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Studying the Placenta to understand and prevent Fetal Growth Restriction

by YPU Admin on August 31, 2016, Comments. Tags: Fetal Growth Restriction, medicine, Placenta, Research Scientist, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Kirsty McIntyre and I am a 2nd year PhD student funded by the Medical Research Council. I am based in St Mary's Hospital where I carry out my research as a member of the Maternal and Fetal Health Research Group. The work that I do aims to help us understand more about a condition called Fetal Growth Restriction, where the baby does not grow to its potential in the womb and can tragically lead to stillbirth. To learn more about how the nutrient demands of the baby are met during pregnancy I study the placenta - the organ attached to the baby's umbilical cord.

This lab work allows us to compare how appropriate growth is achieved in normal pregnancies, and compare this to cases of Fetal Growth Restriction. Understanding more about the placenta will allow us to understand more about the cause of Fetal Growth Restriction and thus help us to prevent it!


In Depth

I became interested in the field of pregnancy research and obstetrics from a single lecture I was given whilst studying for my undergraduate degree at Edinburgh Napier University. In the lecture we were taught about the 'Barker Hypothesis' which is the theory that chronic disease in adult life is associated with conditions in the womb. I was enthralled by this, it amazed me that our relatively short period in utero could have an influence on our long term health. I went on to investigate fetal development for my undergraduate honours project and that was me hooked!

In 2012 I graduated with a 1st class honours in Biomedical science and went on to spend a brief period in industry working for LifeScan Scotland (a Johnson & Johnson company) developing diabetic test strips. Whilst still keen on pursuing pregnancy research and to achieve a PhD, I spent the 2 years that followed traveling Asia and Australasia including a period teaching at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia. I subsequently applied for my PhD here in Manchester via Skype having never visited the city!

Now in the 2nd year of my PhD, my days are varied but usually included some combination of lab work, data analysis, written work or planning future studies.

Our team is multi-disciplinary and consists of not only other lab scientists but also research midwives and clinical fellows who lead clinical trials and specialised clinics for high risk groups of women. I enjoy this work environment immensely as it is a constant reminder of the need for, and direct impact of, our research. Additionally, the collaboration between clinical and lab scientists creates an unique opportunity for researchers to carry out studies on human tissue. Our lab space is in the hospital building which allows me to collect placentas from consenting women who have given birth to babies with or without Fetal Growth Restriction for my experiments. These samples enable me to determine whether there are any differences between the 2 groups. It is this important research that I hope will ultimately lead to the development of therapeutic options for these women and their children.

I am very grateful to those women who donate their placentas to research, they are invaluable to my work!

Going Further

To read about what a day in the life of a research scientist is like, this blog was written by a student who shadowed me in the lab last year.

You can read about my research group here and here

Our research centre is one 3 UK centres funded by the charity Tommy's

I also collaborate with CADET Manchester.

Twitter @_kirstymcintyre

 

Turn that FoMO upside down

by YPU Admin on August 25, 2016, Comments. Tags: Humanities, psychology, Smartphones, social media, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Em Webster and I'm graduating this year from the University of Manchester with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and 1st Class Honours! I was born and raised in Singapore where I completed all of my education at an International School. In sixth form, I did the International Baccalaureate (IB) where I studied Psychology, Economics and English as my 3 Higher Level Subjects. Coming from a humanities background, when I first started my BSc in Manchester I didn't really know what I had myself in for! Now that I've come to the end of my degree, I can say that Psychology has been a challenging but extremely rewarding course, particularly in this last year. My Final Year Project enabled me to focus on my personal interests - our motivations for engaging with social media and the social connectedness that we perceive as a result. My research also inspired me to pursue my love for writing and enter the School's Science Writing Competition, specifically focusing on how the social phenomenon, the "Fear of Missing Out" (FoMO), influences our online behaviours. I hope you enjoy reading it! 

In Depth

It’s the digital equivalent to the Swiss Army Knife – a personal computer, telephone, camera, GPS, music player, alarm clock, TV, newspaper. It has revolutionized your social life and keeps you in touch with everyone you know. Your Smartphone.

No other device gives you a connection as easy, as powerful or as real-time. A connection that’s mobile and offers you unlimited social opportunities on the go. Facebook tells you everything that your friends are doing. Instagram shows you the world through pictures. Snapchat records events as and when they are happening. Push notifications constantly invite you back to your phone to check what others are doing.

According to Needs Psychology,you and I have six fundamental needs that we seek to satisfy. Our Smartphones help us to do so – they give us a sense of certainty and variety, they make us feel significant, they facilitate our growth and our contribution. But above all, they help us to experience love and connection. Our Smartphones have become our companions – they live in our pockets and they help us meet our social needs wherever we are.

