Hi, my name is Shreya, a Master's student at the University
of Manchester. My Master’s is in cancer research, an extremely topical and fast
paced field. After completing three years of medicine, I decided to take a year
out, known as 'intercalating', to explore research.
The knowledge of how innovative and pioneering the current
projects are, coupled with the fact that I had a previous interest in the
clinical side of cancer, solidified that this was the field for me. After this
year I’ll return to finishing my medical degree, now with the perspective of
working as a researcher. The invaluable skills I’ve learnt and will continue to
develop this year should only help me become a better doctor in the future.
My research is focused on colorectal cancer, one of the most
common cancers in the UK. The project I’m doing specifically involves patients
that have had advanced colorectal cancer, which has unfortunately spread to the
lining of the abdomen. This type of cancer is difficult to treat and involves intricate
surgery that lasts for around 8-10 hours. Patients after this surgery have
kindly donated their tumours in order for our team to analyse them. We are looking
at the DNA of the starting tumour and the DNA of the tumours that have spread,
in order for us to see how closely related the two tumours are. This project
has many elements to it and involves a large team, I’m working closely with surgeons,
pathologists and lab researchers who are using state of the art techniques and
facilities to get the most accurate results. My main role will be to analyse the
raw results, which should start to become available within the next month. At
the moment I am mainly delegating and in charge of organising, as there are
many people involved, it can often be difficult, but I’m enjoying the
communication aspect. Performing a DNA profile of the starting tumour (primary)
is common practice in hospitals, as it helps doctors come up with a treatment
plan tailored to the tumour type. A profile of the tumour that has spread
(secondary) is not routinely done, therefore the profile of the primary is also
used to treat the secondary. This project aims to see if there are any
differences in DNA between the two, and whether the secondary site should also
be analysed for establishing treatment plans. A lot of information can be
gained by looking at the DNA of tumours, and more information is needed to help
manage this advanced disease, which currently has a poor prognosis.
My project is a good mix of lab work and clinical; often
projects are one or the other. This means I get the opportunity to explore both
kinds of research. I am also exposed to many different environments, for
example, I have sat down with pathologists and looked at tumour samples under
the microscope, as well as having the opportunity to be in the genomics lab and
understand the process of DNA profiling. Being able to have these experiences
is one of the reasons why I took a year out of medicine. Despite having
previous reservations about doing a Master’s (mainly due to adding an extra
year to my already long 5 year degree!) I’m happy with the work I’m doing, and I
have been enjoying experiencing the world of research.
For more information on DNA and genes: https://www.genomicseducation.hee.nhs.uk/genetics101/what-is-dna/
I am based at the world-renowned Christie
Hospital which is pioneering in cancer research, for more information on the
research they do have a look at their website: https://www.christie.nhs.uk/professionals/research/
For general information about cancer, check out
the Cancer Research UK website: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMImcevrJDr3wIVCbDtCh2byAaqEAAYASAAEgII7vD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds#/
For more information about applying for medicine
at Manchester: https://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/2019/01428/mbchb-medicine/
For information about the Masters in oncology
My name is Jemma and I am a second year PhD student in the
History of Science, Technology and Medicine (HSTM). I took a somewhat roundabout route to this
subject area. After finishing my A-Levels, I didn’t really know what I wanted
to study at university. I enjoyed both Biology and Chemistry so ended up
applying for Biochemistry at the University of Manchester in 2012. With a
number of the bioscience degrees at Manchester, there is the option to do them
as a 4-year undergraduate rather than the standard 3 – with the additional year
being spent working in industry. By the time my placement year came around I realised
that, whilst I found the theory and topics fascinating, I hated lab-based
research. As a result, I chose to spend a year working at the Manchester
Museum’s herbarium – the botany department of the Museum. My project with them
centred on a 19th
century medical collection called the Materia
Medica, which contains plants, animal and mineral products that used to be
employed in the teaching of pharmacy at Owens College (later this became the
University of Manchester). I became obsessed! I changed my degree for my final
year to Biology with Science and Society, which is basically a Biology degree
with HSTM modules, and did my final year dissertation on the domestic use of
opium (the plant extract which morphine comes from) by women in the 19th
century. HSTM has been a great way to combine my love of history and science.
After my undergraduate degree, I received a 1+3 studentship
to do my Masters and PhD in HSTM at Manchester. My Masters dissertation
returned to the Materia Medica collection as I compared pharmacy education in
Manchester and London in the 19th century. In 2018 I started my PhD,
looking at the place medicinal plants had in 20th century pharmacy.
Pharmaceuticals drugs today are often presented as being
created intentionally – often synthetically by chemical processes – and somehow
separate from traditional medicinal knowledge. However, many drugs still have a
basis in herbal medicine. So how did this perception come about? Why do we view
modern drugs as being divorced from traditional knowledge practices? My
research therefore focuses on medicinal plants, specifically within the context
of conventional pharmacy, during the 20th century. It examines how
plants were used as well as perceived following the rise of synthetic
pharmaceutical drugs to present a more complicated history of drugs than a
simple forward progression from traditional herbal knowledge of the 19th
century to modern, synthetically produced drugs of the late 20th.
