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Intern Insight - The School of Life

by YPU Admin on May 1, 2020, Comments. Tags: animal ethics, ethics, french, Humanities, intern, intern insight, language, and spanish

Introduction

Hello! I’m Krystyna. I’m a graduate intern at the University of Manchester and I work in the Student Recruitment and Widening Participation team. This means that I work in a team which works closely with schools and colleges in order to show learners what university is all about and what other options young people have to continue their education and succeed in the future.

I studied French and Spanish at the University and in my final year I did an extended research project on the topic of anthropomorphism – the way that animals (or non-human characters) are treated as if they had human qualities. Not at all French or Spanish! But what does all this have to do with what I studied and my current job?

         

What is the School of Life?

You may have heard people refer to university as ‘The School of Life’, but what do they mean by this? Arriving at university is an experience unlike any other. You are likely to be living without your family for the first time, independently, with a group of other students. You can meet new people every day if you want to through your course, and though the various societies (clubs) and activities going on on-campus or in the city. You are faced with so many new situations that your ability to overcome problems gets better, and you find yourself getting more confident. More confident and learning a whole lot of new skills and knowledge. All of these experiences give you an insight into the world beyond your comfort zone and prepare you for your future whether you have a career in mind or not.

As you find your feet, and get deeper into your work and settle into your student life, you also start finding out more about your interests – what are the things that spark something inside you? What are the things that get you excited? Where is it that your strengths lie? What do you want to get better at? These were some of the questions that helped me make the most of the opportunities at university.

How does this help you grow?

University isn’t only about attending your classes and only sticking to classes from your course – that’s right! If you’re doing a business degree you can take up a language and vice versa! I was able to take a course on animal ethics in my final year which explored the relationship that we, humans, have with animals. Not only was this fascinating, but it also changed my world view. This, paired with my growing abilities in the languages I was learning, made me reconsider my future. I started thinking beyond my subject and started thinking about how I wanted to impact society in the future.

I became a student ambassador in my first year through to my final year. This is a role in which you represent the university at events and get to talk to people visiting campus about your experience there. As an ambassador, one of the things I enjoyed was the opportunity to work with schools. I would help university staff run events that encourage secondary school pupils to take up languages and in my final year, I was able to teach four beginner French lessons to 12 pupils in year eight at their school. This is because many, if not all, universities also work with their local communities in many different ways and I was able to be a part of that.   

             

How does this help shape your future?

As I came closer to finishing my degree, I started to understand that my degree doesn’t restrict me to finding a job linked directly to my studies. I started to understand that at university you learn so many different skills that can be applied to many different jobs. At university, not only did I gain independence, experience and learn about many things that I wouldn’t have otherwise learned about (such as studying linguistics, and animal ethics, and even studying abroad), I was able to reflect on my experiences and skills, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses and find where it is that I want to go next.

If you decide to come to university, I hope that you will push yourself to learn and experience new things, get involved in the work that your university does in its community and discover, from these experiences, where your passion might lie. I hope you have an excellent experience in the School of Life!


 

Textile Technology - Can we really grow leather in a lab?

Introduction

My name is Dana and I am a 1st year EPSRC-funded PhD student at The University of Manchester. My project is interdisciplinary, spanning across the Textiles and Biomaterials research groups. I also need to draw on the Chemistry knowledge I learned at Undergraduate level. I work within the broader Department of Materials and spend most of my time on the Sackville Street Campus. My research aims to grow leather in a laboratory using tissue engineering techniques. It is hoped that this method could potentially be more environmentally, socially and ethically sustainable than current manufacturing practices.

In Depth…

At school, I enjoyed learning about a broad range of subjects. By A Level, I narrowed my favourite subjects down to Chemistry, Biology, Maths and Textiles. Teachers advised me to drop Textiles, so I could focus on more academic subjects. However, I persevered, since I enjoyed the subject so much. Textiles is, sadly, often undervalued as a subject in schools due to a lack of understanding. It offers many more career prospects than the stereotypical fashion designer. The scientific side of the subject, Textile Technology, is a fast-growing industry, with many exciting innovations already discovered. These textile products are designed to perform specific functions, as opposed to simply looking attractive. Examples of products already developed include smart, electronic textile garments to monitor patient health or army officer location. The technology spans a wide range of industries, also including agriculture, construction and sports. In fact, it would be difficult to find an aspect of modern life without Textile Technology in action!


