Hey I’m Claire, a second year PhD student here at the
University of Manchester looking at how the cardiovascular system, the heart
and blood vessels, works. With cardiovascular diseases being the leading cause
of death worldwide, contributing to over 30%, research into the heart and blood
vessels is very important.
The heart is an amazing organ. Working as a pump, the heart
beats one hundred times a day to move twenty three thousand litres of blood around
the body. This job is hugely important as the movement of blood around the body
not only delivers oxygen and nutrients but also removes waste.
So, for the heart to do a pretty good job it must
continuously pump in a regular pattern. When
the heart begins to beat strangely - too fast, too slow or in an odd rhythm-
things begin to go wrong. These abnormal heart rhythms are called arrhythmias
and are the focus of my work.
How common are arrhythmias? Very! The chances of you
knowing someone who has an odd heartbeat is highly likely. In the UK alone, one
million people experience a heart rhythm problem every year, making it one of
the top 10 reasons people go to see a doctor. Arrhythmias also play a part of
half of heart failure deaths, so understanding how they develop is crucial to
tackle the major heart disease problem.
What causes abnormal heart rhythms? Arrhythmias are
really complex and can be affected by many things including diseases, your
lifestyle choices but also your genetic makeup. Your genes are the codes which
decide your unique characteristics, acting as a sort of blueprint or set of
instructions. Now your genes not only decide how you look, but they also
influence your chances of developing certain diseases, including arrhythmias.
So my research aims
to identify certain genes or codes which make your heartbeat irregular, hoping
to uncover why some people are more likely to get odd heart rhythms.
How do I look into a role of a gene in the heart’s
natural rhythm? I mess around with the genetic blueprint of heart cells in
both human and animal cells.
Animal models can be controversial to use, but are hugely
important in science research. They allow me to look at the bodily effect of
gene by removing a gene from the heart of a mouse- something which I defiantly
couldn’t do in a human!! Comparing normal mice with those who have a certain
gene missing from there heart, I see how that specific genetic instruction affects
how the heart pumps blood. Therefore, I can see if having or not having a
single gene can make you more or less likely to get an abnormal heart rhythm!
Can this help fight cardiovascular disease? By knowing how our genetic makeup affects our
chances of getting heart diseases, can help us not only identify the people who
are most at risk but may also help in developing new drugs and treatment for abnormal heart
rhythms and even heart failure!
Why I do it? While I may not have always loved
science at school, I have always been fascinated by the world around us, especially
how our amazingly intricate bodies work and what happens when things go wrong
in diseases. As mentioned, cardiovascular disease is a major health problem.
Being able to be part of the fight against it is truly rewarding and
Like a lot of scientists, the main thing that attracted me
the world of science research is the excitement of the unknown, knowing that no
one has ever done what I am doing is an amazing feeling!
I hope you are now fascinated by the world of science
research and the cardiovascular system! Here are some ways to further delve
into the area I am studying -
My work is kindly funded by the British Heart Foundation,
and there website is great for learning more about the different conditions and
what research they do.
Here you can find out lots of basic facts about
This section explains more about abnormal heart
And here is a link to information about some of
the other research they support: http://www.bhf.org.uk/research/our-heart-research/our-researchers.aspx
I am part of the Institute of Cardiovascular Science at
Manchester. Here is the link to their page when you can find out more about the
research going on and how you can get involved through further study: http://www.cardiovascular.manchester.ac.uk/
Hi, my name is Sarah and I graduated last summer from the
University of Manchester with a 2:1 in French and Italian. I chose French because
it was a subject I’d enjoyed at school and Italian because I wanted to try
something new. Throughout my degree, my knowledge and passion for languages
grew exponentially but I also had the opportunity to develop many key
transferrable skills that would put me at an advantage in the job market. For the past year, I’ve been undertaking a
paid internship at the University, which has given me even more opportunities
to develop my skill set, and I’ve now secured a permanent position at the
What is MGIP?
