Tag Archives: biology

Lucy’s Third Year Blog

Well hello again, and hello for the final time!

I’m very sad to say that this is my last blog; so much has happened this year and it’s absolutely flown by! Despite all the horror stories that you hear about the stress of third year, it’s actually been my favourite yet, for both my course and for my life in Manchester. I’ve met so many great new people since September, and I’m absolutely gutted that most of them will be graduating and leaving Manchester in a couple of months. Not me though – I’m sticking around for my Masters project!

The last ever night together with the senior ambassador family, featuring our beloved Professor Liz Sheffield

The last ever night together with the senior ambassador family, featuring our beloved Professor Liz Sheffield

I’ve spent a big portion of this year carefully planning my big research project, so it’s crazy to think that I’ll actually be starting it in just a few months. I’ve settled on one of the two projects that I planned (not an easy choice when you really want to do both); I’ll be looking at “the effect of interleukin 27 on the metabolic profile of CD4+ T cells during Plasmodium yoelii infection”. Sound exciting? No? It sounds pretty awful actually doesn’t it? Let me explain.

A T cell-fie with my favourite immune cell

A T cell-fie with my favourite immune cell

In simple terms, I’m going to try to find out how one of the many signalling molecules in your immune system (IL-27) controls your immune response against malaria infection (caused by Plasmodium parasites). We know that this signalling molecule can down regulate the aggressive immune response (involving T cells) that your body mounts against malaria, but we don’t know how it does it. Everyone has heard of how devastating and deadly malaria is, yet the fatal damage caused by malaria is actually due to the way your immune system responds to the parasite. When infected with the malaria parasite, your body must mount an aggressive inflammatory response in order to clear the parasite from your blood. However, if this response is not switched off, it can cause fatal self-harm to your own tissues. If we can try to work out how the body can switch off this response, we might be able to better treat malaria in the future, reducing the associated mortality and morbidity caused by it. Sound better? I hope so! I cannot wait to get going with my project and spend a whole year carrying out in-depth and worthwhile research, focussing on something that I’m fascinated by. If parasites aren’t your thing, don’t worry; the faculty has hundreds of different labs working on pretty much any field of Biology you can think of, and with the MSci programme, you can choose which of these you’d like to work in!

In my last blog I told you about the MSci Experimental Skills Module. This was a really intense month of lab and field work as part of a small group, followed by a lab report, a group scientific poster and a poster presentation. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t stressful. It was a lot of work in a very short space of time and we were working right up until exams, but it gave us a great chance to develop our essential research skills for next year. I’ve received some really positive and encouraging feedback on my work, so at least it was all worth it! I even managed to talk about microscopic nematodes (I swear I can relate ANYTHING to parasitology). Have a look at my previous blog if you’d like to know more about the project.

My last piece of coursework for third year featuring one of my many thousands of microscopic nematodes!

My last piece of coursework for third year featuring one of my many thousands of microscopic nematodes!

Right now though, I’m writing this blog to distract myself from the fact I’m halfway through my 5 essay and problem-based exams! I really like the units that I’ve chosen this year, so I’m at least finding the revision interesting. Nevertheless, I think we can all agree that exams are horrible. Although, I can find some solace in the fact that these are my LAST EVER EXAMS! Even though I have one year left at university, my fourth and final year just involves an enormous write up at the end, but no exams. I sat my first two exams this week and I think they went okay. By the time this has been posted, I’ll have finished my exams; now that’s a beautiful thought. If you have any exams at the moment, I wish you the best of luck! Don’t stress too much – it’ll be over before you know it!

I might have had 4 coursework deadlines and 5 exams in the past 6 weeks, but don’t think for one second that that’s stopped me from having fun! Oh no, we can’t have that! This month I jumped out of a plane with my housemate, raising over £1000 for charity – and I didn’t die! Sadly, I didn’t manage to get any action shots with my face flapping around as I plummeted towards the earth. I’d rather you didn’t see that anyway. I’ve also recently been to two music gigs in Manchester, one at the Manchester Academy at the Students’ Union to watch Kygo, and one at the Manchester Arena to see Busted (yes, I’m a loser but my 9 year old self just couldn’t pass on the opportunity); both were amazing! I’ve had a couple of BBQs; one with the senior ambassador and admissions team at Professor Liz Sheffield’s house, and the second in 28 degree heat with my housemates, my best friend, and her puppy (yes, 28 degrees in Manchester).

Not to mention, there’s plenty going on after exams. All of the final/third years sit the same final exam, so we all finish together. It’s a morning exam so we’ve decided to head into town afterwards and have a big brunch with lots of prosecco, then we’re heading to my friend’s to carry on the celebrations, and then back into town again. We’re definitely going to need it! The week after that we have the Life Sciences ball at the Midland Hotel; it’s themed “The Oscar’s”, so I’ve bought a ridiculously extravagant dress for it. Then, the day after that it’s Pangea, a huge festival held at the Students’ Union at the end of each semester, which is attended by thousands. Every Pangaea has a different fancy dress theme; the theme this time in “Carnival”, so I’ll be spending lots of time in the run up covered in glue, sequins and feathers whilst I try to make myself an outfit that the girls of Rio de Janeiro would be proud of. Although, I’ll probably end up looking more like a sparkly peacock that’s been in a fight. The week after that I’ll be jetting off to Barcelona for even more fun with my oldest course friends. Exams don’t seem quite so bad when you’ve got all that to look forward to.

