My name is Becky Williams and I am a PhD student in the
Faculty of Life Sciences here at the University of Manchester. My PhD is in the
field of Developmental Biology, which is the study of how the cells in the
early embryo are able to become all the different cells in the body. For my
PhD, I am interested in understanding how mechanisms used by cells during early
development to grow and divide can be re-activated in cancer, causing tumours
to grow and divide. In my lab, we are most interested in researching breast
cancer, so my project is focused on this disease.
My undergraduate degree was Developmental Biology with a
Year in Industry. I did my degree at the University of Manchester because I was
blown away by the ambition and enthusiasm of the Faculty of Life Sciences when
I visited on an open day. I love the city, and I think it is a great place to
be as a student because everything is relatively cheap, and there is a lot to
do. However, it is very important to own
an umbrella if you live here!
The highlight of my degree was my year in industry at
AstraZeneca, where I met some amazing people and really found a passion for
studying the life sciences. My industrial project had some unexpected results,
which I puzzled over for weeks. With the help of my supervisors, I eventually
managed to explain my findings, and we even had enough data to publish a
scientific, peer-reviewed paper on what we had found. It was the puzzle that I
found addictive, and it is the puzzle that made me passionate about my subject.
I am now doing a PhD in Developmental Biology. A PhD is an
extended (3-4 year) programme where you research something in depth. In
particular, I am focussing on methods that help cells grow and divide during
early development, and how these can cause cancer if they are re-activated in
adults. I choose this project based both
on my time at AstraZeneca, and on my undergraduate degree programme. I knew
from my degree that I love learning about how animals and people develop from
just a few cells in the embryo, and I knew from AstraZeneca that I love to
puzzle over how cells work. My PhD project brings these two elements together,
and I spend my days puzzling over how things used in development can go wrong in
A typical day
It sounds like a cliché, but there really is no typical day
for me- I choose my own hours, and set my own schedule. The pressure to get
good results means that I typically work long hours, and occasionally have to come
in at the weekend to finish an experiment.
Most days involve some form of computer work (emails, checking
microscope images, making graphs of results, writing my online lab book) and
some time in the lab doing experiments. I also spend a lot of time doing public
engagement and widening participation with school and sixth form students, so
some days are completely different again. These days are some of my favourites,
as I love creating workshops about science, and working with inspiring young
people. I even got to meet Prof. Brian
Why I did a PhD
A PhD seemed a natural progression for me having finished my
undergraduate degree, as I loved science and scientific research. I am really
proud to be part of the fight against cancer, and I work with some incredible
people. A PhD is a rollercoaster ride, and the good days are AMAZING- a good
result can have me skipping all the way home! Naturally, this means that the
bad days can be very gloomy, and having supportive people around you helps you
pick yourself up and dust yourself down. My bad days usually arise when an
experiment hasn’t worked for the umpteenth time, or I have messed an experiment
up, which happens much more often than I would like!
How I got my PhD and future plans
My time at AstraZeneca and my final year laboratory
undergraduate project helped my to get my PhD, as they demonstrated that I had
the skills to work in a lab. I was really lucky to be offered a PhD part funded
by Your Manchester Fund, which means that University of Manchester alumni
donate money to fund my PhD. I am not
sure where my career will take me- I love doing my PhD, and would enjoy any
career in science. This could include an academic career, a career in
scientific industry, or a career in teaching. As long as I am still in the
world of science, I will be happy.
To find out more about me, visit my blog.
To discover more about Developmental Biology research at the University of Manchester you can visit their webpages. The Faculty's webpages also have information about studying Life Sciences at Manchester.
The British Society for Developmental Biology has some excellent resources for schools and students.
You can find out more about doing a year in industry at
AstraZeneca by looking at their Student Workers and Interns placements.
Bright Knowledge, from The Brightside Trust, has information and guidance on studying Biology and pursuing a career in Biological Sciences.
My name is Tanzil Chowdhury and I am a Ph.D
researcher in the School of Law. My work lies in the field of Jurisprudence
which, generally, is a fancy word describing philosophical questions about law.These, for example, can include basic questions, such as: what is a law (how is it different from the rules you have
in the classroom
)? What role does law have in our lives (to control us? protect us?
)? Are law and
justice the same thing?
