Hello, my name is Jessica Azmy
and I am a medical student at the University of Manchester. This year I am
taking a year away from my medical studies and studying for a Masters in
Healthcare Law and Ethics, before returning to my final year of medical school.
I will hopefully then graduate as a doctor!
It may seem strange to be
completing a Masters at this stage and I never imagined when I started Medicine
that this is something I would do. During medical school I was intrigued by the
relationship between the law and medical practice because it seemed to be
relevant in all areas. I often found doctors referring to what the law does and
does not allow and wanted to explore this further. I am really interested in
certain areas such as the law determining whether children can or cannot refuse
medical treatment that doctors feel is best for them. The main aim is to
consider what the law currently says and what it should say, if we lived in an
ideal world. Of course doctors need to know the law to avoid being taken to
court, if something goes wrong!
What the law should say comes down to fundamental questions which are captured
by the ethics part of my course. For example, the reason why doctors must always
ask whether we agree (consent) to medical treatment is because we are human
beings that have the ability to decide for ourselves what we want. The
exploration of why doctors should act in certain ways and whether it is right
or wrong to take a particular course of action is a constant source of debate
and there is rarely one ‘correct’ answer. This is what I like most because it
makes me consider my own views and learn to argue these in a way to persuade
other people to agree with my argument. Some of the areas I have considered
include organ donation and whether this should or should not be a choice,
whether scientists should be able to experiment on humans, and the problems
arising from creating human-animal hybrids (mixture of human and animal tissue).
What’s the point?
With constant advances in science
and technology creating new possibilities in healthcare there is a need to
consider what we should and shouldn’t allow. How would you feel if you could
choose the characteristics of your future child – their hair colour, eye colour
and even intelligence? Do you think everyone should be an organ donor? Should
doctors be allowed to end the life of a patient who is suffering terribly?
Should doctors ever keep information from patients to prevent upsetting them?
These are some of the pressing questions that ethics aims to address! The
issues are often on the news making what I am studying even more relevant and
I am not sure what type of doctor
I want to be in the future but the best thing about law and ethics is that it
is relevant to all areas of medical practice and will hopefully help me with
whatever speciality I go into. I hope to also use my Masters to teach future
medical students about the law and perhaps offer advice in legal cases involving
To explore a wide range of ethical dilemmas in science
For a greater look at the ethics
surrounding gene technology:
To look at what is involved in
creating human-animal hybrids (mixing human and animal tissues):
Watch this video for a general
introduction to ethics (not specific to science):
Really interesting video
comparing ethics in science and arts and giving more information on why we make
My name is Alice Stefanelli and I am a third-year PhD
student in Social Anthropology. I received my Bachelor degree in
Ethno-Anthropological Sciences from the University of Bologna, Italy, which is
my country of origin. In my third year I came to Britain as an exchange student
and I studied for a year at Brunel University, in West London. I loved the
experience and I highly recommend it! Spending a term or a full year abroad is
a very valuable and enriching experience that you will not regret. Later I was
accepted into Goldmiths College, University of London, to do a Master in Social
Anthropology, which I did part-time while I worked in a bookshop. Three years
ago, I joined the University of Manchester to research the connections between
civil society and pro-public space campaigning in Beirut, Lebanon. What I ask
myself is: what kind of change do people in Beirut seek? How are they trying to
In my thesis I try to explore social change in Beirut. I
have chosen to look at a group of civil society organisations that campaign
against the privatisation of public parks and beaches in the city. These are
associations of citizens who do not want their few green public spaces to be
sold to real estate developers and turned into expensive resorts that the
majority of the population will never be able to afford.
As all anthropologists do, I spent a year in Beirut
conducting fieldwork and collecting first-hand data. This meant that I spent
time with campaigners: I went to their meetings, I joined them at the protests
and other events that they organised, trying to help them out but also
listening carefully to what they had to say and trying to understand what kind
of social change they desired. In anthropology, this is called “participant
observation”. I also conducted a number of interviews with them in order to ask
them direct questions about their work and clarify some of my doubts.