Well, that’s about all I have for you this time. Thank you to my loyal readers for taking the time to hear about my life this year (that’s if I even have any loyal readers?! I don’t know). I hope you’ve enjoyed my ramblings! Writing this blog has really made me realise more than ever just how amazing both the city of Manchester, and the University’s Faculty of Life Sciences are. I’m so proud to be a student here, and I can’t wait to see what my final year brings.

Ciao for now,


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Rachel’s First Year Blog

Hey guys!

I literally can’t believe that the end of first year is in sight! Time is just flying by and I’m greatly stressed because my six exams are just around the corner. It certainly didn’t help that last week’s revision had to be put on hold, as Wednesday was the deadline for our Lab Reports that accompanied this semester’s set of labs. Tuesday night was certainly a late one filled with frantic texting in the group chats!!  My report was on an experiment that involved extracting DNA from our cheek cells, finding out our genotype for the taste receptor TAS2R38, and researching how this affects the flavors we can detect. This means labs are DONE until the exam!! It felt so good to finish the practical side of them. After many celebratory jumps down the corridor, my tutorial group and a few others went to Big Hands (a pub opposite the Stopford Building – the main building for life sciences lectures and practicals) for some drinks in the sun. I say the word ‘sun’ lightly; we were slightly freezing to death on the roof terrace but hey, at least we tried!!

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The weather has actually been AMAZING these last few days. It reached 26 degrees, which for Manchester is incredible! The slightest bit of sun sees the student world descend to every inch of grass they can find on campus. The little ice cream vans that pop up by Stopford really make the walks home in the heat more bearable, as does the fact that Lidl is so close to Whitworth Park for impromptu picnics in the sun! The other day, me and a few life scientists did exactly that for a few hours. We were actually working on an entry for this cool competition the Faculty of Life Sciences was running, where you had to make a film about a famous scientist who went to The University of Manchester. We chose to make an animated film about Kathleen Mary Drew-Baker; a scientist who studied the life cycle of the seaweed Porphyra laciniata.  Her research went on to save Japanese coastal communities from starving, after typhoons destroyed their seaweed plantations, so she really was an inspirational figure!

My procrastination level also hit the roof the other day when me and Jaina went… skiing?! Admittedly this WAS a bad idea to do two days before my Lab Report was due (but hey, I got it in on time!!) and it was such a fun two hours at an indoor ski centre called Chill Factore, next to the Trafford Centre. I’d never skied before and I didn’t fall over once, so I was very proud of that!! In fact, over these past few weeks I feel like I’ve done many activities to improve my balancing ability: My friend Rachel and I went to the Northern Quarter for cocktails, which involved many hours balancing in our heels! – And another week the rock-climbers and I decided to go to a roller disco after a climbing session. After several face-plants and spectacular falls, it made for such a fun evening, and nicely added to the bruises we’d already sustained from climbing. It was actually free; one of the many activities the university had organized as part of an exam period De-stress Day.

Speaking of cool things that I have been able to attend as a result of the university, I went to a seriously mind-blowing lecture organized by the Faculty of Life Sciences Society about CRISPR – a new gene editing technique, led by Professor Matthew Cobb, one of my lecturers from first semester. It’s pretty complex, but stay tuned, because this is going to revolutionize science!! For more information, you can listen to a BBC Radio 4 show he did about it here.

Anyway, aside from several fajita nights, Northern Quarter catch–ups, climbing sessions, and a night out with Rach to Revolution in Deansgate Locks, there have also been meetings with our new Programme Directors. Because… I officially became a Biologist!! It’s made me greatly excited about second year too because I really want to do a field course to somewhere amazing like Costa Rica. You might remember me saying from my last blog post that I had to pick a specialization, given that Life Sciences is only a one year course. It’s sad that we’re all splitting up, but given that I’m living with two of them next year, it’s not too bad! We’re also planning to go on a tutorial Black Milk outing after our final academic tutor session, which will be cute!

I also had my final three lectures today. It was sad, but the day was made special by 25 degree weather, the fact that I officially got my first job at Starbucks (FREE DRINKS YAY), and the spontaneous appearance of a Ferris Wheel outside Uni Place!! Only in Manchester, eh?

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Already I’m looking forward to the after exam celebrations. We’re going to the Life Sciences Ball, which is actually on the night of my last exam; so it will be a much needed celebration!! It’s Oscars themed and will be complete with a three-course meal and photo booth, so should be amazing!!  The next night is the last Pangaea festival of the academic year. It’s carnival themed, and my flat-mates and I are already thinking about costumes – flower-crowns, tie-dye clothing, and lots of glitter are on the cards!

