Astynnia’s Second Year (International) Blog

Hello everyone!

In my last post, I talked about how busy my academic schedule was with my Research Skills Module (RSM) and Dissertation. Since I am done with them now, I can assure you guys that RSM online assessments are actually not as daunting as many would perceive. Basically, us Biomedical Sciences students were introduced to 4 different clinical sciences specialism in 4 weeks – Clinical Microbiology, Clinical Biochemistry, Clinical Pathology and Clinical Haematology. By the end of the week, we were required to complete an online assessment either in the form of short answer questions, a summary of a scientific article or methods and results writing. As long as you have a good understanding of the experiments and follow the assessment guidelines, you’re likely to do well! The assessments are worth 50% of the module, so it is important to ask the practical supervisor if you are having any problems understanding the topic. There’s no need to feel shy about this though because they are always more than willing to help you!

As for my dissertation, titled “Gut Microbiome and the Health of Colon” my supervisor gave me two articles as starter references. It took me a little while to get my head around these as nothing is easy when you are doing it for the first time. However, the more you read, the easier it is to understand what you need to include in the 9-page literature review. An easy trick is to always refer to the reference list in the starter references provided as they will provide you with other related scientific articles. And voila! Your reading list is sorted :). It is important for you to properly understand the content within your dissertation because you have to present your dissertation topic to your academic tutor and tutorial group members!

Before parting away for Easter holiday, my best buddy and I had a delicious Korean meal at Seoul Kimchi on Upper Brook Street. It seems like we found another one of Manchester hidden gems! If you are craving or would like to try authentic Korean food, this place is the right place to go to!

Kimchi stew with rice and beef bibimbap. Side dishes anchovies, kimchi (fermented cabbage) and pickles.

Kimchi stew with rice and beef bibimbap. Side dishes anchovies, kimchi (fermented cabbage) and pickles.

However our 3-weeks of Easter break is now at an end. I am currently still doing the modifications works for my RSM lab report. In the coming two weeks, there will be spot tests for Immunology and Parasitology and they are worth 10% each for the modules. I’m a little nervous for these as have found it hard to fit in revision this Easter holidays. That’s because I spent 12 days of the holiday in Norway and Iceland! I’m really making the most of being able to travel around and see as much of Europe as I can while I am over here for my studies away from Malaysia.

The best way to experience Norway is from above. Naturally, that involves a lot of hiking and battling with steep cliffs. However, you will get postcard views of stunning fjords (pulpit rocks) and that is the time when nature makes you feel like a tiny ant in a gigantic world. Iceland was equally as enjoyable with magical cinematic landscapes to leave you in awe. I was able to witness aurora borealis (also known as the northern lights) dancing above my head in Reyjkavik, which was absolutely wonderful. I also visited Seljalandsfoss waterfall.


I would say that it has been a productive semester for me with the right balance between work and play. As much as I wanted the holiday to last, I am looking forward to finishing my 2nd year as well, which means I am only 2 months away to be back home. 🙂

First day back at university after 3-weeks of Easter holidays celebrated with a McDonalds catch up lunch break!

First day back at university after 3-weeks of Easter holidays celebrated with a McDonalds catch up lunch break!


Astynnia x

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Rachel’s First Year Blog

Hello there!

Oh my goodness, how time flies!! It’s already the Easter holidays, and knowing that in just over two months I will have virtually finished first year is actually a terrifying fact.  I don’t want to grow up yet! Although thoughts of second year are really exciting (I’VE GOT A HOUSE!!), but there is still much to do this semester including finishing off my set of labs and sitting the next lot of exams. I intended to get a lot of revision done this Easter, given how busy my academic and social life was last term… but I ended up going on a very spontaneous trip to Amsterdam with my friend Jaina, who I’d met through the Mountaineering society!! That and catching up with friends from home has made for some very efficient procrastination…

