Undergraduate Research

by YPU Admin on September 26, 2013, Comments. Tags: Research and undergraduate

Our new ‘Undergraduate Research’ section will provide an insight into research conducted at an undergraduate level and feature case studies of undergraduate researchers at the University of Manchester.


Hi, my name is Samantha Levitt and I have just graduated from The University of Manchester with an undergraduate degree in English Language, Literacy and Communication. During my time at the University of Manchester, I undertook 2 separate pieces of research; one in the second year of my course and one in my third and final year. My second year piece was based on child language acquisition but in my third year I decided I wanted to research something completely different.

My research

At the time of choosing my third year research question for my 12,000 word dissertation, I was working part-time at The University of Manchester in their Recruitment and Widening Participation department. The role of the department is to implement activities which encourage students from disadvantaged backgrounds which are under-represented in Higher Education to raise their aspirations and consider Higher Education. I was specifically working with a programme called the Manchester Access Programme (MAP) which supports college students in the Greater Manchester area applying for university – I was a participant of the programme myself. My interest in this area of work led me to consider the possibility of using this subject area and the programme as the basis of my research.

Once I had the name of my Research Supervisor, I met with her to discuss whether my research was possible and if so, how I would do it. She agreed with me that she felt this was a good line of enquiry, although believed that I needed to refine my research in order to ensure that I was going to be able to fit all of my research into 12,000 words. With the help of my tutor, I decided I would use MAP as a case study for investigating how effective Widening Participation programmes are in supporting the students involved.


Once I had my idea, I needed to decide how I would collect my data. I had the choice of either collecting quantitative (numbers and figures) or qualitative (opinions) data. After much consideration, I decided upon qualitative data as I wanted to gain evidence on how the students felt about the programme. Also, my insight into the programme taught me that there was a large amount of quantitative gained by the team but there was only a small amount of qualitative data so it would be more useful to the programme to gain some qualitative data for them to reflect upon.

Once I had decided which type of data I wanted to use, I had to think about which research method I would use. After much reading and discussions with my Supervisor, I decided that interviews and focus groups would allow me to expand on ideas the participants have and would allow me to have a select few participants who provided a large amount of information.

Possibly the biggest challenge of my dissertation was actually being able to fit all the information I had gathered into 12,000 words as I had collected a large amount of data, read extensively about the subject area and had a lot of opinions regarding  how I collected my data and came to various conclusions. However, the large amount of information meant that my research was successful in establishing a variety of conclusions. The conclusions of my research indicated that MAP was highly successful in supporting their students in a variety of ways such as the scholarships the students receive, the advice they get from the programme and the experiences they have such as, being able to write an academic assignment with the help of an Academic Tutor from the University. However, my research also highlighted some improvements that the programme could make.

Current job

Shortly after handing in my dissertation, I applied to for the position of an Undergraduate Recruitment and Widening Participation Intern (MAP Programme) and was successful. Therefore, my dissertation not only gave me great skills such as research, independent work and academic writing but it also allowed me a great insight into a profession and helped me to decided that this was definitely the career for me. Also, the knowledge I gained from completing this research gave me a great head start when I started my job.

Going further...

More information about the Language, Literacy & Communication course at the University of Manchester, click here.

Further details about the Manchester Access Programme can be found here.

The Guardian recently ran a feature about how to plan and write a dissertation.

Look at the British Council of Undergraduate Research which recognises the research taken by undergraduate students. It also gives you the opportunity to browse journals and articles written by undergraduate students.


Science and Technology Exhibition for Sixth Form Students

by YPU Admin on September 26, 2013, Comments. Tags: Engineering, science, and technology

Are you interested in Science, Technology and Engineering?

Would you like to meet representatives from some of the biggest companies in the UK?

Then come along to The University of Manchester on Wednesday 23rd October and find out more!

During the event, you will get the opportunity to visit information stands from companies within the technology, engineering, manufacturing, healthcare, construction, transport and media sectors.

Companies such as Samsung, JVC, BBC Academy, Network Rail, the NHS, 2Dtech and many more will be at the exhibition.

You will also have the opportunity to hear from a range of speakers on subjects such as ‘Choosing What and Where to Study’, ‘Student Life’ and ‘So you think you know the Sciences?’  Current students and staff from academic schools will be available throughout the event to answer any questions you have about university.

Time: 3pm-6pm

Location: The Great Hall, Sackville Street Building, The North Campus, The University of Manchester

Please register completing a registration survey. If you have any questions, please email  The registration deadline is Friday 11th October at 5pm.

