Monday, 29 September 2014

A Toast: James, The President, Plymouth and Beyond

James Clarke was awarded the IBMS President’s Prize at the recent graduation ceremony at Plymouth University having graduated with a first-class BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science degree.  The President's Prize of £100 plus certificate is awarded to one student graduating from an IBMS accredited BSc Hons programme who has achieved academic distinction in a particular year who is also a member of the Institute. They must be registered as a member of the Institute at the time of the application.

James is pictured  above with Dr Simon Fox, (Left) (Biomedical Science Programme Leader) and Malcolm Owen, (Right) (Secretary, IBMS South West Region branch).

James enriched his BMS degree by being an active member of the student Biomed Society at Plymouth and particularly, by undertaking a second year Summer bursary placement funded by Society of Biology on the role of CCN1 in the resistance of  Mantle Cell Lymphoma to Lenalidomide (Revlimid®) in the laboratory of Dr Lynn McCallum.  “Dr McCallum's outstanding teaching and guidance was instrumental in me continuing in research. The summer intern scheme, helped me develop the required molecular techniques and organisation for effective research. In addition, the enthusiasm of the researchers, in helping me to understand and critique current knowledge in a specialist area, was invaluable.”  James also represented the university as a student ambassador:  “I had been doing general ambassador work from the first year (open days), however moved from general, to a course specific ambassador towards the end of second year. This then lead to employment at various focused outreach events; including the Blue Mile and the Science Showcase. This outreach work by the university helped emphasise to me, the importance of public engagement for all researchers!”

James was successful at interview and is now undertaking a PhD studentship at the University of Southampton. “The course I'm starting is an integrated PhD in Biomedical Science focussed on cell biology and immunology of cancer.  It is a Wellcome Trust-style PhD with three laboratory rotations prior to me selecting one project to work on over a 3 year period. To start, my selected rotations will focus on cancer stroma, MHCI processing and possibly proteomics.  So my first lab rotation will probably be looking at the relationship between TGF-beta, the DNA-damage response pathway and CAF senescence in head & neck carcinoma.  Starting early October.”

It only leaves one thing to be said: Congratulations James, on your success at Plymouth and good luck with your PhD and future research aspirations.  We are sure that we will be hearing of you in the future!

Andy Foey, Sept. 2014. 

New M.Sc. course up and running

This week we welcomed 20 students into the first cohort of our MSc Biomedical Science degree which has recently been accredited by the Institute of Biomedical Science. The IBMS commended the programme team on developing a new MSc provision which not only encompassed Biomedical Science knowledge but also plays to the research strengths of the School and strengthens research-informed teaching.

The programme takes full advantage of School’s incorporation into the Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry offering projects with researchers from the Medical and Dental Schools within the Centre for Research in Biomedical Science giving students the exciting opportunity to work alongside staff at the forefront of their academic and clinical disciplines.

The MSc Biomedical Science suite of programmes contains a combination of “skills / research application” modules and specialist biomedical modules where the student studies a specific discipline in depth. All students study a  “Genomics, Transcriptomics and Proteomics" module as knowledge of these new disciplines is essential in the fast-moving developments in all disciplines of Biomedical Science. The IBMS commended the inclusion of this topic within the programme along with Personalised Medicine & Medical Genomics.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Holidays! What Holidays? I worked in the Research Laboratories

We always encourage our students to seek extra-curricular experiences, which enrich and support their academic studies and allow them to be more competitive in the work market once graduated.  To that end, over the last few years the school has developed a summer vacation research bursary scheme, offering a rich variety of research experiences working alongside research-active staff and post-graduate students.  This summer, 16 students (a combination of both 1st and 2nd year students) successfully undertook a wide variety of bursary research projects focussed on anything from proteomicsand genetics to immunology and virology .  But enough from me, don’t take my word for it, what do the students have to say?

Jessica Yanwube 2nd year Biomedical science student
This summer I undertook a placement in Prof. Neil Avent’s lab based in Davy building 802. The reason I chose to apply for a placement in this lab is because I will be doing my third year project on this same topic area which is Non-Invasive prenatal Diagnostics (NIPD), and wanted to have a taste of what it would be like when it comes to doing the project. I was able to gain a lot of practice with techniques involved in traditional and real time PCR, western blotting and also to watch some techniques of DNA extraction from whole blood and blood plasma. The main focus of my summer placement was on designing new forward and reverse primers for improved efficiency of an RHD real time PCR assay used for detection of the presence of the RHD gene. Using some computer software packages such as Oligoanalyzer and BLAST, we were able to design an array of primers and pick the best ones based on factors such as GC content and melting temperature. We then tested their efficiency using a real time PCR assay and analysing the results given on the StepOnePlus™ software used. I can honestly say throughout the years of studying science based subjects, this placement was the first experience I had that made me feel like an actual scientist. The experience gained was invaluable and we all got a chance to do experiments we would have never had time to do during the term time. It was great finally being able to put a lot of the theory learnt through the year into practice. With such small intimate groups it’s a great opportunity to ask all the questions you might be too embarrassed to ask in an environment such as a lecture theatre. Given the choice I would do it all again and would recommend it to any first or second year student because it’s too good an opportunity to let pass you by!