Casually in Amsterdam

Casually in Amsterdam

One of the highlights of last term was another trip with the rock climbers; this time to Wales for a spot of climbing and an Annual Dinner. We spent the weekend in a hostel, and had rather late nights and very chilled mornings where we got into groups and organised activities for ourselves. On the Saturday we hiked up a mountain; Sunday consisted of climbing slate in a quarry, and the middle evening was spent getting dressed up, before going to a fancy hotel for a three-course meal. The food was incredible, and although it was hard to eat so much in tight dresses and have a dance afterwards, we all managed! It was such a fun weekend and a fab opportunity to make new friends; even if my feet got shredded from the dancing (discarding my heels wasn’t a good option!) and I came back with a huge cold, despite the weather not reaching the hair-freezing level like my last trip away. My amazing flatmate soon helped me cure it when I got back though, as we went to a cute café in the Northern Quarter for some rainbow cake… yes, it exists!!

The whole MUMC for the Annual Dinner

The whole MUMC for the Annual Dinner

The next week, the group of girls I’d met in Wales arranged to meet at the SU to go rock climbing… but instead, we ended up going to a temple in town to an event run by the Indian Society, to celebrate the Holi festival! It was a very spontaneous idea but was huge fun; we ran around outside in the rain and threw multi-coloured powdered paint all over each other. I got some very strange looks walking back into my accommodation, and it’s safe to say the inside of my coat has never been the same since. We also decided to go a crazy event one night called ‘Bongo’s Bingo’ at the Albert Hall. It was bingo but with a twist – the twist being glow sticks, rave rounds, dance-offs, and prizes ranging from £500 to a Frozen paddling pool! (No-one understands how much I genuinely wanted the pool). We didn’t win anything but it was a good laugh, and just highlighted what weird and wonderful things there are to do in Manchester!

On a more academic note, my lab sessions were actually pretty cool last term. One was a Neuroanatomy Lab, where we got to look at models of the brain and the spinal cord, and discover how they function. There was also a lab were we were allowed to put drugs in our eyes to see if our pupils constricted or dilated; to some very weird effects! I’ve heard that Manchester is one of the few universities – if the only – that allows such human experimentation, which is just awesome.

Neuroanatomy lab

Neuroanatomy lab

Another really useful thing that The University of Manchester does for us is provide a brilliant careers service. They frequently inform us of opportunities for work experience, careers advice, and generally loads of stuff that you can do to improve your CV. So, one Sunday my friend Sophia and I did some work experience at a local National Trust site called Styal Estate; learning how to survey and classify a habitat to produce a Phase 1 habitat map. It was really interesting, especially as the rangers would actually use the maps to help with the conservation of the estate!

Aside from that, there’s been several birthdays (with some pretty cocktails!), Black Milk Cereal dates (where else?!), cute trips to the amazing Manchester Museum (on Campus!), climbing sessions, essays and a night out to Sankeys to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. It’s safe to say I was really looking forward to Easter to have a rest! Now all that remains is to get through next term…

Until next time!!


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South Africa Field Course

Hey guys!

My name is Jennifer, and I am a first year student here at The University of Manchester – studying ‘Life Sciences with Mandarin’. The great thing about choosing ‘Life Sciences’ in my first year is the amount of flexibility – it is so nice to have a course that understands that you are indecisive when deciding a specialism, and so lets you pick any of the optional modules that you want. This is a great way to help us decide what we actually want to switch to in our second year – an inevitable but sad time: all of us Life Scientists are so close and don’t want to leave each other! But is it exciting when another one of us finally decides on their new degree programme. As for me, I will be changing to ‘Zoology with Mandarin’! I have chosen this course due to the interesting modules in the upcoming years – especially ‘Conservation Biology’ and ‘Animal behaviour’ – the opportunity for exciting research in both the lab and the field. However, what really cemented the decision of Zoology in my mind was the field course I have just returned from – studying Animal Behaviour in Thabazimbi, South Africa!

The South Africa team 2016

The South Africa team 2016!

