My name is Ciaran Clarke and I am
studying a masters in Humanitarianism and Conflict Response (HCR). My
background is far removed from the history, international relations, and
sociology which forms a large part of my degree. In fact, despite studying a
postgraduate degree, I am still an undergraduate! I am studying the Masters
between my fourth and fifth year of undergraduate medicine.
This is known as intercalation and
is traditionally pursued by medics who want to study one aspect of science in
greater detail, such as physiology or pharmacology. Manchester Medical School
is particularly unique in the breadth of options available for intercalation.
However, the HCR Master’s degree stood out for me. I have always wanted to
undertake medical humanitarian work, but the multitude of issues surrounding
this field have always left me feeling uneasy. I felt that the HCR Masters
would give me an opportunity to grapple with these issues and develop a better
understanding of how medical aid can be delivered effectively.
The Masters programme has been
incredibly rewarding, particularly for someone coming from a science degree.
The complexity of humanitarian aid has been unveiled to me, going to a depth of
understanding which I never imagined reaching. This has included asking myself
questions which have never before crossed my mind, such as – is providing aid
always good? A year ago I would have likely said yes, but through studying
disciplines such as history, ethics and public health I have come to realise
that no straightforward answer exists. For instance, there are instances of aid
being used to extend conflicts, when it has fallen into the ‘wrong’ hands and
been sold on a black market and provided funds for armed forces.
One of the great things about the
Masters is the wealth of experience I have been surrounded with. It is
difficult not be inspired when you turn up on a Tuesday morning and your
lecturer starts telling you about his recent United Nations meeting or her
trips to war torn parts of northern Sri Lanka to provide medical assistance. As
a postgraduate taught (PGT) degree, for two thirds of the year my days are a
mix of lectures, seminars and private study. After handing in my essays in May,
I will then have the remainder of my degree free for my dissertation.
My dissertation gives me the
opportunity to study one aspect of humanitarianism in real depth. My current
focus is on the development of sustainable healthcare systems following
humanitarian crises. Medical aid has often been directed towards specific
diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Polio, Malaria or Tuberculosis, this is known as a
vertical approach. While this can tackle specific diseases, when the money dries
up it is unlikely that a robust healthcare system will remain. But many of the
countries that have require medical aid have limited infrastructure and trained
personnel for developing an all-encompassing or ‘horizontal’ approach. The
question remains, how do we approach healthcare development in a sustainable
manner without spreading resources so thin that they don’t have any effect? It
seems that a compromise between the two needs to be reached!
The greatest challenge for me has
been learning to adapt to a completely novel set of disciplines. Getting my
head around and then critiquing theories of learning, international relations
and in depth history articles has been a very different challenge to memorising
the signs of liver failure!
Going forward, I still hope to
undertake medical aid work in the future, but the Masters has made me realise
that I must wait until I am a relatively independent practitioner. Therefore, I
will continue on my medical training, hopefully pass my finals and then start
as a junior doctor in 2017!
For those of you who want to find
out more about the incredible staff at HCRI then click this link
Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors
Without Borders) website http://www.msf.org.uk/
An overview on the current state of
the ‘humanitarian system’ http://www.alnap.org/what-we-do/effectiveness/sohs
The full range of intercalation
options open to medical students at UoM http://www.mms.manchester.ac.uk/study/why-study-medicine-manchester/intercalation/
For an insight into some of the
problems with aid watch the film “The Trouble with Aid” (2012)
My name is Emily Williams and I’m
currently a first year Psychology PhD student at the University of Manchester
(UoM). After completing my A-Levels in 2010 (Psychology, Sociology and
Computing), I went on to study Psychology at UoM from 2011 to 2014, and the
following year I completed a Psychology Masters at UoM also. During my Masters
studies I managed to secure funding for a three year PhD which started in
October 2015. As you can tell, I’m a huge fan of Psychology, and also UoM (when
I finish my PhD I will have been here seven years!), but my main interest
specifically is the Psychology of Time Perception – how people perceive time.
As a Time Perception researcher I
believe that people have a type of ‘internal clock’ which is what gives us the
ability to sense how time passes. The speed of the internal clock can be
altered, which gives us the perception of time dragging when we’re bored, or
flying when we’re having fun. Other things have been found to speed up the
clock, including high body temperature, certain emotions, and even hearing a
series of ‘clicks’ for five seconds. Time seems to pass more quickly in these
situations, which makes us overestimate how much ‘real’ time has passed. The
first year of my PhD will focus mainly on a certain quirk of the internal clock
– people judge sounds to be longer than lights, even when they are both the exact
same duration. People are also more sensitive to duration when using their
sense of hearing, than touch and vision.
For my first experiment, my
participants will be sat in a dim room in front of a computer, with their
dominant hand holding a foam block containing a small vibration generator (like
the one in your mobile phone) and their non-dominant hand poised to type in answers
using a keypad. A green LED is attached to the foam block, and a speaker is
behind it. The vibrating plate, LED and speaker will present sounds, lights and
vibrations to participants, and in the first task they will have to estimate
how long these lasted for.
