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Student View - The Power of Mentoring

by YPU Admin on May 20, 2020, Comments. Tags: BMH, mentoring, speech and language, student life, and student view

Introduction

Hi. My name is Abi and I’m a final year Speech and Language Therapy student at the University of Manchester. For the past 4 years I have studied communication and eating and drinking impairments! Throughout my course I have also had clinical placements, working in hospitals, schools, clinics and patient’s homes.

I am also a student ambassador which means I represent the university on campus tours, school visits, and open days. I’ve loved my time at the University of Manchester and want to tell you about something that has massively helped me during my studies – mentoring.


What is my experience of mentoring?

Mentoring is a relationship whereby one person shares their knowledge, skills and experience to help someone else to progress in their life, study, career and so on. A mentor could be a friend, family member, leader in your community, academic staff etc. Whilst at university I have both been the mentor and the mentee!

I have mentored younger students by sharing my experience of university life. For example, I started a society to inspire students to pursue social justice and later handed the leadership on to a girl called Amy. Mentoring Amy looked like going for coffee a couple of times per term and being at the end of the phone if she needed advice.

I have also been mentored myself, both personally and academically. Through my faith community I have received regular mentoring from inspirational leaders. They have helped me to think through decision making processes, like what career opportunities to pursue and how to spend my time whilst in Manchester. During my first year it was also great to be mentored by a peer on my course, they lent me textbooks and answered any questions I had about the course. Being mentored has made me more confident. I have learnt so much about myself and the world around me by listening to wise mentors!

How can you make the most of a mentor at university?

Hopefully those brief examples have shown you how helpful and game-changing mentoring can be. Mentoring can be informal or more formal, it’s really what you want it to be. University can feel like a big step up, both academically and personally. I want to reassure you that there are ways to reach out for help and surround yourself with amazing, supportive people.

I’m now going to share a few handy mentoring tips:

  • Ask someone – it sounds obvious but ask someone to be your mentor! This can be someone at home who you’ll call or meet up with a few times a term, or it could be a person you meet whilst at university. They may say no (this has happened to me!) but that is ok, another person will be delighted that you’ve asked them! Do you have an older sibling, club leader, family friend you admire and want to learn from?
  • Create an agreement – Mentoring takes commitment, so it’s a good idea to make a plan with your mentor. When will you meet/call? What do you want to get out of mentoring? Pinning down the details should leave more time to discuss what matters during your meetings.
  • Share stories – If you’re stuck for how to start your first mentoring session why not share your story. For instance, what drew you to studying your course? Why did you pick your university? What are some important moments for you from the past year? Even if your mentor already knows you pretty well it’s powerful to tell your story. This sounds deep, but you will get so much more from mentoring if you can bring your whole self to sessions. Maybe your mentor will also share their story with you too!
  • Ask questions and hang out – Hopefully your mentor will be ready with some probing questions, but you can also ask more about their experiences. I was once mentored by someone who had similar passions to me, and I loved asking her questions! For example, who has been most influential in your life? How did you balance work and play? I agree with the experts who say that most of mentoring is ‘caught not taught’. Spending time with a mentor can make a lasting imprint on you. So, hang out with your mentor, observe how they live their life, and be inquisitive!

Resources/Links


 

Intern Insight - What's it like to Study Abroad?

by YPU Admin on April 24, 2020, Comments. Tags: BMH, intern, intern insight, psychology, Study Abroad, travel, usa, and year abroad

Introduction

Hi, my name is Emma and I currently work as a graduate intern at The University of Manchester. Before I was an intern, I was a student here! I studied Psychology and graduated in Summer 2019. I chose Psychology as it was my favourite subject at A-Level and I chose Manchester as I loved the city and also the Psychology course allowed me to do a Study Abroad year. This means that my third year of University was spent 3204 miles away from Manchester, studying at The University of Massachusetts Amherst in the US!

What was it like to Study Abroad?

I won’t lie, the first two weeks that I spent in America were super hard. I had so many questions running through my head… Have I made the right decision? Will I ever get used to this new country? Will all my friends still be my friends when I get back? But, just as with my first two weeks starting in Manchester, all of the worries and fears disappeared as soon as I got into the flow and got more used to my surroundings. Through fun events put on by the International Programmes Office at UMass, like American football games, quizzes and BBQs, I made friends with lots of other British and Australian exchange students who were all going through the same culture-shock as me.

