Henry’s Placement Year Blog

Manchester Life Scientists

Hello everyone!

My name is Henry and I’m a third year Neuroscience student on placement in the USA! I’m lucky enough to be working in the University of Nevada Reno’s Physiology and Cell Biology department, looking at energy utilisation in a giant synapse called ‘the calyx of held’. So far it’s been an absolutely invaluable (and all-round-incredible) experience and the three months have already transformed me from a bumbling undergraduate into a (mostly) competent lab worker!

 “But what actually happens on placement?” is the question that I think crosses most people’s mind when they sign up for industrial experience. Sure, you know you’ll have to do ‘a project’ which you’ll have to write up to earn those sweet, sweet percentage points towards your final grade. But beyond that is kind of a mystery, right? Now, I won’t pretend that I have all the answers, but I can at least give…

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Ayesha’s second year (International) Blog

Manchester Life Scientists

Hi all!

Let me introduce myself first! My name is Ayesha and this year I’m going to be writing for the international section of the FLS student blog.  I’m currently a second year student studying Biomedical Sciences here. A little backstory, I was born and raised in India (represent!) and moved to the UK only about a year ago for my studies.

As far as my first year goes, if I had to sum it up in a word, it was amazing. It was such a good learning experience for me from never even having flown before in my life, to coming all the way here to a completely different continent altogether all by myself. It may not seem like a big deal to many, but for me it was huge! I’m so glad I chose to live at Hulme Hall for my first year- the people were…

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Hello! And welcome…

Our student bloggers have begun again – it’s a great way to find out what’s going on here in the Faculty.

Manchester Life Scientists

To the UoM Faculty of Life Sciences student blog

Now that the students (new and returning) have had a few weeks to settle into university life, it’s time to start up the blog for 2016! This is a place where you can follow the stories of some of our Life Science students, enabling you to live in the life of a UoM student in each year of study! Please do take the opportunity to read through the experiences shared by our students – as you’ll probably soon find that the vibrant and exciting city of Manchester, with lots of fun activities and opportunity’s for students, is the only place you’ll want to be for the next few years!

So let me introduce myself. My name is Alina, and I am the new Digital Media Intern for the Faculty of Life Sciences. My role involves using social media to show potential…

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Student Placement: The door creaks back open – week 3

The latest blog post from our placement student George Campbell studying frogs in Colombia!

frogtastic blog

We complain about temperamental weather in England but even we don’t have it quite as extreme as it is here, it seems. Last night there was thunder, yesterday it was boiling hot and the night before it was torrential rain. Right now it’s cold but 5 minutes ago it was T-shirt & shorts weather…I keep getting reminded that Pamplona only has two seasons: wet and dry. So far they only have one though: random, and I guess this is where being a Brit comes in helpful as you naturally have to leave the house prepared for any and every possibility.

The town of Pamplona from the Universities viewpoint during the day:


And later that night:


Neither photos really do justice to either the weather at its best or worst, which had my landlady praying to god that the roof holds out. It did.

Anyway, that’s the British conversation starter of…

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Shark eggs in a future climate

Our students often have exciting summers and this summer was no different. Here, undergraduate Molly Czachur, talks about her summer of sharks and symposiums.

I am an undergraduate student, and this summer I have had the privilege of receiving funding for a Sustainability Studentship at The University of Manchester. I worked together with Syafiq Musa, a first year PhD student for 3 months.

My project was to assist him in setting up a study of the effects of climate change on the early development of 2 endemic British elasmobranchs: the small spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula) and the thornback ray (Raja clavata). These responses may provide vital evidence for the sustainability of these native UK elasmobranch species under predicted climate change, and these species were chosen as a model to represent all elasmobranch species whose life history strategy includes an egg case phase.

Molly Czachur (left) with her supervisors Dr. Holly Shiels (middle) and PhD student Syafiq Musa (right).

 The wider project aims to establish the effects of predicted climate change for the year 2100 on the development of the shark egg cases. For me, this involved helping to set up a system of 8 mini biospheres, each with its own mini climate that reflects different aspects of climate change. These aspects included changes in temperature (ocean warming), carbon dioxide (hypercapnia) and oxygen (hypoxia).

The setup of the 8 biospheres for our project.

 To help us build our system of mini biospheres, we attended conferences and read scientific literature to build up our knowledge of sharks and climate change. The first conference we attended was on the theme of ocean acidification with the Royal Society in London. We met some of the world leading researchers in the field of climate change, and talked to them about our project.  I had the opportunity to learn from the experts about the direct effects of human habits that are not sustainable for the oceans and our environment, and I watched leading scientists present their research that tested the effects of ocean acidification on marine life.

