Friday, 16 December 2016

School scientist invited to speak at international emerging infectious disease forum

The annual meeting at the The Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD) at Kansas State University provided a forum for experts to discuss current approaches for vaccine control of emerging zoonotic (animal to human transmitted) infectious diseases. Dr Michael Jarvis who works on herpesvirus-based vaccination strategies is pictured at the microphone below. You can read more about the meeting here.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Student back from Berlin

This summer, I was lucky enough to spend 6 weeks at the Robert Koch institute under the supervision of Dr Bernhard Ehlers. This research project was arranged by Dr Michael Jarvis of Plymouth University, and funded by the Seale-Hayne Trust. The Seale-Hayne Trust aims to support higher education and research in the field of agriculture, food and rural land use and related disciplines. Mycobacterium bovis (Mb) is considered the primary cause of tuberculosis in cattle, causing significant pathology, and a resulting economic burden on the agriculture industry. In keeping with the aim of the trust, our research project involved investigating types of a Mustelid herpesvirus found in different species of naturally infected badgers, with a projected aim to develop a recombinant disseminating vaccine to target Mb transmission to cattle.

The project was extremely enjoyable, and presented an unrivalled opportunity to learn and develop several practical techniques that otherwise I would not have had the opportunity for, such as PCR (I was even able to assist in some organ harvesting with another member of the research group!). Dr Ehlers’ team is fantastic, and from day 1 I was made to feel very welcome, and received tuition for each of the techniques so that I felt confident carrying them out alone. The facilities are second-to-none, and Berlin of course is also a great city to explore. I would definitely recommend this to anybody who is interested in research; I am now studying medicine, and in the future I hope to further my research interests, for which this experience has been invaluable!

Kati O’Brien 
Biomedical Science graduate
Below: Kati, second from left, with colleagues from the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin

Monday, 21 November 2016

Students help BBC's Children in Need

Our students raised money for the BBC's Children in Need Appeal last Friday 18th November 2016, by running a ‘drop in’ Health Clinic in the Portland Square building within the clinical skills suites in return for donations for charity. Together they raised £135.56 and completed health checks for around 40 individuals including ECG, spirometry, blood pressure, BMI and body fat measurements. Healthcare Sciences, Nutrition Exercise and Health students alongside Medical students were involved in running the ‘drop in’ Health clinic.

Some feedback comments from the individuals volunteering for the health assessments ranged from ‘very pleased with the attention given to me today, I would recommend anyone to have it done’, ‘very worthwhile, a very professional and knowledgeable group’ and ‘the best service with the best people, our future health professionals’. Exemplary comments for professional practice and care were acknowledged for Victoria Old, Jack Dodd, Kelly-Marie Adkins and Emily Biggs (Healthcare Science practitioners in training). A raffle for the Giant Pudsey had also taken place with the coffee morning; Dr Gail Rees (Plymouth University) was the winner of Pudsey for 2016.

The photographs below are from the party afterwards held in the Royal William Yard that was linked to the national TV coverage. With Pudsey are (left to right): Emily Dawson, Hannah Muntz, Harriet Goodship (back), Catherine Walsh (front), John Ravey and Kelly Adkins. The photograph underneath has Hannah Waite and Lucy Hickman being interviewed, and the bottom one has Ph.D. student Emmanuel Maze dancing with Street Factory as part of the night's entertainments. A good night.

Friday, 18 November 2016

European Antibiotic Awareness Day

Antibiotic resistance is:

- as big a threat to human health as climate change
- going to result in 10 million deaths every year by 2050 if we ignore it
- something that will have an impact on us all.

Did you know that today is European Antibiotic Awareness Day, which is part of World Antibiotic Awareness Week? Find out more by visiting the PU website with links there to a range of resources and background info., including an opinion piece by our microbiology lecturer Mat Upton. Sign up to be an Antibiotic Guardian and help preserve antibiotics for future generations! Find out how you can help by seeking alternatives to antibiotics when you are ill. Follow the links to see how SoGoodStudios are helping to raise awareness through their game jam and play the Superbugs game to see how log you can keep the human race alive!