All of my American friends were amazing and super supportive, I even spent the Thanksgiving holidays with one of my friends and her family. It was also fun introducing our new American friends to all the finest things about the UK… aka Love Island! I loved spending time with my American friends and learning about their country but it was also super nice to have my UK and Australian friends that were going through the same as me and to be able to talk about our home comforts.

One of the things I enjoyed most about my Study Abroad year was (funnily enough) the studying. The way University is structured in the US is different to how we study in the UK. My timetable in the US ran so that Monday, Wednesday and Friday were all the same and Tuesday and Thursday were the same, whereas in the UK, each day is different. I actually liked the US way better as it meant I had shorter lectures and was able to digest the information better. In America, they also have mid-term exams (just like the movies!!). This meant that instead of being tested just at the end of the semester, like in the UK, you were tested more frequently throughout the year. Again, I personally enjoyed this more as it felt like I was being tested on my knowledge throughout and it meant I really did have to stay on top of my work!

      


What are the benefits of Studying Abroad?

The academic benefits of studying abroad are endless. I had to adapt my learning style to fit in with the way University works in the US and this meant that coming back to the UK for my final year, I was able to use all of the new skills I had learnt and ways of working to help me achieve higher grades. I was also able to take modules that aren’t available at Manchester such as LGBTQ+ Psychology, Educational Psychology and The Psychology of Adoption.

As well as the academic benefits, there are so many personal benefits to studying abroad. The most obvious personal benefit for me was getting to travel. I’d never been outside of Europe before so getting to explore cities like Boston, New York and Toronto was something I never thought I would get the opportunity to do. Another personal benefit was gaining even more independence and confidence. I feel like if I can just up and move to the other side of the Atlantic on my own, there isn’t much I couldn’t do now. I’ve also made friends for life – I’ve got friends up and down this country as well as a best friend in Sydney and some of my closest friends dotted around the US.  

If you can do a course that offers a year abroad or semester abroad, I would say 100% go for it. The benefits are endless and you will have the time of your life. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am so glad that I decided to go!

    

Going Further...

If you’re interested in finding out more about anything that I have spoken about please head to these links for more info:


 

Keeping Kidneys Alive (in a lab?!)

by YPU Admin on February 28, 2020, Comments. Tags: biology medicine health, BMH, doctor, intercalation, kidneys, medicine, PhD, and tissue engineering

Introduction

My name is Sirat Lodhi and I am a medical student at the University of Manchester. After completing four years of medical school, I realised I wanted to take a break from Medicine to study a new degree. This is known as intercalation. I decided to pursue a Master of Research degree in Tissue Engineering for Regenerative Medicine. Following this year, I hope to complete my final year of Medicine so that I can graduate as a doctor.

Many medical students complete an intercalated degree so that they can study a new subject which they may not have had the opportunity (or time!) to study at medical school. As a medical student, I especially enjoyed the small research projects I completed. However, I did not consider intercalating until a supervisor suggested that a research degree may be for me! Now, I am hoping to develop my research skills because I am certain that I would like to pursue an academic career. I am interested in learning how to repair and replace parts of the body that have been damaged by trauma or disease. My research is in the field of kidney transplant surgery. 

In Depth...

WHAT HAPPENS TO THE DONOR KIDNEY?

Good kidney function is important because the kidneys filter our blood so that toxic waste can be removed from the body. Also, the kidneys make urine. Unfortunately, there are over 60,000 people in the UK who are suffering from kidney failure. These individuals need a kidney transplant to allow them to survive - this is when someone donates their kidney to the patient. Once the kidney has been removed from the body of the donor, it is stored in ice. This is done because if the kidney is kept in a good environment, it will work better in the person who receives it. 


However, keeping the kidney in a cold environment is damaging. Instead, it may be better to connect the kidney to a machine so that warm blood can flow through it. This means the kidney can work just like it would in the warm body. Although we know that cold storage can be damaging for donor organs, this technique is still used in the NHS. Fortunately, there is increasing research looking at developing techniques to keep organs alive in warm conditions.