Syafiq and Molly at the Royal Society Ocean Acidification Conference in London.

 We also attended the annual symposium held by the Fisheries Society of the British Isles, and this years’ theme was elasmobranch biology, ecology and conservation. The 5-day conference was held in Plymouth, and included presentations about sharks and rays, which expanded my knowledge of elasmobranchs beyond my university education, allowing me to apply the biology and ecology that I learnt to inform my own understanding on how to sustainably manage our study species. We also spoke to researchers from all over the world about experimental approaches and their experiences of working with our study species. I met lots of like minded people, became informed on how to share science to a wider audience, and I was even inspired to set up a Twitter page (@zoologymolly)!

Molly and Syafiq at the Elasmobranch conference in Plymouth.

 In addition to our conferences away from our University, I was able to attend multiple tutorials, lab meetings and even an Ecology conference in Manchester with Syafiq, where I heard members of our laboratory speak about their projects and their progress with PhD and other projects, as well as Syafiq and I talking about our own progress over the summer. I had a chance to learn about the scope of the projects and facilities available at The University of Manchester, as well as meeting with people working in academia -a priceless experience for an undergraduate student like myself.

 After learning the theory behind the two elasmobranch species, Syafiq and I set off into the field looking for egg cases in a natural environment -usually attached to seaweed by their long and stringy tendrils. Also known as mermaid’s purses, the egg cases are often found washed up on beaches at the high tide line, hidden in the seaweed that has also washed up. All of the egg cases that we found were empty, so the shark had already left the egg case, but they were still useful because we could study the egg cases in detail. Later stages of Syafiq’s project will involve scratching the dark pigmented layer off the egg case to leave a window, where he will be able to look into the egg cases and see the shark embryo developing inside in real time. We could therefore use the empty egg cases to practice scratching off the pigment. As well as being useful for us, we were able to submit our egg case findings to a nationwide survey called The Great Eggcase Hunt by The Shark Trust, contributing to a large record of egg cases distribution across the UK.

Whilst in the field, we used specialist equipment to measure the seawater conditions, to give us more information about todays water conditions.

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Molly beachcombing and snorkelling for shark eggs.

Based on all that we learnt in theory and in the field, we then set up the biosphere system, with the 8 tanks that imitate different aspects of the predicted future climate for the year 2100. We created 8 environments: four of the tanks were at an ambient temperature of 15°C, and 4 tanks were at an elevated temperate of 20°C. Each of the four tanks had different treatments for 1) a control biosphere which was the same as todays conditions, 2) a low oxygen environment (hypoxic), 3) a high carbon dioxide  environment (hypercapnic) and 4) a combined hypoxic/hypercapnic treatment.

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Schematic of the biosphere set-up.

Together we wrote a proposal for a supply of shark egg cases from an aquarium, which allowed me to practice writing in the style of a project proposal -a useful skill for writing grant proposals in the future, and very relevant to the academic career that I hope to pursue.

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Molly during a shark tagging trip off the coast of North Wales.

Through my many contacts that I gained during this studentship, I ended up volunteering at Manchester Museum where I filmed and edited a short film (https://youtu.be/NuqZvYvpCcY) and helped recurate a collection of crustaceans. I also had the chance to go shark tagging off the coast of North Wales, where I had first hand experience of some of our very own British shark species. By working at Manchester University with the Undergraduate Sustainability Studentship, many doors opened for me. This scheme not only reinforced the importance of acting sustainably to support marine wildlife, it also gave me a priceless opportunity to work alongside academic staff and postgraduate researchers, something that would not have been possible without the funding from this scheme, and I hope that this initiative continues to spread the important message of sustainability to undergraduate students.

Week 1

The latest blog post from our placement student George Campbell, out in Pamplona, Colombia.

frogtastic blog

Hola, and thanks for coming back! For first time readers I’m currently working at the University of Pamplona, Colombia studying conservation genetics (primarily on frogs) and will be documenting my experiences here.

Of course the Colombian photo was photo B. The other was The Academy in Manchester, where students sit exams with the tortuous smell of beer filling their nostrils from last nights gig in the same room. Never has a University been so sadistic.