Lindsay Ussher 2nd year Human Bioscience student
My research experience with Plymouth University was thoroughly enjoyable, challenging and extremely satisfying.  My work used the field of bioinformatics to explore the possible cure for HIV by exploiting the proteins produced by Endogenous retroviruses. Since my work was bioinformatics based, this gave me the opportunity to develop my computer and problem solving skills. Although I was mostly independent in carrying out my research, I had the chance to work alongside research active staff and found it very helpful to engage in the weekly meetings and discussions with my research supervisor and share my ideas with other members of the research group, researching into similar topics.  This helped develop my communication skills and my overall understanding of science, as I was required to apply the knowledge that I had acquired from lectures to engage in such discussions regarding my research.  Finally, in regards to the future, having first-hand experience of scientific research has changed the way I view science. It has given me more of an appreciation of the processes involved in scientific research and development as well as understanding the implications of scientific discoveries.

Keaan Amin 1st year Biomedical Science student
My school vacation experience within the Centre of Biomedical Research helped me continue and build my ongoing passion for biomedical and clinical medical research through attaining and enhancing analytical and experimental skills, which are considered imperative for a career in the medical field.  This research project experience allowed me the unique opportunity of analysing and interpreting a cancer genome and detecting putative causal mutations through changes in gene expression. Simply an opportunity not many first year university students can say they experienced. I had access to facilities housing the latest and cutting-edge bioinformatics software, I was able to investigate the significance of changes in expression of genes pertaining to cancer induction mechanisms.  Regular scheduled meetings with project supervisors concerning project material and any ongoing issues truly gave me confidence to look above-and-beyond the outlined aims in my initial project application.  Being able to share and communicate concepts and ideas to fellow students whether PhD or Post-Doctorate students provided me with invaluable insight into accruing academic knowledge that I would have once believed to be above my scope of understanding. This honestly made my placement a remarkably fulfilling and engaging experience. The overall vacation project helped me realise the independency, dedication and fervent interest required to complete an academic research project as part of the curriculum in the third year of a Biomedical Sciences degree.

Are you interested in boosting your CV and undertaking a similar vacation research bursary? 
It is simple; start identifying the research area that you are interested in and approach the appropriate research-active member of staff.  Details of next year’s bursary scheme will be announced early next year through the Centre’s Director of Research, Professor Simon Jackson.

Andy Foey, Sept. 2014.

New Lecturers Boost Physiology Profile of School

We are priviledged and excited to be welcoming 2 new members of staff to our school who will take an active part in all aspects of physiology in the context of both teaching and research.  So who are they and what do they do?

Dr Nicola King – Lecturer in Cardiac Physiology
Just prior to joining Plymouth University I worked for five years at the University of New England in Armidale, New South Wales, Australia. I led and taught in a number of modules including 2nd year physiology for nurses, biomedical sciences, and BSc students and human nutrition for 2nd and 3rd year students. I also gave lectures and facilitated problem based learning tutorials for medical students. Before that I worked at the University of Brunei Darussalam teaching mainly medical students and leading the team that introduced a new degree in biomedical sciences. In contrast to this mix of different subjects and courses, at Plymouth I will largely be teaching cardiovascular physiology and pathophysiology on the BSc Healthcare Science (physiological sciences) course.

In addition to teaching I carry out research investigating the role of amino acids and small peptides in the heart and student attitudes to inquiry-oriented learning. When the blood flow to the heart is stopped (ischaemia) and then restarted (reperfusion) this can damage the cardiac muscle. Vulnerability to ischaemia reperfusion injury increases as the heart ages and in the presence of comorbidities. My most recent work has been studying how amino acids could help to reduce ischaemia reperfusion injury in ageing hypertrophic (abnormally enlarged hearts due to chronic hypertension) and normal hearts.

In my spare time I like to play hockey as a goalkeeper. The photo below shows me lying down on the job as per usual!

Dr Feisal Subhan – Lecturer in Biomedical Science (Physiology)

After spending 18 years in Hong Kong, I travelled to Newcastle upon Tyne to complete my BSc (Hons) in Physiological Sciences and my PhD, in the Respiration and Exercise Laboratory. I spent the next 17 years working in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and lastly Bahrain. I am happily married with three children, two of them teenagers.

My main area of research is on respiration and human physiology. I have worked on lung function, lung inflammation (using exhaled nitric oxide), occupational lung disease, dyspnoea measurement and reproducibility and recently heart rate variability as a marker of autonomic function. The photo below was taken in June 2014 when I had three A level students from the British School of Bahrain, doing a work placement with me. I showed them some of the research we were doing, and made them subjects, with their permission, of course.

I love teaching physiology and science, and have been doing this for many years. I have taught undergraduate and postgraduate students on various degrees and courses. I have an interest in education and have been a workshop facilitator and organizer during many International Union of Physiological Sciences (IUPS) teaching workshops. From 2010 to 2013, I was an education committee member of the International Union of Physiological Sciences (IUPS).

I regularly play squash and swim. I am an amateur gemmologist and I love spending time with my family. We love to travel and we hope to enjoy this lovely part of the country.

Welcome Nicola and Feisal to the School of Biomedical & Healthcare Sciences; I am sure that our students will make you very welcome and will be enthused by your teaching and research that will enrich their study environment!
Andy Foey Sept. 2014

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Combating the Ebola virus

Virologist Heinz Feldmann is interviewed in the journal Science about his recent experience in Liberia helping to fight the Ebola outbreak with Doctors Without Borders (MSF). Heinz may look familiar to regular seminar goers, as he braved the storms back in February to describe his work and collaboration with our own virologist, Michael Jarvis, on an Ebola vaccine for great apes.