Hi everyone! I’m Jess and I’m a PhD researcher at the Division of
Neuroscience and Experimental Psychology at the University of Manchester. I’m
in my second year of a 4-year biosocial PhD programme – a programme that
specialises in research in both biological and social sciences. My research
specifically looks at how social support affects mental health, whilst taking
into account different factors. Those factors include the structure and
function of the brain, wealth and education, and personality type.
I have always been interested in why people act, think and feel the way
they do, which is why I decided to study Psychology at university. We learned
about different areas of psychology, such as developmental, social and
cognitive psychology, but I had a strong interest in clinical and biological
psychology – mental health and the brain. Like many people who studied
psychology, at first I considered becoming a clinical psychologist, so I worked
for a mental health service provider for a couple of years after my degree.
However, I realised that my passion lies in research, so I went on to complete
my Master’s degree in Edinburgh and then (after a short detour of work and
travel in Japan) on to start my PhD in Manchester. I wanted to pursue a PhD in
order to become an expert in a research topic and to contribute to the body of
knowledge that has the potential to impact the lives of many people. This is
important in the field of mental health, as the majority of people in their
lifetime will struggle with their mental health, and we need to understand the
biological and social mechanisms behind this and the best way to help.
A bird's eye view of different sections of the brain from top to bottom from an MRI scan.
Currently, my day-to-day life is very varied. For my research, I am
conducting a systematic literature review, which involves trying to find all
the research there is on a particular topic and combining it all together.
Alongside this, I teach on the undergraduate Psychology course, deliver
workshops to schools and write my own blog about psychology and neuroscience
research. This is one of the parts I like most about doing a PhD; you have the
opportunity to get involved with different areas and build skills and
confidence outside of your niche research topic. After my PhD, I want to
continue to work in research, but I am also attracted to the idea of working in
policy and science communication. I want my work to have meaningful and
far-reaching consequences, which could be achieved by any of these career
paths. Luckily I have some time to think about it before I finish my PhD!
If you want to find out more about different aspects of psychology, check
out the links below:
Interested in studying Psychology? Here is the
website for Psychology at the University of Manchester, which gives more
information about the course and the requirements: https://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/2020/00653/bsc-psychology/
what you can do with a Psychology degree? The British Psychology Society (BPS)
has some careers information here: https://careers.bps.org.uk/
Keen to learn more about psychology and
neuroscience research? Check out my very own blog: https://brainsinaspace.home.blog/
or my own academic Twitter:https://twitter.com/JStepanous
learn more about your mental health? This website has videos and articles on
different topics: https://teenmentalhealth.org/learn/
about what the different parts of the brain are? You can download this free,
interactive app for your phone: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/3d-brain/id331399332
Hi there, my name is Leonie
Brinkmann. I am a German pharmacist and started my PhD at the University of
Manchester about two years ago. I work in the field of health economics. Health
economics is a branch of economics that tries to evaluate health care services
or new medications from an economic perspective without neglecting the value of
health. This combines a medical background knowledge, data analysis and
statistics. I myself, for example, focus on patient safety. Using big data sets of electronic health
records I try to identify specific patients with medication errors to see how
many of the medication errors lead to harm for the patient.
I am a pharmacist by background and
did my undergraduate at the University of Heidelberg. Pharmacy is a great
subject that combines biology, chemistry, physiology and pharmacology. I was
always interested in medicines and diseases, but I cannot see blood. So
studying medicine was off the table, but pharmacy happened to be the prefect
I enjoyed my
undergraduate a lot, but it included long hours in the laboratory. Lab work was
never something I enjoyed. I found it rather boring… But luckily as pharmacist
you have loads of other opportunities in community pharmacies, industry,
hospital or research.
I was very lucky to get a job as
clinical pharmacist in a hospital. My main objective was to increase patient
safety on the wards. I had a great time going from ward to ward, identifying
patients with medication errors, and telling the doctors or nurses off that
made the error. It always felt a bit
like being the safety police of the hospital.
But at some point I felt like I
wanted to study again, I wanted to learn something new and be challenged a bit
more. That’s when I decided to do a PhD. I found a great project that took the
work I was doing in the hospital on a small scale to another level. Before I
was looking through the patient’s health records by hand, now I am evaluating a
computer programme that automatically screens all electronic health records of
a patient and identifies medication errors. The pharmacists does not need to
screen each patient, but can focus on how to communicate medication errors to
the responsible doctor.
The burden of
medication errors is estimated to be about £89.1 million per year for the NHS.
This highlights how important it is for the NHS to invest in programmes that
aim to reduce medication errors. But
unfortunately, the NHS does not have endless money to fund great ideas like
this. That’s where health economics becomes interesting, because we can show
the value of money of the new computer programme. To do so I am using
electronic health records from GP-practices and hospitals to investigate the
relationship between medication errors, patient harm and costs. Quantifying the
burden of medication errors enables us to estimate the true value for money of
the computer programme. Results on the value for money of such programmes aims
to aid decision making by policy makers on
whether to fund such programmes or not.
So if you like numbers, you are not
scared of statistics and you want to make the NHS a bit safer, this is the
perfect opportunity for you!