Depending on how it goes I’m planning on doing a blog during the week on Colombian lifestyle and what I’m getting up to outside of work and then a blog at the end of each week about what I’ve done at work…so, here goes

Week 1

To be perfectly honest much of this week has been one mad blur. From adjusting to life on another continent to crazy hours spent in labs, blink and you’ve…

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Check out this first blog post from one of our placement students studying frogs outs in Pamplona, Colombia!

frogtastic blog

So….first things first, welcome to my blog-family, friends, University of Manchester students and people who were trying to find the blog with the worst pun name!

In my first post I’m going to briefly outline what I’ll be doing on placement as I know my answers were fairly poor (at best) when people asked me before. And also where it is! In future posts I hope to cover what I’m doing on a daily basis in more depth & what it is like working here in Pamplona, Colombia. And also my attempts at learning a language that I’ve not really been taught before by jumping in head first and moving to somewhere where they only speak Spanish-because why the hell not?

For those of you that don’t know already-I’m a genetics student at the University of Manchester. Part of my degree programme allows for a ‘year in industry’ between 2nd &…

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What I learnt this week part 4 (Guest blog by Elinor Bridges)

Elinor BridgesHi everyone! For the last time, I will be talking you through what I learn this week. Given that it’s Easter, expect a lot of older things that have been squeezed out of my memory after going over my old notes, a few titbits from the lectures I dozed off in this semester, and maybe even something from the news. What did I finally decide to write about? You’re not going to find out if you stop reading after the introduction…

Double, double, toil and trouble!

I will start this off by being completely honest with you all: when I first read this news story, I was completely enthralled. It was almost unbelievable…then I began to get suspicious. Were the details of this experiment, announced on various websites on March 31st, an early April Fool? As the day went on, I became more convinced that actually, this was too good to have been true. I eagerly awaited the news that it had all been a hoax, however, none came. Therefore, to the best of my knowledge, what I am about to impart is fact. If it should be revealed that this was all a big joke (or it already has and I’ve just missed the memo), I beg your forgiveness. As a hoax, I must say it is really rather good, and even more so if not.

Scanning electron micrograph of a human neutrophil ingesting MRSA National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)It has been reported that academics at the University of Nottingham have discovered a potential new/old method of destroying the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. An antibiotic resistant strain of this bacteria is responsible for disease MRSA, and other strains can be the culprit of conditions such as food poisoning and boils. It is also responsible for some eye infections, and this is where our story begins.

Allegedly, a conversation between a microbiologist and an Anglo-Saxon historian at the University of Nottingham led to the historian mentioning a very old remedy to soothe the eyes -an eye salve. The microbiologist decided it might be interesting to recreate the potion and see if it had any anti-microbial properties. The list of instructions appeared rather complex and involved leaving the potion to rest for nine days and addition of ingredients such as leeks and wine. Once the microbiologists-turned-witches were satisfied with their brew, the testing began. The resulting slime was tested on pieces of skin taken from mice with MRSA. Here comes the shocker: it worked.

It’s been claimed that around 90% of the antibiotic resistant bacteria were killed by the potion, approximately the same percentage as are killed by the primary antibiotic used in the treatment of MRSA in humans. Considering antibiotic resistance is becoming an increasing problem for the modern world, this could be a huge step forward in the effort to find alternative medicines that, in the long term, won’t do more harm than good. The scientists reported that one interesting point to note about the potion was that it smelt of garlic – something wicked this way comes!

Some people have better humour(s) than others…
Stretching right back to a Bodies in History lecture form week two, I rediscovered the concept of the four humours. Interested by this, I went on to do some further reading into the topic, and here I am to report my findings.

In ancient Greek and Roman medicine, one of the main concepts related to person’s state of health was the four humours. The Aristotlefour humours, usually attributed in part to Aristotle and Galen, were four liquids that were present in the body: blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile. For a person to be in good health, their individual balance of the humours must be correct. Imbalance, naturally, led to disease. But it doesn’t stop there – the theory of the humours became extremely embellished to the point where it seems that there were few factors that weren’t involved. For example, each of the humours had qualities which were related to the seasons, the environment, the four elements, your personality and maybe even how you looked. It was assumed that each person had their own set-up of humours that was formed at conception, and this differed between individuals. Therefore, rather than simply assessing symptoms, doctors were concerned with all of the factors mentioned above too – talk about getting personal!

Various elements of the humours persisted in medicine for many hundreds of years. Unfortunately, the treatments they offered where not always useful. For example, it was thought that some diseases were a result of too much blood in the body, so one treatment might be placing leeches on the body to suck out the excess – what a lovely way to recharge your batteries!