WHAT DOES MY RESEARCH FOCUS ON?

Overtime, blood breaks down and damages the donor kidney. To prevent this from happening, a ‘fake’ blood has been developed. My research tests whether a warm solution of ‘fake’ blood can be pumped through pig kidneys without causing damage. If the ‘fake’ blood is found to be safe, it could be used to make donor kidneys work better in the new body.  Most importantly, kidneys which are not good enough to be donated could be improved using this technique so that more people can receive a life-saving kidney transplant. 


This is a very exciting time to be conducting transplant research because the organ donation law is changing from spring 2020. England will move to an ‘opt out’ organ donation system. This means that most adults will be considered as being potential organ donors when they die. It is hoped that this will increase the number of organs transplanted. This is very important because there is a shortage in donor organs. For example, every year, around 60% of people on the kidney transplant waiting list are not offered a kidney so they must continue waiting. 

If you would to learn more about anything I have discussed in this blog, please visit the links below!

Going Further

An article about the transplant research lab that I am working in can be found at:

If you are interested in studying Medicine, this is a good website to look at:

If you are interested in becoming a scientist, this is a good website to look at:

For more information about the NHS organ donation scheme, please look at:





 

Gene-ius Genetics

by YPU Blog on February 21, 2020, Comments. Tags: biology medicine health, biosciences, BMH, Genetics, PhD, and Research

Introduction

Hello! My name is Katie Sadler, and I’m a second year PhD student in Genetics. A few years ago I wouldn’t have guessed I’d be doing a PhD, but when I got restless as a graduate I decided I needed a new challenge. My research focusses on using genetic variants to identify people at higher risk of developing a type of brain tumour, called a vestibular schwannoma (explained later!). In the future this should mean that patients receive treatment sooner and hopefully help find new drug therapies.

Graduation Day! I'm in the middle.

In Depth…

How I got here:

During high school I loved art and textiles, and took Music Technology as one of my subjects in college. I also loved my science classes... even maths! I found it really interesting when science topics overlapped. Like using maths to figure out a chemistry equation, which related to the function of a biological process so, I ended up taking Maths, Chemistry and Biology at A level. I found it challenging!

I started my Genetics degree at the University of Manchester in 2012. I had always found the topics of evolution and inheritance fascinating, and during my degree I got especially interested in human genetic disease. I went on to do a one year Master’s degree in Genomic Medicine, again at the University of Manchester in 2015.

Then I got a job as a Genetic Technologist in a hospital laboratory, a job I couldn’t have got without my degree. I thought the job was great, regularly using the knowledge and skills I’d gained at university to do laboratory work and analysis, ultimately helping to provide answers for patients. After two years in the job I wanted to further my knowledge and applied for a 3 year PhD course with the University of Manchester.

My research:

The focus of my research project is finding new genetic associations with tumours called vestibular schwannomas (a vestibular what?!). Vestibular - because these tumours grow on the vestibular nerve, one of the major nerves in the brain that is responsible for hearing and balance. Schwannoma – because these tumours develop from Schwann cells, a type of cell that surround nerves.

Vestibular schwannoma tumours often cause hearing loss and balance problems, as well as other serious complications. Surgery to remove these tumours is an option, but it can also cause hearing loss. Finding these tumours earlier and figuring out who is at a higher risk of developing them would improve treatment outcomes for patients and their families.

By identifying genetic variants that increase the risk of developing these tumours, we would be able to risk profile patients and their relatives. Giving us a better idea of how likely a tumour is going to develop, if other types of tumour might appear and if the tumour might be fast growing. Doctors can then use these risk profiles to decide how often patients should come in for check-ups and MRI scans, helping to find tumours earlier. Improving our understanding of the genetic variants that cause these tumours could also help identify new drug treatments.

I enjoy doing my PhD project as it’s pulling together different skills I have and is challenging me to gain new ones, like coding and project management - the kind of skills I can highlight to future employers!

MRI scan showing a vestibular schwannoma tumour before and after surgery.

