Blog

Biomedical Materials: my research into bone regeneration

by YPU Admin on November 15, 2019, Comments. Tags: biomedical materials, material science, PhD, science, and STEM

Introduction

Hi, my name is Negin Kamyar and I am a 2nd year PhD student at University of Manchester. I am doing my PhD in Biomedical materials and I am a part of Bio-Active Materials group headed by Dr. Jonny Blaker.

So, about my background - I did my bachelor’s in biomedical engineering in Azad Tehran University. During my bachelor’s, I worked on fabrication of skin patches for wound healing. As I was getting to know my research interest more and more in the biomedical field, I became more passionate to discover new things in my field. To further progress and improve in my field, I decided to apply to University of Manchester to study my Master’s. I successfully got accepted to study Biomaterials at University of Manchester and I graduated with distinction. During my master’s project I worked on the fabrication of three-dimensional (3-D) materials composed of polymers and two-dimensional (2-D) materials for bone regeneration. Since I was very excited about my master’s project, I decided to start my PhD in Biomedical Material and continue my research with more passion and time. My research is focused on the fabrication of 3-D bone implants which can be degraded over time so that the body’s new tissue can replace the degraded implant. These materials can be used for bone fractures and patients with osteoporosis.

So far, my PhD has been great. I published one paper in the ACS applied nanomaterials journal and I also presented my work to one of the biggest world conferences “Material Research Society (MRS)” in Boston. Participation in this conference gave me the chance to meet a lot of researchers around the world and learn new things in my field and share my research with them. I am looking forward to new achievements and opportunities during my PhD research.

In Depth…

When I was a child, I was always very keen on studying medicine in the future due to having a strong feeling and passion for helping people’s lives. My main inspiration in my life was my family who have always supported me to follow my dreams, since I was a child, and still support me today. While studying at school I was very enthusiastic about biomedical science and my parents bought me many science related books which helped me to be sure that it was what I wanted to do. I remember, when I was in the final year of high school, I met one of our family friends, who was doing research on heart stents and I had very long conversation with her about this field. After that day, I started reading more about the different applications of biomedical devices and I became more and more interested in inventing biomedical devices to improve humans’ lives. So, my dream towards medicine always stayed in my mind, but its direction changed to a more interesting and challenging field for me as biomedical engineer. During my bachelor’s, I worked on the fabrication of skin patches for wound healing and I presented my work in an international conference in Poland. One year after getting my bachelor’s degree, I successfully collaborated in publishing an academic book in Persian called “Nanomaterial in Biomedical Engineering” with my supervisor. During my master’s at Manchester University, I found I was more interested in the topic of bone implants because of current challenges in this field. In my master’s project, I worked on the fabrication of a 3-D fibre-based scaffold for potential bone regeneration which could be degraded over time.

Since I was fascinated by my Master’s project, I decided to continue the topic for my PhD. So, I am currently a second year PhD student and absolutely love my research with all its challenges and adventures. My project is a multidisciplinary topic which focuses on the fabrication of tissue scaffolds with different techniques. These scaffolds are 3-D structures which are composed of polymers and two-dimensional materials which can mimic the natural bone’s tissue. These 3-D scaffolds are integrated with biological factors and cells to mimic the physiological environment. In the physiological environment, these scaffolds can degrade over time and stimulate the formation of new tissue. The main aim of this research is finding a new way to help patients who are suffering from bone fractures and osteoporosis.

Now, I am almost midway through my PhD and I still absolutely love my research. I find every day challenging and adventurous for myself. I definitely can say that research is an unlimited area, that every day I learn and discover new things in my field. Beside doing my research, I also help other bachelor’s and master’s students in the lab with their projects which makes me feel more excited about continuing my own research in my field to a higher level. I have to say that that I am very thankful to all my parents’ support that gave me lots of opportunity to experience an amazing adventure in my life.

Figure 1 3-D scaffold for bone regeneration.