Well, this is my last blog post I’m writing for this year. I’ve enjoyed blogging so much! I love writing and it’s so nice to look back and remember what I did over the year. It’s been a fun, hectic, stressful and simply the most amazing year!! You don’t realise how much you will learn at university until you get here: whether it’s the confidence to try new things and meet new people, surviving away from home, to realizing how the science you learn in your textbooks actually translates into real life… Not to mention how to make the choice between more sleep, and the 9am lectures you paid £9,000 for!! 😉 It’s been a whirlwind of an adventure though, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

And to all those picking Manchester as their first choice (the right choice that is!), see you next year!!

Rachel xxx






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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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British Science Week 2016 (Day 2)

Hey everyone!

For those of you who don’t already know, Manchester is the European City of Science this year, so it’s pretty apt that one of the experiments that really stuck in my mind here at university was all about Manchester!

My second year Research Skills Module (RSM) in Urban Biodiversity and Conservation was all about investigating the surprisingly wide array of biodiversity found within Manchester. We spent the first two weeks exploring different aquatic and terrestrial systems around the city, learning about the different techniques environmental consultants and field biologists use on a daily basis.

The joggers and dog walkers definitely gave us a few funny looks as a herd of students turned up in Platt Fields Park in our waders, carrying nets and buckets; and every day we were out one of the locals would come up and ask what us odd looking bunch were up to. One particularly memorable moment (though perhaps for the wrong reasons!) came from our trip to Salford Quays, where the weather took a turn for the worse, even by Manchester’s standards. Suffice to say, some gale force winds had me extremely close to being blown head first into the Manchester Ship Canal, an experience I’m glad I avoided!

After examining the effects of historical pollution for the first two weeks, control shifted to us for the second two. We were given the freedom to choose any site we wished in Manchester to go and investigate, carry out a habitat survey, and then devise a conservation strategy for that area. For the first time in our degree we were given complete and utter control of an experiment, and it gave a real taste of what working as a scientist full time would be like.

Our group decided to survey nearby Stretford Meadows, and fortunately this time the weather decided to take pity on us, with some of the sunniest days that year. We looked at the range of biodiversity there, both plant and animals, and when it came to collecting samples my friends were greatly amused by me running round a field with a giant net in my efforts to catch some butterflies; it’s a lot more difficult that you would think!

We carried out a whole range of activities on our site, many of which people wouldn’t associate with biologists. These ranged from researching the history of the site over the past century, to getting in touch with local rangers to find out about the site management. We catalogued the different plant and animal species we’d found on site, and it gave me a huge amount of respect for taxonomists, as it’s certainly not an easy job! We then presented our findings and discussed how we would go about managing the site in order to conserve the biodiversity.

It was definitely one of the most memorable months I had at university. It was really nice to interact with members of the public away from campus and to discuss what we were doing, and it was really interesting to explore other sides of science that we don’t normally get to, such as environmental law. All in all it was a fantastic experience, and definitely confirmed I’m someone who enjoys being out there in the field and not cooped up in a lab all day!

Happy Science Week, and best of luck with summer exams!


For more information about the Urban Biodiversity field course in Manchester, please visit: http://www.ls.manchester.ac.uk/undergraduate/teachingandlearning/fieldcourses/urbanbiodiversity/ 

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Lucy’s Third Year Blog

Hello again!

I can’t believe it’s time for me to write another blog already – the months are just flying by. Last time I was writing I’d just finished my exams and now I already have my results! Overall I’m really happy and now I just need to keep my foot on the pedal for a few more months until summer. So what have I been up to since then? All sorts really! With third year, two jobs and a social life, I feel like one of those circus acts that runs back and forth keeping 10 plates spinning at once. I absolutely love everything I do though and I’m just glad I can make the most of Manchester whilst I’m still here!

Things are starting to get busier at university now we’re well into second semester. Things haven’t become too crazy yet but I think most of Easter will be spent pouring out my essays and second project proposal. Soon I’ll be starting my MSci experimental skills module. I’m not too sure what to expect from it as it’s the first time it’s run. It looks like we’re going to spend around 30 hours in the lab or field doing a group experiment that we have planned between us, followed by a group presentation of our mini-project with a professional scientific poster that that we have put together, as well as an individual lab report. It’s going to be an intense four weeks whilst we get everything together but the unit will aim to replicate the sort of situation you’d be working in within a real lab. For this, collaboration and team work is key so the unit will be really useful for developing these skills. I’m really enjoying my current units (which have nearly finished already) and this is probably my favourite semester of my degree so far.