We look forward to seeing you at the event!



Welcome back!

by YPU Admin on September 16, 2013, Comments. Tags: Research and study

It’s been a quiet summer on the blog, but there’s plenty to look forward to in the coming months – research case studies, subject spotlights, career insights, as well as our brand new themed blogs! 

As the academic year kicks off, the University of Manchester has begun welcoming new and returning students, bringing back the campus buzz. With new starts (and in some cases, new sun tans), we’d thought we’d use the first post of the academic year to highlight upcoming events, activities and initiatives at the University of Manchester…

STAR Lecture Series

Filmed and recorded at the University, the lectures cover a variety of subject areas and are delivered by members of our highly acclaimed academic staff. Lecture topics are all based on the national curriculum and exam syllabuses and give an insight into related research, taking the theory off the page and into practice!  It’s a fantastic opportunity to enhance current knowledge as well as learn more about university study.

Some of the upcoming lectures include:

·  The Quantum Universe – presented by Professor Jeff Forshaw, October 16th, 2013

·  The  US Civil Rights Movement – presented by Professor Louis Kushnick OBE, November 14th, 2013

·  The First World War: Imagining a United Nation – presented by Dr. Chris Godden, January 8th, 2014

More information about the STAR lectures can be found here.

SUPI (The School-University Partnerships Initiative)

Ever wondered what researchers do and what they research? Here’s a chance to find out! The University of Manchester will be organising a range of interactive activities and events to give students a first-hand experience of how cutting-edge research is done. Some of the university’s new researchers will be on hand to answer questions and demonstrate what they do.

For more information about the initiative, please look here.

Upcoming University Events

Finally, the University of Manchester holds a range of events throughout the year, which range from academic lecture, to social events. A comprehensive list of upcoming events can be found here.

From the brain, to the Bible, to badgers, to Beckham -  a busy year ahead and plenty of research activity to delve into! Be sure to keep checking the blog regularly for updates, articles and events.

Going further...

Check out the University of Manchester's YouTube Channel for feature which vary from student profiles to latest research news.

For blog entries written by our current students, click here.

Follow the University of Manchester admissions team on Twitter and like the Facebook page.


Museum on the brain?

by YPU Admin on September 2, 2013, Comments. Tags: and study, careers, Life Sciences, Neuroscience, pathways, and Research

The new Thinking Careers section will explore non-academic career options pursued by PhD students. The first case study will be on Emily Robinson, who completed an undergraduate degree and a PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Manchester. Emily now works as a Secondary and Post-16 Co-ordinator for the Sciences at the Manchester Museum.


When I was in sixth form, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I liked both biology and geography, but wasn't sure if I wanted to spend years of my life studying either. Then one day, in a very small section of books termed 'Careers Library' in the corner of our study room, I found a book about Neuroscience – the study of the brain and the nervous system. With every page I turned, I realised that I had found what I wanted to study. My mum was shocked that evening when I announced over my spaghetti bolognese, “I'm applying for Neuroscience”. Her first reaction was to ask, “What is Neuroscience?” But as she heard me enthuse about this intriguing subject and how interesting studying the brain would be, she realised that she was going to have to trust me.

Current job

Flash forward ten years and I am now working at Manchester Museum coordinating their secondary and post-16 science programme. Therefore, I get to share my passion for science by creating engaging science workshops using Manchester Museum's stunning collection. But how did I get from Neuroscience to museum? Well, I did end up studying Neuroscience for my degree at the University of Manchester and I liked it so much I stayed and did a four year research PhD in Neuroscience.

My research

The focus of my PhD research was on trying to block the immune system's damaging reaction to brain injury. It might seem odd to try to stop our immune system – which normally protects us from dangerous injections. However, when a brain injury occurs, such as a stroke, our immune system can overreact and as the brain is such a sensitive organ, it can easily be inadvertently damaged, making the situation worse. The research group I was working with are currently trialling an anti-inflammatory treatment which will hopefully reduce the potential damage caused by a stroke if it is given within a few hours of it occurring. Alongside my lab work, I also enjoyed communicating the research to the public. Therefore, I was involved in creating a lot of family and school activities to try and get people interested in Neuroscience and to highlight the important research we were doing. So my current job is an extension of that in the wider context of science; as I get to simplify complex scientific concepts and get to show students the real life application and importance of the science you are taught in school.


