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Leading the way in biomaterials!

by YPU Admin on January 18, 2018, Comments. Tags: Biomaterials, cells, nanoscience, PhD, and Research

Introduction

Hi! My name is Zara Smith and I’m a 2nd year PhD student at the University of Manchester. I’m funded by EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) and am currently based on the North Campus of the university. I am part of the Biomaterials research group headed by Prof. Julie Gough.

I finished high school in 2011, with A levels in Biology, Chemistry and English Literature.  Though my decision to study Biology was a quick one and rather rushed, I REALLY enjoyed studying for my undergraduate degree at the University of Hull, and loved it enough to continue onto a Master’s degree in Nanotechnology and Regenerative Medicine at UCL. I took a year out following this and worked as a Trainee Assistant Analytical Chemist for TATA Steel in their environmental monitoring department, before deciding on my PhD project. My work at Manchester focuses on repairing tissues in the body that naturally would not heal by themselves. I work specifically with the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), a major knee ligament, which accounts for the majority of sports injuries and has a high rate of reintervention post-surgery.

So far my PhD has been great! I’ve travelled to a European conference in Switzerland to present my work and been to another here in Manchester, where I have met academics from all over the world. Hopefully there will be many more opportunities to share my research with the academic community!

In Depth...

I first became interested in the field of Biomaterials when I was doing my undergraduate degree, specifically the tiny biological interactions that happen at a surface and how we can use those interactions to guide a desired biological response. I have always been interested in creating biomedical devices and helping to create something which would improve the life of an individual and the medical field in that area, seemed almost like a calling! After graduating from my Biology degree, I immediately began my Masters. I completed a research project on the nano-delivery of growth factors to a model central nervous system, which only served to fuel my interest in the bio-responses of cells to materials on the micro and nano scale. 

After the completion of my Master’s degree, though knowing I wanted to do a PhD, I decided it was time to take a year out, gather some industrial experience and take the time to find a project that aligned with my interests. During this year, I was selected for an assistant position at TATA Steel where I performed both regular sampling analysis and novel research in analytical chemistry. I chose the ACL project at Manchester as it sounded fascinating and combined all the areas I find interesting; fast forward a year and I still absolutely love it! The project itself focuses on producing materials that will encourage cells taken from the ACL to produce a protein scaffold that matches as closely as possible the protein scaffold present in the native ACL. This means that the cells will start laying down the protein building blocks that are integral to building a native ACL, replacing the one that has already been irreparably damaged. We are aiming to achieve this through manipulating the cells at the surface of the materials with both physical cues and proteins.

(A picture of ACL cells from a light microscope!)

For the most part, my days usually consist of lab work, planning experiments, data analysis and reading and writing.

Due to the nature of the field, our group is highly interdisciplinary. We have members from all kinds of disciplinary backgrounds spanning biological sciences, chemistry and all types of engineering. This in itself makes for a very interesting working environment where minds from very different backgrounds can come together and work to build materials/technologies.

 

Going Further...

If you are interested in perusing Materials sciences, the University of Manchester School of Materials webpage is here > http://www.materials.manchester.ac.uk/

Interested in the Biomaterials work in my group? Find out more here > http://personalpages.manchester.ac.uk/staff/j.gough/ and here > http://www.materials.manchester.ac.uk/our-research/research-groupings/biomaterials/

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/  

If you are interested in the societies associated with biomaterials research, take a look here > https://www.uksb.org.uk/


 

Sensing Success

by YPU Admin on May 2, 2014, Comments. Tags: biosensors, nanoscience, particles, and Research

Introduction


I’m Chloë and I’m currently studying a PhD in Nanoscience through the North West Nanoscience Doctoral Training Centre (NoWNano DTC) at The University of Manchester. My project is working on developing a Luminescent Biosensor. The biosensor consists of a nanoparticle and an enzyme, which can communicate with each other using light. The intensity of light of the biosensor changes in the presence of certain molecules and so can be used to detect diseases.

I love science and I’m passionate about getting more people interested in the subject. So in addition to my research I also work as a Widening Participation Fellow with The University of Manchester and have my own business ‘Science Party-cles’. These two things allow me to work with the public and help make science more accessible.