It was genuinely the best two weeks of my life. From waking up to a gorgeous sunrise every morning, to the daily treks in the bush with a tower of giraffes for company (yes, I googled the collective noun!) to gazing up at the stars in the evening, I had never been happier! Having exceedingly limited wifi and no city lights made me appreciate the natural world even more than I already did – I had never seen so many stars before in my life! We were staying on a private game farm called Thani-Zimbi, so as well as seeing loads of ostrich, baboons and zebras, we also learnt how to identify the many species of antelope and birds found here too. Other highlights included visiting Marakele Predator Centre (BABY TIGER CUBS!), admiring the Botswana border from the tops of the local mountains, and of course, Pilanesberg National Park. I was prepared to be blown away, but little prepared me for seeing a pride of lions suddenly appearing out of the trees – the male coming down to the watering hole to drink, or having the road blocked by two bull elephants walking right past us. It was definitely something special! Being 1m away from a herd of elephants with their tiny gorgeous babies, spotting rhinos in the distance, and seeing so many impala, wildebeest, zebra, giraffes – the list could go on! It definitely inspired me to pursue a career in conservation.

However, this field course was not just about the elephant selfies. There was a lot of work to do both before and when we were here. In the weeks prior to the field course, we had 6 lectures on the concepts of experimental design, and the workings of various statistical programmes, such as Prism, SPSS and R. Understanding how to collect the right sort of data, and knowing how to write the correct code for R so the data can be analysed properly, are valuable skills which are essential for the field. This is one of the reasons why I loved this field course, as although the animals were an added bonus, the whole point was to develop the skills you need to be a scientist – and it may surprise many of you that a solid grasp of maths, statistics and programmes are highly desirable for future years, and even masters programmes. To think that at The University of Manchester we are learning these skills as first year students is really exciting!

Once in Africa we were also kept busy. Manchester field courses are unique in that they let you plan and carry out your very own research project from start to finish. It was a huge learning curve, but it was a great way to build your teamwork and organisation skills! I was intrigued by the jackal and primate tracks on an initial drive through the game park, and so I got a group together, and we were off!

The Trackers project group!

The Trackers project group!

Our project looked into the changes of diversity of animal tracks with regards to location and time of day. This involved getting ourselves up and to walk through the bush every day (at 6am and 6pm), to 3 sites around the reserve that we had prepared via raking over the ground the previous time we visited – sites in the dense vegetation, open grasslands, and by the watering hole. We would record the number of species by identifying the new tracks present; rake the ground, and start again the next day! It was great fun, as we collected a lot of data and saw many animals on our wanderings. It was also exciting when, by the end of the week, we could gaze at the ground and could tell the difference between warthog and impala, waterbuck and blesbok tracks!

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The independence we had when carrying out the project (it was up to us to get up at 5am!), and the confidence I gained from presenting our results to the entire group, were also excellent skills to develop! We also had lectures and a field exam when we were there, but they were actually really fun, especially when your distractions were lurking giraffes and warthogs around the watering hole!

I have now been back in England a few days, and already missing the sun, people and animals! It was a fantastic experience, and I would urge you all to do it if you get the chance!



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Declan’s Placement Year Blog

Hi guys, my name is Declan and I am a Pharmacology student at The University of Manchester. I’m writing this post to give everybody back home, prospective placement students in particular, a bit of a description of my placement with The MRC Unit in The Gambia. Here, I’m undertaking an immunology-based project examining the potential for Gambians to exhibit protective immunity to Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB). I’ve been working here for around eight months now, and haven’t seen rain in about six! Anyways, I’ll try to give you all a rundown of what’s involved in a placement year with The MRC, what it’s like working in an international lab / in the field of immunology and what life is like in The Gambia.

We all received our offer letters sometime during revision for 2nd semester exams, so to say it all came as a bit overwhelming would be an understatement. After meeting my future housemates, Rowan and Claire, the university helped us with organizing all of our vaccinations and other medical preparations for travelling abroad to The Gambia in July 2015. When we left it was difficult for anybody to predict exactly how we would find the experience. We had very little idea what The MRC, or the country, would be like, but students from previous years spoke very highly of it and were happy to lessen our apprehensions. On arrival, everything was laid out for us, and we soon settled into a lovely house on-site for the three of us. Within a few weeks, training sessions were completed and we were ready to begin work for our projects!