Going Further…

If you are interested in reading my paper, please visit the website: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acsanm.8b00938?af=R

If you are interest in finding more information about the biomaterial and our group, please visit the websites: https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/jonny.blaker.html and https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/david.lewis-4.html

If you are interested in perusing Materials sciences, please visit the website: http://www.materials.manchester.ac.uk/

We also have a school blog which details life as a materials student and interviews a range of students and lecturers: http://www.mub.eps.manchester.ac.uk/uommaterialsblog/




 

The Unanswered Questions of Brexit

by YPU Admin on November 8, 2019, Comments. Tags: Brexit, Euro-scepticism, history, Humanities, PhD, Political History, and politics

Introduction

‘Brexit means Brexit!’. The words of the former Prime Minister, Theresa May, in June 2016, on the steps of the UK Parliament. But what does Brexit mean? 

Hello, my name is Adam. I’m a first year History PhD student here at The University of Manchester and my research aims to understand the historical origins of euro-scepticism in the UK. The 2016 referendum produced a political crisis. The Vote Leave campaign narrowly ‘won’ 51.9 to 49.1 on a turnout of 72%. Questions of what it means to be a member of the EU, a member of The Conservatives, and much more broadly the British democratic system have been thrown into focus. 

For me, my interest in political history was sparked at a young age. I grew up with the backdrop of the Iraq War — campaigning as a part of the ‘Stop the War’ coalition. I was able to see how Politics has the ability to reshape our world, for better and for worse. Understanding the decisions taken in Westminster – and in constituencies – is therefore important for me.

In Depth... 

I am at the beginning of my research into euro-scepticism but already there are some important questions that have emerged. For example, why did the UK government, at the time, decide to use an open-question referendum rather than, say, a referendum on specific outcomes? Euro-scepticism is a subject that crosses traditional political boundaries but why? How far did ‘political education’, or lack of education, play in the mind of the voter? Did one group particularly benefit from worries of Europeanism? How far did the media present an unquestioning approach to scare stories?

I am in a slightly unusual position to be studying Brexit. As a historian, there is a tendency to look to events that are settled, although may be contested by historians! Yet, with the near daily developments with the UK’s exit from the European Union there is a wealth of new material emerging. This helps keep my research current, but it also throws up its own challenges in how I approach the topic.

Understanding political decisions is important for me. I returned to Manchester to complete a Master’s Degree (immediately before this Ph.D.) after a number of years in the ‘professional world’. It gave me an insight into the concerns and ambitions of businesses, yet I knew that I wanted to further explore my curiosity for History. After decided that I would leave my job, I quickly rediscovered my love of learning and had a wonderful opportunity to meet some amazing people (both academics and friends) who encouraged me to pursue my interest in historical politics further.

Ultimately, I would really like my project to contribute to a much more detailed understanding of how and why political decisions are taken. In this, I hope to contribute through various policy platforms and forums with the aim of ensuring that regional voices are included as much as ‘dominant narratives’ of the ‘Westminster Bubble’.

Going further…

Looking for further information about Brexit can feel a little overwhelming, trust me. However, understanding the origins of euro-scepticism allows us to narrow the field a little and there are some brilliant resources and blogs which help unpack the subject. For my experience, an excellent starting place is the ‘Britain in a Changing Europe’ Research Project run by Professor Anand Menon (https://ukandeu.ac.uk/). As an academic resource, it is thoroughly fact-checked and many of the contributors regularly appear in the media.

For a little further clarification of key terms and some of the ideas often discussed alongside Brexit (such as sovereignty, trade policy, and the Northern Irish ‘backstop’) see the London School of Economics and Political Science Brexit Blog (https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/). Another resource that I regularly use is the BBC’s fantastic ‘Brexitcast’ (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05299nl). Presented as a podcast (although now on TV as well) the podcast is a really informal way to get the inside track on news and gossip from the UK and Europe. 