Going Further…

If you’re interested in genetic medicine and want to find out more there are some great FREE online courses available on FutureLearn. You can do as much or as little of these as you want, it’s a great way of getting a deeper understanding - https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/whole-genome-sequencing & https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/the-genomics-era

If you’re interested in studying genetics at university, here’s a link to the University of Manchester course page, there are other universities too! - https://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/2020/00571/bsc-genetics/

Not necessarily genetics related, but here’s a link to a BBC radio 4 podcast ‘More or less: Behind the statistics’. They cover some very interesting current news topics and scientific articles, digging deeper into the methods and numbers behind the claims. I think they’re funny and great examples of critical analysis, a skill that will come up again and again at university! - https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02nrss1/episodes/downloads

If you have a Netflix account there is a great series of mini documentaries called Explained. Episode 2 of season 1 is ‘Designer DNA’, where you get a quick overview of genetics and DNA editing. Here’s a link to the series - https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/80216752


 

From Undergraduate to PhD and everything in between!

by YPU Admin on February 7, 2020, Comments. Tags: biology, BMH, Health, medicine, Neuroscience, pharmacology, PhD, psychology, Research, and stroke

Introduction

Hi everyone! I’m Ioana, a first year PhD student in the Division of Neuroscience and Experimental Psychology, at the University of Manchester. My PhD project focuses on the therapeutic side of ischemic stroke at preclinical level. I spend a lot of time working with animal models, as they offer information highly translatable to humans.

In Depth…

I was born and raised in Romania, but I moved to Manchester to do my undergraduate degree in Pharmacology with Industrial Experience. I loved the university and the city so much, that I decided to stay. The degree offered me the chance to learn various laboratory techniques and to experience working with animals in research. However, when I started it, I had NO IDEA what I wanted to do after.

Between my first and second year, I wanted to get more experience in science as I was trying to figure out what I wanted my future career to be. It wasn’t easy to find any internships available for first years, but I emailed my CV, emphasising my willingness to learn to 46 different places that were not advertising any opportunities at that moment. I only received 6 replies, but I was lucky enough to secure 4 internships. One of those was with a research group based within the University of Manchester, where I learned several laboratory techniques that I am still using today. The other 3 were with the nearby hospital. There I had a chance to learn how to obtain ethical approvals for a cardiovascular trial, to manage patient data for a health economic analysis and to shadow a research nurse as she was administering trial treatment to patients with leukaemia. I was learning so much while working for all these places at the same time, as they accommodated a flexible schedule for me. I also did some work in the charity sector with Citywise. All these experiences gave me a broad insight into various paths my career could take.

As part of my degree, I did a placement year at Mayo Clinic in the United States, doing a neuroscience research project working with both cells and animal models. That is when I realised that I really love working in a laboratory setting, especially in Neuroscience. I liked the flexibility of thinking and applying the knowledge in experimental planning and then undertaking the study. I loved it so much that I was sure I wanted to continue with a career in neuroscience research, so I went straight from my undergraduate degree to do a PhD project. I knew it won’t be easy at all, so finding a project I liked with a very supportive group that felt like a community was really important!

So, what is my project about?

In ischemic stroke, when the blood clot is formed, a drug is used to burst the clot, trying to restore the blood flow and to limit the damage. There is increasing evidence that inflammation also plays a role in enhancing the brain damage after stroke. So, there is an anti-inflammatory drug currently in clinical trials for different types of stroke. My project aims to find the most suitable way to combine the anti-inflammatory approach with the clot busting drug in a safe and efficient manner. To do this, I need to replicate the stroke observed in humans, as closely as possible, in animal models of disease. Using these, I can observe the interaction between the two therapeutic approaches at cerebral, vascular, cellular and molecular levels. For example, I am using imaging to monitor blood flow (image attached) and running MRI scans to see the extent of brain damage.

Monitoring blood flow in a mouse brain using Laser Speckle Imaging.

The PhD experience is not all just science. I love being active and involved within the community, hence why I participate in outreach activities, teaching, learning to code, organising events as part of a doctoral society and trying to learn French. Your PhD experience can be whatever you want it to be, tailored to your preferences and interests.

Going Further…