Whilst my deadlines seem to be fairly far away (further than they actually are), I’ve been getting some hours in at work. I found it really easy to get a part-time job around the corner from my house in Fallowfield and it’s a great way to top up my bank account between student loans. In my other job as a senior ambassador uniform the Faculty of Life Sciences, I work with really great team and we’ve all become close friends over the past year or two. It really is the best job I’ve ever had. We’re starting to near the end of the UCAS interview days for this academic year and therefore our work as ambassadors is also rounding off; upon realisation of this upsetting fact, we’ve decided to start having lots of socials. For the past few weeks after the interviews and tours on Wednesdays we’ve been heading to the Students’ Union for cheap food and a few games of pool to savour our remaining time together. I’m currently arranging a social for the final interview day; trying to book a meal for 60 people is a little tricky but I think I’ve found somewhere. The curry mile is pretty good for catering for large groups and there are so many restaurants you can go to.

However, our social this week was really quite something to behold. The social of all socials. It was genuinely the best night out I’ve ever had and I don’t think it can ever be beaten. We went to an event called “Bongo’s Bingo ft. The Vengaboys” at the Albert Hall. Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like. I felt like I’d died and gone to 90s kids’ heaven. Around 30 of the ambassadors got together and went to the Albert Hall, where we had a few drinks, played bingo (for both hilariously terrible and cash prizes), danced around with hundreds of people to The Vengaboys live. One of the ambassador’s housemates even won the jackpot of £1000. It was like one of those surreal dreams you have, where a series of random things all happen at once – except it was real – and it was brilliant.

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Anyway, back to reality now. Everything is starting to get a little easier now that the days are getting a little longer and brighter again, or at least that’s what I thought. One day last week I woke up, opened my curtains and was greeted with snow (in MARCH)! At first, the little girl within me started jumping up and down with excitement ready to launch a snowball at my housemates, until the grumpy old lady within me told her to calm down and reminded her that she had to somehow walk to work in an hour. As fun, magical and exciting as snow is, I’m slightly terrified of having to actually go anywhere in it, for fear of slipping and falling over in a puddle of slush and breaking a bone. Now if you’re reading this from somewhere classically snowy like Scandinavia, or maybe Canada, you’ll be laughing at how pathetic and dramatic that sounds. If you’re reading this from England you’ll probably be nodding your head in agreement when I say: the English cannot deal with snow, or any remotely unusual weather patterns for that matter. The snow we get here is pretty infrequent and light, but quickly turns to an ice rink. Nonetheless, I subdued the grumpy old lady within and went for a play in the snow. For those of you wondering, I made it to work alive and in one piece, even if I did practically have to inadvertently ice skate there.

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Fallowfield or Narnia? Definitely Narnia – I am Lucy after all.

Right around now a lot of you will be nearing the end of your A Levels and getting ready to make one of the biggest decisions of your life: what university to go to. Maybe you’ve already decided where to go (*cough* Manchester *cough*), but if you’re wondering why you should choose Manchester, here’s just a few reasons why I picked the great capital of the North and why it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! First of all, I’m a Northern girl myself; I come from Blackpool and having lived in the North for most of my life, I just can’t believe how much more you can get for your money around here. That certainly goes a long way when it comes to paying for day-to-day essentials like food and rent. However, that only narrowed it down to the north of England. So why Manchester?

The field courses are one of the top reasons. The faculty has an incredible range of field courses available and the second year Costa Rica trip really appealed to me. It was a really unique opportunity to carry out my own tropical field research and we even got exclusive access to visit the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Centre due to contacts made by the university staff, as well as having a day off white water rafting on one of the best rafting rivers in the world. It also gave me a great excuse to travel around afterwards and I made some lifelong friends with people I barely even knew before the trip.

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You’ve got to get 10 credits somehow

The Manchester’s Faculty of Life Sciences is also much more heavily focussed on research than other universities, so the people teaching you are the very people who are making the discoveries in the lab that are hitting the headlines or rewriting the textbooks. This also means you have to opportunity to work with some incredible academics who are leaders in their respective fields; who despite their busy schedules, are extremely approachable and friendly, and always willing to help. This is especially important for me as an MSci student as I can collaborate with scientists within the faculty for my masters project, who are researching and teaching topics which I’m most excited about. With literally hundreds of labs working in different fields from cancer to algae and cardiology to parasites, there is sure to be someone in the Faculty researching an area of interest which you can get involved with for either the MSci course, final year projects, or even just for a summer internship.

Finally, there is just SO much to do in Manchester. Even after three years I’m still finding new places or events that I never even knew existed. There really is something for everyone here and can honestly say I have never been bored since moving to Manchester. I could go on forever about how much I love the place but I don’t have the space, so you’ll just have to come here and find out for yourself instead!

Ciao for now,


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Rachel’s First Year Blog

Hi everyone!

The last time you heard from me I was under deep exam stress, but they’re all over now!! My last one was a ‘Labs’ exam on the Thursday, and afterwards a few course-mates and I went to Black Milk Cereal (the weird and wonderful cereal café in Afflecks I’ve mentioned before!) for an extreme sugar fix, which I’ve never appreciated so much! It was good to chill because my Friday was mostly spent running around and packing for the weekend… because I went ice climbing on Glen Coe Mountain in Scotland with the Mountaineering Society!!