I really enjoy my research, but I don’t spend all my time
just doing the PhD. I am a strong supporter of academics not just doing
research but also engaging people with their work. I therefore split my time
between doing my PhD and other activities (though with the emphasis on my PhD
of course). Along with being a Widening Participation Fellow, I am a Heritage
Guide for the University and still volunteer at the Manchester Museum’s
Herbarium. At the Museum, I often get involved with their events as well as designing
activities myself (such as an activity on medicinal plants used by the Romans -
I am also a big fan of interdisciplinary collaboration, having worked with
members of the pharmacy department as well as artists on public engagement
activities. My current project is setting up a podcast series, called In
Pursuit Of Plants, dedicated to sharing cross-disciplinary research on
medicinal plants – from history to biophysics – with the public. Along with
other PhD students, I even co-organise conferences to promote interdisciplinary
connections amongst Masters and PhD students at the University of Manchester.
Whilst it is important to balance these so they don’t detract from my research,
doing things beyond the PhD is very rewarding and a great way to get others
excited about the topic.
Links to the In Pursuit of Plants podcast series and website
can be found via our twitter page: @IPOP_Podcast
History of Science, Technology and Medicine is such a
diverse field, to find out more about the types of research conducted in our
PhD group check out our website: https://chstmphdblog.wordpress.com/people/
For a look at some of the public engagement I have done, you
can read this blog post (plus see the final video!) of a collaborative project
with a creative from Reform Radio: https://chstmphdblog.wordpress.com/2018/10/12/mixlab-2018-a-public-engagement-experiement/
You can also follow me on twitter for more on my research
(plus lots of photos from the Manchester Museum): https://twitter.com/PlantHistorian
For more on the Biology with Science and Society
with Industrial/Professional Experience see: http://www.chstm.manchester.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/
My name is Dayo and I am a second
year PhD student at the University studying Politics. I am researching how
underrepresented members of the public in policy making (in the case of my
research, Black and Minority Ethnic young adults aged 18 – 25) are included in
the process of policy making. I also work as a teaching assistant for politics
related courses in undergraduate and Master’s level courses.
My route into PhD has been an
interesting journey rather than a direct path. It has been a process of
re-inventing myself and following my passion. My undergraduate degree was in
Economics which I realised quite early on was not for me so I did not
particularly excel in this degree. After a year out working, I figured out what
my next steps would be so I did Master’s degrees in Human Resource Management
and Management Psychology. I did well in these courses. Doing a PhD was
something I had previously considered as it was suggested by my academic
adviser during one of my Master’s degrees but I did not pursue it.
On graduating, I worked for about seven
years in the private and not-for-profit sectors in Learning and Organisational
Development. The knowledge and soft skills I gained at university meant that I
was able to progress in my career by successfully utilising these skills.
Whilst I had no academic knowledge
of policy making, I began to get interested in policy making as one of my jobs
gave me exposure to this field. I then started to notice the lack of diverse
representation in decision making bodies of public policy. There were ‘hidden’
and ‘silent’ groups of people who were not getting involved in decision-making.
I wanted to know why this was the
case and also find solutions that would increase representation in policy
making so that their experiences of issues could be taken into account when
policy is being made.
Transitioning from being a
practitioner to being back in university has been great; it has given me the
opportunity to have the headspace to read and articulate the issues I am
concerned about. I am doing lots of reading! What is also great and a highlight
of my degree is that my fieldwork - working with real people in the real world
- provides the opportunity to design an approach based on academic theories and
study whether it works or not.
Skills gained from the practitioner
work, in particular project management skills (time and resource management as
well as organisational), are helping me progress with my PhD.
Through my journey, I have
hopefully shown that a route to doing a PhD in Politics does not have to be
typical. I have also shown that political parties and elections is just one
component of a Politics degree.
So if you want to be the change, a
degree in Politics could be for you!
If you are interested in finding
out more about politics, here are some links you may find useful.
Politics degrees in Manchester: https://www.socialsciences.manchester.ac.uk/politics/study/courses/
Career options as a Politics
Information about how Government works: http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/
Information on the UK Parliament: http://www.parliament.uk/
How research impacts on Policy: http://www.policy.manchester.ac.uk/blogs/
My name is Rebecca and I am a 2nd year PhD
student in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences. I have been
interested in animals and the natural world since I was very young, so chose to
study Natural Sciences, specialising in Zoology, at undergraduate level.
Following this, I was selected for an animal husbandry internship at Chester
Zoo, which cemented my desire to work with animals in zoological collections. I
focused on this in more detail whilst completing my MSc Wild Animal Biology,
examining multiple aspects of conservation and animal husbandry.