The Manchester Graduate Internship Programme offers Paid
Internships working at the University and in other businesses across Manchester.
They are only open to Manchester Graduates so there is a smaller pool of
applicants to compete with than most other internships and graduate schemes.
They vary in length from 4 to 12 months and have different start dates between June
I applied for an Internship in the Student Recruitment and
Widening Participation (SRWP) Team as I had previously worked as a Student
Ambassador and I wanted to work on similar events as a member of staff. The SRWP Team take on 5 Graduate Interns each academic
year to support with their delivery of events to promote the University and
provide accurate information, advice and guidance to prospective students.
My internship involves supporting the pre-16 team, in
particular, the University’s Gateways and Primary Awareness programmes, who
work with targeted groups of young learners across Greater Manchester to raise
aspirations and promote Higher Education. The ethos of the department, that
Higher Education should be accessible to all regardless of social or economic
background, is something that I am really passionate about and one of the main
reasons why I have enjoyed my time here so much.
Throughout the year, I have hugely developed my pre-existing
skills, such as Communication, Organisation, Working as part of a Team and
Time-Management but I have also gained many new skills, such as Data Analysis,
Report Writing, Event Planning, Leadership and Staff Supervision. I have has
the opportunity to take part in Higher Education events all across the UK and
make a real contribution to the development of systems and programmes within
the team. …And all of this whilst being paid!!
I’m really glad that I chose to do an MGIP, especially as I’ve
now used the skills I developed to secure a permanent position in the
International Programmes Office at the University, and I would recommend it to
any graduates who maybe aren’t quite sure which direction they want their
career to take and want to gain new skills and experience.
To find out more about the scheme you can visit the website:
where you can read stories from other Graduate Interns as well so you don’t
have to take my word for it!
Or if you need further convincing, watch this video:
My name is Tom and I am embarking on
a PhD in History at the University of Manchester this autumn. I studied for my
BA in History at Manchester and I’m currently finishing my masters in Gender
History at the University of Glasgow. In between these courses I spent a year
working as an English Language Assistant in two secondary schools in Lille,
France. During my undergraduate studies I developed a passion for early modern
beliefs about the supernatural and I wrote a dissertation on sixteenth-century
French demonological treatises (you could call these witch-hunting manuals!). My
research has now taken me to the phenomenon of demonic possession in sixteenth
and seventeenth-century France and England, particularly on how possession narratives
contributed to the cultural construction of the body.
Demonic Possession may seem strange
to us now, something you expect to see in a horror film, but during the early
it was an extremely important phenomenon. There were perhaps thousands of cases
of possession and exorcism across continental Europe, including France, during
the early modern period (c. 1500-1800).Young
boys and girls, often teenagers or young adults, were recorded as having seizures,
possessing unnatural strength, speaking in ‘foreign tongues’, levitating and
spitting out objects like pins and nails. There are many cases in France where
entire convents of nuns were said to be possessed by the devil. During the
Reformation and Counter-Reformation, when Western Christianity split and
Protestant churches emerged, demonic possession and exorcism acted as a vehicle
of religious propaganda, a way of showing which religious denomination God
However it was also an important
phenomenon for everyday people. Men and women flocked to see public exorcisms
in France and there was a booming book trade which centred on stories of
demoniacs (a possessed person) which would rival the best Stephen King novel.
In this way demonic possession can be viewed as a type of performance, even a
form of mass-entertainment. This is where my research centres. I’m interested
in why demonic possession was such an important phenomenon in this period but
also how it affected other areas of people’s lives. I look at the use of the
body within the performance of demonic possession and how it was written about
and understood. I use a wealth of documentation left behind, from the trials of
witches accused of causing possession, personal and witness testimonies of
possessions and exorcisms and the wealth of printed books which distributed
these narratives to a mass audience. In doing so I hope to shed light on how
beliefs surrounding the supernatural were connected to early modern cultural
ideas about the body and the life-cycle.