It’s safe to say, I’ve never been so cold, tired and wet in my entire life. The weather was so bad on the mountains on Saturday: -10°C and 70mph winds… MY HAIR FROZE!!! (I was actually so proud of this). We learnt how to use our ice axes to hike up the side of the hill, which was hard going, especially after my goggles came off in the wind and my glasses started freezing solid! At one point, our instructor told us to huddle down on the ice, as the blizzard got insanely strong, before we built a massive group ice shelter in the side of the hill to huddle in. No wonder the day was called “Winter Survival”!! The Sunday was less intense by far, with less wind so we could actually SEE the amazing views. We used our crampons to climb up the side of a mountain, whilst learning how to read the snow for signs of avalanches. IT WAS INCREDIBLE!! The day ended with snowman making, another 8-hour bus ride back to university, and four hours sleep… before I got up for my first 9am of second semester!

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I’m studying loads of new modules this semester – ‘Microbes, Man and the Environment’, ‘Excitable Cells’, ‘Drugs: From Molecules to Man’, ‘Biochemistry’, ‘From Molecules to Cells’ and a ‘Human Biology’ lab course, which means some weeks I have an extra 9 hours in a lab and lose my free Friday (sad times). I thought I’d enjoy ‘Excitable Cells’ the most, as in the first lecture we learnt how the brain and spinal chord develops in the embryo, which I found really interesting. But my favourites are currently the Microbes and the Drugs module. ‘Drugs: From Molecules to Man’ is a pharmacology-type unit, and it’s really cool to learn how drugs interact with receptors in the body to cause effects – indeed, this was the basis of my first lab session in which we were working on rat ileums. Similarly, bacteria are a lot more interesting than I initially thought! In ‘Microbes, Man and the Environment’ we are learning about everything from the origins of life to how bacteria cause disease… it’s really interesting!

The fact that I’m able to study such a wide range of modules was one of the reasons I applied to study the Life Sciences degree course at The University of Manchester. It may sound confusing given that the Faculty itself is named ‘Life Sciences’, but you can actually study such a degree programme for your first year. This is an option for students who aren’t entirely sure which Life Sciences course they wish to study – it’s a year of exploring your interests! There are only 15 students currently studying on this course; so it was really easy to make friends! It is the broadest course available as we were physically able to tailor our degree programme; we had 90 credits of optional modules to choose from, barely any compulsory modules, yet we’re still in the same lectures as everyone else – as everyone has a common first year to allow easy changes between courses. I felt like such flexibility was perfect for me, as it would allow me to experience anything I wanted, to help me make a decision about my specialisation for second year. I’ve thought about opting onto Biology to maintain the broadness, and the modules look really interesting and varied –from ‘Animal Behaviour’ to ‘Clinical Drug Development’!

I think all of this sums up why I put Manchester down as my first choice when deciding which university to go to. Other universities seemed to lack the sheer breadth and diversity that I wanted, and The University of Manchester offered this– even from the chance to do an integrated Masters course, study abroad, or go on an Industrial Placement in my third year (ranging from helping the sloth sanctuary in Costa Rice, studying sharks in the Bahamas to being stationed at the Medical Research Council in The Gambia. Like, hello?!?!). It seemed like a no-brainer to me.

The city was also an aspect that convinced me out of my firm choice dilemma. It’s an insanely diverse and lively place with its many quarters – just the other week we went out into the Northern Quarter and explored some quirky cocktail bars, and the next day there was a parade and fireworks in China Town for Chinese New Year. It’s lovely to be in a place that’s global in its celebration of many international festivals, yet is equally such a close and friendly community to allow you to meet people from all around the world. In the last few weeks I’ve had a goodbye coffee with a friend going back to Japan after her semester abroad, a cute film night with my Norwegian friends, and amazing cheesecake-and-oreo-milkshakes (at Black Milk, where else?!), as my Chinese friend and I were saying goodbye to our rock climbing friend who was going back to Norway. It’s really nice to be able to say I have made friends from around the world.

Lanterns around Manchester for Chinese New Year

Lanterns around Manchester for Chinese New Year

Then to end it all, the open day cemented Manchester as my firm choice, as it highlighted just what an inspirational place the university was. We were told about the latest research going on in the faculty and their global impact … and it was MIND BLOWING. Even my Dad – who has no interest in science whatsoever – walked out saying he would go here in a heartbeat. From the effort put in by the university at this point, I could see that The University of Manchester wanted to invest in us as PEOPLE. This was clear from the students showing us around; all were brilliantly friendly, full of life and passionate about every aspect of life at Manchester – from societies and volunteering, to work experience and opportunities. I felt like no other place encouraged me to come as much as they did; from the fascinating videos about their latest research, to reminders about the 100+ industry placements I could go on. And considering that Manchester had just been named European Science City of the year… why would I go anywhere else?!