Myself, Claire and Rowan

Myself, Claire and Rowan

The prospect of travelling to work on a disease as well-characterised as TB at a renowned research station was overwhelming – How could I catch up with centuries of research and somehow contribute to it?! However, I’ve found that once you get working on a project where you’re focusing all your attention on one subject (as I’m certainly doing here), it really helps you to digest the information and make real progress. My work is almost entirely concerned with my own project. It’s very rare that I’m required to devote time to any other work than my own, and I’m given a great degree of autonomy in the way I choose to work, which I adore – I couldn’t really ask for more. Work hours are about 8 hours per day, with a half day on Fridays, and a fair few public holidays. Anyways, I can try to describe what I do in my time in the lab here for anyone who’s interested:

Samples are taken from Gambians living with individuals with active pulmonary TB. This is conducted by the TB Immunology department’s sample collection team, who we’re always welcome to join on trips to various regions of The Gambia. These samples are used for a bunch of different projects in our department, but mine are concerned with comparing those who contract, with those who don’t contract, latent TB disease. The idea with this is to see what differences there are in the individuals’ innate immune systems that protect them from initial TB infection, before an adaptive immune response is even primed. The project is divided into three main lab phases. Firstly, I carry out assays for interferon γ, a routine protocol in our lab. This diagnoses whether a patient has latent TB infection. After this, I carried out a similar type of assay (multiplex cytokine assays, for anybody interested) looking at levels of a load of other cytokines, all implicated in TB in some way. Finally, we run flow cytometry experiments using isolated white blood cellsrozen in liquid nitrogen – super cool). This means we get to compare cytokine levels, then cell populations, then the cytokine production from those cells. It all sounds a bit complicated… It kind of is. Flow cytometry is a super complicated technique and hugely valuable if you want to work in immunology, or just want to show in your CV that you’re competent at difficult lab techniques.

The amount of data that we’ve generated has already been immense – it’s no wonder so many students end up publishing quality research papers at the end of their time here. An important thing I’d say about working in the field of immunology is that it all comes down to the analysis. You can spend weeks/months running samples without even seeing a hint of a trend, then it all comes together when you compare all of your data. I have amassed so much data that I could decide to analyse it in one of a thousand different ways. It sounds incredibly geeky, and maybe it is, but there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing months of data collection go into stats analysis and seeing something significant come out of the other side.

There’s so much more to draw from the experience of living and working here that I think I’ll struggle to write it all down. I think that working internationally really helps you to gain a sense of independence which is hugely beneficial to your confidence, vastly impacting your ability to work well as an individual. Also, it’s worth considering the importance of being able to work in a team of people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. At The MRC, everybody speaks English to varying degrees, but you’ll regularly hear people speaking French, Dutch, German, Wolof, Mandinka, Fula, Krio, Ibo, and a range of other languages depending on who’s in town at the time! It’s a really exciting educational experience for anybody who likes to learn about new languages and cultures. I’ve definitely been able to develop my communication skills during my time here, as I have taken the opportunity to learn some Wolof, a very useful local language in this part of The Gambia, and in a lot of West Africa in general. I couldn’t recommend this enough as it opens up so many more opportunities to explore. With MRC sites all over the country and plenty of other friends travelling around on weekends and holidays, there’s no shortage of hidden gems to visit where it’s possible to get a true “Gambian Experience” (cringe) in less touristy parts of the country.



Sandy beaches stretching on for miles are about a 5 minute walk away from The MRC. We’re spoilt for wildlife, really – it’s possible to pose for photos with crocodiles in the sacred pools at Bakau, go bird-watching on the river from Tendaba or Lamin and watch the hippos from Basse town. You can take a 20-minute bike ride to the see the Senegambia monkey park, though I haven’t done this, since you can oftentimes wait in The MRC for the local monkey families to come and steal the oranges growing in the garden (cute!). If you’re feeling adventurous, a short journey north into Senegal takes you to safari parks featuring lions, giraffes, rhinos and a host of other wildlife. On that note, Senegal offers numerous great short trips outside of work. We visited Dindefelo Falls (awesome), plan to attend the St. Louis jazz festival, and know plenty of other people who have travelled into other areas of Senegal, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.

