events introducing the new cohort to the academic staff and core laboratory facilities. This was accompanied by a well-attended social event in the graduation tent on the Hoe on Wednesday evening and our annual social trip to Mount Edgcumbe on Friday. Fortunately the sun shined enabling Drs. Foey, Breese and Belshaw to play touch rugby with the energetic students, whereas others preferred the delights of the park and the Edgcumbe Arms.

Graduation 2012-13

Graduation was held on the Hoe on the 16th September celebrating the hard work and achievements of our 2012-13 cohort of students.  Family, friends and staff were delighted to see so many smiling faces and were ‘enlightened’ by the wisdom of Gilberts and George’s Ten Commandments for life.  Staff wish graduates all the best for the future and please keep us up to date about your subsequent success.

Society of Biology award winner for the highest aggregate mark in the school Sean Kelly, with Christine Fry (L) and Mairi Knight (R)

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Lecturer Gail Rees on TV talking about recent nutrition and health study

Click here for ITV Westcountry interview and read press release below (covered in Times and Daily Mail).

Expert reaction to substance found in broccoli, metabolism and ageing, as published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition*

 Dr Gail Rees, Lecturer in Human Nutrition, Plymouth University, said:

“This is an exciting study that demonstrates how eating broccoli benefits our metabolism. It is of huge scientific interest as we are now starting to unravel exactly which components of fruit and vegetables are responsible for good health and what the specific effects are.

“The study published today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is particularly important because it shows the advantages of eating regular but reasonable portion sizes of a special type of broccoli high in glucoraphanin. The study also demonstrates that the response to eating this type of broccoli is dependent on genetic makeup, so how beneficial it is to your health varies according to your genetics.

“We must remember that there are thousands of bioactive components in fruit and vegetables and we need to have a mixture of different types daily. This novel type of broccoli, grown to have a high amount of this particular bioactive component, is not yet widely available in the UK and may have cost implications for consumers.

“The best advice is to continue to consume at least five portions of different fruit and vegetables per day as part of a healthy diet. Reduction of cancer risk and healthy ageing are also dependent on decreasing alcohol and fat consumption, reducing smoking, lowering body weight and regular exercise. This study was carried out on 48 people so it was a fairly small study and may now need to be carried out on a larger sample size to ensure the results are representative of the wider population.”

*Armah CN, Traka MH, Dainty JR , Defernez M, Janssens A, Leung W, Doleman JF, Potter JF, and Mithen RF
(2013) A diet rich in high-glucoraphanin broccoli interacts with genotype to reduce discordance in plasma metabolite profiles by modulating mitochondrial function. Am J Clin Nutr 98: 712-722

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Student perspectives - Charlotte McMillan, Healthcare Life Sciences

Healthcare Science Blog
Charlotte H McMillan

As a student on the Healthcare Life Sciences Programme at Plymouth University, I have gained a wide variation of practical and theoretical skills of which I have developed in an academic and placement environment. What is most gratifying about being a student on the Healthcare Science Programme is the integration of academic learning with placement experience. Being situated in a realistic working environment is a highly rewarding experience because I am able to apply my theory gained from University into practice and also develop a range of unique generic and specialist skills relevant to diagnostic medicine. 

I have found the placement experience in the NHS setting to be highly intriguing as it consistently tests my overall understanding of the principles of diagnostic practice. It has also allowed me to appreciate the different roles and responsibilities that are typically found in the real working environment of the NHS Trust. What makes the placement experience more rewarding is the fact that it has allowed me to recognise and develop my own personal goals, such as confidence and communication skills, which in turn have allowed me to flourish as a Trainee Healthcare Practitioner. In addition to this I have also been able to practice within my chosen specialism of Blood Sciences which can only be achieved in the working environment such as the NHS. Asides from acquiring personal and scientific skills, working in the NHS laboratories has also permitted me to build independence and team-working skills of which are essential to Healthcare practice.

Overall my two years of study in Healthcare Science has equipped me with a range of practical, theoretical, personal, and professional skills, all of which are considered relevant to a career in scientific practice. The experience I have gained to date from placement in the NHS has only encouraged me to pursue my career in Blood Sciences Pathology, in which I have met and worked with professionals who share the same passion as I do and have supported me throughout my placement experience.  I believe practicing in the working environment is a highly rewarding opportunity for any student since it allows development of a range of different skills that can only be acquired in such practice. It can potentially establish useful contacts within the NHS which is highly important for any individual who wishes to pursue a career in Healthcare Science. I strongly recommend enrolling onto the Healthcare Life Sciences Programme for any individual who is passionate about modern diagnostic laboratory medicine, has high motivation and ambition when faced with challenges, and wishes to work for the NHS whose aim is to provide optimal patient care and maintain high quality standards of service.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Clearing Places Available!!!