Until next time!


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Why Manchester? (The University)

We understand that choosing which university to study at can be a little difficult! So we thought this might help you to make your decision…

We asked a number of students why they chose to study a Life Sciences course at The University of Manchester. This was what they said:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA‘There are so many reasons that I wanted to study here, I never really considered going elsewhere! I wanted to go to a big city where there’s always something going on. This is true for Manchester – so many opportunities. It really appealed to me that Manchester has such a big student population, as I wanted to go to university and meet loads of new people and I’ve definitely done that. The other big reason was definitely because of our Faculty of Life Sciences. I feel so proud to be part of a faculty that produces such important research, and ranks so highly across the world. The faculty’s success has allowed me to have some really exciting opportunities that I wouldn’t have elsewhere. Another thing that I don’t think people realise is that our faculty is so friendly; despite having such an incredible reputation, I don’t feel intimidated by the academics, research staff or huge student body. There really is a family feel and I feel really lucky to be able to feel as comfortable around the academics as I do. We really do get the most out of working with such fantastic staff.’ – Katie Holmes, BSc Biochemistry with I/E

Sean.jpg‘I really loved the flexibility of the course here, both from the wide range of modules on offer to the ability to move between programmes if you wanted to. The flexibility of the course has meant I’ve been able to tailor my degree to my interests, being able to specialise in some areas but also maintain a breath of knowledge from throughout biology.’ – Sean Dougherty, BSc Biology with Spanish

‘I loved the idea of so much diversity concentrated into one area. There is a huge international community here, so I knew I’d feel at home’ – Inez Dawoodjee, BSc Biology with Science and Society with I/E


‘I was really sold by the placement opportunities. Manchester has some really good links with prestigious companies and institutions. I was able to work for AstraZeneca for my placement year. It was great to gain invaluable experience in the lab in a professional industry setting, and I will also be getting co-authorship on a published paper’ – Alicia Galdon, BSc Biomedical Sciences with I/E

‘The university’s prestige and Research Assessment Exercise scores were very important to me, as I wanted to study somewhere with a strong academic reputation. I prefer big cities so I knew I wanted to study somewhere like Manchester that has as much going on as London but with northern prices!’ – Annie Morsi, BSc Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology

‘Manchester provides a great student life with plenty of opportunities to start new hobbies. And, the recently revamped the Optometry building providing new students with brand new facilities. It seemed like a no brainer to me!’ – Aashni Amin, BSc Optometry

‘I chose Manchester due to the prestige associated with the university, as well as the amount of time spent in labs. Manchester is a highly valued University in terms of its research abilities and academic qualities. It is also recognised as this by employers, of which many will agree that it is a world-class University, making UoM graduates of keen interest to employers.’ – Ben Walker, BSc Pharmacology with I/E

image3‘It’s a highly regarded University with great services and utilities. Beyond this the opportunities available to students during their time here, and the high employability, were both strong factors. But when it comes down to the basic stuff, I really just liked the look of the place. It felt like somewhere I would be happy living and studying.’ – Jack Cameron-Drayton, BSc Physiology with I/E

‘I loved the course flexibility that the Faculty of Life Sciences offered, as I was not that sure what I wanted to do when I applied to university. What I love about the Plant Science course here is that you have the ability to choose units which range from organismal biology and ecology through to genetics and cell biology, all relevant to plant science, and all vastly interesting.’ – Helen Feord, MSci Plant Science


Featured Photo – Michael Smith and Stopford Building, taken by Arthur Yu (Msc Neuroscience student)
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Lucy’s Third Year Blog

Hello again,

Exams are finally over and I honestly couldn’t be happier. Things get pretty intense in third year and the exams are harder than ever before. Luckily I really enjoy the units I’ve chosen this year and I’m getting stuck into the topics that I’m most interested in. I spent pretty much the whole of January revising, so my life has been a little uneventful since my last post. I sat three exams in total: ‘Advanced Immunology’, ‘The Evolution of Genes, Genomes and Systems’ and ‘Biotic Interactions’. Generally, I feel happy about the questions that came up, so hopefully it will all be worth it (I get my results in a month or so).  If you sat any exams in the past month I hope they went well for you! In the meantime, I’m spending some time recovering from the intense few weeks I’ve just had.

Just one glass for me!

Just one glass for me!

I finished my last exam about a week ago on the same day as my other housemates. The possibilities were endless; I’d forgotten what freedom was like! What to do first?! Eat? Sleep? Drink? Go out? My housemates and I made plans to go to the Northern Quarter to watch a free live jazz band at a cocktail bar.  However, being the unorganised and slightly exhausted people we were, we didn’t even manage to get ourselves ready until around 11pm. Nevertheless, we had a great night and ended up ordering food and having drinks at the house – it was lovely!