I developed my interest for this
area of history in my final year of undergraduate studies during a module on
Witch-Hunting in Early Modern Europe and I was supported by my supervisors in
developing this project. Having French language skills made this a viable PhD project
and so if I could give one word of advice it would be to learn a language! Not
only do languages give you a competitive edge in academia or on the job market
but they’re actually pretty fun and (cliché alert) really do take you places.
It was fantastic having the opportunity to live in France and practice my
French for a year. I gained life-long friends and memories plus I’ve picked up
practical skills in the process. It’s never too late to learn either! I started
learning Latin this year and in fact your first year at university is the
perfect time to experiment. Manchester’s University Language Centre lets you
take a language as part of any degree programme. You may not have clicked with
French, German or Spanish at school but have you ever thought about Portuguese,
Polish, Chinese or even Arabic? Try it and who knows where you’ll end up!
There really is a wealth of on-line
resources out there on early modern Europe and the Supernatural. Also, in 2016
there will be an exhibition, “Magic and the Expanding Early Modern World”, at
John Rylands Library on Deansgate!
15-Minute History: “Demonic
Possession” in Early Modern Europe (Podcast) (http://15minutehistory.org/2013/10/23/demonic-possession-in-early-modern-europe/)
The Survey of Scottish Witchcraft (http://www.shca.ed.ac.uk/Research/witches/)
The Damned Art: The History of Witchcraft
and Demonology (Internet Exhibition) (http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/specialcollections/virtualexhibitions/damnedart/)
The Many-Headed Monster (Blog) (https://manyheadedmonster.wordpress.com/)
The Pendle Witch Trial (Documentary)
A helpful website on European
Women and the Early Modern Witch
Hunts (Blog Post) (http://www.jesswatson.co.uk/post/78990856670/women-and-the-early-modern-witch-hunts)
My name is Nick and I am a first year PhD student at the
Manchester Institute of Biotechnology. At school I studied physics, maths and
computing at A-level and then went on to study physics at the University of
Manchester (BSc and MSc). My PhD research involves trying to find out how the
structure of redox enzymes affects their redox potential. The redox potential
is an important factor that needs to be considered in the design of biofuel
cells. Biofuel cells use enzymes to help produce electricity from hydrogen and
oxygen, with water as a waste product.
The redox potential (E0) tells you how likely a
chemical species will accept an electron. When a chemical species accepts and
electron, we say it has been reduced. The more positive the redox potential, the
more likely it is that a chemical species will accept an electron and be
reduced. The below reaction has a positive redox potential, so a copper ion
will tend to accept an electron to become a copper atom.
Cu+ + e- ↔
A chemical species may have a negative redox potential. This
means it is more likely to lose an electron. When a chemical species loses an
electron we say is has been oxidised. The more negative the redox potential,
the more likely it is that a chemical species will lose an electron and be
oxidised. The below reaction has a negative redox potential, so a sodium atom will
tend to lose an electron to become a sodium ion.
Na+ + e- ↔
Na (E0 = -2.71V)
Enzymes are a type of biological molecule which catalyse
(increase the rate of) the chemical reactions that sustain life. Redox enzymes contain
a metal ion which can either be reduced or oxidised. They help control the rate
of many different reactions which involve the transfer of electrons. The
structure of the enzyme around the metal ion influences the redox potential of
the metal ion. Below is an image of an enzyme called Azurin, which has a Cu2+
ion in its active site. The way in
which the Azurin is bound to the copper ion affects how easily it can accept an
You might be familiar with the idea that electricity is the
flow of charge particles. For example, electrons flow in the wires that make up
the electrical devices we use. Electricity can be made in many different ways,
some more environmentally friendly than others. Biofuel cells utilise enzymes
to help make electricity using hydrogen and oxygen and producing water as the
only waste product. The redox enzymes help transfer the electrons through the
cell which generates electricity. One enzyme takes electrons from hydrogen and
passes them through the cell. The other enzyme collects the electrons and then uses
them to make water.