My research looks at a very specific aspect
of law which is ‘time’ or temporality (the two mean roughly the same thing). A
famous philosopher, St Augustine, once said: ‘What, then, is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to
explain it to him who asks me, I do not know’. Whilst we often think of
time as being what our watch or clock tells us (called objective time), we also have experiences of time, like the feeling
we have of time passing slowly when sitting through a boring film or ‘time
flying when we are having fun’ (called subjective
time). Law, as a ‘thing’ that exists in society, also has its own
temporality. But why should it matter what the law’s time is?
Bear this in mind: that time and temporality
is intrinsically linked to how we construct events.
To explain what this means, imagine this: your
mother has been forced to sort out a conflict between you and your brother.
According to your elder sibling, he says you hit him in the leg. You don’t
necessarily disagree, only that this
was not the entire story. You tell your mother that your punch was a
response to years of pent up aggression at the hands of your brother’s bullying.
Your mother, preoccupied with more pressing matters, looks to you both and
hands down her judgement: ‘this is
going to stop now! From now on, if either of you complains about the other, you
shall both be grounded’.
Her justice is firm and swift; her
construction of the event is directed toward guiding both your future
actions. Your focus, however, was rooted
firmly in the past. Put simply, your mother and you have different
temporalities (your mother is more concerned with the future, and you the past)
and this directly effects how you construct the pattern of events. Lawyers,
judges and law makers exercise construction in very much the same way.
The main question, therefore, is to look at
how laws construct their own time (what we might call ‘legal temporality’). The
clearest way of determining this is looking at the way legal actors (such as
judges and law makers) apply legal principles to facts when they are ruling on
a case and how this directly affects the way they reconstruct events in those
cases. Interestingly, we don’t all share the same ‘temporality’. For example, the
law aims to guide future conduct but
I may be preoccupied with an event in the past
which affects my future conduct. Because humans and the law courts have‘competing temporalities’,
it maybe that the legal system can never really work.
I hope that my work will contribute to
understanding how the law is a unique phenomenon within society and allow
others to criticise and discuss the law from an entirely new angle. It may
hopefully help to inform how the law can be more sensitive to the ‘temporalities of humans’ who use the
courts, and also help us to understand why a person may have committed wrongdoings.
For another explanation of my research check out my university webpage and for information about studying Law at the University of Manchester, the department's pages are a good resource.
you would like to learn more about the jurisprudence, and the philosophy of law
generally, Law Teacher and Princeton University's Wiki provide useful resources. The Legal Theory Blog also contains some great information.
Sixth Form Law provides opportunities for you to explore the questions that legal philosophers ask, and Stanford University's Encyclopedia of Philosophy an interesting section on Justice as a Virtue. This website is generally good for anything related to philosophy.
Discussions about time and temporality vary
in philosophy, sciences and the social sciences. A good starting point for understanding this is the video attached to an article on time in the Huffington Post, while Stanford's Philosophy encyclopedia again provides a detailed overview of the experience and perception of time.
The Guardian's Law Student section is great reading for those studying, or interested in, law.
Bright Knowledge, from the Brightside Trust, has some excellent information on studying law and pursuing a career in law.
Since before your birth you have interacted with the world
via the physical form that is your body; but how much do you really know about
it? Do you know how it works? What do your cells actually do? How do organs
like your heart and brain function? What stops them from functioning,
endangering or even ending your life? Can we prevent them from failing?
My name is Craig Testrow and I’m a Biophysicist; in other
words, I solve biological problems by investigating the physics behind them,
asking (and occasionally answering) questions like those above. My project is
to build a computer model of the uterus, or womb, with the aim of preventing
women from giving birth too soon, which can greatly harm their newborn baby.
I’m a physicist by training. At A-level I studied Maths,
Physics, Chemistry and Further Maths. I then went on to do a physics degree at
Manchester. But what business does a physicist have poking his nose into
biology and medicine? Well, ultimately all biological and chemical systems are
governed by the laws of physics. Let me give you an example; consider a heart
cell. Such cells are the building blocks that make up the heart; if you
understand those blocks, you can assemble them and understand the whole organ.
This is where the physics comes in: we view the cell as a little electrical
An imbalance of charged calcium, sodium and potassium ions inside and
outside of the cell creates a potential difference, forcing the ions to flow across
its membrane in an attempt to balance the charge. This remarkably simple
analogy of a cell to a circuit board works really well. We just apply all the
familiar laws of circuits, like Ohm’s Law (V=IR) to our cells and find we can
replicate the activity we witness in living systems on a computer. It is all
the more amazing when you realise how incredibly complex the systems in our
body actually are. But these complex systems are entirely dependent on simple,
universal physical principles.
