Hey, my name is Farah Farzana and I am a
medical student at the University of Manchester. Last year after I completed my
third year, I decided to take a year out of medicine to do a Masters in
Research degree in Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine. This is known as an intercalated degree, that
many medics opt to do if they have further interests in research or any subject
in general. After completing this
Masters, I will go back to medical school to complete my final remaining two
years and hopefully graduate and become a doctor.
I never imagined or really anticipated
during the first few years of Medicine, that I have any interest in research.
To be honest, I was always scared by the prospect of going into research and
imagined it to be pretty intense and hard. However during my third year I
started becoming more interested in regenerative medicine, especially cell
based therapies and the potential of regenerating tissues. The growing area of
research that focuses of regenerating damaged organs or tissues, so in effect
you are giving them a new life every time they are damaged intrigued me. So I
decided to look into regenerating the structures within our spines known as the
What is the intervertebral disc and how does it cause back pain?
The intervertebral discs are structures that make up our spine,
and helps in overall mobility. With progressive age the spine goes through
trauma and increase pressure due to many factors such as obesity, because of
which these discs slowly starts to breakdown gradually. This causes severe pain
and discomfort for suffers and is known to be one of the major causes of back
pain. The pain occurs mainly because the discs are no longer mobile enough to
support our range of movements, such as twisting and turning or even sitting
which puts pressure on our spine. It is estimated
that approximately 60-80% of people will at some point in their lifetime
experience back pain. Despite the condition not being life threatening, it
imposes a huge economic burden on our health care system, as well as being one
of the foremost causes of disability due to chronic pain between the ages of 45
and 65 worldwide. Current treatments are costly and only offers
symptomatic relief for the patients and most treatment available are a
temporary fix to the underlying problem. Therefore research is now focussing on
understanding the disease process itself of why the breakdown of the discs
occurs and what cells are involved in such disease. Identifying the exact cells
involved in the process that leads to breakdown of the discs will allow
researchers to target such cells and stop them from causing the breakdown.
What does my research focus on?
Researchers have discovered that some cells act to maintain the
discs health, which can be also targeted to restore the damaged disc. My research
is looking to find out more about the types of cells present within the
innermost layer of the disc. Some cells within this layer of the disc have the
ability to stimulate rejuvenation of the damaged disc, when given signals.
These findings of how these cells function and what signals they need to
remodel the damaged disc will further guide upcoming research that will look at
developing treatments by manipulating such cells to regenerate the discs. Such
treatments will target the underlying disease itself in order to give patients suffering
from back pain a permanent cure to back pain caused with progressive age. Such
discovery in the future can even lead to developing treatments that can
potentially cure back pain forever and change millions of lives.
I made a video on studying medicine and how it is like to be a
medical student, if you would like to have a look:
This research is a hot topic now and we even managed to somehow
feature on the daily mail a few years back!
Feature on medical news today about future and techniques of
regenerating the spine:
Interested in studying medicine here is a good website to look at:
Interested in becoming a scientist? Look
at this website for a step by step explanation:
A detailed scientific paper explaining disc
degeneration and processes of regeneration:
My name is
Hashir Kiani and I am a PhD researcher at the School of Computer Science. My
research is titled “Wireless Sensor Networks in Smart Grids”. I work on
designing algorithms which can be used to make an electrical grid smarter by
analysing the data collected from the grid through wireless sensors. These
algorithms are used to detect faults in the grid and then employ appropriate
measures to prevent those faults. The end goal of my research is to develop
methods for a more efficient and smart electricity network.
I did my Bachelors in Electrical
Engineering from National University of Sciences and Technology in Pakistan.
After my bachelor’s degree I was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to study
for a Master’s degree in Communications Engineering and Networks from the UK.
The main motivation behind going for a PhD after the completion of my Master’s
course was the worsening situation with respect to electricity generation and
distribution in my home country, Pakistan. Pakistan is facing a huge shortage
of electricity and people have to go without electricity for multiple hours
each day. The situation worsens in the summers as demand for electricity peaks due
to cooling requirements as temperatures soar above 40 degrees Celsius. According to a report by USAID,
Pakistan has suffered a loss of 10% of its GDP due to power shortage. The long
power outages have caused great distress to the public with people resorting to
rioting on a number of occasions. The distribution losses are above 20% which
is more than double the global average. Therefore if distribution losses are
brought down close to the global average Pakistan can solve its energy crisis.