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Another fantastic thing about working in The Gambia is the tiny size of the country. This gives you so many opportunities to meet people who you would never get to meet working in other countries. During our time here, we’ve hung out with numerous US Marine and Peace Corps, spent a lot of time with students from all over Europe, working not just in The MRC, but at clinics, hospitals and other organisations all around the country. If you’re lucky, you may get the opportunity to meet the ambassadors for the US and the UK – they’re actually pretty sound to have a cup of tea with. Basically, I’d say to any prospective applicants for projects based here, don’t be worried about being away from your friends in Manchester. There’s a pretty cool bunch of people here, people who I’m sure I’m going to miss just as much when I return to England as I’ve been missing all my university friends for the last eight months.

To summarise, working in The Gambia is pretty sweet. If I could pick anywhere to start getting an idea of what full-time research work is like, I’d certainly choose it to be somewhere sunny, with ample opportunities to relax away from work. This place certainly seems to provide that. In short, I almost don’t want to come back!

Thanks for reading, and if anybody wants to contact me to ask about placement years, The MRC, immunological research or The Gambia, feel free to drop me a message at I’ll always try to respond as quickly as possible!


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MRes Sciences

Ruth Ingram, MRes Sciences

Ruth Ingram, MRes Sciences

During my Undergraduate degree at the University of Manchester I had many great experiences with the city, the lecturers and the students. After doing an Industrial Placement year working for a pharmaceutical company, I knew that I wanted a career in scientific research. I was keen to build on my research experience with a Master’s degree, and the MRes offered great opportunities for neuroscience research. This MRes was highly recommended to me by my tutor, and I was able to secure MRC funding for tuition fees and a living stipend.
The highlight of the MRes degree so far has been the opportunity to conduct independent research. A project plan was given to me at the start of my rotation, but I have built on this with my own ideas, and the resulting experiments have been of my own design. It’s great to get experience of independent research within the relative safety of a 1 year MRes degree, before embarking on a PhD.
It is my ambition to have a career as an academic, conducting research into neuropsychology and hopefully lecturing too. The MRes degree is an important step towards securing a PhD, which will be required for me to succeed in this ambition. Master’s degrees, especially MRes degrees, are less about learning theories and more about learning techniques. Choose a Master’s degree that gives you the opportunity to try as many different research techniques as possible – you never know which ones may be useful in your future career!

Contact me at:

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MSc Neuroscience


Arthur Yushi, MSc Neuroscience

Hi all, my name is Arthur. I’m a MSc Neuroscience student studying in the Faculty of Life Sciences.

My masters is a pure lab-based research course working on the latest topics, such as neurodegenerative diseases and neurogenesis. Aside from studies, I love hiking and photography.

As a postgraduate student, I am here you answer any questions you might have about life or study in Manchester. If you have any enquiries in mind, please do not hesitate to email me and I will try my best to help you out.

Contact me at: 

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MRes Biological Sciences

Ameena Zeglam

Ameena Zeglam, MRes Biological Sciences

Hi everyone!

My name is Ameenah and I’m currently studying on the MRes Biological Sciences course here at Manchester. I chose to study at The University of Manchester because it has a great research reputation both nationally and internationally.

My course has allowed me to gain new lab skills and helped me decide that I want to continue in research if I can. I’ve also met lots of great people and everyone has been very friendly.

Please feel free to contact me if you need any information about living in Manchester or the course in general. It would be great to hear from you 🙂

Contact me at:


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Dan’s Final Year Blog

Hello everybody, hope you’re well, and welcome back.

Welcome back, that is, to perhaps one of the busiest times of my year.. Rather scarily, tomorrow is the day I’m due to present the exhibit for my final year project. It’s all getting a bit hectic and flustered at the moment I’m afraid!