I didn’t get to see very much of my family over Christmas since I was so engrossed in my revision, so last weekend I went home for a surprise visit. It was so lovely to see everyone and we went out for a much needed Sunday lunch at the pub! This isn’t just any pub though, they serve the most spectacular cakes you can imagine and I brought a couple of slices back to Manchester with me. I have a soft spot for cake and so to not miss out on delicious deserts whilst I’m in Manchester, I’ve sniffed out another amazing cake shop in the Northern Quarter where they are possibly even tastier than the ones at home. Funnily enough, it’s actually called ‘Home Sweet Home’!

I love cake!

I love cake!

Yesterday I met up with my best friend after a long month apart. I know her from school back home but she lives in Manchester too now. Despite the rather windy weather we decided to go somewhere for a walk. We’re both used to living by the beach where we can go walking, and although Manchester has pretty much everything you could ever need, it doesn’t have a beach (we’ll let it off). However, we took a short drive to the edge of Manchester where we found a beautiful reservoir surrounded by hills. It was surprisingly close to the city yet it felt like we were a million miles away from anywhere or anyone. I love living in Manchester for so many reasons but one of the best reasons is that, if I ever want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, there are so many parks and pretty places to discover nearby.

Exploring the other side of Manchester

Exploring the other side of Manchester

Brushing up on Malaria pathology (with cake - or course!)

Brushing up on Malaria pathology (with cake – of course!)

I don’t have any lectures this week as final year students now get a week between exams and semester 2 to get a head start on their final year projects. Luckily I’m not a final year, so this week is a pretty chilled one for me. I am however getting stuck into my next Masters project proposal. You might remember me saying last semester that I had to design two research projects for my fourth year, one of which I would pursue as my masters project. I really enjoyed my last one where I designed a project which looked at the immune response to whipworm in the intestine. My research on this even came in handy as extra reading during exams! My second project proposal is going to stick with the theme of parasites and is focussed on the pathology of malaria. I really don’t know in any detail what I’m going to do yet but I have my first meeting with my supervisor this week to discuss possibilities. I’m really excited about this one as malaria is a disease that I’m fascinated by and that is really close to my heart. The MSci programme has given me the freedom to pursue my interest in parasitology and self-arrange two projects that I’m really passionate about. In fact, I’m going to find it very hard to pick just one at the end of this year.

It’s great to have this week off uni, but I’m actually very excited for my lecture units this semester! I’ll be taking ‘Bioethics’ which I think will be a really nice change from what I’m used to as it’s very interactive and we’ll be debating lots of controversial topics based on science and biomedicine. I’m also taking ‘Immune Response and Disease’ along with ‘Advanced Parasitology’. I will definitely be in my element with parasitology!

This week I’ve spoiled myself a little. I have booked to go to Barcelona with some of my course friends in the Easter break to visit another one of our Biology friends who is currently living there as part of his industrial/modern language year. He sounds like he’s having an amazing time out there working in a zoology lab and we couldn’t pass on the perfect excuse for a quick getaway. I’ve also booked to go to Brussels a couple of weeks after that with some other friends from home. I’m quite a savvy traveller so it’s all worked out pretty cheap (for what it is), although I need to stop booking flights willy-nilly and actually try to save some of my money  for once.

I’m getting very excited for the rest of this year; it’s already shaping up to be a good one! Hopefully I’ll have even more to tell you next time!

Ciao for now!




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Lucy’s Third Year Blog

Well hello there…


Semester one of my third year has finally come to a bitter-sweet end! It’s been the most jam-packed, exciting and stressful semester yet. If I were to give you a quick summary of the past few months it would go something like: deadline, deadline, birthday party, deadline, deadline, staff party, deadline, Christmas ball, deadline, fake Christmas, deadline, mulled wine, deadline, deadline and deadline. However, at last it’s the Christmas holidays – the perfect time to relax, eat mountains of food and pretend that I don’t have three exams in just one month (I think I’ve earned it). Luckily, despite the pretty massive workload, I’m still really enjoying my course units and I’m very excited about my final year masters project. I’ve finally handed in my first MSci research project proposal, and spent a whopping 13 hours straight in the library finishing my bioinformatics lab report last week after my laptop decided to stop working, just two days before the deadline. I’m very relieved it’s all handed in now.

In between the deadlines, there’s been plenty of chances to get into the festive spirit. The Christmas Markets have been amazing as ever, it’s hard not to eat absolutely everything you see. The city centre looks incredible at this time of year, especially Albert Square! Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, the markets a not to be missed event on every Manchester student’s calendar! I also went to my first FLS ball this month; I have no idea why I’ve never been to one before! It was a great chance to get dressed up for a change. The ball was 007 themed, with casino tables and martinis galore. It was quite bizarre seeing everyone dressed in their finest tuxedos and classy gowns and a lovely way to celebrate the end of term with my course friends.

lucy ball

Trying to be classy bond girls

I’ve also been working a lot since my last post. As well as my part-time job, I also work as a Senior Ambassador for the Faculty of Life Sciences. I was promoted a few months ago after working as a junior ambassador in my second year, touring all the lovely applicants around the faculty on interview days. We’re the people who wear the bright red hoodies and convince you that Manchester is the best university there is (which is true). The new job comes with a lot more responsibility, but I work with such a wonderful team of juniors, seniors and staff from the admissions team that it really doesn’t seem like work at all! Earlier in December the seniors arranged a big Christmas party for all the ambassadors to celebrate a successful semester of UCAS interview days. It went even better than we had anticipated and pretty much everyone came decked out in festive gear, singing Mariah Carey and The Pogues until the wee hours of the morning.