To complement my thesis, I am collecting material such as
newspaper articles from the local press that discusses these campaigns as well
as the history of civil society campaigning in Lebanon, so that I can have a
better idea of how things have changed in time.
My thesis is that citizens in Beirut disagree with the local
authorities over what the future of the city and its population should be. The
local council, backed by the government, seems to give priority to the private
interests of big businesses and real estate companies. Campaigners seem to
rather think that the interest of the majority of the citizenry of Beirut
should be rather privileged. For this reason, they are fighting against the
closure of public beaches and parks.
You can watch this great video made by some campaigners on
how the Beirut seafront has changed over the decades: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwu49DxVsZk
For a general introduction to anthropology, visit the
Anthropology Day’s website: https://londonanthropologyday.co.uk/
And as for Social Anthropology in Manchester: http://www.socialsciences.manchester.ac.uk/subjects/social-anthropology/
My name is Monique Henson and I’m currently in the second
year of my PhD in Astrophysics. I finished my A-levels in Maths, Physics and
Further Maths in 2010 and went on to study Physics at the University of
Manchester. After my first year, I realised that wanted to focus more on the
theoretical aspects of Physics, so I switched to the Physics with Theoretical
Physics course. For most of my degree, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do
afterwards. To help me decide, I did a few different internships during my
summer holidays. I tried teaching, working for an international technology
firm, and finally I tried academic research.
Before that summer project, I hadn’t thought too much about
doing research. If I’m honest, I didn’t realise what a researcher does on a
day-to-day basis. I now know that the day-to-day work of a researcher depends a
lot on what they are researching! But all researchers are united by one thing -
curiosity. Doing that summer project reminded me why I wanted to study Physics
in the first place, and made me realise that I wanted to pursue it further.
I started my PhD in 2014. My research involves studying the
biggest objects in the Universe that are held together by gravity - galaxy
clusters. These giants are made up of thousands of galaxies. Each of those
galaxies is made up of hundreds of billions of stars. Some of those stars will
be just like our Sun.
Why should we study galaxy clusters?
Despite their name, galaxy clusters aren’t just made of
galaxies. They also have two other key parts - hot gas and dark matter. Most of
the visible mass in galaxy clusters actually exists in between the galaxies. It
takes the form of gas that is so hot it emits X-rays. The galaxies around the
cluster faster than bullets, and their interaction with this hot gas causes
them to rapidly evolve. By studying the galaxies in galaxy clusters, we can
learn more about how galaxies change over time.
Most of the mass in clusters is actually dark matter, which
is the name we give the substance that makes up most of the mass in the
Universe, even though we can’t see it. It doesn’t reflect, emit or absorb
light, which means that we can only detect it by looking for its effect on
other things. Since galaxy clusters are so massive and around 85% of their mass
is in dark matter, then that means they’re great for studying dark matter.
On top of all of that, the number of galaxy clusters in the
observable Universe at a given point in time tells us both about how the
Universe has expanded over time and how structure forms in the Universe. This
technique is called cluster counting as it involves counting the number of
clusters with a particular mass within a given volume of the sky.
[The galaxy cluster MACSJ0717. The bright points in the image
are galaxies, some of which are in the cluster, whilst others are behind it.
The blue-purple material is hot, X-ray emitting gas. If you looked at the
cluster with just your eyes then you wouldn’t see it. Instead you need an X-ray
telescope, like the Chandra telescope. Credit: NASA, ESA, CXC, C. Ma, H.
Ebeling and E. Barrett (University of Hawaii/IfA), et al. and STScI]
What am I trying to find out?
To use cluster counting you have to be able to measure the
masses of galaxy clusters really well. It’s quite hard to figure out the mass
of something just by looking at it, but there are a couple of different methods
that we use. One of these is called gravitational lensing. When light passes by
a massive object, such as a galaxy cluster, it can get bent around the object
through gravity. When we look at clusters we see that galaxies behind the
cluster can look smeared or distorted. This distortion effect is dependent on
the mass of the cluster, and by measuring it we can figure out the cluster’s
It’s widely thought that this technique is very accurate for
measuring cluster masses. I’m testing this by using this technique on a set of
model clusters ran by Dr David Barnes at the University of Manchester.