Unsurprisingly, Psychologists are becoming increasingly interested in our online behaviours. Back in 2009, a team of researchers at Georgetown University found that students use Facebook to strengthen pre-existing relationships. They suggest social media helps users create an online identity that feeds their self-esteem. Another study in the Computers of Human Behaviour Journal associates social connectedness with positive psychological outcomes including greater life satisfaction and happiness.

But it’s not all good – Smartphones and mobile social networks mean we often struggle to escape from the constant presence of social information. In fact, knowing what everyone is doing all of the time leads to the pervasive apprehension that others are doing more exciting things than we are. Sound familiar? Jenna Wortham first wrote about the phenomenon known as “FoMO – the Fear of Missing Out” in a New York Times Article. Her quiet evening spent in quickly turned into a night riddled with anxiety, irritation and even jealousy that her friends were out at gigs or at fancy cocktail bars instead.

We are social creatures, we like to feel included by others and we feel anxious when we are not – so FoMO is nothing new. But as Ann Mack discussed at the 2012 SXSW Conference, our Smartphones are amplifying our fears of missing out and have brought the phenomenon to light. Though previous empirical research suggests high social media engagement is associated with positive well being, the first study to add FoMO into the mix revealed something interesting.

Andy Przybylski and colleagues developed a scale for FoMO in 2013 (ratemyfomo.com) and used it to determine whether Uni students fear missing out on what their friends are doing. Their pilot research revealed a number of things – firstly that the people experiencing the highest levels of FoMO were also the ones engaging most frequently with social media. Secondly and perhaps more alarmingly, these people were more likely to text whilst driving and to be distracted during lectures. Turning their attention to the wider impact of FoMO on people’s lives, they found that the desire to stay continually connected was linked with lower life satisfaction.

One explanation for low satisfaction falls in line with Festinger’s Social Comparison Theory. As Ann Mack suggests, we compare ourselves to others in similar situations doing seemingly enviable activities. Although an edge of competitiveness is a good thing, it becomes a problem when we start to feel bad about our own lives simply because our Smartphones are a window into everyone else’s.

Sherry Turkle, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology touches on something important – our relationship with technology is still relatively immature. We are still adjusting to the constant presence of social media in our lives and still learning how to limit its influence. As Dr. Przybylski looks at it – social media is a double-edge sword.

In order to reap the benefits and forget FoMO, we need to learn how to manage our use of social media. So how can you turn your FoMO upside down?

  1. Remember that social media shows all the good stuff. Life isn’t always full of amazing adventures, relationships and job offers – so don’t be fooled by people leaving the boring or embarrassing things out.

  2. Enjoy being out of the loop. Social media is a circus of sorts and you’ll probably find that even a day spent away from it makes you happier in what you’re doing.

  3. Go on adventures. Stop wishing you were doing what everyone else is doing and go and do it.

You might not experience FoMO often or you might be too reluctant to admit that you experience it at all – but I can almost guarantee that at some point you have had pangs of it. So when it happens again, remember how it all works and turn it upside down!

References

  1. Grieve, R., Indian, M., Witteveen, K., Tolan, G. A., & Marrington, J. (2013). Face-to-Face Or Facebook: Can Social Connectedness Be Derived Online? Computers in Human Behavior29(3), 604-609.

  2. Mack, A. (2012). FOMO: How Can Brands Tap Into Fears Of Missing Out. Retrieved April 14, 2016 from http://schedule.sxsw.com/2012/events/event_IAP10651

  3. Pempek, T. A., Yermolayeva, Y. A., & Calvert, S. L. (2009). College Students' Social Networking Experiences On Facebook. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology30(3), 227-238.

  4. Przybylski, A. K., Murayama, K., DeHaan, C. R., & Gladwell, V. (2013). Motivational, Emotional, and Behavioral Correlates of Fear of Missing Out. Computers in Human Behavior29(4), 1841-1848.

  5. Turkle, S. (2012). The Flight From Conversation, The New York Times. Retrieved April 14, 2016 from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/opinion/sunday/the-flight-from-conversation.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1

  6. Wortham, J. (2011). Feel like a wallflower? Maybe it’s your facebook wall. The New York Times. Retrieved Online April 14, 2016 from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/business/10ping.html

 

People are the Ultimate Assets

by YPU Admin on August 18, 2016, Comments. Tags: Humanities, Human Resource Management, PhD, Research, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Ning Kang and I am currently a first year PhD student in Development Policy and Management with the Global Development Institute (GDI), which was officially launched not long ago. But actually, this institute is not new. It united the strengths of the Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM) and the Brooks World Poverty Institute (BWPI). I was originally from IDPM, where I finished my master degree in 2013-2014.