In Depth

Before coming to Manchester I was at Sheffield Hallam University where I completed a BSc (Hons) in Pharmaceutical Science. I also completed a placement year where I worked in a Pharmaceutical Company, which helped me gain industrial experience. In my final year at Sheffield Hallam I worked on a short research project developing gold nanoparticles which started to develop my interest in nanoscience.

Nanoscience/ nanotechnology is a big area of research at the moment. When you get down to the nanoscale (a nanometer is almost a million times smaller than the width of a human hair) the properties of materials change. People are trying to use these novel properties to create new and interesting applications such as gloves that allow us to walk up walls like Spiderman.

A biosensor is a device that is used for the detection of analytes (specific molecules of interest). They are really important tools for the detection and treatment of diseases. One of the most common examples is the blood glucose (a type of sugar) biosensor used by people with diabetes to check their blood sugar level. Depending on the value given by the biosensor diabetics know whether they need to increase or decrease their sugar intake. 


The biosensor I’m trying to develop consists of a nanoparticle and an enzyme. Enzymes are very specific and can detect really small amounts of molecules. Therefore, they are very sensitive and useful in biosensors. My nanoparticle and enzyme are both fluorescent and can give off light. This means they can communicate together by a process called Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET), where energy from the light of one molecule (my nanoparticle) is transferred to another molecule (my enzyme). In the presence of an analyte the energy transfer from the nanoparticle to the enzyme is altered and the intensity of the light changes. This change in light intensity can be monitored and allows for the detection of diseases.

While at Sheffield Hallam University I also got support from their Research and Innovation Office to help set up my own business: Science Party-cles. This business allows me to engage children and young people in science alongside my PhD and has helped me develop other skills which I wouldn’t be able to do just working in the lab.

Going Further

Find out how we can walk up walls like Spiderman in the news article here. The research was developed by researchers at The University of Manchester.

For a brief introduction to biosensors click here, but if you’re really interested here’s some in depth detail.

To find out more about the route I took you can look at the NoWNano DTC website here and my business website here. This is a good website to help you decided on what route you want to take.



 

The science of small things

by YPU Admin on March 7, 2014, Comments. Tags: chemical engineering, nanoscience, PhD, and Research

Introduction

Hi, my name is Lauren and I am a second year PhD student at The University of Manchester. I was lucky enough to be selected for the NowNANO DTC programme. A DTC (Doctoral Training Centre) programme is essentially a PhD and the NowNANO DTC is a programme that specialises in Nanoscience. For those that don’t know what Nanoscience is, it is science on a very very small scale – 10-9 m to be exact, that’s 1 million times smaller than a millimetre!

My particular area of research looks at the molecular interactions in organic crystals. Organic crystals are crystals that are made up of carbon atoms. My focus is on hydrogen bonding behaviour in these crystals. One of the main uses of these types of crystals is in Pharmaceutical tablets. The molecular interactions in the crystals are what determine the properties of the crystal and therefore how well the drugs work.


In Depth

In order to get where I am now, I studied Maths, Chemistry and Physics at A level. At the time, my plan was to become an engineer and work on renewable energy. I studied for 4 years to get my master’s degree in “Chemical Engineering with Environmental Technology”. In between my 3rd and 4th year at university, I decided to see how much I enjoyed Chemical Engineering by doing a 3 month placement with the Pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co. My job was to look at all of the water that was used on site and try to find ways to reduce their water consumption. The project was interesting and very challenging but for me it didn’t seem to fit my personality.

For the degree that I was doing I was required to complete a research project in my 4th year in order to get my masters. As soon as I started this project I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I spent a lot more time on my project than my friends did. I found myself reading about the research in my spare time. I was very fortunate to find a project that I enjoyed so much. My project was more chemistry and physics based rather than engineering and I felt that this suited me better. When it came to the end of the year and everyone else I knew was applying for jobs, I decided to apply for a PhD instead. And the rest, as they say, is history!

The research that I am working on now uses soft X-rays to look at molecular interaction in organic (carbon based) crystals. This has a particular relevance to the pharmaceutical industry as almost half of all pharmaceuticals are administered as tablets. The actual ‘drug’ part of the tablet is almost always an organic crystal. Learning more about these molecules helps the pharmaceutical companies to decide things such as; how much drug should be in the tablet, how quickly it will dissolve and how effectively it will spread through the body.