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Meet the real A-team

Students – without exception, who have you ALL interacted with? Lecturer? Technician? Head of School?  The answer that is common to all of you is the admissions team who were responsible for helping you gain a place on one of our programmes in the school of biomedical & healthcare sciences.
As the out-going admissions tutor, I have often been thanked by new students (and their parents) for helping them gain a place on one of our undergraduate courses.  The truth is that I have done very little!  The real heroes are the admissions team who are often behind the scenes, where nobody gets an insight as to just what they do.  Let me introduce them to you………
From left to right; Rachael Decieco (Undergraduate Admissions Team Leader), Emma Rowsell, Ellie Barker, Suffia Conway, Eva Varga and Joel Forde.
This happy group is the undergraduate admissions team that has talked to you in person or on the phone, processed your UCAS applications, helped you with your applications, informed you of course options and entry requirements as well as those helpful people that have calmed you down in confirmation & clearing, so that you can obtain the place you wanted at our university.  In addition, they help organise interviews at open/applicant days and have demonstrated the utmost patience and professionalism when dealing with stupid enquiries from this school’s admissions tutor!!  Finally, some of you from further afield have been processed and recruited by our international team which consists of Lisa Ellis and Sue Mudge (unfortunately, not on the photograph!): these two are experts in virtually every country’s A-level-equivalent qualifications and are integral to the admissions tutor decisions to recruit from the four corners of the globe!!
These are the professionals behind the scenes that are and will remain to be the recruiters of generations of our student cohorts to Nutrition, Exercise & Health, Healthcare Sciences (Life Sciences & Physiological Sciences), Human Biosciences and Biomedical Science.  Without the dedication and professionalism of this team, our school and our faculty (PUPSMD) would not be in the healthy state it is today.
Thank you for all your hard work guys,
Andy Foey (admissions tutor, 2014-2016).

Friday, 14 October 2016

NEH Student Prizes photos

We have just got some photographs for the PUPSMD prizes and awards evening that took place on the Hoe marquee on the 20th of September. Awards were given to the highest achiever in each stage for each programme, and for the final year there was a research award to the student with the highest mark for the project. The prizes for Nutrition, Exercise and Health students were sponsored by Vitabiotics and presented by Andy Evenden. Below we have the winners: from the top, Emily (year 3), Rachael (year 1) and Shelley (year 2). Well done all of you!

Friday, 23 September 2016

New students welcomed at Hoe event

Lecturer (crumpled shirt, wine glass) with two of his new first year tutees, Aradhana and Vivienne, at the annual greeting party up on the Hoe. Here is to a good year ahead!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Nuffield Scheme in the School

Millie Steel is studying at Plymouth's Notre Dame School and is here on a Nuffield Research Placement. This excellent scheme allows A level students to work alongside professionals in science, engineering and maths, and is intended to boost interest in these fields.

Millie (photographed below) is working with Vikram Sharma, who runs our Proteomics facility, looking at the proteomes of both Hela and some stem cells. This also involves her working with cell culture, protein electrophoresis and bioinformatics. She writes, " I think the Nuffield Placement is good because it enables students to practice advanced techniques that are beyond and above the A level syllabus. It also offers insights into the applications of Biomedicine in the world today".

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Student in Berlin II

Guten Tag!
These past few weeks at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin have been fantastic, and we have had some great results so far. We have been able to characterize the Mustelid herpesviruses in different badger populations as intended, and have now turned our focus to cytomegaloviruses (CMV) found in Gorillas. 
We have been using PCR to analyze gorilla samples to detect the presence of CMV, followed by next generation sequencing to look at the variants of the virus in different gorilla populations. Bioinformatics software packages can be complicated to get used to, but I think they are valuable tools for anyone interested in post-graduate research; if you get the chance to explore these during your 3rd year project, I would definitely recommend it. 


Above: Gorilla samples positive for CMV 

(You can read Kati's first blog from Berlin posted on June 13th.)

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Funding for School research

Professor Neil Avent has just obtained funding of £166,000 to commercialise blood group genotyping using next generation sequencing, which he has been developing over in our Systems Biology facility. The funding is for two years and has been obtained from Biofortuna Plc, Broxbourne, the Wirral. Below is Dr Kelly Sillence working on the sequencer when she was still a PhD student here. Kelly's work in the School will now be funded by this new grant.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Lecturer working for MRSA treatment

One of our lecturers, Mat Upton, is working with the firm Ingenza to take into patient treatment his research (and that of his collaborators) into new antibiotics. This article describes how Mat and the company are working together on this important project.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Student in Berlin

I have just finished my 3rd (and final) year of a Biomedical science degree at Plymouth university, and am travelling here to continue some work carried out by Nick Lyons and Lucy Davison in 2014. who aimed to characterize a Mustelid Herpesvirus; my visit has been organized by my project supervisor, Dr. Michael Jarvis, and by Dr. Bernhard Ehlers here in Berlin.

From the moment I arrived at the Robert Koch Institut, I have been extremely impressed with the facilities, the people, and of course the beautiful weather!  I will be spending around 6 weeks here in Berlin under the supervision of Dr. Bernhard Ehlers, and shall continue to build upon work that has been performed by researchers from collaborating groups, including Michael Jarvis’ laboratory at Plymouth University.