To learn more about galaxy clusters, have a look at the
website for the Chandra X-ray telescope. They have some great
images of clusters and a blog with regular updates.
One Minute Astronomer has a great article on gravitational
lensing here. Gravitational lensing isn’t just used to
find out cluster masses; other researchers use it to find planets and to study distant supernovae.
If you’d like to stay updated with my research and outreach
activities, follow me on Twitter: @monique_henson
My name is Harriet Van Den Tooren and I’m studying a
Masters of Research in Medical Sciences. I started studying medicine in the
University of Manchester in 2011 and decided to take a year out to complete a
Masters degree in 2015, which was after my fourth year of medicine.
My Masters degree focuses on understanding the changes
in bodily functions that occur during the daily cycle, called circadian
rhythms, and how they affect the health of the lungs.
your body know what time it is?
A few things help our bodies to know what time it is, but
the most important one is light. Light passes into our eyes, and is converted
to an electrical message sent to the brain through the optic nerve. Most of it
goes to the back of the brain, which makes sense of the light messages and
allows us to understand what our eyes see. Some of it goes to a small part of
the middle of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which sends messages
to the rest of the body using hormones or electrical messages through nerves,
which are different depending on whether it is day or night. In most cells of
the body, there is a clockwork mechanism that is adjusted by these messages
from the suprachiasmatic nucleus, so the whole body is in synchrony. Jet lag
occurs because it takes a few days to change re-synchronise the clockwork in
all the cells of the body after changing time zones (1).
that affect your lungs?
Some diseases are worse at different times of day, such
as asthma, which is usually worse during the night. Cells of the lungs and the
immune system have the clockwork mechanism too, which help to regulate
inflammation of the airways. Usually, cells of the immune system work
differently during the day because people are most likely to encounter an
infection when they are active, and they reserve energy during the night. It is
thought that disruption to the clockwork of cells in the lung and immune system
may be a cause of the chronic inflammation seen in asthma. Therefore,
understanding how inflammation affects the cellular clockwork, and how the
clockwork affects inflammation may help us understand why asthma happens and
how we can treat it (1).
One of the hormone signals that synchronises cells
clockwork is a steroid humans produce in their body called cortisol, a hormone
that also regulates the immune system. There is more of this hormone in the
blood during the early hours of the morning and less during the late evening.
Doctors treat conditions caused by long-term inflammation, such as asthma, with
steroids to reduce inflammation by preventing the immune cells from producing
chemicals that cause the inflammation. Research has shown that using steroid
treatment during the evening to avoid natural levels falling too low, is more
affective that taking it in the morning for asthma. Other medications have been
shown to work better when taken at one particular time in the day compared to
another time of day (1).
What have I
learnt about research in labs this year?
Before I begun this year in September, I was used to
learning information from books, memorizing it, and then sitting an exam.
Research is completely different to that. Trying to discover new information is
a lot harder than learning from books, but it’s also a lot more exciting. I
haven’t done much research yet because the first six months has focused on
learning lab skills (see my picture of cells when I was learning to stain them)
and how to read a scientific paper, but I’ve just started in the labs and I’m
definitely looking forward to the next six months! One of the biggest things
I’ve learnt is that science is about persistence, you may attempt it many times
before you finally get the result you wanted. This applies to experiments but
also when applying for funding, jobs and publications. However, if you stick at
it and get lucky, you may discover something that makes thousands of lives
Understanding circadian rhythms can be tough work, but
this is a website that has made it easier to understand:
Use the buttons on the top left “level of explanation”
to start with beginner, and the buttons on the top right “level of
organization” to see how circadian rhythms affect molecules, cells and how we
think and feel.
If you’re thinking about becoming a doctor, I’d
recommend looking at this:
http://www.bma.org.uk/developing-your-career/medical-student/how-to-become-a-doctor. It’s a website that
provides information about the qualities needed to be a doctor, what it is like
being a medical student and doctor, and how to apply to medicine.