Just to give you a little context, it’s actually less of an exhibit, rather a stall. Saturday 19th March marks The Body Experience at the Manchester Museum (click link for more info). This is a free event as part of National Science Week, which invites children of all ages into the museum to explore a range of different activities all about the human body and its fascinating components. I am now an official contributor and will have my very own stand, all about vision, the eye and how you see. Science fairs are always hard to have a really big impact on because you only have very limited time with everyone who comes through, as they all want a bit of everything. Hopefully though, it’ll be a good time to really sell neuroscience and inspire some children to get into science and/ or university. I don’t think it’ll be too much of a challenge, I mean vision is quite interesting, and one of the cooler phenomena your body produces. I reckon it would be a hell of a lot harder to really get school kids interested in biology if you had to present a stand on hair, or toenails, or armpits as your selected body part! At least with eyes there’s a bit of everything science wise – the physics of light waves, the chemistry of phototransduction, and the biology of visual processing in the brain.. I don’t know, have I convinced you yet? If not, get down there this Saturday and learn some stuff about neuroscience and vision haha!

The great thing about having an education project like this, is that there’s a much greater spread of marks throughout the project – you can get points for your resource (the fair stand in my case) as well as the report, whereas people doing lab projects have their entire grade riding on their report (20 pages that I’m not looking forward to writing!). Let’s just hope everything works on the day, because there are loads of potential disasters waiting to happen… I can see only too vividly a vision of my demo containers breaking and the entire museum being filled with irritating little fruit flies going in everyone’s eyes and blinding them..  although that is still kind of on the same topic!

What else, oh yes, results came out, since my last post. I’m very pleased with my results from my 4 exams, and with my Lit Review, my January average just about scrapes into a first. So who knows, if the rest of this project goes well, we might be on to something big..

Now, it wouldn’t be a Dan blog if I didn’t manage to throw in something about the Albert Hall would it..? This time we took loads of the Life Sciences Ambassadors up to check out the new craze that is Bongo’s Bingo. Normally, I feel like people associate bingo with the elderly, tea and scones. I was the same. “Was”. Now all I can think about when someone says bingo, is loud music, flashing lights, pitchers, and hundreds of people going mad for The Vengaboys. Hopefully readers will be able to cast your minds back to a time when The Vengaboys were actually a thing, and therefore hopefully appreciate quite how surreal it would be to have them banging out the tunes at a bingo night! Hopefully all the ambassadors made the most of it because we’ve only got one week of it left to go! This makes me very sad, I’m probably going to break down and tell Professor Sheffield I love her, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. The end of the ambassadoring season does, though, give us seniors the opportunity to embarrass and humiliate each other and the juniors with some end of year awards, so it’s not all doom and gloom.

ducie group

Well deserved post visit day pint

On to sport now, the grand slam is still on for England in the six nations..! It was a very tense and very noisy Friendship Inn (a popular student pub in Fallowfield) on Saturday, as we took the triple crown against Wales, only France left to play, but it won’t matter if they can’t beat Scotland.. it’s all very exciting, just trust me. If we win the six nations, I might not feel so glum about the persistent disappointment that is my beloved Arsenal..

There is however, a more overriding issue to hand that is perhaps more worrying than final year projects, the six nations, and football together, and that is the fact that there is only one week left of term before Easter holidays, and then it really is almost the end of university. Well, for me at least. And whilst that means the stream of parties and holidays that will follow the end of term is drawing nearer, one cannot help but look back, rather than forward, at all that Manchester has been able to provide over the years. Now I know if you have been reading this blog, it might have been very easy to just sit back and say ‘well this guy’s just a delinquent, why should I listen to him?’ Through these blogs, I hope that I have been able to show you the wide variety of things there are to get involved with at The University of Manchester as a Life Sciences student, socially and academically. This is a high quality university and an exciting city with endless things to do, and an ideal place to be a student. There aren’t many places that will be able to encourage study, as well as all the tomfoolery.

Anyway, wish me luck with the project, and I’ll see you all when I get back from France in the Easter holidays.

D xx

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British Science Week 2016 (Day 5)

Hello! I’m Lucy, a first year Biology with Science and Society student at The University of Manchester.

The brilliance of biology is that it is underpinning to all elements of life; this ranges from the micro world of bacteria and viruses, to the macro level of climate and nutrition cycles. Everything can be explained in the language of biology. This is made very clear in our first year laboratory practicals! It is an amazing feeling to carry out procedures in the lab and understand what is happening because of your biological knowledge. The laboratory is where biological theory comes to life!