Learn more about Pharmacy https://www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/study/pharmacy/
Little introduction video to understand what health
economics is about (only 3 minutes) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUay9DV__G0
Learn more about what we do as health economists in our
What are electronic health records that I use in my PhD
Why are health records important for research? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNbe3-d3KdQ
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
Hello! I'm Geraldine
(Gerry) Scullin and I'm a medical student currently taking a year out to study
a Masters in Medical Virology, the study of viruses. These are the germs
responsible for giving you everything from the common cold to other
embarrassing illnesses that we don’t like to talk about. The treatment of
viruses is actually really difficult, so as a medic I'm interested in what is
being done to find out new ways to treat and diagnose them and how I can help.
On a typical day in my Masters I have lectures for a few hours each day and then
labs in the afternoon. In labs we get to diagnose infections by growing viruses
in cells and using molecular techniques. It can be quite difficult at times,
because we're dealing with things that are too small for the human eye to see!
How I got here
During high school I actually
wanted to be a lawyer, and then a vet. It was only when I was choosing my A
Levels that I actually changed my mind and applied for medicine. To me it made
sense because I enjoyed science and also had experience of seeing how hospital
staff work together as my dad was in hospital when I was much younger. The two
things clicked together and I haven't looked back since!
What I enjoy most
about medicine is the diversity of the degree. There really is something for
everyone. You can go into research, teach, do incredibly intricate surgeries or
try to unravel the complexities of the human mind.
It's also great if you want to
travel. Humans are the same no matter where you go, but their circumstances and
diseases will change. This is the interesting thing about infectious diseases,
and viruses in particular. There are some weird and wonderful infections out
there to study, and there are also lots of ways you can help people in the
developing world. That was the case in the Ebola epidemic (the strange
knotty-looking thing in the picture), where doctors, scientists and other
healthcare professionals worked to dramatically reduce the transmission of this
terrible disease. As both a medic and a scientist, I feel very privileged that
I am able to learn about not only the clinical symptoms
of diseases, but actually how they
www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk - this is the website for the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health,
including both Medicine and Medical Virology. You can search for different
degrees that you're interested in and read up on the grades and experience
needed before you apply.
www.youtube.com is a great tool for explaining concepts that are difficult to understand. I'm a
visual learner and so it really helps to actually SEE how things work.
If you want some basic information about
conditions or diseases, www.patient.co.uk
is a great website to start with. However, I'd be wary of googling all your
symptoms as it can cause unnecessary panic (trust me, I know!)
If you're struggling with ideas about what you
want to do later in life, http://joboutlook.gov.au/careerquiz.aspx is one of many websites that may be able to help you choose.
is great for looking at how disease outbreaks differ throughout the world and
can keep you up to date with new developments.
name is Helene Gleitz and I am a 2nd year PhD student in Medicine.
After getting my international baccalaureate in Switzerland, I studied
Biomedical Materials Science in Manchester and graduated in 2013. I then
applied for a research master’s degree (MRes) in Tissue Engineering for Regenerative
Medicine, where I spent 8 months working in a gene therapy lab. In fact, I
enjoyed my master’s project so much that I applied for a PhD in the same lab to
study gene therapy.
PhD investigates a rare paediatric genetic disease called mucopolysaccharidosis
type II, or Hunter syndrome, that occurs almost exclusively in males. I am
looking to develop a gene therapy through the use of haematopoietic stem cells,
which are cells involved in the immune and blood systems.
syndrome is caused by mutations in the IDS gene present on the X-chromosome and
different mutations affect the severity of the disease. Mutations in the IDS
gene affect the IDS enzyme, which is involved in the degradation of complex
sugars called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). When degradation and recycling of
large molecules are altered, complex sugars accumulate in every organ in the
body and things start to go haywire.
In the most severe form, young children show
signs of neurodegeneration, behavioural problems and cardiorespiratory complications
amongst many other symptoms. Lifespan is also significantly reduced, with most
patients dying in teenage years. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for
the severe form and replacing the missing enzyme (known as enzyme replacement
therapy) has no impact on the brain.
goal of my PhD is to design a therapy that will replace the missing enzyme
through a single procedure and provide a long-term cure for the brain. We
currently do this by modifying the patient’s own haematopoietic stem cells, which
are the cells that differentiate into your blood and immune systems. Haematopoietic
stem cells are extracted from the patient’s bone marrow, modified in the lab
and re-infused into the patients. This process is known as a bone marrow
the first year of my PhD, I developed a lentiviral vector, which is a therapeutic
virus derived from HIV-1, to carry the correct ‘version’ of the IDS gene. The
lentivirus can be added to the haematopoietic stem cells in the lab, where the
virus integrates into the genome and delivers the correct gene. This method allows
haematopoietic stem cells to produce the right enzyme.
correcting the cells and infusing them back into patients, we expect blood
cells to be able to reduce the amount of complex sugar molecules that are
stored throughout the body. Most importantly, we know that certain blood cells
called monocytes can cross into the brain and have an impact there.
The rest of my PhD will
involve evaluating this therapy in the mouse model of severe Hunter, where I
analyse enzyme levels in the brain, sugar accumulation, neurodegeneration and
behaviour 6 months after the transplant. Ultimately, we are hoping to put this
through to clinical trials and get the therapy to Hunter patients as quickly as
If you’d like to know more
about our research lab and the work that we do, visit our page: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/research/brian.bigger/research
If you are keen to know more
about gene therapy in general, visit: http://www.bsgct.org/
For updates on MPS disorders
in the UK, please visit: http://www.mpssociety.org.uk/en/