The support during my first few days here has been fantastic; with the guidance of Dr. Ehlers and the fabulous lab technician Connie, I have already successfully run a nested PCR, which will be sequenced early next week. I am eager to get as much experience in the lab as possible, and will keep you updated.


Monday, 6 June 2016

Awards Celebrate Teaching Stars

Students thank their 'stand out' academics and student representatives at the annual SSTAR Awards
Teaching and learning within the school is a partnership between students and staff.  This relationship is ably demonstrated at the annual Student Union’s SSTAR awards to celebrate academics and students who have gone the extra mile to help students achieve their learning goals. Among the winners from our school was Carole Stoddard, whose use of playdough breasts in cellular science saw her scoop the award for Most Innovative Use of Teaching Methods.  Carole said “I am deeply touched to receive this award. I'd like to thank all the students I have had the privilege to teach over the year for their commitment and the excitement they brought through collective engagement to bring these activities alive. I have also learned so much through them in regard to learning processes and their valuable feedback will continue to shape my teaching for years to come.” Further winners from the school included Arron Jackson for outstanding programme representative, Dr Andrew Foey for outstanding personal tutor and Dr Simon Fox for most dedicated project supervisor and effective feedback.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

A sugar tax is the bitter pill that is needed

Last week the Chancellor announced a levy on soft drinks made with sugar, with the revenue raised used to fund PE and sports in primary schools. The BMA suggested that the extra revenue – would amount to 13p on each can and 37p on each two-litre bottle of fizzy drink sold – should be used to make fruit and vegetables cheaper. Dr. Gail Rees, our Nutrition Lecturer (and Deputy Head of School), has been arguing that these are sensible suggestions because obesity – directly and indirectly – is a concern for us all. You can read more about the debate in the article carried by Reuters.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Science in the News Explained

As part of British Science Week, which is a national initiative that has been running since 1994, our  and other Schools' -  postgraduate students organised a 'Science in the News' evening. This event included talks for the public on how various issues appear in the media: climate climate, the relationship between religious faith and science, and the use/abuse of antibiotics. The latter talk was by one of our School's microbiology lecturers, Mat Upton (seen below).

For more information on events organised by the postgraduate students go to

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Students win Nutrition essay prizes at IFBB event in London

Stefi Guiu (final year Nutrition, Exercise and Health student) writes:

"The Institute for Food Brain and Behaviour organised the second essay competition in the memory of Henry Kitchener. After submitting an essay with the title “In the light of how our diet has changed over the last century, how does nutrition affect the developing brain?” we were selected for the short list of prices. The winner of the Henry Kitchener Prize 2016 was announced at an event in London and the awards were presented by Lady Emma Fellowes. I received the “Runner Up” prize together with £500 and Melissa Pirie the “Highly Commended” prize. At this event, we were also invited to attend a lecture by Professor Tom Brenna of Cornell University, Ithaca, New York on “Nutrition and Behaviour: Are People and Governments Buying In?”. The whole event was very interesting and a great way of knowing people with the same area of interest. Moreover, the topics discussed were of great importance for mental health and nutrition, two areas of great interest nowadays."

Stefi photographed below (top) and Melissa from Human Biosciences (bottom). The winner's essay is on this website and also more information if you are interested:

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

PhD student wins best poster at Cambridge conference

Congratulations to Emmanuel Atangana Maze (below) for winning Best Poster for his work on Endogenous Retroviruses at the recent Blood Borne Virus Day at Cambridge University. This part of Emmanuel's project is in collaboration with Dr Neil Berry at the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC) in London.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Undergraduate research into diet

Below are a couple of snapshots into some final year research projects being carried out by our students.

"For my final year project I have been fortunate enough to get the opportunity to work with Kathy, a Plymouth University Ph.D. student. Kathy is looking at how diet and physical activity during pregnancy affect the timing and composition of gestational weight gain, and how these maternal lifestyle factors in turn affect infant birth size characteristics. I have been assisting in analysing the women’s diet diaries and it’s great to be able to put into practice things I have learnt in the classroom and apply them to real life subjects. Getting the chance to be a part of a project which may help to inform future interventions and strategies aimed at pregnant women makes me feel privileged, and I look forward to seeing the final outcomes."

Emily Davey (below, with Kathy Redfern on the right)

''As part of my dissertation project I spent three days in my old Primary School collecting data. I was keen to see what the children were bringing in their packed lunch boxes and how this compared with free hot school meals in terms of salt, sugar and fat content. At the end of the week I was asked to meet with the school council to talk about ways we can work together to increase fruit and vegetable consumption at school. It was a highly enjoyable experience and further encouraged me to pursue a career in working with children.''

Ross Phelps (below, with a sample packed lunch)