My research focuses on how birdsong can influence
conservation. Birdsong exhibits clear population differences known as dialects,
which are similar to accents in humans. These dialects can form very rapidly,
especially in small, ex situ
populations. They also play an important role in mate choice, with females
preferring local over foreign dialects. Conservation interventions often bring
birds from different populations together, so dialect differences could impact
mate choice. This could cause many problems, the most serious being that birds
may not integrate and breed in their new population.
Automated recording unit
Many songbirds are threatened with extinction.
Unfortunately, critically endangered species are often hard to access and have
low sample sizes, meaning this kind of research is not possible. To avoid this,
I work with a model species, the Java Sparrow (Lonchura oryzivora), which is numerous in zoos and aviculture but
threatened in its home range. Once studied in the model, we can expand our
techniques to more critically endangered birds.
Recording birds can be surprisingly challenging!
Environments are full of noise, whether natural (like water and wind) or
man-made (like traffic or electrical appliances), which also show up on our
recordings. Lots of different equipment is available for different situations.
Recordings in controlled conditions can make use of sensitive directional
microphones. However, recordings outdoors require sturdy automatic recording
units (ARUs), which can be left for long periods in all weather.
Although we may be able to hear differences between the
songs of different birds, it can be difficult to understand and explain how songs are different through
listening alone. We can visualise songs
as a spectrogram, which allows us to analyse songs much more accurately.
Generally, we are interested in two main parts of song:
spectrotemporal and structural features.
Spectrotemporal features include information about the
timing of the song, for example its duration and the intervals between notes,
and spectral details, such as minimum and maximum frequency.
Structural features relate to the notes themselves - their
shape, how they are grouped together.
Once we have extracted these features for songs from
multiple birds, we can compare them to see how similar their songs are. If bird songs are more similar within than
between populations, it is good evidence that dialects exist in the species.
Find out more about songbird conservation with Chester Zoo’s
Sing for Songbirds (https://www.actforwildlife.org.uk/what-we-fight-for/conservation-challenges/our-campaigns/sing-for-songbirds)
and EAZA’s Silent Forest (https://www.silentforest.eu) campaigns
The Macaulay Library (https://www.macaulaylibrary.org) is a
great birdsong resource with recordings from thousands of species.
Chester Zoo profile link:
I am studying for a PhD in Statistical
Physics and Complex Systems at The University of Manchester. My research
studies a system of many interacting species where the population of one
species can facilitate or hinder the growth of another species. This
relationship is determined by a specific interaction coefficient between the
species. The interaction coefficients for the relationship between every pair
of species are drawn randomly from a two-dimensional Gaussian distribution, and
we use the parameters of this distribution to predict how the ecosystem
behaves. We can then simulate these interacting species using a computer
programme to check our predictions.
I studied Mathematics and Physics for
my undergraduate degree at The University of Manchester. I chose this degree
because I enjoy understanding how the world works, and appreciate how bizarre
and counter-intuitive our reality is. I had a fascination for quantum mechanics
and relativity, higher dimensions, and sub-atomic particles. I really enjoyed
learning about these concepts as well as being introduced to many other
fascinating ideas. I enjoyed the lecture style of teaching but I also developed
my ability for independent learning, I became really good at managing my own time,
and absorbing information at my own pace from reading textbooks and lecture
notes. The most useful skill I learned during my degree was how to computer
programme, I learned how use Matlab, C++, and Python, and I learned how to
write codes for simulations, data analysis, solving complicated equations, and
optimization algorithms. I decided to do a PhD after my undergraduate degree
because I really enjoy self-study and programming, and I am further developing
these skills with new challenges every day.
I became interested in population
dynamics after reading "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins, where
he described behavioural evolution using ideas from Game Theory. He described
how an animal’s behaviour, and the behaviours of the other animals it interacts
with, would determine how successful the animal would be at surviving and
passing on it genes. These successful behavioural strategies would dictate how
the behaviour of the population as a whole would change over time, and evolve
to an Evolutionary Stable Strategy which could be understood as stable Nash
equilibria. During my degree I took the opportunity to study Game Theory
further by writing my second year vacation essay on the topic. I researched
many areas of Game Theory and went through a short online course. I discovered
how it can be applied to statistical physics, in the Ising model for
ferromagnets, and really enjoyed learning about how ideas from quantum
mechanics could produce Quantum Game Theory, where a player could play multiple
strategies at the same time. In my fourth year I undertook a project with my
current PhD supervisor on a population of individuals who had the choice of two
behavioural strategies to interact with. The population evolved by the number
of individuals playing the more successful strategy increasing, but this model
also considered the effect of time delay, such as a gestation period in nature.
I really enjoyed my project with my supervisor and through this I continued
onto a PhD with him.
Here is a link to my supervisor’s
webpage, if you are interested in my research you could look at his
Here are links to the undergraduate
Mathematics and Physics courses webpages:
If you are interested in game theory,
here is a brief course:
If you are interested in “The Selfish
Gene” here is a brief summary of the book, chapter 12 discusses game theory:
and the full text can be downloaded