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Ancient Egypt, Ancient India and the History of Archaeology

by YPU Admin on June 1, 2017, Comments. Tags: archaeology, Egypt, history, Humanities, India, PhD, and Research

Introduction

My name is Charlotte Coull, and I'm a second year PhD student at the University of Manchester, based in the History department. I did both my undergraduate and masters degrees at Manchester, both in History, and was extremely excited to be offered both a PhD place and funding (the History department's own Elsie Farrar award) to continue my studies here. As part of my PhD I also lead seminars with undergraduate students, and have chosen to work as a Widening Participation Fellow because I firmly believe everyone should feel able to go to university if they wish.

In the future I'm hoping to get into public History, and connect with people about my research and encourage them to explore history in general, as knowledge is for everyone! 


In Depth

Many people walk away with the idea that I am an archaeologist when I first explain my subject area to them- what I actually do is look at the history of archaeology in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with no digging involved! I study the work of British archaeologists in India and Egypt during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; I want to know how they decided what to dig up and study, how they wrote about the artefacts they found, and what they did with those artefacts afterwards (are they in Britain, are they in a museum basement, or did they stay in countries they were discovered in?). I also want to know how discovering the history of Egypt and India changed the way Britain thought about her own history, and why Ancient Egypt is so present in our minds today (think Pyramids, mummies etc) whereas Ancient India is not so well known.

Studying two countries may seem intimidating at first, but I find you can use comparative history to fully open up an area to explore: for example, I want to know what is was about Egypt in the nineteenth century that influenced British archaeologists to behave so differently to archaeologists in India, and what this can tell us about how archaeology as a discipline evolved. My work is also very interdisciplinary- I use aspects of the history of science, intellectual history and museology alongside colonial history and other ideas. One of my supervisors is from the History department, the other is from the Centre for the History of Science Technology and Medicine. I find interdisciplinary history incredibly exciting- why stick with one way of doing things, when you can craft your own style using your favourite aspects from multiple areas! 

I work with a variety of historical sources- I have to be creative with finding the material I study! I can go from looking at the personal letters of a famous scholar from the nineteenth century in the British library, to looking at museum records of object acquisitions and displays, to spending time on the internet looking for nineteenth century academic books that have been digitised. I have also recently decided to look at images as part of my research- so last time I was at the British library I spent a morning marvelling at early twentieth century photographs of archaeological digs in India.

I find people often see history as a static and unmoving subject- you pick a topic and are trapped in the library with dusty books looking at that topic forever. Nothing could be further from the truth! History is such a varied and broad subject, with so many different ways of approaching it; you can really get creative with your thinking and push the boundaries. What you find will never cease to surprise, and in some cases amaze you!

Going Further

http://trowelblazers.com/ - a wonderful website with blog posts about female pioneers in archaeology and other science fields. Click on the articles tab and explore! I would particularly recommend Hilda Petrie, and Adela Catherine Breton.

http://www.asi.nic.in/ - not many people know much about India's archaeological history. This is the website of the Archaeological Survey of India- take a look at the 'photo gallery' tab and check out the massive variety of Indian archaeological sites!

 

Researching into Asthma and Rhinitis

by YPU Admin on May 18, 2017, Comments. Tags: Asthma, Health, medicine, Research, Rhinitis, and UoM

Introduction

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.


In Depth

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.


Going Further

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

Asthma: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/asthma/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

 

Fractals: What are they?

by YPU Admin on May 4, 2017, Comments. Tags: Fractals, Geometry, maths, PhD, Pure Mathematics, Research, STEM, and UoM

Introduction


Hi my name is Catherine Bruce and I’m a first year PhD student in Pure Mathematics at the University of Manchester. I study the geometry of fractals, which are objects deemed too irregular for traditional geometry such as straight lines, area, etc. (They have an infinite perimeter!) During the final year of a 4 year undergraduate degree I realised that I really enjoyed research and was lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to do it full time.

How I got here

After leaving secondary school I did A-levels in Maths, Further Maths and French. I was also interested in Politics and took it as an extra AS-level in my second year at college. I then applied to do a four year undergraduate degree in Mathematics at the University of Manchester. This meant I graduated with an MMATH degree which is called an integrated Masters. I enjoyed my whole degree but realised only while undertaking my final year project that research was for me and applied for a PhD. I took a year out to go travelling after graduating and returned to Manchester in September 2016 to start my research.

In Depth

Fractals are too irregular for their size and structure to be measured using classical geometry. The main tool of fractal geometry is dimension, which has many forms. A lot of research is done into finding the dimension of different fractals and the image of these fractals under different functions. Fractals are often very beautiful – they have detail at all scales which means no matter how much you zoom in to one part of the fractal it will always have an interesting structure, which is not true for classical geometrical objects like 2D and 3D shapes.


An important property of fractals is self-similarity. This vaguely means that an object looks like it’s made up of lots of smaller versions of itself. Notice that each branch of this fern looks like a smaller fern, and each smaller branch looks like an even smaller fern. This is a simple example of self-similarity.

