Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Biomed graduate publishes expert review

Plymouth has an ever-increasing reputation in mucosal immunity, particularly that associated with probiotic bacteria and how this understanding can be harnessed in the control of the body’s defence mechanisms to pathogen infection. Investigations in both teleost fish (school of biological sciences) and human cell models (SoBHCS) have helped us gain a clearer understanding of the immune-regulatory effects of probiotic supplementation.





Amy Llewellyn, one of our graduates of biomedical science (pictured left), has just published her research focussing on probiotic modulation of immune cell signalling events in an international, peer-reviewed journal. In this account, Amy recounts her experience of the writing and publication processes and what this means to her future career development:

"I came to write this review with Dr Andrew Foey during my final year of Biomedical Science at Plymouth University in 2015. It was in fact Andy who inspired my passion for Immunology with his weird and wonderful immunology analogies throughout my studies at university. We discovered our shared interests during an exam revision session and began writing the review in summer 2015. And today, 23rd of October 2017, the review has been published in the latest edition of Nutrients!

Myself and Andy participated in the writing of this review equally and this involved many drafts, comments and back and forth emails to perfect the content of the review and ensure it encompassed our joint interests and the most current research. I thoroughly enjoyed every step in the process, from the literature review, to the drawing of pretty little cell signalling diagrams! The extensive literature review especially, provided me with a comprehensive understanding of the topic and proved very interesting.

The writing experience has taught me how much time, work and effort goes into writing academic reviews, but the hard work certainly pays off. I have seen a vast improvement in my writing skills and ability to critically analyse the literature. I am now a Research Assistant in an Ear and Respiratory Child Health team at Menzies School of Health Research, in Darwin, Australia and I have been able to expose my immunology interests to my current colleagues in a professional manner. This review may one day contribute to the acceptance of a PhD scholarship, which I hope to gain in the next 1-2 years. Publishing this review has given me the skills and confidence to take on further writing projects in the near future.

This would not have been possible without the outstanding level of expertise provided by Dr Andy Foey and his continued support in my abilities, not only throughout this writing process but throughout my university studies and towards my professional career which I hope to establish here in Australia. I am very proud of this achievement and look forward to one day writing another review!"

Andy adds: "I am also proud of this review and that it has been led by the enthusiasm and drive of one of our best graduates. This publication will have wide-reaching impact to the field of probiotics and immune regulation and I hope will inspire Amy to follow her dreams in pursuing a life-long career in immunology."

Monday, 6 November 2017

Working with A level students


Nuffield Foundation Placements with Feisal Subhan
Every year the Nuffield Foundation organises STEM placements for over 1,100 post-16 students across the UK. They spend several weeks in various university laboratories, industry, research institutes and also small & medium-sized enterprises. In summer 2017, I had two placement students, Eleanor Richards and Georgina Sewart. Eleanor worked on new diagnostic criteria for Sniff nasal inspiratory pressures, while Georgina analysed heart rate variability and autonomic function in triathletes. Both worked tremendously hard during their vacation time. Our regional Nuffield coordinators kindly invited us to a celebration event on 1 November at Exeter, where we were given certificates and all students in Devon & Cornwall presented posters on their work.

Photographs.  Eleanor Richards, Feisal Subhan and Georgina Stewart (L to R) collecting our certificates. Below that is Feisal and Georgina in front of her poster. Bottom is Eleanor’s poster.







Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Third year project students' work published

Third year project students, recognised as the 'SoBHCS Student Team' have contributed to a new paper in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes. The study suggests that consumption of juice obtained via a commercially available nutrient extractor results in blood glucose levels the same or lower than seen with whole fruit. This unexpected finding offers a possible dietary alternative enabling consumption of normally dietary-restricted fruit juice. You can read more about the work here.

Monday, 16 October 2017

New Scientist Live Event - the interview

In an earlier Blog, I mentioned that one of our lecturers, Tina Joshi, was at the New Scientist Live event ("Ask a Biologist") organised by the Royal Society for Biology. Here is the link to her interview.

Monday, 25 September 2017

New Scientist Live! event

One of our new lecturers, Tina Joshi, will talking at the #askabiologist event at the Royal Society of Biology stand at the New Scientist Live event in London on Saturday 29th September between 10am and 1.30pm. Public at the event will be able to talk to her about her research area and ask "Could Microwaves Save my Life?". She will have props at the table to demonstrate concepts.