If you’re thinking about becoming a doctor, a great
place to start learning about how the body works is here - http://kidshealth.org/kid/index.jsp?tracking=K_Home. Choose your level on
the top right “kids” or “teens”
If you like science and you just want to read more, a
great place to start is - http://www.bbc.co.uk/science
Similarly - https://publications.nigms.nih.gov/order/pubs_gateway.html has easily
understandable news about science, and tips on how to become a scientist.
read whilst writing this blog:
HJ, Farrow SN, Loudon AS, Ray DW. The circadian clock and asthma. Thorax.
My name is Ciaran Clarke and I am
studying a masters in Humanitarianism and Conflict Response (HCR). My
background is far removed from the history, international relations, and
sociology which forms a large part of my degree. In fact, despite studying a
postgraduate degree, I am still an undergraduate! I am studying the Masters
between my fourth and fifth year of undergraduate medicine.
This is known as intercalation and
is traditionally pursued by medics who want to study one aspect of science in
greater detail, such as physiology or pharmacology. Manchester Medical School
is particularly unique in the breadth of options available for intercalation.
However, the HCR Master’s degree stood out for me. I have always wanted to
undertake medical humanitarian work, but the multitude of issues surrounding
this field have always left me feeling uneasy. I felt that the HCR Masters
would give me an opportunity to grapple with these issues and develop a better
understanding of how medical aid can be delivered effectively.
The Masters programme has been
incredibly rewarding, particularly for someone coming from a science degree.
The complexity of humanitarian aid has been unveiled to me, going to a depth of
understanding which I never imagined reaching. This has included asking myself
questions which have never before crossed my mind, such as – is providing aid
always good? A year ago I would have likely said yes, but through studying
disciplines such as history, ethics and public health I have come to realise
that no straightforward answer exists. For instance, there are instances of aid
being used to extend conflicts, when it has fallen into the ‘wrong’ hands and
been sold on a black market and provided funds for armed forces.
One of the great things about the
Masters is the wealth of experience I have been surrounded with. It is
difficult not be inspired when you turn up on a Tuesday morning and your
lecturer starts telling you about his recent United Nations meeting or her
trips to war torn parts of northern Sri Lanka to provide medical assistance. As
a postgraduate taught (PGT) degree, for two thirds of the year my days are a
mix of lectures, seminars and private study. After handing in my essays in May,
I will then have the remainder of my degree free for my dissertation.
My dissertation gives me the
opportunity to study one aspect of humanitarianism in real depth. My current
focus is on the development of sustainable healthcare systems following
humanitarian crises. Medical aid has often been directed towards specific
diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Polio, Malaria or Tuberculosis, this is known as a
vertical approach. While this can tackle specific diseases, when the money dries
up it is unlikely that a robust healthcare system will remain. But many of the
countries that have require medical aid have limited infrastructure and trained
personnel for developing an all-encompassing or ‘horizontal’ approach. The
question remains, how do we approach healthcare development in a sustainable
manner without spreading resources so thin that they don’t have any effect? It
seems that a compromise between the two needs to be reached!
The greatest challenge for me has
been learning to adapt to a completely novel set of disciplines. Getting my
head around and then critiquing theories of learning, international relations
and in depth history articles has been a very different challenge to memorising
the signs of liver failure!
Going forward, I still hope to
undertake medical aid work in the future, but the Masters has made me realise
that I must wait until I am a relatively independent practitioner. Therefore, I
will continue on my medical training, hopefully pass my finals and then start
as a junior doctor in 2017!
For those of you who want to find
out more about the incredible staff at HCRI then click this link
Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors
Without Borders) website http://www.msf.org.uk/
An overview on the current state of
the ‘humanitarian system’ http://www.alnap.org/what-we-do/effectiveness/sohs
The full range of intercalation
options open to medical students at UoM http://www.mms.manchester.ac.uk/study/why-study-medicine-manchester/intercalation/
For an insight into some of the
problems with aid watch the film “The Trouble with Aid” (2012)