The main objective of my
research on smart grid systems is to find ways to make the electrical grid more
efficient and thus considerably reduce the distribution losses. My research is
focused on using wireless sensor networks in order to monitor the electrical
grid so that timely decisions can be made to increase the efficiency,
reliability and robustness of the grid network. Therefore my research will be
very helpful in solving the energy crisis Pakistan is currently facing.
After completion of my PhD I
have plans to work at a reputable engineering university of Pakistan as an
academic and a researcher. One of my objectives would be to introduce a course
on smart grid technologies at the MS level and develop interest among the
students in this area. I will use the knowledge I gained during my research to
form a research group responsible for doing high quality research in the field
of smart grid systems. The research group would strive to work in partnership
with national bodies and distribution companies to facilitate the transition
towards a smart electrical grid which will not only be efficient but also cost
effective as it will be able to detect electricity theft and thus prevent losses
of millions of dollars each year.
Further information about smart
grid technologies can be found at the following links:
https://www.smartgrid.gov/ : A good resource on information about smart
: Details the smart grid initiatives taken by the European Union
: A cool video showing Britain’s future version of smart grids
: A link to my research group (Machine learning) at the University of
Hi! My name is Chris Storer, I’m a fourth (and final) year
PhD student here at the University of Manchester. I’m originally from
Warrington, in the North of England, and I came to Manchester to study an
undergraduate degree in Biomedical Materials Science.
I find the interaction between nature and science to be
fascinating, especially the way that new, cutting edge technologies take
inspiration from biology. Evolution has already provided ingenious solutions to
challenges that engineers face every day.
This led me to pursue my PhD in polymer sensors, where I try
to understand how the sense of smell and taste work in nature. The aim is to
use this knowledge to create a portable chemical sensor – just like the hand-held
sensors you see scientists using to scan things in Sci-Fi movies!
How I got here
At school, I studied biology, chemistry, physics and
geography at A-level. I really enjoyed all the different aspects of the
sciences and didn’t want to specialise too much early on.
This led me to studying Biomedical Materials Engineering at
university – an interdisciplinary science that gave me a lot of freedom to
study a range of topics and keep my options open.
Following this I started my PhD in Polymer Sensors, in the
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering here at Manchester. It really
does go to show that you’re never stuck in one area of science – quite the
My research takes inspiration from the binding sites found
in the olfactory cells of the human nose. These very specialised receptors
allow us to detect chemicals in the air and give us the sense of smell.
I recreate these receptors by imprinting the chemical
molecule that I want to detect into a plastic material, called a polymer. You
can imagine this is a bit like pressing a piece of a jigsaw puzzle into a piece
of play dough, but on a microscopic level. When I take the chemical molecule
out, only that unique shape will fit back in place. And hey-presto, you’ve got
a chemical receptor!
The tricky part is how you then turn this into an electrical
signal to send to a computer to measure – like how a nerve cell sends
information to your brain. For this I use a capacitor to measure the build-up
of charged molecules on my sensor. This acts as a transducer – changing the
chemical information into electrical information for measuring the chemicals in
A great video clip by Brian Cox on how animals use chemical
sensors to navigate their environment through sight, smell and taste (BBC,
“Wonders of Life” documentary):
A link to some of our research here at the University of
Manchester involving chemical sensors for use in Agriculture:
My name is Charlotte Coull, and I'm a second year PhD
student at the University of Manchester, based in the History department. I did
both my undergraduate and masters degrees at Manchester, both in History, and
was extremely excited to be offered both a PhD place and funding (the History
department's own Elsie Farrar award) to continue my studies here. As part of my
PhD I also lead seminars with undergraduate students, and have chosen to work
as a Widening Participation Fellow because I firmly believe everyone should
feel able to go to university if they wish.
In the future I'm hoping to get into public History, and
connect with people about my research and encourage them to explore history in
general, as knowledge is for everyone!
Many people walk away with the idea that I am an
archaeologist when I first explain my subject area to them- what I actually
do is look at the history of archaeology in the nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries, with no digging involved! I study the work of British archaeologists
in India and Egypt during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; I want
to know how they decided what to dig up and study, how they wrote about the
artefacts they found, and what they did with those artefacts afterwards (are
they in Britain, are they in a museum basement, or did they stay in countries
they were discovered in?). I also want to know how discovering the history of
Egypt and India changed the way Britain thought about her own history, and why
Ancient Egypt is so present in our minds today (think Pyramids, mummies etc)
whereas Ancient India is not so well known.