Tina's research focuses on the development of a hand held detector able to rapidly detect antibiotic resistant bacteria within infected patients/environment. Antibiotic resistance in microorganisms is a global crisis as we have fewer and fewer ways left to treat dangerous infections. The approach utilises bespoke microwave technology to break open bacteria in five seconds and electrochemistry to detect the bacteria itself.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Welcome party for first years

Yesterday the faculty held its annual welcoming party for new first years in the marquee on the Hoe. Below are a few photos from the evening. The top two show various staff, whom I am sure wish to remain anonymous. The ones below were kindly taken by Matthias Futschik (one of our new lecturers) and show Ansgar Poetsch (also a new lecturer) with some first year undergraduates (my apologies for not recognising them yet).





Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Nutrition Society Student Conference


Julia Jaczo -- a Nutrition, Exercise and Health student -- writes about her experience, and that of her colleagues, at a recent Nutrition Society Student Conference.
_____________
As part of my second year summer research bursary, I had to the chance to investigate the relationship between dietary intake and chronic disease risk. I used data from the EarlyBird cohort study, examining energy and nutrient intake according to gender, BMI and body fat and related the data to glucose tolerance test values.
After finishing the research, I had the opportunity to attend the Nutrition Society Student Conference in Reading during the first week of September.  Two other students, James Wallis and Rachel Hine, also joined me, alongside our tutors, Dr Gail Rees and Kathy Redfern, to represent the university and present our research findings.
The conference exceeded my expectations every way possible. It was great meeting students from around the world with similar interests and listening to their research findings. As part of the conference, we also had the chance to find out details about emerging and ongoing research in the field of nutrition, such as different dietary fats and their effects on risk of heart disease; changes in the immune system during aging and how diet can modulate the gut microbiome and effect health.
The conference also focused on providing support for future graduates and registered nutritionists. We had talks on how to prepare for a public speech, how to build our CVs and prepare for job interviews and we also heard useful tips of how to work freelance.
Overall, it was a great experience attending the conference and I am grateful for the university for making it possible for us. I have made some new connections with people I would have never met otherwise and gathered lots of useful information both regarding future careers and nutrition science.
Rachel commented:
“The student conference was a great opportunity to present my research, network with other students and professionals and learn more about career possibilities. Completing the summer studentship has allowed me to gain confidence and new skills in research and I look forward to attending more Nutrition Society events in the future.”
James also agreed:
“Undertaking the vacation research scholarship has improved many skills such as conducting primary research, analytical skills and communication skills. Not only this, but being able to present our projects at the Nutrition Society conference was an amazing experience and a great opportunity to network and talk to people at different levels of their career.”

Below:  Julia (right) with Rachel Hine and James Wallis

Friday, 30 June 2017

Students write a book

Nutrition, Exercise and Health students Becky Thomas and Rachel Hine worked with arts, business and education students here at Plymouth to produce a book aimed at improving the health of young children: A Taste of the World with Bertie. Read more about this fascinating venture by following this link.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Students present project posters

On Tuesday, the final year undergraduates presented posters on their research projects. Here are a few.

Laura Fryer (BSc Nutrition, Exercise and Health)

Callum Hayes (BSc Health and Fitness)

Luke Michael (Health and Fitness)
Jessica Burns (NEH)


George Dukes (H and F talking to Neil Avent)

Enver Keleszade (NEH)

Nutrition Society award to 2nd year student

Rachel Hine, a second year undergraduate student studying BSc (Hons) Nutrition Exercise and Health has won a competitive summer studentship worth £2500 from the Nutrition Society. The award will enable Rachel to undertake an 8 week research project within the School of Biomedical and Healthcare Sciences. Rachel will be investigating sleep patterns during pregnancy using data from an existing study which aims to examine the timing and composition of weight gain during pregnancy alongside diet, physical activity and infant anthropometry. The study, which is nearing completion, has been conducted by Kathy Redfern, who will be supervising Rachel over the summer, and her PhD supervisors Dr Gail Rees and Professor Jonathan Pinkney in collaboration with Plymouth NHS Hospitals Trust. 75 women with a BMI >30 were recruited from Antenatal Clinic in Derriford Hospital at their twelve week dating scans, and followed for the rest of their pregnancy. The proposed relationship between sleep and gestational weight gain is relatively novel, with a recent study suggesting a relationship between sleep duration and disruption and weight gain in late pregnancy, and another suggesting sleep to alter glucose metabolism during pregnancy. The existing dataset therefore provides a unique opportunity to examine sleep patterns alongside other maternal lifestyle factors and pregnancy outcomes. The award also includes the opportunity for Rachel to present her findings at the Nutrition Society Student Conference in Reading in September, and it is hoped that Rachel’s work will contribute to a scientific publication.

Below are Rachel (right) and Kathy.