But why do we bother writing computer programs? Shouldn’t we
spend our time with patients instead of fiddling around with all this code?
Well, not if we want to help as many people as possible. Our computer models
can perform thousands of simulations, with hundreds of variations in the time
it takes to run a single traditional laboratory experiment; not to mention it’s
cheaper and doesn’t require you to give up your organs so we can prod them with
probes (well, not as often anyway). And on a purely numerical basis, a medical
doctor might be able to treat 20 or 30 people a day; if successful, our
research could be put into practice worldwide, directly helping thousands of
people each day, millions every year.
There is a key point to be made here: people working outside
of science and medicine often overlook the role of research in coming up with
new knowledge and techniques, which are placed in the hands of doctors who go
on to implement them. Cancers are treated on hospital wards, but they’re cured
in the lab. That said, our work would be impossible without the efforts of
experimental biologists providing us with raw data, and irrelevant without the
dedication of medical staff on the front line; like links in a chain, we’re
each dependent on the others for support.
Something I’ve learned while studying physics is that the
well-trodden path is not necessarily the right one. Whichever subject interests
you, be it science, medicine, or any other; take the time to ponder less
conventional routes. If you are interested in medicine, consider a career in
research; the scientist who cures cancer or eradicates HIV will secure their
place in history.
You might like to have a look at the following links if you
are curious about physics, biophysics or medical research:
Undergraduate physics courses at Manchester. Includes lots
of useful info, including views of current and previous students:
Postgraduate physics at Manchester, for when one degree just
The Institute of Physics website
An introduction to biophysics and its importance as a field
by the Biophysical Society
Topics covered in biophysics
Want to live forever? Dr. Aubrey de Grey of Cambridge thinks
medical research will soon lead to immortality, by curing age-related diseases through
regenerative biotechnology. Read more about the SENS Research Foundation.
Hello! My name is Sam Rowbotham I am PhD
student and Tutor in Psychology, spending half of my time on each of these. My
PhD research focused on the hand-gestures we use when speaking and how these
can help us to communicate about painful experiences (such as migraines, back
pain etc), in the hope that this will improve communication between doctors and
How did I
After completing my A-Levels (Psychology, English Literature, and
History) in 2005, I came to the University of Manchester to study Psychology,
graduating in 2008. At the end of my degree I decided to stay at Manchester to
complete a one-year Masters in Research Methods (Psychology) so that I could
develop my research skills further. Following this I applied for a joint PhD
and Teaching post (also here at Manchester) which I began in September 2009.
Because my PhD is part-time it should
take me six years to complete (rather than the usual 3-4 years) but I am hoping
to finish it a year early! Along the way I have strengthened my research skills
by completing a number of temporary Research Assistant posts, including one in
which we looked at why doctors and nurses give people antibiotics for coughs
and colds (despite the fact that these medicines don’t work for these
During my undergraduate degree I became fascinated with the
movements we make with our hands and arms when speaking – our co-speech
gestures. These gestures do more than simply express how we feel – they carry
information about the things we are talking about, such as the shape and size
of objects. However, researchers hadn’t really considered how people use these
gestures when talking about sensations such as pain – something we often find
quite tricky to describe. This is where my PhD comes in – I look at how these
gestures are used to describe pain and whether seeing gestures can improve
people’s understanding of other people’s pain. To do this I video-record people
talking about pain and then analyse the video data in detail, looking at how
many gestures they use and what kind of information these gestures contain
(e.g. about where pain is located and how it feels). I have also created short
clips of these pain descriptions which I play to other people to see what
information they can pick up from these gestures. A similar video can be seen on YouTube
What impact will my PhD have?
So far my research has demonstrated that hand gestures
contain lots of information about pain, a lot of which is not contained in the
speech they occur with. If we can also show that ordinary people (i.e. not
trained gesture analysts) can pick up this information (something I am studying
now) then this is important for pain communication in medical settings.