Many things in nature have a fractal-like structure: clouds, mountain skylines and forked lightening. Fractal geometry can be applied to many different things in the real world. Examples that I know of are lasers, cancer treatments and fracking. However, I do not deal with any of these applications as I (along with all other pure mathematicians) study the theoretical side of mathematics.

In the first few months of my PhD I have been reading a lot to learn what everyone else in my field of research already knows. When I have done this I will be able to start answering questions that no one has answered before, and coming up with brand new research. This is the whole point of a PhD and is an exciting if not scary prospect!

Going Further

Learn more about what fractals are:

http://fractalfoundation.org/resources/what-are-fractals/

Have a go at constructing your own fractal:

https://sciencevsmagic.net/fractal/#0060,0090,1,1,0,0,1

Have a look at the exciting research that’s going on in dynamical systems at the University of Manchester:

(http://www.maths.manchester.ac.uk/our-research/research-groups/analysis-and-dynamical-systems/)

 

How we think, and how we think we think, and what does it have to do with financial regulation?

by YPU Admin on April 20, 2017, Comments. Tags: Banking, Behavioural Economics, Humanities, Law, PhD, Policy, Research, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Elena and I’m a second year PhD student at the University of Manchester School of Law. I research the ways in which the ideas of how people think and make decisions impact regulation of banks and banks’ handling of risk. This is an important matter because banks have a significant place in the economies of most countries, and their behaviour is key to the economic and financial welfare of society.


How I got here

I completed a 4-year law degree in Russia, after which I decided to continue my education in the UK. After a law conversion course (GDL) I enrolled on an International Business and Commercial Law Masters programme at the University of Manchester. I was particularly attracted to the financial regulation module because of the enormous impact financial services have on society – the crisis of 2008 being a stark example. One of the lectures included a small bit about behavioural economics – a study of how our psychological traits influence our purchasing, investing, and other economic decisions. I thought that that was a fascinating topic – and after reading more about it, decided to do a PhD on it even though I had never considered becoming a researcher before.

In Depth

To make any (not necessarily economic) decisions, our brain needs to process large amounts of information in a short amount of time. Processing all of it in a comprehensive manner would require a lot of mental effort. Considering the amount of decisions we make on a daily basis, if every one of them required a lot of time and effort we would not be able to function normally. To rectify that, our brain developed thought patterns that help us to process information quicker. One of those thought patterns is called ‘availability heuristic’. When thinking about a certain topic or the probability of an event happening, our mind immediately refers to the most prominent belief or a vivid piece of information in our memory. This can cause a mistake in judgement. For example, people start worrying about a possible earthquake a lot more if they recently saw an earthquake report in the media. Another example is people estimating the crime rate in the area a lot higher after seeing a murder report on TV. And these are just a couple of examples – there are many thought patterns, or heuristics, that make our decision-making easier but also make us make mistakes along the way.

For a large part of the 20th century, the common academic opinion was that people tend to be rational, process all available information in a comprehensive way, and only make the most beneficial decisions for themselves. This approach became popular with governments as well, particularly in the US and the UK. This view resulted in designing policies and regulations that were aimed at those perfectly rational individuals. When confronted with human irrationality, government regulations and policies failed because people did not act as they were expected to. This was a part of the reason for the 2008 crisis.

Now that academic and government circles have largely accepted inherent human irrationality, policies can be adjusted to reflect the reality of human behaviour. In some areas – for example, consumer protection – there is a lot of progress. But others, such as financial regulation, require a lot of modification to reflect the true nature of human decision-making. My research aims to make regulation of banks more effective by designing a behavioural framework of board-level financial decision-making that can be used as a policy foundation.

Going Further

I enjoy my research because I find learning about how humans make decisions, and how the way our brain works influences the law, fascinating. Here are some interesting websites where you can learn more about this area:

https://www.behavioraleconomics.com/introduction-to-be/ - a comprehensive introduction to behavioural economics, including the primary research in the field.

https://hbr.org/2009/07/the-end-of-rational-economics - a Harvard Business Review article explaining the role of the presumption of rationality played in economics.

https://www.ft.com/content/9d7d31a4-aea8-11e3-aaa6-00144feab7de - a Financial Times article on applications of behavioural insights in public policy.

http://www.behaviouralinsights.co.uk - Behavioural Insights Team’s website. It’s a social purpose company partly owned by the UK government that is dedicated to devising ways to apply the insights of behavioural science to public policy.

http://nudges.org - a blog about choice architecture.

 

From the cold to cooties – From Medicine to Medical Virology

by YPU Admin on March 30, 2017, Comments. Tags: Health, medicine, Research, UoM, and Virus

Introduction

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!

In Depth

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 cause disease.


Going Further

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.

http://www.who.int/en/ is great for looking at how disease outbreaks differ throughout the world and can keep you up to date with new developments.