Ambassador Christmas

The Ambassador Christmas party


The wonderful ambassador family

More festive fun came with our annual house (fake) Christmas. A day filled with cooking, wine mulling, singing, eating and secret Santa exchanging. Last year, my housemate and I cooked a full roast for 10 people, so only cooking for 6 this year was actually quite relaxing in comparison. After the meal in first year we went on a night out, last year we had a house party and this year….we played Monopoly. Yes, I think we’re officially getting old! A couple of my old housemates couldn’t make it this year as they’re off doing their placements, so to make sure they weren’t forgotten about, I photoshopped their faces and put them on top of our Christmas tree so they could be with us in spirit (creepy, I know – but I couldn’t let them miss out!). Even my goldfish, Rhubarb has gone all Christmassy with a tinsel wreath around his bowl.

So now I’m gearing myself up to go back to Blackpool and celebrate actual Christmas at home with my family, then I’m spending the New Year in Edinburgh with my boyfriend. I can’t wait to see everyone, eat myself into a food coma and fall asleep under the tree. Whatever you’re doing this holidays, have a good one!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!

Until next time,


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Lucy’s third year blog

Hello there!

I’m Lucy and I’m here to tell you about life as a third year on one of the brand spanking new Masters of Science (MSci) programmes in the Faculty of Life Sciences (FLS). I’ll be updating you throughout the year as I venture into the uncharted territory of project proposals and bioinformatics as one of the first ever MSci students. I’ll also be telling you a bit about my (hopefully slightly interesting) life as a student as we go.

First, let me tell you a bit about myself. I moved to Manchester at the age of 19 from the not so glamorous or sunny seaside town of Blackpool. Now, a couple of years on, I’ve somehow made it through to third year and I’ve completely fallen in love with Manchester. I decided I couldn’t bear to leave at the end of this year, so I’m staying for a masters!

I was lucky enough to spend most of my summer travelling this year. It all started off with an FLS field course to Costa Rica, where I conducted my own research on tropical frogs and toads. Following the field course, I and a few of my course friends stayed behind for some adventures of our own involving zip lines, horses, volcanic mud baths, diving and a 3 day pit stop in New York on the way home! The trip gave me the fondest and funniest memories that I’ll be blabbering about for years to come, as well as lots of very “Gap yah” photos! I celebrated my 21st birthday at home with my family and squeezed in as many hours at work as possible, then continued on to London, Greece and Paris.

costa rica

The hard life of a Biology student

After a whirlwind summer of excitement and mayhem (which left me with a very sad looking bank account), I’m more than ready to be settling back into a routine at uni. I’m now living in a cosy house with 3 flatmates from first year and our new pet goldfish, Rhubarb. This has quite frankly been a welcome change from the madness of living in an enormous 8 bedroom party house last year. It was so much fun, but it’s time to knuckle down.

Over the years, we’ve discovered some of the unique little gems that Manchester has to offer. One of these is the Hallé Orchestra at the Bridgewater Hall. I’ve never been much of classical music fan, but the Hallé puts on an incredible show every week and as a student you can get tickets for just £3! It’s really worth giving it a go if you fancy something different and it’s unbelievably cheap!


Pretending to be an adult at the Orchestra #21goingon51

Right about now is my favourite time of year to be in Manchester. There is SO much going on. Warehouse Project is back in full swing until New Year, the Christmas market cabins are popping up in town and last week it was Bonfire night. Platt Fields Park (right across the road from the UoM accommodation) hosts a free fireworks display, bonfire and funfair each year. It’s always a great night! As for the Christmas markets, they’ve just open so I will be there faster than you can say ‘hog roast’, ready to spend more money that I don’t have on delicious food that I don’t need. I’m sure my next blog post will include a picture of me looking very merry indeed with some mulled wine at the markets – YAY!

Now we’re halfway through the semester, so you’ll find me buried under an ever growing pile of work! I’m in the process of planning the first of two research project proposals for my masters, one of which will become my final year project. Both will be based in the field of parasitology (I have a thing for parasites – don’t ask!). The one I’m currently working on will be looking at the immune response against whipworm, a disease which affects many people in developing countries. It’s going to be a lot of work but I’m really excited to finally have the freedom to design a project that is my own and on something I’m really passionate about. Speaking of my project proposal, I really better get on with it as I’m miles behind (shhh – don’t tell my supervisor).

Ciao for now!


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