My research involves working out how the structure of the
enzymes changes their redox potential. The idea is to produce a computer
program that will be able to adapt the structure of an enzyme so its redox
potential is perfectly tuned for use in biofuel cells. I also plan to make the
enzymes and experimentally measure their redox potentials, to prove the
computer program works.
of Biotechnology: http://www.mib.ac.uk/
What are enzymes? http://www.chem4kids.com/files/bio_enzymes.html
What are redox
Fuel cells: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_cell
Biofuel cells: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enzymatic_biofuel_cell
Could biofuel cells
be developed for use in our bodies? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-15305579
My name is Lloyd and I am in the third year of my PhD
studying Theoretical Nuclear Physics. I am attempting to provide a better
theory to describe the phenomenon of neutral pion (a relatively light,
short-lived particle that is found in nuclear and particle reactions)
production from a photon (light) incident on a proton (a nuclear particle that
is found in the nucleus of every atom).
Before starting my research I studied theoretical physics at the
University of Manchester.
Strong Nuclear forces remain to be one of the least understood processes in
nature. Yet it is the source of immense energy that can power our cities, from
harnessing the emitted radiation in power-plants; or level countries by
concentrating radioactive materials in a bomb. The manner in which the
fundamental matter particles (or quarks) exchange the strong force carrying
particle (or the gluon boson) is far more complex than any of the other forces
(weak nuclear, electromagnetic or gravity). Unlike the other forces, gluons
themselves can carry a strong nuclear charge, known as colour charge; this
allows them to interact with themselves in-between quark interactions, allowing
for infinite scenarios to describe the simplest of processes.
The study of the strong nuclear force is known as quantum chromodynamics (QCD),
this theory helped scientists understand important properties of particle
physics, mainly why we only see composite quark states in nature. In other
words why you will never find a sole quark by itself, instead you will see it
in bound states (hadrons) which form protons and neutrons (baryons) and lighter
states such as pions (mesons). But trying to make any practical calculations
with QCD is very difficult, so difficult in fact that if anyone were to solve
the QCD equation into a usable form then they would win 1 million dollars from
the Clay Mathematics Institute!
I do away with these complexities of QCD by only working in energy regimes
where the protons and other hadrons won't break down into their constituent
quarks. So we can describe proton or neutron scattering through pion exchange
instead of using gluons. Furthermore, I take advantage of some symmetries
present in QCD, related to the quark masses, to simplify aspects of the
calculations. This is a very vague picture of the theory I work in called
Chiral Perturbation Theory (ChPT).
My work has been motivated by a recent experiment in Germany at the Mainz
Microtron by the A2 and CB-TAPS collaborations where they have obtained the
most accurate data to date on this interaction. I am in the process of taking
theories that have already been made to describe parts of this process and
sticking them together to get a more complete picture of the reaction. The most
important part I have included is an intermediate resonance state prior to pion
This research isn't going to be part of the new fastest
computer in 20 years time, nor is it going to cure diseases. But it will give
us an insight in to what happens in nature at the sub-atomic level. Then maybe
who knows what this might lead to in the future, 100 years from now it is
impossible to predict how important this process will be in understanding
nuclear fusion both in power plants or in stars. When Paul Dirac, one of the
pioneers of quantum mechanics, predicted the existence of massless Dirac
fermions in the 1920s he had no idea that a century later people would be
trying to use these states within graphene to dramatically improve technology.
To follow exactly what it is I do I am afraid you will need
a degree in theoretical physics, which you can start looking into at the
University of Manchester. (http://www.physics.manchester.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/undergraduate-courses/physics-with-theoretical-physics-mphys/)
The European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) have lots of information
available on particle and nuclear physics (http://home.web.cern.ch/students-educators)
The Jefferson Lab in the USA also has useful information for
students and teachers (https://www.jlab.org/education-students)
MAMI, the experimental group that analyse this interaction (http://www.kph.uni-mainz.de/eng/108.php)