****UPDATE 16/8 09:20****
Still places available on all courses but now very limited - Some places left on Healthcare Sciences courses

We have a small number of clearing places available on all of our degree programmes:

BSc Biomedical Sciences
BSc Healthcare Sciences (Life Sciences)
BSc Human Biosciences
BSc Nutrition, exercise and health

And visit our new school webpage. If you want to apply, visit our clearing pages.

We'll keep these updated throughout the day.......

BSc Healthcare Sciences (Physiological Sciences) FULL

New Departmental Video!

Healthcare Science cardiac crusaders walk for charity!!

A hearty congratulations to Harriet Hogg (2nd year Healthcare Science Physiology student) and Cherith Wood (clinical cardiac lecturer) for successfully completing the 15 mile Midnight Walk in aid of St Luke’s Hospice here in Plymouth on Sat July 27th.
Harriet and Cherith walked as part of the cardiac crusaders team, of cardiac physiology staff from Derriford hospital.  The team successfully completed the 15 miles in 4 hours 43 minutes, they must all be extremely fit!!
If anyone would like to make a sponsorship contribution, please contact the School office.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Final year undergraduates publish in peer reviewed journal

We are quite used to seeing very high quality writing from our students, but every now and again, something exceptional comes up. Dr Andy Foey, Lecturer in Immunology, was lucky enough to have three exceptional pieces of work - he takes up the story:

Eleanor Lyon (left), Holly Hardy (middle) and Jennifer Harris (right) all took The Cellular Basis of Immunity as one of their final year module options. As part of the module coursework, they were asked to write a review of the literature on probiotics. Their work was so good that they were asked by Andy and Dr Jane Beal, the lecturers on the module and experts in probiotics, to combine their work into a review paper which was sent to the journal Nutrients. The review was accepted for publication after peer review and was published on the 29th of May. You can see the paper here (if you are accessing from outside of the University, you may not be able to access the full paper and the vagaries of copyright law do not allow me to put it here - sorry!).

Andy said "This review will stand the test of time with respect to the scientific rigour of probiotic immunomodulation and will be a valuable resource for both researchers and students alike".

As you can see, the students were delighted. Jennifer says "Being given the opportunity to help write this review was most certainly a blessing in disguise; presenting itself as a challenge I thought would be unmanageable alongside my dissertation and final year commitments. However, despite moments of madness, foul language and hair-pulling, the long days and even longer evenings researching, drafting, editing and compiling this review were strangely enjoyable. The process of ploughing through the primary literature was eye-opening, not to mention complimentary to components of my immunology module and generally very interesting. Discussing our initial literature finds with each other, Holly, Eleanor and myself quickly established what bits were "our babies", allowing us to split up the rather daunting writing task ahead of us, into nice bitesize pieces. To start with the review felt like just another essay assignment, but knowing this was supposed to be of a publishable standard was personally extremely daunting. However, over the number of drafts that were written, I was seeing a definite improvement in my ability to critically analyse the literature and write in a clear and concise manner. Of course the contributions we all made were not going to be perfect, after all we're not experts, but with time I felt better about the quality of work we were contributing. Seeing this improvement in my writing and having juggled my academic commitments over the time course of this review project gave me real confidence in my scientific abilities, gave me drive to keep going through exam revision and in fact left me looking forward to writing more publications in the future! Above all, thanks really must be given to Dr. Andy Foey for giving us this opportunity and putting this publication together to the standard that it is.

Full reference to the paper: Hardy H, Harris J, Lyon E, Beal J, Foey AD. Probiotics, Prebiotics and Immunomodulation of Gut Mucosal Defences: Homeostasis and Immunopathology. Nutrients. 2013; 5(6):1869-1912.

This work has now been featured in a University press release and in the Plymouth Herald.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

CRTB Research day

Today is our Research Center Research Day where we are showcasing the Biomedical and Translational research that is going on in Plymouth. I'll be posting pictures throughout the day:

Coffee and networking

Coffee and networking

Prof Simon Jackson welcomes participants

Prof Janusz Jankowski starting off the presentations

Monday, 10 June 2013

New Blog Site

The University has set up a blogging platform that I am going to gradually move this blog over to. It can be found here. I'll keep this one up and running for the foreseeable future though.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Healthcare Science Websites

For anyone who is currently studying Healthcare Science with us (or elsewhere) or for anyone thinking about doing so, this website and a blog post by our own Vice Chancellor have recently been put together and are well worth a look for further information both about the roles of Healthcare Scientists and the role of Universities in training them.