Although my current job does not directly use my Neuroscience knowledge, my PhD has been invaluable and helped me to get my current job. Conducting research, no matter what subject, develops your analytical skills as well as your specific subject knowledge. So whether I mean to or not, I now think like a scientist! Along the way you also gain many useful transferable skills such as communication and project management skills. Don’t get me wrong, doing a PhD isn’t all rosy; there were tough times when things got me down and I had a few wobbles with my confidence – but the challenge was all definitely worth it. I loved being part of a large laboratory group, seeing how everyone’s separate research linked together in the hope of making a big difference to people’s lives in the future. On top of that, I have made some lifelong friends along the way. Looking back, I can't say that I had the last ten years mapped out since sixth form. I could never have guessed I would end up becoming a doctor and working in a museum. But I’m always glad I chose to study a subject that I found so interesting.

Going further...

To find out about studying Neuroscience at the University of Manchester, go to the Faculty of Life Science's webpage and the Neuroscience Research Institute.

The book which inspired my interest in Neuroscience.

For up-to-date news about Neuroscience, go to Neuroscience News.

The Guardian has excellent articles about Neuroscience.

For more ideas about what you can do with a Neuroscience degree, visit the British Neuroscience Association’s website.

To find about more about non-academic career options for PhD students, visit the Prospects website.


Minefields of Engineering

by YPU Admin on August 20, 2013, Comments. Tags: Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Engineering, minefields, and science


My name is Omar, and I am second year PhD student in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE). I’ve always had an interest in engineering but after finishing my A-Levels back in 2006, I was really struggling to choose one discipline of engineering to pursue. I’ve always enjoyed physics and mathematics which is utilised by all disciplines of engineering in different ways. After lengthy deliberation and discussions I decided to go for electrical and electronic engineering. The fact that EEE is involved in everything we do in modern life was fascinating, not to mention the fast paced development it has been displaying in the last 10 years producing some of the most exciting developments in the last decade or even century.

In Depth

I joined the University of Manchester as an undergraduate and completed a Masters in Engineering (MEng) degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. During my final (fourth) year I was lucky enough to find myself working on an exciting project that was trying to help a charity, Find A Better Way (FABW), develop better tools for detecting landmines in countries affected by wars and previous conflicts. I was then offered a PhD studentship to continue my research upon graduation.

My research

There are currently 110 million active landmines in place that would require around £20 billion and, more importantly, 1,000 years to clear using current clearance technologies. These mines are scattered across more than 65 countries and have been left behind as an enduring legacy of previous conflicts and wars. They continue to kill and maim civilians (particularly children) worldwide, thus the charity was launched with the focus of funding research to develop innovative ideas and technologies to aid the de-mining procedure. 

From left to right: a Candian mine, bullet shell, and a screw

Current demining procedures typically utilise mainly metal detectors to locate mines by interrogating the metal content within a mine. This method displays an imperative weakness as every metallic object needs to be treated as a mine, whether it is a nail, bullet shell, a can or in fact a mine (the picture to the right shows the relative size of a mine, compared to a bullet shell and a screw). In areas of previous conflict this metallic clutter decreases the rate of clearance severely as well as increasing the cost of clearance and risk. Hence, a number of projects have been launched at the University to try and provide the de-miners with more information about the objects detected in an effort to confidently eliminate clutter, speeding up the process and saving cost and lives.

Future Plans

Throughout my study at university I have gained vast knowledge and developed vital skills that will hopefully help me when looking for a job. During my undergraduate and research  degrees I was able to learn about the world of EEE, opening the opportunity to pursue a career in some of the most exciting firms that are involved in technological developments around the world, from Apple to Jaguar to Airbus. Engineering naturally helps to develop an analytical mindset and heightens your attention to detail: values that are sought out by employers in every sector. I have also developed my team working skills, as well as problem solving abilities, through the numerous projects I undertook during my undergraduate degree. So, hopefully, with these recent additions to my skill set, I am looking to pursue a career in consultancy and engineering. The fast paced nature of consultancy and the broad exposure you get for the sector is an attractive aspect; however, a departure from the engineering world still seems like an upsetting prospect so I will also be looking for opportunities within it.  In a way, that is the beauty of engineering; the fact that you can always pursue it as a career path but, if you feel like moving to something different, all other industries are keen to employ you as a result of the unique set of skills it nurtures.

Going Further...

For more information about EEE at the University of Manchester, visit the department's webpages

If you would like to find out more about Find A Better Way (FABW), the projects it funds and the work it does to help communities affected by mines, click here

The Institute of Engineering and Technology will help you discover more about EEE and its career prospects. You can also find out more about study and careers in Engineering through the Brightside Trust's Bright Knowledge pages