It was actually quite interesting that I almost slipped with Manchester three years ago when I firstly got the offer for my Masters degree. I applied for the Human Resource Management programme without realising there were two similar programmes, one was with MBS (Manchester Business School), and the other was with IDPM. So when I realised that my offer was with IDPM instead of MBS, I actually thought about giving up the offer as I wanted to go to MBS. But fortunately, I didn’t refuse the offer and still came eventually. And the moment I started my study, I fell in love with my school. The lecturers have various backgrounds in terms of nationalities and research interests, which make the whole study environment diverse and interesting. They are also caring, encouraging and inspiring, which became part of the reasons for me coming back for my PhD. Now, I am enjoying my PhD life with colleagues coming from more than 12 different countries!

In Depth

I did have a chance to choose another university or even another country to do a PhD, but I chose to stay with IDPM (which is GDI now) as I found organizations in developing countries are worth studying; their HRM is also a fascinating topic owing to its immaturity. Being a Chinese, I have witnessed the changes happening every day. It is not only about the changes of the whole environment, but also about people. As people are considered as the ultimate assets, how to manage them properly has becoming challenging, hereby HRM has become more and more significant.

When HRM was first introduced in the 20th century, it was considered as a comprehensive and coherent approach for better management and development of people in the workplace. Early in the development of HR field the emphasis was often focused on ensuring that employees had the ability and motivation to accomplish certain work allocated by the organization. However, to meet challenges, researchers and practitioners alike have begun to explore the linkages between HRM and strategic management, hereby strategic human resource management (SHRM) is labelled. With the introduction of SHRM, the focus of HR has shifted from simply managing people and allocating jobs towards exploring how human resource can contribute to organization’s goals by utilising their strategic capabilities.

In recognition of its significance, innovation with regard to HRM is currently happening in many places and more recently in China. The open-up policy in China allows knowledge emanating from outside the country to be embraced, which allows innovation and implementation of SHRM gradually taking place within the country. Also, having increasing involvement with international business since the entrance of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the past few decades have not only seen Chinese attracting foreign direct investment into the country, but also have witnessed Chinese multi-national enterprises (MNEs) expansion to overseas owing to the “going out” (Zouchuqu) policy. My study aims at exploring the opportunities and challenges generated by Chinese policy and culture to Chinese MNEs. The examination will be conducted both in the head office in China and the subsidiaries abroad. Hopefully through this study, there can be a better understanding for Chinese MNEs regarding HRM when they expanding to other countries. Meanwhile, it may also be interesting and helpful for other organizations which share similarities with Chinese MNEs.

 

Self-Rewards, the key to quitting smoking ……for good?

by YPU Admin on August 11, 2016, Comments. Tags: masters, psychology, Research, Smoking, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Bethany Gill and I am a Master’s student at The University of Manchester. After completing my A-Levels in 2012 (Psychology, English, History, Biology, General Studies), I went on to study Psychology at UoM from 2012-2015. I graduating last year and chose to continue studying, beginning my Masters at UoM in September 2015. My main interests are clinical and health psychology, with the focus of my current research being around treatment preferences for mental health problems. I have always enjoyed creative writing, and I have recently found a way to combine this with my love of Psychology.

In Depth

Some smokers have tried everything to help them kick the habit without success, but psychologists may have found the answer.

Over the past few decades cigarette smoking rates have declined, due to: higher taxes on tobacco products, smoking restrictions and mass media campaigns. However, smoking is still a major health issue facing Britain, remaining one of the main causes of death in the UK. About half of all regular smokers will die due to smoking, equating to 100,000 smokers dying each year. Smoking is also a major contributor to respiratory diseases, and is accountable for over one third of respiratory deaths as well as one quarter of cancer deaths.

The government currently funds stop smoking services to help people quit smoking. But unfortunately due to government spending cuts, these are currently being decommissioned and disappearing from some areas completely. They also face the problem that their current techniques used to help people stop smoking are not working as well as they should.

Stop smoking services employ clinicians who use techniques rooted in psychology to help people stop smoking. These techniques stem from behaviour change techniques like setting goals and making action plans. They help people to make plans to avoid the temptation of cigarettes by thinking of alternative actions. For example, if they wake up and have a craving for a cigarette, they should go and do the dishes first. Or they make a goal of trying to cut down to five cigarettes by the end of the week.