Studying two countries may seem intimidating at first, but I
find you can use comparative history to fully open up an area to explore: for
example, I want to know what is was about Egypt in the nineteenth century that
influenced British archaeologists to behave so differently to archaeologists in
India, and what this can tell us about how archaeology as a discipline evolved.
My work is also very interdisciplinary- I use aspects of the history of
science, intellectual history and museology alongside colonial history and
other ideas. One of my supervisors is from the History department, the other is
from the Centre for the History of Science Technology and Medicine. I find
interdisciplinary history incredibly exciting- why stick with one way of doing
things, when you can craft your own style using your favourite aspects from
I work with a variety of historical sources- I have to be
creative with finding the material I study! I can go from looking at the
personal letters of a famous scholar from the nineteenth century in the British
library, to looking at museum records of object acquisitions and displays, to
spending time on the internet looking for nineteenth century academic books
that have been digitised. I have also recently decided to look at images as
part of my research- so last time I was at the British library I spent a
morning marvelling at early twentieth century photographs of archaeological
digs in India.
I find people often see history as a static and unmoving
subject- you pick a topic and are trapped in the library with dusty books
looking at that topic forever. Nothing could be further from the truth! History
is such a varied and broad subject, with so many different ways of approaching
it; you can really get creative with your thinking and push the boundaries.
What you find will never cease to surprise, and in some cases amaze you!
- a wonderful website with blog posts about female pioneers in archaeology
and other science fields. Click on the articles tab and explore! I would
particularly recommend Hilda Petrie, and Adela Catherine Breton.
- not many people know much about India's archaeological history. This is the
website of the Archaeological Survey of India- take a look at the 'photo
gallery' tab and check out the massive variety of Indian archaeological sites!
Hi! My name is Junaid and I am a medical student
at the University of Manchester. I have taken a year out of my medical studies
to spend some time doing a research masters in Medical Sciences. This means
that I will be spending six years at university instead of the five normally
required for medical school. I am currently conducting research into the
treatment of asthma and rhinitis. I am hoping that this research will lead to
permanent improvements in how we treat people with asthma. The reason I wanted
to conduct research in this area is that I would like to become an Ear, Nose
and Throat (ENT) surgeon in the future. One of the challenges of an ENT surgeon
is managing patients who suffer from rhinitis and the effects it has on their
asthma. Alongside this, I wanted gain an understanding about how research is
conducted in hospitals. Since the way which doctors care for patients is
evolving so quickly, research is an enormous aspect of our careers.
Rhinitis is a very common problem that
affects a large number of people who suffer from asthma. It is described as the
inflammation of the nose and can lead to symptoms such as a runny nose,
sneezing and irritated eyes. These problems can affect people all year round
and if you suffer from asthma you are more at risk of suffering from allergic
rhinitis. This is a type of rhinitis that can be caused by allergies. From
research in the past, it has been found that people who suffer from both
allergic rhinitis and asthma at the same time experience a very poor quality of
life. For this reason, I am investigating patients who attend asthma clinic for
allergic rhinitis symptoms. This will help us understand the link between
asthma and allergic rhinitis and how much of an impact both diseases make on
people. Omalizumab is a medication that improves asthma symptoms which leads to
people have a better quality of life. We do not know how this treatment affects
people who suffer from both allergic rhinitis and asthma. By using
questionnaires to find out how many people suffer from asthma and rhinitis and
how well Omalizumab treats patients, we will be able to fine tune the
treatments we give to people to make sure we are giving the right drugs to help
them improve their asthma and allergic rhinitis symptoms.
To provide some further background on the conditions that I
am studying you can visit the NHS choices websites for asthma and rhinitis.
Allergic Rhinits : http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/rhinitis---allergic/Pages/Introduction.aspx
World Allergy has provided a good overview about why asthma
and rhinitis are linked and how they can affect people: http://www.worldallergy.org/public/allergic_diseases_center/caras/
Inflammation (swelling and redness) of the airways which
connect the nasal passage and the mouth to the lungs is an important mechanism
which causes people to suffer from asthma and rhinitis. The asthma centre
provides a good overview on “What is Inflammation?” http://www.asthma.partners.org/NewFiles/Inflammation.html
The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has provided
an information leaflet on Omalizumab and the main facts about how it works and
the evidence behind its use: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2003/omalgen062003LB.pdf