My journey progressed through studying a Chemistry degree at The University of Durham. I appreciated the quaint city, having originally come from a rural area, and enjoyed participation in several extracurricular societies. During my degree, I gained a strong core knowledge and skillset that would be useful in any future career path, not just scientific. I confirmed my key interests were in the Biological and Materials fields. During my Master’s, I completed a year in industry with Solvay, specialising in composite materials for high performance automobiles. This gave me valuable, first hand work experience in Textile Technology. Following graduation in 2018, I took a year out to go travelling and learn more about the world. A fascinating exhibition on ‘Fashioned From Nature’ at the V&A Museum in London really captured my interest in sustainable fashion.

Meanwhile, society has become increasingly aware of the harmful impacts that materials can have on the environment. Plastics in particular have received a lot of negative media coverage. Animal welfare activism has reached broader audiences through social media. The proportion of people classifying themselves as vegetarian, or even vegan, is growing. Even those still consuming animal products are conscious about cutting down to lower negative health and environmental impacts. I myself converted to vegetarianism a couple of years ago. Leather is a luxurious fabric used in a variety of high-end fashion and furnishing products. It does however raise animal welfare concerns as it is made from animal skin, mostly wasted in the meat industry. As more people become vegetarian, we may need other sources of leather to meet demand. We should avoid equally harmful plastic alternatives though. Human skin is already grown in laboratories for medical skin grafts, so perhaps we could use similar techniques to grow animal skin? This is exactly what I shall work on over the next few years. This topic perfectly combines my academic and personal interests.

A typical working day could involve a mixture of: laboratory work; reading literature; analysing data; writing up; presenting research or teaching. I collaborate with staff members from many different departments. This variety of work during a PhD can make it more interesting than a typical day job. I am excited to see where my research goes! Maybe one day, lab-grown leather will make high street jackets… I am very lucky to be meeting my niche subject interests through this PhD. After completion, I hope to return to industry for a while. I may either continue down the sustainable fashion route or move into lab-grown meat research.

Going Further…

If you are interested in learning more about the potential of lab-grown leather, see this paper outlining research by another group:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2589234719300193

For The University of Manchester Department of Materials website, including many other interesting research projects:

https://www.materials.manchester.ac.uk/research/

To learn more about lab-grown meat technologies see this news article:

https://www.economist.com/international/2019/10/12/plant-based-meat-could-create-a-radically-different-food-chain

For the unique courses available at The University of Manchester specifically in Textile Technology:

https://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/2020/09900/meng-materials-science-and-engineering-with-textiles-technology/

https://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/masters/courses/list/08611/msc-textile-technology-technical-textiles/

Youtube videos introducing other textile technologies:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuXPCXEKvSo

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=smart+textiles

Career prospects:

https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/search-results?searchTerm=textile+technoloy


 

Social media as a learning tool

Introduction

My name is Laura, and I am taking a year away from being a medical student to complete a masters in Health Care Ethics and Law. Medical schools call this year out an "intercalation year" and offers it to all medical students interested in earning an extra science-related degree on top of their current medical degree. In my fourth-year at medical school, I started a research project to explore how medical students used social media to achieve their learning goals. Is there a place for social media in an academic institution at all? Can social media actually benefit students rather than be a distraction? This was what I wanted to find out. Right now, the study has gone international with medical schools as far as Australia, North America, Saudi Arabia and many more taking part!


In Depth

I think it is safe to say that most of you are on some sort of social media website, whether that is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. At the very least you will have heard of them. Mostly they are used for leisure purposes, but could they also offer some learning benefits?

For a while now, higher education institutions have adopted social media technology as a means of delivering curricula. Medicine is a discipline that has only just started to look into this possibility. Our research study has identified several ways in which social media is currently used to facilitate curricula delivery and supplement independent learning:

-  Creating Facebook groups with peers to extend small group seminar discussions to the online world

-  Sharing of academic resources and journals via social media

-  Fast, effective communication channels between peers and lecturers irrespective of classroom hours and physical location

-  Following hastags on Twitter appropriate to the subject they are learning

-  Searching YouTube videos for practical procedure demonstrations or tutorials

-  Instagram-like applications available to doctors and medical students where they can share and discuss pictures of clinical examination findings, blood test results, chest x-rays, electrocardiograms, MRI/CT scans etc.

-  Using interactive twitter feeds in classrooms to answer students' questions and encourage participation

The list could go on. The body of research literature available to date indicates there are positive outcomes to the implementation of social media technology into the medical curriculum which outweighs any drawbacks - increased motivation and engagement with study material, increased likelihood of seeking academic support, improved exam scores, improved confidence with the subject and better knowledge retention. The study is still ongoing and the next phase will involve investigating whether attitudes towards social media use in medical education differs between countries or cultures. 


Going Further

To find out more about studying medicine at undergraduate level or doing an intercalation year, see:

Manchester Medical School http://www.mms.manchester.ac.uk

Intercalation year http://www.mms.manchester.ac.uk/about-us/whymanchester/education/intercalation/