These methods work, but are not working well enough. This is in part due to the stop smoking techniques not being carried out properly, as some advisors fail to deliver stop smoking techniques efficiently. Recent estimates suggest that these methods are not working for about 80% of smokers. Something needs to change because smokers who have been smoking for years are not receiving the support they need to help them quit smoking, and the amount of clinicians who can help are decreasing.

Now, psychologists at the University of Manchester have a solution. Health psychologists explore people’s attitudes and awareness of their own health. They research ways to prevent unhealthy behaviours, like quitting smoking, and promote healthy behaviours like going to the doctor to get your health checked.

Emma Brown a PhD researcher at the University has spent the past three years conducting trials researching how self-rewards can help kick the habit. These trials have been focusing on trying to reducing smoking rates amongst individuals from the community and from the prison population.

Self-rewards are a behaviour change technique where a reward is only given on successful completion of the specific behaviour. For example, people plan to get through a week of not smoking, then they will plan to give themselves the treat of a meal out on Friday night. This is different to the current techniques where plans are made to engage in an alternative behaviour to smoking, like making a cup of tea rather than having a cigarette.

Self-rewards are self-administered, but they do take a bit of planning. People need to plan what, how and when these self-rewards will happen. The reward doesn’t have to be anything grand, it just has to be something that you enjoy and can reasonably do.

Self-rewards are showing promising results for people trying to quit smoking. As Emma Brown explains that ‘people who use [self-rewards] are three times more likely to quit than those who don’t’. But due to the ongoing nature of the trials that Emma Brown is conducting, we will not know the full scope of the effectiveness of self-rewards until September 2016, when the trials end.

But using self-rewards to help people quit smoking is still new, and needs researching further. Emma Brown suggests that future research will need to look into how self-rewards can be administered on an individual basis, and how the NHS can use this valuable technique to help people quit smoking. At the moment, all we know is self-rewards work if people are supported by a clinician, to make sure that the rewards they set are feasible and realistic.

Although challenges still lie ahead on perfecting self-rewards, the hope of a technique that can be done individually and will help quit smoking for good, is a very promising thought indeed.

For now, the best advice to kick the habit once and for all may be set a goal, stick to it and treat yourself!

 

Into Deep-sea Pipelines and Material Science

by YPU Admin on August 4, 2016, Comments. Tags: material science, PhD, Research, and UoM

Introduction

Hi! My name is Melissa and I’m currently in the second year of my PhD at the University of Manchester. I am in the School of Materials, and my research focusses on the corrosion of nickel-alloys that are used in deep-sea oil pipelines.

I didn’t expect to end up doing a PhD, but this is where my journey has taken me.

How I got here

Going into college, I had not a clue what I wanted to do, so for my A-levels I picked to do Maths, Science and English, and randomly picking Chemistry as my science as I thought it has the most potential to be interesting.  And it certainly turned out to be true! I absolutely loved chemistry and decided to carry on studying it at University.

So I did a 4 year integrated Master’s degree in chemistry at the University of Manchester. I learnt so much, not only about Chemistry but about myself as well. It had ignited my passion for science, and that passion is something I want to share with as many people as I can, so I do lots and lots of outreach activities.

As my degree came to an end, I knew another decision was looming; what was I going to do next? I knew I wanted to carry on learning, so decided a PhD would be my best opportunity. I was overwhelmed with the variety of PhDs that were available to me. Everything from how bubbles work to building new telescopes to look at the planets.

Whilst doing my research in to what I wanted to go into for my PhD, I came across the Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Metallic Systems. This programme was designed to take anyone from any STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subject and give them a year’s training in Materials Science for them to then pick a PhD project from a selection offered. Well perfect, I thought! This was a chance to learn about a brand new subject, and then do a PhD as well. So this is what I did, and here I am now! And I found the perfect PhD project for me. It perfectly marries what I had learnt in my Chemistry degree, with my new knowledge of Materials Science.

In Depth

So why is the corrosion of Nickel-alloys so important? Corrosion costs the oil and gas industry about $1372 billion every year – so a pretty expensive problem. And these Ni-alloys are used as nuts and bolts in what we call a well-head, and it’s the well-head’s job to maintain the pressure in the pipeline. Herein lies the problem; these pipelines can be up to 5000m below sea level. Therefore it’s really important to understand how and when these alloys are likely to corrode, so we can better predict their lifetimes, and prevent any failures in the pipeline.

Going Further

When I started this journey, way back on GCSE results day, I didn’t know where I would end up, and I still don’t. I’m just doing what makes me happy and enjoying the ride!

If you want to find out more about the Corrosion research at Manchester you can do so here.

The EPS Outreach Website has lots of details on the different types of work we do with schools and the general public.

And if you would like to know more about what Materials Science is, Strange Matter is a great website.