For more information about our Life Sciences and Physiological Sciences degree programs, see our course pages:

Life Sciences
Physiological Sciences

Or the previous blog entry on our courses.

The Plymouth Student Scientist

While we are on the subject of dissertation projects, you can see a selection of the best projects and literature reviews from our students (and from other departments in the Faculty of Science and Technology) at The Plymouth Student Scientist. This online journal showcases the work of our students and will give you an idea of the types of research projects that we offer to our students. You can read through examples from the past 5 years on the archives page.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Final year poster session

The last act for our final year students is to present their dissertation projects in the form of a poster to staff. Yesterday saw the annual poster session (see the photos below). Just a quick note to wish all of our final year students good luck in their future careers and to say how much the staff have enjoyed teaching you all!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

School of Biomedical and Biological sciences to restructure

Exciting news this month from the school - it will form two new schools at the University from 1st August 2013.

School of Biomedical and Healthcare Science (In the new faculty of Medicine, Biomedicine and Dentistry) -
Head of School, Prof Neil Avent

School of Biological Sciences (In the new faculty of Science & Environment)
Head of School (To be announced)

The new school of Biomedical & Healthcare science will offer exciting new opportunities to study alongside medical and dental students, and a new health science campus at Derriford is being planned to relocate our research labs there. Our long term objectives will be to encourage our Biomedicine, Healthcare science and Human Bioscience graduates to study graduate entry medicine, a higher research degree, or career progression in the NHS or Industry. Further updates will be posted on this Blog as the school develops.

Neil Avent 150513

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Eternal War in the Dark Matter of our Genome

Something out of Star Wars perhaps? Not even close - Dr Robert Belshaw, one of our new appointments in the department gives an overview of his research:

"The proteins that make up our body are coded for by less than 2% of our genome sequence. Finding out what goes on in other 98% (the so-called "Dark Matter") is one of the great challenges in genomic research.

Some of this Dark Matter is made up of regulatory elements (signals to switch our genes on and off) and the ENCODE project (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) is a big collaborative attempt to make sense of this. Other regions may be just "junk" DNA with no function, but around half of the Dark Matter is the remains of genomic parasites: pieces of DNA that copy themselves to new locations, often causing damage as they do so. Our body has a battery of defence mechanisms to fight this proliferation, which parallels the way our immune system copes with ordinary pathogens.

I have just moved to Plymouth from Oxford where I was working on a group of these genomic parasites, called endogenous retroviruses. There is a BBC report on a paper we did last year on them. One aspect of my research at Plymouth will be to investigate the possible benefits of these viruses. They are generally silenced (switched off) in our body but this control breaks down with disease, leading to viral proteins being produced in cancerous and infected cells. In theory we can stimulate our immune system to attack these cells, opening up the possibility of new treatments for cancer and HIV infection, even vaccines."

See more information and publications on Robert's web site

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Human Health Sciences Brochure

Finally worked out to get files displayed on this blog - have a look at the brochure for our courses or download it.

Human Health Brochure

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Systems Biology Facility

Thanks to a substantial investment in post-genomic technologies, our Systems Biology Facility is now up and running. These purpose-built labs allow us to use next generation sequencing technology and proteomics to study disease.

Lots of machines that go ping
Visit the Facility web page for lots more pictures of machines that go ping (as well as doing lots of other impressive stuff that the author of these pages pretends to understand).

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Work placements and placement years

We offer our students the chance to complete a placement year between their second and third years of study and summer placements. Not only does this give extra experience and learning opportunities, it also gives a taster of the world of work within a chosen field. Over the next few weeks, I hope to be able to put up several pieces from students giving their impressions of what it is like and what they are getting out of it.

Hayley Burston (BSc Exercise, Nutrition and Health) is first up:

"In the summer of my second year studying Exercise, Nutrition and Health, I was given the opportunity to complete a work placement at the University fitness centre. Although my degree taught me a lot about nutrition, exercise and physiology, the work placement allowed these skills to be put into a practical situation, helping to further my understanding of the areas taught in my degree.

Not only did the placement solidify the information from lectures, it established an understanding of the work environment and taught me the basic practices that must be applied within the industry. Any work placement will help someone to consider their future career and this enabled me to see that I was taking the right direction.

From this placement, I have subsequently got a part-time job at the gym which allows me to continually apply my knowledge, not only benefiting my future, but also my third year studies. It has helped me to become organised with University work, a key skill for the present and future. I have already applied topics learnt from the degree by redesigning the Personal Programme Form. The independence has helped to increase my confidence in completing the degree and in situations within the fitness industry." 

Hayley at work in the University Fitness Centre