In the second task they will be
given two of these (e.g. a light and a sound, or two vibrations) and have to
answer ‘which was longer’, and on the final task ‘which came first?’.
I will then look at people’s
answers for these tasks, and check whether the classic overestimations of how
long sounds were when compared to lights are present. I will then try to see if
there is a relationship between how accurate people are in their estimations,
and how well they can answer which was longer and which came first. My guess is
that the better people are at estimating time using one sense (e.g. vision,
touch or hearing), the better they are at telling whether time in this sense
was longer than another sense, and whether this sense came first. What do you think?
Next year, I will be broadening my
scope to other things that affect the internal clock. I will also be looking at
possible applications for my research. For example, the ‘clicks’ that I
mentioned earlier have been found to not only affect how we perceive time, but
have the added bonus of increasing the amount of information we can take in,
and also speed up how quickly we can react to things! Although these are quite
short-lived bonuses, I might be able to invent a way to help people revise for exams,
or be better at video games, using a series of simple clicks.
Visit this website if
you’d like to know more about the Psychology of Time Perception, including how
it may work in the brain. It has a great section on ‘temporal illusions’
where it explains many things which change the speed of the internal clock,
making your perception of time seem faster or slower.
Take a look at this
article on Time Perception by the BBC, which features an interview with
Professor John Wearden, a notable time perception researcher, who also used to
be Head of Psychology at UoM!
This YouTube channel
shows lecturers at UoM talking about common misconceptions about Psychology,
and highlights of their research.
If you’re interested in the other
types of Psychological research going on at UoM, click here.
Finally, have a look at a previous
Young Person University blog
My name is Ed Thomas and I am a first year PhD student
studying Geomicrobiology. This involves looking at how bacteria and microbes
interact with rocks, minerals and metals in natural environments.
Geomicrobiology is relatively new scientific field but is
rapidly growing; it has strong applications in answering many of Earth Sciences
most pressing issues including: remediation of contaminated land, nuclear waste
treatment and disposal, and reducing the environmental impact of mining and
My A-levels were in Geography, Chemistry and Maths, and I’ve
always had a keen interest in all things Natural Sciences. I went on to do an
integrated masters degree in Earth Sciences at the University of Manchester
where my thesis was on the geochemistry of soft tissue fossils.
This is where I found my passion for studying the
relationships between the biosphere and geosphere and I subsequently made the
switch to studying Geomicrobiology. In September 2015 I started my PhD which looks
at understanding the bioreduction process of Cobalt with a hope of ensuring a
secure and sustainable supply of this crucial metal into the future.
Cobalt is one of only 4 elements classed as an ‘Energy Critical
Element’ by the U.S. Department of Energy, the American Physical Society's
Panel on Public Affairs and the Materials Research Society, and the European
Due to its uses in the blades and magnets of wind turbines,
in photovoltaic solar cells, and in rechargeable batteries for electric
vehicles, ensuring a continuous and sustainable supply of cobalt is crucial to
developing a ‘Green Energy Economy’ in the future.
What’s the problem?
Almost all of the cobalt mined in the world is as a
secondary product, this means that we only find ores coexisting with other
metals, usually copper or nickel.
In order to separate out and concentrate the different
metals from the ore metallurgic processes often run at high pressure or very
low pH. Then the metal compounds are reduced to obtain the pure metallic form.
These processes of acid leaching, froth floatation, and
reduction often create hazardous and toxic products which are harmful to the
environment and difficult to dispose of safely, as well as using lots of energy
Geomicrobiology the solution?
Microbes and bacteria are constantly reducing and oxidising
metals in the environment. Often these are very complex systems involving many
species of bacteria and multiple metals and redox reactions.
If we can isolate individual species of bacteria that reduce
certain metals in specific ways, then we can design reaction series to maximise
the efficiency of the metal recovery process. By recreating and scaling up
these naturally occurring reactions that have been perfected over millions of
years of evolution, we will drastically be able to reduce the environmental
impacts of the mining industry.
Additionally, there are certain unique reduction pathways
that result in specialised end products such as nanoparticles which have a
variety of uses. For instance, cobalt nanoparticles have potential uses in
hydrogen fuel cells, medical sensors and imaging, cancer treatments, and high
For updates on my specific research follow @thatedthomas and @CoG3_tweets on twitter.
Or alternatively, follow the research of the whole Geomicrobiology
group at Manchester on wordpress
Information about the CoG3 project can be found
on our project partner, the Natural
History Museum, website.
To find out more about mining and metallurgy: BBC
bitesize offers good introductory level information. Or else http://www.iom3.org/ provides more specialist
For information on cobalt nanoparticles and their potential
applications there are many open access journal articles available including: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jnt/2014/525193/cta/
And if you want to consider pursuing a career that will help
us to understand and answer some of the biggest unsolved problems facing Earth,
please consider studying Earth Sciences at university.