As part of the “Introduction to Experimental Biology” module, we are able to practice and develop our laboratory skills. I particularly enjoyed the “Manipulation of DNA” practical. This experiment involved working with E. coli, exploiting multiple natural biological processes in order to confer antibiotic resistance.

We first manipulated the bacteria through a process called transformation. This involved using a plasmid, as a vector. This is a special piece of genetically engineered circular DNA that contains the desired genes to be inserted into an organism.  Our pGLO plasmid contained the gene for Ampicillin resistance, and also a gene called the Green Florescent Protein (GFP). The GFP gene exhibits bioluminescence and was used to indicate if the transformation had been successful. It was an awesome feeling, to examine the transformed E. coli under UV light, and watch it glow green, knowing that the experiment worked. I had successfully made some bacteria antibiotic resistant!

Next, we exploited the process of bacterial conjugation, which is the transfer of genetic material from one bacterium to another via special structures called pili. During this experiment, we investigated the efficiency of E. coli to transfer genetic material in different conditions, using a liquid culture and solid surface. This was so that we could identify the type of pili that the E. coli contained! We transferred the bacteria onto agar plates that contained different types of antibiotic and left them to grow. We then counted the number of bacterial colonies (you needed a sharp eye for this!) in order to identify if antibiotic resistance had been transferred.


Counting E.coli colonies on agar plates!

This practical enabled me to practise highly useful skills in the field of biology, such a Gel Electrophoresis and pipette handling (which isn’t as simple as it sounds; it definitely has a certain knack to it!). You spend a lot of time reading about these things when studying so it feels good to “put a face to a name” sort of thing.

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I also found the laboratory practical very relevant to modern day society.With increasing interest in the field of genetically modified crops and the growing issue of antibiotic resistance, I felt like I was acquiring key skills and knowledge in order for me to progress in the scientific community and be a part in resolving these very real issues. I can’t wait for my next lab session!

Thanks for reading! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading our experiments this week for British Science Week 🙂


For more insight into general first year as a first year student at The University of Manchester, watch our ‘A week in the life of a first year student’ series on the Manchester Life Scientists YouTube:


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British Science Week 2016 (Day 4)

Hi! I’m Margarida and I study Neuroscience at The University of Manchester. Like most 2nd year students in 2nd semester, I am doing a Research Skills Module.

As part of the Neuroscience RSM, we get to do a practical with Nitrous Oxide! Nitrous Oxide is also known as ‘Laughing Gas’, and is used as an analgesic and anaesthetic. It is one of the safest anaesthetics known, with rapid and completely reversible effects. In high concentrations it is used in dentistry and in lower concentrations during childbirth. In this practical we all got to be subjects and also observers. As subjects, we had to breathe either oxygen or one of two low concentration mixtures of nitrous oxide and oxygen. From this, we hoped to increase the subjects’ pain threshold and lower results in cognitive tests. To test this, we measured pain threshold by amount of time that the subject could hold their hand in cold water. There were some interesting effects! However like in all experiments, some of the results we obtained were not exactly what we expected. For example, one subject had a particularly unusual response to the Nitrous Oxide – he didn’t want to keep his hands in the cold water, but wanted to draw butterflies instead.

Another practical that sticks in my mind was also during the Neuroscience RSM, where we got to stain mice brain slices to detect different sensory pathways (where neurons that do certain things are placed in the brain). We stained a number of different neurons in the mouse brains, including ones which sense glucose levels in the blood, one that releases a hormone when the animal is dehydrated, and a photoreceptive neuron.  These neurons connect areas of the brain involved in circadian rhythms (internal clocks that control when to sleep, eat, reproduce). All of the types of staining we used were different; one stained the nuclei of the neurons, other the synapses and the third stain turned blue! It was amazing to be able to get a look at some real brains and actually see the neurons that we have learnt so much about in lectures.

I have realised that the more time I spend in the lab, the more interested I become in research procedure and results. It’s nice to be able to apply what we’re learning in lectures to things we can then go and look at in the lab. I am sad to say that I’ve completed all my labs for this academic year, but I can’t wait to do further lab work next year!

Margarida Trigo

(2nd year MNeuroscience student)

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