Hopefully, it will encourage doctors to be more attentive to gestures when talking
to patients and therefore pick up more information about pain. This is
particularly important as people often find it difficult to explain their pain
to others: if we cannot explain pain, it can be difficult to get the right
One of the things that I love most about
my work life is that everyday is different. Because I teach alongside my PhD,
some day I might be helping students to work through practical exercises in
their statistics classes, teaching study skills to groups of 10-15 students,
delivering nonverbal communication lectures to over 100 third year students, or
marking essays and exams. When I am working on my PhD, my days change depending
on whether I am collecting data (e.g. by interviewing participants or getting
them to watch pain descriptions and answer questions), analysing data (e.g.
looking in detail at video data on the computer), or writing up my findings for
psychology journals. This means that although I am often very busy trying to
juggle multiple things I am rarely bored – I wouldn’t have it any other way!
If you are thinking of studying
Psychology at the University of Manchester then take a look at our website for more info, including comments and
clips from present and past students. You can also check out our blog where you will find updates about what is going on in the department and
the activities that staff and students have been involved in.
Psychological Society and the Brightside Trust also have lots of
useful information about careers in Psychology. The British Psychological
Society also has a great blog with regular posts about lots of aspects of Psychology.
If you are interested in finding out
more about nonverbal communication there is a nice article here from The Psychologist magazine
(published by the British Psychological Society). You can also find the slides
for a recent presentation on my research here.
Imagine life before a word was ever written down,
before the Romans marched to war and the Victorians marched on their
promenades, before cars, running water, electricity, telephones, and computers,
before the internet. People's lives were structured by the needs of the animals
that they kept and the crops they grew. Like today, they made friends, had
families, grew old and explained the world around them through their beliefs. Prehistoric
Archaeology, the study of people before they wrote their thoughts down, aims to
imagine what these lives were like.
My name is Ellon Souter and I am
a first year PhD student in Archaeology at the University of Manchester. I have
finished my Undergraduate and Masters degrees and am now doing my own research
on how people used stone tools thousands of years ago in Cyprus. I am studying
my PhD part-time, which means that I can work and earn money to support me in
my studies. I work as Widening Participation Fellow, which allows me to design
and run workshops in Archaeology for secondary students. I am also kept busy
round the Department, assisting with teaching, running the Postgraduate
Research Seminars and being involved with the Archaeology Society.
I grew up in Northern Scotland,
surrounded by castles, hillforts, museums and monuments. I felt that wherever I
went, I could see my past stretching back around me and I wanted more and more
to know that past. I chose to do an Archaeology BSc at the University of
Liverpool and then went on to a Masters at Cambridge. Over the years,
Archaeology has taken me on some fantastic adventures, working with human
skeletons in the basements of the British Museum, making prehistoric boats and
houses in northern Scotland, excavating castles in Latvia, caves in Wales, the
earliest houses in Cyprus and even had a go at Stonehenge!
The stone tools that I will be looking at for my PhD come
from two sites in the village of Kissonerga, southwest Cyprus. They are next to
each other and are thought to represent continuous occupation between
5500-1500B.C. The tools consist of beautifully polished axes, figurines and
games. However, the majority of items are equivalent to our kitchen utensils,
DIY equipment and other household tools (grinding, hammering stones). I believe
that these are the most interesting items to look at as they are integral to
everyday work hence inform us about daily life. I will be using a scientific
technique called X-Ray Fluorescence to find out where the stones were
collected. I hope that this will be useful in finding out how people moved
around their environments and communicated with each other. I will be figuring
out exactly how these stones were made and used by experimenting with working
stone and recording my observations. I will investigate whether these
technologies change through time, across the Island and between particular
activity areas within my case studies. I hope to show how important these
everyday items were and what they might have meant to the prehistoric
inhabitants of Cyprus.
When I tell people I’m an Archaeologist, they often ask
‘What’s the best thing you’ve ever found?’ They expect me to tell them about
gold and riches. To me, it is about that moment when you suddenly realise that
the patch in the dirt you’ve been staring at all day is a flue for a
prehistoric oven and our understanding of past technologies changes forever.
you are interested in finding out more about Archaeology, here are a few links:
University of Manchester Archaeology: Manchester Archaeology is a small friendly department. This
will give you an idea of what you could be studying if you came to Manchester.
UCAS: If you
are thinking seriously about going to University and studying Archaeology, this
site lists all Archaeology courses in the UK and will also give you information
(e.g. entry requirements, course details, etc).
Whitworth Park Community Archaeology: An excavation run by the University of Manchester in June
2013 that thrives on community involvement. If you are local, go along and
catch a glance into the past of your city.
YAC: The Young Archaeologists Club runs a range of
activities and operates in most areas of Britain.
Archaeology at the BBC: a collection of programmes dating back to the 1950s, available to watch in full.