 

Health Economics: the true cost of medical errors

by YPU Admin on August 30, 2019, Comments. Tags: BMH, Health, health economics, NHS, patient safety, and Pharmacy

Introduction

Hi there, my name is Leonie Brinkmann. I am a German pharmacist and started my PhD at the University of Manchester about two years ago. I work in the field of health economics. Health economics is a branch of economics that tries to evaluate health care services or new medications from an economic perspective without neglecting the value of health. This combines a medical background knowledge, data analysis and statistics. I myself, for example, focus on patient safety.  Using big data sets of electronic health records I try to identify specific patients with medication errors to see how many of the medication errors lead to harm for the patient.

In Depth…

I am a pharmacist by background and did my undergraduate at the University of Heidelberg. Pharmacy is a great subject that combines biology, chemistry, physiology and pharmacology. I was always interested in medicines and diseases, but I cannot see blood. So studying medicine was off the table, but pharmacy happened to be the prefect trade off!

I enjoyed my undergraduate a lot, but it included long hours in the laboratory. Lab work was never something I enjoyed. I found it rather boring… But luckily as pharmacist you have loads of other opportunities in community pharmacies, industry, hospital or research.

I was very lucky to get a job as clinical pharmacist in a hospital. My main objective was to increase patient safety on the wards. I had a great time going from ward to ward, identifying patients with medication errors, and telling the doctors or nurses off that made the error.  It always felt a bit like being the safety police of the hospital.

But at some point I felt like I wanted to study again, I wanted to learn something new and be challenged a bit more. That’s when I decided to do a PhD. I found a great project that took the work I was doing in the hospital on a small scale to another level. Before I was looking through the patient’s health records by hand, now I am evaluating a computer programme that automatically screens all electronic health records of a patient and identifies medication errors. The pharmacists does not need to screen each patient, but can focus on how to communicate medication errors to the responsible doctor.

The burden of medication errors is estimated to be about £89.1 million per year for the NHS. This highlights how important it is for the NHS to invest in programmes that aim to reduce medication errors.  But unfortunately, the NHS does not have endless money to fund great ideas like this. That’s where health economics becomes interesting, because we can show the value of money of the new computer programme. To do so I am using electronic health records from GP-practices and hospitals to investigate the relationship between medication errors, patient harm and costs. Quantifying the burden of medication errors enables us to estimate the true value for money of the computer programme. Results on the value for money of such programmes aims to aid decision making  by policy makers on whether to fund such programmes or not.

So if you like numbers, you are not scared of statistics and you want to make the NHS a bit safer, this is the perfect opportunity for you!

Going Further…

Learn more about Pharmacy https://www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/study/pharmacy/

Little introduction video to understand what health economics is about (only 3 minutes) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUay9DV__G0

Learn more about what we do as health economists in our newsletter http://research.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/healtheconomics/MCHENewsletter/

What are electronic health records that I use in my PhD project https://www.ehealthireland.ie/Strategic-Programmes/Electronic-Health-Record-EHR-/

Why are health records important for research?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNbe3-d3KdQ

 

A cure for Alzheimer's?

by YPU Admin on August 16, 2019, Comments. Tags: Alzheimer's, biology, chemistry, medicinal chemistry, medicine, Research, and STEM

Introduction

Hi, my name is James, I am a second year PhD researcher in Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Manchester and I make drugs. To put that statement into context, I make drugs targeting the biological process of inflammation which is involved in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

My research group are interested in targeting the aptly named ‘inflammasome’ using small molecules. We hope that these small molecule inhibitors might one day be able to treat diseases which involve inflammation, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is something that everyone is aware of. And it’s only going to become more common – we are all living a lot longer than we used to, which means that age-related diseases are on the rise. That’s why I think that the work that we do is really important!