And on that note, now we must conclude the series that I have been forcing upon you over the last month. I have enjoyed sharing what I’ve learnt with you, and I hope I’ve made it somewhat more interesting that it would have been from a thick book with no pictures and lots of long words. Enjoy the rest of your Easter break, and hopefully your rest and recuperation won’t involve leaches. Farewell!

What I learnt this week part 3 (Guest blog by Elinor Bridges)

Elinor BridgesHi everyone, I’m back – which fortunately means I wasn’t crushed under a growing pile of books last week in an effort to finish my coursework on time. Lucky for you, this past week of essays and a brief tryst with some early revision have taught me a lot. Now, it is time for me to pass the fruits of my laborious week onto yourselves. Please enjoy these seeds of knowledge, and let us hope your metaphorical mind is awash with lichen so that they may germinate.

I’m lichen the side of this mountain

Yes, it is pronounced lie-ken, not lich-in.

Lichen are a symbiosis between two types of organism, as I rediscovered during an optimistic, yet ultimately short-lived, revision session for Microbes, Man and the Environment. Lichen are made up of two components: a photosynthetic alga and a fungus. Each organism has something to offer its partner – rather like any partnership. The alga provides the fungus with sugars, while the fungus attaches to a surface for the lichen to live on and protects the alga from desiccation. While this might sound likeLichen-covered_tree,_Tresco something of a fragile being, these little guys are extremely hardy. They can live in incredibly harsh environments, and as alluded to above, are the only known organism type that can colonise bare rock. It is a testament to their toughness that they can survive on mountains for over 4000 years.

Colonisation by lichen is vital for ecosystems in certain areas, with lichen also making homes on tree bark and rooftops. When the lichen colonises a new substrate, it brings organic molecules into the area. When the lichen dies, it breaks down and forms a basic soil. If a lucky, wind-dispersed seed drifts in the right direction, it might just find itself landing on a spot that used to be a lichen. The presence of the soil means it is possible for the seed to germinate in that particular place, leading to a plant growing on the previously bare surface. This can begin a chain reaction which eventually leads to a whole community of organisms living in a place that was once as barren as the library during the Easter break.

(Foxg)love hearts

Despite the enduring chill, its undeniable that spring is in the air – a time associated with flowering plants and new love. While this post may be rather heavy on the plants, the closest we get to love is rather symbolic – hearts. For an essay exploring the influence of herbal remedies on modern medicine, I found myself learning an awful lot about hearts and the common foxglove.

Digitalis purpurea2 by Kurt StüberThis plant has been used as a herbal remedy for centuries, intended as a cure for a huge variety of illnesses. It has even been used to encourage vomiting in patients as it was sometimes believed that this would help them – because all you need when you’re under-the-weather is a poisonous plant rubbed onto your skin to make you vomit. Fortunately, the wonderful William Withering published something that could be recognized as a scientific study into foxglove in 1785. Here, he discussed use of foxglove in helping those with heart problems. As it turns out, he was onto something. Today, a compound from the foxglove is used in the treatment of cardiac arrhythmias – irregular beating of the heart. In just the right quantities, the compound alters the behaviour of the sodium-potassium pump in cell membranes to encourage a stronger and steadier heart rate.

Unlike in Withering’s time, the doses given today are highly researched and unlikely to poison you, but if you see a foxglove when you’re out and about I wouldn’t recommend giving it a try!


Thus concludes another summary of what I learnt this week. I am now preparing to delve into the darkest, messiest and most incomprehensible lecture notes ever scrawled in an attempt to make some sense of them. Hopefully I will be able to tease some interesting stories out of them for my final instalment on this blog. Until next week!

What I learnt this week part 2 (Guest blog by Elinor Bridges)

Elinor BridgesHello again everyone. I hope it’s been a good week, and not too stressful for those with deadlines. For me, it’s been another week of exploring the weird and wonderful world of living things, a few of which shall feature in this blog. Once again, I have whittled down everything I have learnt this week to the most interesting (and sometimes amusing) nuggets of information.

Life isn’t Fir
I am currently taking part in a community project which involves volunteering at the university’s experimental gardens – also known as ‘The Firs’. This was going swimmingly, despite constantly looking over my shoulder for frogs, which I have an irrational and uncontrollable fear of. Then, as I had dreaded, a green blur in corner of my eye alerted me to the presence of one of the little croakFrog for blogers. While mildly traumatised by the event, I was unharmed. Unfortunately, many people do not face the same fortunate fate upon encountering amphibians – some frogs contain toxins that can be very dangerous.