Hi, my name is Victoria Kinsley and
I am just starting my third year as a PhD student in Neurosciences here at the
University of Manchester. I finished my
Masters in Immunology and Immunogenetics in 2012 and started my PhD in
2013. My PhD involves studying the
nervous system in the gut and investigating a possible link between nerves and
the immune response. Hopefully this will
help us to better understand how and why diseases of the digestive system occur
and why some people are more susceptible than others.
The gut, or gastro-intestinal tract, is responsible for taking nutrients
from food, and also for making sure any bugs we inadvertently digest are
recognised by our immune system and eliminated quickly. However, we all have naturally occurring
(commensal) bacteria in there too that we need to tolerate in order to be
The gut is full of nerves, so many in fact that it is known as the
‘mini-brain’. It is controlled by these
nerves along with input from the brain; however the mini brain is capable of
working alone. Nerves are important to keep the gut moving and push through the
contents, but it appears they may have another role as well; we know that there
is a cross talk between this ‘mini-brain’ and the immune system to maintain a
healthy gut environment, but this is not yet fully understood. Some receptors and soluble factors are shared
by both nerves and immune cells and these may work together to keep the gut
healthy, but we don’t know yet how this impacts the progression of disease and
recovery from illness. Many people suffer
from diseases and disorders of the gastro-intestinal tract and some, such as
Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, have no known cure. These patients seem to have slightly
different gut nerves than those who are unaffected, and it may be that the
nervous system in the gut plays an important role in driving the disease. The gut is also affected in conditions such
as diabetes, and changes in gut commensal bacteria have been linked with autism
and depression, but further research is needed.
My research aims to look at the nerves in the gut and investigate what is
happening during and after infection to see if there is a long term impact on the
nerve ‘maps’ that may then affect the way our guts respond to future infection
or disease. During the course of
ordinary life our gastro intestinal tract works hard; we all encounter the odd
bout of gut infection. Might this change our gut nerves and then affect our
immune responses in the future? Might this be why some people get chronic gut
disease and some people don’t? If we can understand the nervous system of the
gut a little better we may get closer to being able to answer some of these
important questions, and we may be able to help people suffering from gut disease.
To find out more
about my research image, click here-
To find out more
about studying neuroscience at the University of Manchester, have a look at
Look here if you
are interested in what type of research is going on in the Faculty of Life
my name is Max and I am a PhD student at the University of Manchester School of
Law. I have been a university student for the past 6 years now and I have
really enjoyed my experience. University provides you with the opportunity of
learning new things, meeting new people, experiencing a new environment, and
finding what it is you want to do in life. For me, particularly the last
question has always been difficult: it took me a long time to realise what I
wanted to do in life, but pursuing a masters degree after my undergraduate
degree gave me an idea. I decided to do research in financial services
regulation. I will give you an idea of what this entails. It’s all about money.
services significantly affect all members of society. You all use money to pay
for different things, such as clothes, shoes, sweets, books etc. If it wasn’t
for the financial services industry, money wouldn’t be readily available in the
form that we use it today. Let me give you an example:
imagine that some of you have bank accounts in which you can place your money.
You can save money in your bank account and later withdraw it if you decide to
spend it. This is referred to as a ‘deposit’, as you deposit your money in your
bank account. Your bank can then use this money to create loans to give out to
different people. A loan is simply an agreement between a bank and an
individual or a company. The bank gives the individual a sum of money and the
individual agrees to pay the money back over a certain period of time. For the
bank to benefit from this transaction, the individual is required to pay an
additional sum of money over the time period. It is up to the individual to
decide what to do with the money they receive. They can spend it on clothes,
shoes, sweets, books, or something substantially bigger like a car or a house.
This bank, therefore, made money readily available to the individual. The money
that you deposited is also still available to you. You can withdraw it at any
time. All banks put together make up the financial services industry. They are
an important part of the money available to us. They significantly influence
how money is readily available to all members of society.
seems like a good thing doesn’t it? Sadly, however, this system comes with its
problems. Consider this: what if the individual is unable to repay their loan
within the time period agreed upon? What if the bank gives out so many loans
that there is no money left for you to withdraw when you want to? How does the
bank decide who is suitable to receive a loan? Does the bank use any other
means to finance its loans? All of these questions are addressed in financial
services regulation. Research in this area essentially tries to make the financial
services industry reliable and stable so that money is as readily available as
described above. Many of the issues get very complex. It can be very difficult
for researchers to keep up with everything that happens in the financial
services industry. This is precisely why I believe this to be an interesting
research area. New developments arise constantly that require addressing.
Different researchers come up with different ways of addressing these issues. I
have found myself able to add my own thoughts to this interesting area. It is a
very rewarding experience.
Here is a YouTube link to an interesting explanation of
banking – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqD3hnjZBTM