In Depth…

I studied at the University of York where I graduated with a first class MChem degree in Chemistry (with a year in industry), taking my fourth and final year on an industrial placement at LifeArc in Stevenage. LifeArc is where I first started working in the field of medicinal chemistry, and it is the year I spent there which inspired me to continue in that area. There is something amazing about manipulating molecules to make ones that have never been made before. Chemistry is a lot like cooking in your kitchen, albeit with a few more pieces of safety equipment, and without licking the spoon at the end…

On a typical day, I will spend most of my time in the lab – setting up reactions, as well as analysing and purifying them. I will never get bored of the fact that I am playing around with electrons to form new bonds… and mixing two coloured liquids together to give a sparkly white solid will always be absolute magic to me.

Going Further…

For those interested in learning a bit more about everyday chemistry and how it impacts on your life, take a look at the ‘Exploring Everyday Chemistry’ twitter pages or even sign up for a free online course. This will help to expand your everyday chemistry knowledge, and with the brilliant Professor Andy Parsons as your guide, you will have no choice but to get excited about chemistry! (https://www.york.ac.uk/chemistry/news/deptnews/free-online-course-eedc/)

For the latest on Alzheimer’s research and news, look no further than the Twitter feeds for the Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK (https://twitter.com/ARUKnews)

The University of Manchester has a huge range of exciting research – I would really suggest taking a look at the UoM Research Hive for approachable and jargon-free updates on the work of postgraduates (like me!) at the University. (https://twitter.com/UomHive)

For all the latest news from all areas of science, take a look at the New Scientist twitter feed. (https://twitter.com/newscientist)


 

The history of archaeology: A research-led approach

Introduction

My name is Charlotte Coull, and I’m a third year PhD student at the University of Manchester in the History Department. I did both my undergraduate degree and my Master’s degree at Manchester before being lucky enough after applying to be offered funding by the History department to complete my PhD here.

I look comparatively at the history of archaeology in India and Egypt in the nineteenth century. Many people walk away with the idea that I am an archaeologist when I first explain my topic to them - however I am most definitely a historian and there is no digging involved in my work!

In depth

One of the most interesting things about research is that your topic and focus can change over time; as you read more, you become more aware of what has already been said about your subject, and most importantly you start to see different ways of looking at things and different ideas to pull out of your original material. This sounds intimidating, and you do need to be careful that you eventually find a path and stick with it (otherwise you will never get any work done!), but it can also be exciting. You have the opportunity to create something completely unique that will stand out from the crowd!

When I started my PhD, I knew I wanted to look at archaeology over a broad time and I knew I wanted my project to be comparative. My idea was to look for changes over time whilst looking at how and archaeologists reacted differently to what they found in India and Egypt - did they prefer Egyptian artefacts to Indian ones for example? All that hasn’t really changed. But what I have done is focused on stone.

Nineteenth century archaeologists in both countries discovered lots of things, including bones and pottery, but it was stone that really caught their attention in the form of temples, tombs, monuments and megaliths. Stone can be hundreds, maybe thousands, of years old; it can be in ruins or almost perfect; it can be huge, intimidating and strange because the people that used it, the people who built things from it in ancient times, are gone and cannot explain it. Take a look at the images here: this is the stone nineteenth century archaeologists would have found in India and Egypt, but unlike today they did not have technology like radiocarbon dating to tell them how old it was. They often did not know who built things or how.

Three years ago, I didn’t know this. I had not done the reading that told me that archaeologists in the 1800s were so perplexed by stone - it was only as my project progressed that I started to notice this and plan my work around it. Now my whole PhD thesis is looking at how archaeologists knew what they knew about Indian and Egyptian stone - or what they didn’t know.

To do this I work mainly with published material from the nineteenth century. I look at the language archaeologists used to talk about the sites they studied and the information they presented in these books and journal articles to their fellow archaeologists. If an archaeologist has written about how he found Indian temples confusing because they look so different to what he is used to in Britain, then it’s in my work; if an archaeologist has written about how amazingly old the Egyptian pyramids are and how spectacular it is to look at something so ancient, then it’s in my work.

History is a subject with so much potential to let you get creative and push the boundaries - your work can evolve with your thinking and reflect your changing interests!  

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!