I like my research, firstly because I simply enjoy finding out new information. Though, I particularly enjoy my research because I feel like I am making a contribution to society and in a small way, helping other people. My research is fairly fundamental, this means that it is all about the pure science. I am a few steps removed from the practical applications of drug delivery. However, the scientists that are working on the drugs need to know about their science, which makes me feel like what I am doing is important, however small my contribution may be.

Going Further

Click here for more information about the course Chemical Engineering with Environmental Technology.

More information on Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science can be found here.

In my spare time I am also a STEM ambassador. STEM is an organisation that aims to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. If you wish to find out more about the various jobs and carers that are available through these subjects then have a look at this site.

If you have been interested in my work then all of the information about my research can be found on my research page.

Other pages you may find interesting that are related to my work include:

1.  I work with X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS). For those of you who want a challenge have a look at how it works, you can find more information here.

2.  What is a drug? Find out here.

 

Learning about nanoporous materials

by YPU Admin on January 17, 2014, Comments. Tags: nanoscience, PhD, and Research

Introduction

My name is Stephen David Worrall and I am studying for a PhD in Nanoscience through the North West Nanoscience Doctoral Training Centre (NOWNano DTC) working alongside an array of hugely talented researchers. This means I spend my time researching cutting edge science and trying to further our understanding of the world around us by performing experiments in the laboratory and reading up on the latest scientific developments. I work in the Centre for Nanoporous Materials (CNM) which is in the School of Chemistry here at the University of Manchester.




In Depth

Working in the CNM for Dr Martin Attfield means that my work focuses on the use of “nanoporous materials”. You will already be familiar with normal porous materials like sponges which contain a network of interconnected channels, where this network reaches the surface of the sponge can be seen with the naked eye. Nanoporous materials are very similar; the difference is that the interconnected channels are between 1,000,000 and 100,000,000 times smaller than in a sponge, around 1 nanometre (nm) wide instead of 10 – 1000 millimetre (mm) wide. The nanoporous materials I work on are called Metal – Organic Frameworks (MOFs) which are a new, large group of nanoporous crystals with a huge number of potential uses. I am interested in using them as moulds to “grow” metal wires which, with the network of interconnected channels in MOFs acting as a template, will be just 1 nm wide. Such small metal wires could find uses in fields as varied as the catalysis of pharmaceutically important chemical reactions and the fabrication of electronic devices. 

As well as working in the CNM, I also work for Professor Robert Dryfe in his “electrochemistry” group; where research is focussed on the interface between chemistry and electricity. It is the work in this research group that enables me to “grow” metal wires by a process called electrodeposition. The MOF crystals are attached to a sheet of metal which is negatively charged, the coated sheet of metal is then placed in a solution containing dissolved metal cations (which are positively charged). The opposite charges attract each other and the dissolved metal makes its way through the channels of the MOF crystals to reach the metal plate and deposit as solid metal, as this happens over and over again the metal wires eventually build up.

Before doing my PhD in Nanoscience, I studied for a MChem in Chemistry with Industrial Experience in the School of Chemistry here at the University of Manchester. To get on to this course I needed an A level in Chemistry and two other A levels, one of which was a science. As I’d done Biology, Chemistry, Maths and Physics, I was perfectly equipped! This degree was perfect for me as I got to spend my penultimate year working full time for a FTSE 100 Chemical Company and my final year working for Dr Andrew Horn as a Masters researcher in his laboratory. This gave me experience of both the industrial and academic career paths and helped me make the decision to carry on with research after I finished my degree.

It was the right decision for me as not only do I get to research new, interesting and exciting science but being a PhD researcher also gives me the opportunity to be involved in the fantastic outreach work that goes on at the University of Manchester, both as an Outreach Demonstrator for the School of Chemistry  and through my role as a Widening Participation (WP) Fellow. I get to work with school children both in their schools and at the university and enthuse them about my work and science in general through talks, workshops and practical demonstrations. There are not many other jobs where you can explode things on a regular basis!




Going Further

For a list of the researchers working in the NOWNano DTC, the fascinating and varied projects they are working on and the award winning academics they are working for see hereherehere and here.

For the latest research going on in the CNM, click here.

For details on all the different sorts of Chemistry degree the University of Manchester offers (doing a year in industry is just one of your options!), see here.

For a fantastic video showcasing a day in the life of an undergraduate chemistry student (and a little bit of the exciting stuff you can get up to as an Outreach demonstrator!), click here.