Monday, 15 May 2017

Women in Science

Elaine Green (one of our academics) writes: Last week I attended the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science awards ceremony at the Royal Society, London and saw the research of 10 up-and-coming academics selected from nearly 300 applicants. The Women in Science programme was founded by L’Oréal and UNESCO 18 years ago to ‘promote and highlight the critical importance of ensuring greater participation of Women in Science’.
The opening speeches highlighted the gender gap in science that still exists today with only 15% of those individuals working in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in the UK being Women. Five scientists were awarded fellowships receiving £15,000 of financial support. The money can be spent in a more flexible manner that helps to continue their research, including laboratory consumables, equipment, or even help to balance their research commitment with childcare costs. There is a need for change to create a more diverse community and over-come the unconscious bias still evident today in STEM subjects. Gender stereotypes are made early in life, around the age of 5 to 7 years old, and younger individuals need to have inspirational role models, such as winners of this award, to highlight that success is not just a pipe dream for girls. It was also recognised that being a women in a male dominated environment can be isolating and as such a network has been set up linking more than 2,000 of the award winning women across many Countries.
The event was good, I applaud the steps taken and there is clearly progress on the road to equality for women. Whilst all these actions are necessary, they are not yet sufficient to fully address this issue, and I’m not sure of the perfect solution. Taking one of the positive actions, the financial support for extended childcare is genuinely helpful for working women. But, what more needs to happen for women to have a full and successful scientific career, whilst still prioritising home life, such as picking up the kids from school more often? Are we forcing women to comply with male stereotypical work pattern? Would an alternative be to set a more flexible structure for work and home life, and make that equally available to Men and Women?
I have a feeling the debate will continue.
UK Scientists who won the L’Oréal-UNESCO fellowship 2017;
  • Dr Radha Boya, University of Manchester, Nanoscience

  • Dr Annie Curtis, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Immunology

  • Dr Manju Kurian, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, Neurology

  • Dr Bethan Psaila, University of Oxford, Haematology

  • Dr Priya Subramanian, University of Leeds, Mathematics
 

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Grant success for second-year student


One of our undergraduates has received funding of almost £2,000 from the Microbiology Society to investigate antibiotic resistance in treated waste water.

The award has been made to second-year Biomedical Science student Melissa Temlett, who will be working with Dr Philip Warburton over the summer as part of the Microbiology Society’s Harry Smith Vacation Studentships scheme; named after the former Society President, Professor Harry Smith, to mark his well-known support of microbiology students at the start of their careers. 

Melissa and Philip (pictured below) will be analysing waste water from sewage treatment plants to assess the level of antibiotic resistant bugs in the water, their potential spread in the environment and wider health concerns. Antibiotic resistance is a major public health issue, which if unchallenged, is predicted to kill over 10 million people a year by 2050.

Philip, Lecturer in Medical Microbiology, commented: “We are delighted to have received this support and we are looking forward to working with Melissa on this important project over the summer.”


Monday, 10 April 2017

Fighting Ebola and other 'emergent' viruses

One of our academics, Dr Michael Jarvis, is working hard on an exciting new approach that could prevent the sudden appearance of serious infection from pathogens, such as bird flu, SARS, and Ebola by vaccinating the animals that habour these microbes and from which these microbes ‘spill over’ into humans and agricultural animals. One example is the deadly Ebola virus, which in Africa periodically spills over into humans from great apes. Closer to home, this approach is also being developed to prevent bovine TB infection of cattle. You can read about Michael's work in the top science journal Nature and on the Popular Science website. Not only could this work protect humans from deadly microbes, but when applied to control of Ebola it would also protect the wild apes too (Ebola is deadly for them): this online article looks at Michael's work from an ape conservation angle.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Progress in fighting antibiotic resistance

Mat Upton, one of our lecturers, writes "Antibiotic resistance is very newsworthy at the moment (have you been listening to Val McDermid’s Dangerous visions: Resistance on Radio 4?!). This really is a genuine threat to human health and could undermine all of modern medicine. There are many ways we can help to reduce the impact of antibiotic resistance, or drug resistant infections - discovery of new antibiotics is just one aspect. In my group, we are working to develop new ways of preventing and treating infections caused by MRSA, often called a superbug in the news. Our latest paper reports that a single dose of our lead antibiotic is as effective as 6 doses of the current standard treatment in an animal model of MRSA infection. This is the first report of single dose efficacy in this infection model and could lead to shorter therapies in humans. We now hope to secure funding to take the antibiotic into pre-clinical toxicity testing and phase 1 clinical trials."

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Working with local colleges

Recently staff from the Nutrition and Exercise laboratories hosted a group of students from Stoke Damerel Community College. Thirty students and their teachers visited the Exercise Physiology laboratory where final year Nutrition, Exercise and Health students Ashley and Shelley put them through their paces measuring the effect of exercise on heart rate and blood pressure. They also assessed their body mass index and grip strength. Students also had the opportunity to take part in a short lecture on exercise and health delivered by Associate Lecturer Gavin Seymour.