As explained as part of the Drugs: from Molecules to Man module I am taking, the molecule responsible for making some amphibians best avoided is epibatidine. Epibatidine binds to a certain type of receptor in the nervous system, called the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, and prevents proper control of parts of the nervous system. Additionally, it stops pain sensation from being felt, so the molecule can act as a painkiller. Due to this, epibatidine is a starting point for the development of some painkilling drugs.

Gut flora is for life, not just for Christmas
I have always had mixed feelings about being born the day after Boxing Day. It’s a nice uplift when everyone is miserable about Christmas being over, but it also means everybody is busy and any restaurant I should visit may not have had stock deliveries, leaving half of the menu temporarily defunct. Despite this, it’s my birthday and I’m stuck with it, just like the gut flora that was also bestowed on me at birth.

E. ColiAs was explained to me in Microbes, Man and the Environment, everybody has around a kilogram of bacteria living inside their body. A lot of this bacteria survive in the GI tract, and this is known as the gut flora. Your gut flora is determined by several factors and, surprisingly, is unique to each individual. The first factor that determines the types of bacteria in your gut flora is one of the first things humans ever experience: birth. How you were born affects your gut flora for the rest of your life. For example, if you were born by caesarean section, the first bacteria you were exposed to would have been very different to that of a natural birth. Your gut flora also depends on your diet – vegetarians generally have very different bacteria to those who eat meat. The interesting thing about this is that it’s very difficult to change your gut flora. If you go from eating meat to being a vegetarian, it can take as long as a year for any change in your gut flora to occur.

The fact that your gut flora can’t be changed can be somewhat unfortunate. The bacteria help you to digest the food you eat into products for absorption, and some people’s gut flora are better at this than others. Having gut flora which break down more carbohydrates can be a big factor in weight gain. The result of this? Don’t just blame a few extra pounds on the burgers – it might be because of your bacteria!


So, there are the two most interesting things I have learnt this week. I am delighted to find that I have a good reason to be scared of frogs, even if I am more concerned about their slimy skin, unpredictable hopping, and beady little eyes. I hope you found the story of your gut flora interesting – I find it rather comforting to know that you’re carrying a kilogram of tiny little friends with you that will never change. I look forward to seeing you next time, where biological anecdotes and rather awful puns shall continue to abound.

British Science Week 2015: #My1stExperiment (Kory Stout)

Kory StoutI remember watching BBC’s Planet Earth as a fresh-faced 13 year old and being absolutely fascinated with the sheer diversity of life on Earth. From watching penguins in Antarctica, to tigers hunting in India’s forests, I was completely captivated by nature. It was from this series and subsequent natural history films that I decided I wanted to know everything I possibly could about our planet.

My first experiment was an expertly coordinated and entirely controlled insect enclosure. After watching Attenborough describe the trials of life, I decided to gain some first-hand experience of field research by taking a Tupperware tub from my kitchen and, after filling it with leaves and twigs, I decided to hunt out as many bugs I could find from my garden as possible. After forming a rather strange ensemble of animals; ranging from spiders and worms to snails and caterpillars, I would watch over the tub for hours on end. My mum wouldn’t let me bring my mini-zoo into the house (to this day, I’m not quite sure why she wouldn’t want a bug infested box in her house) so I had to leave it outside. This proved to be a fatal error for my experiment. Thinking that insects wouldn’t be able to breathe if the Tupperware container had a lid on, I left the insect-zoo open to the elements. The next day I went to check on my specimens and to my horror they had all drowned and my enclosures were destroyed! My first scientific experiment had ended in failure.

My 1st experiment seems to be worlds apart from experiments I undertook in my undergraduate degree in Manchester. From the dirty, inaccurate and superficial make-shift animal enclosure in my back garden, to the state of the art and high-tech laboratories in the Faculty of Life Sciences, my science experiments radically changed. What didn’t change was my passion for science – my desire to better understand the world around me has not waned. If anything, my undergraduate degree increased my passion to continuously learn science! My first experiment was not a success – it wasn’t a well organised, slick or professional procedure. However, the reason for the experiment has remained constant throughout my science education and I hope that it continues.

My 1st experiment is a promotional campaign in collaboration with British Science Week. British Science Week (BSW) is a ten-day celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths – featuring fascinating, entertaining and engaging events and activities across the UK for people of all ages. To take part, why not head down to the Manchester Museums and check out some of their exhibits. Also, why not tweet in using #My1stExperiment and let us know what first sparked your interest in science.

What I learnt this week part 1 (Guest blog by Elinor Bridges)

Elinor BridgesHello everyone – I think introductions are in order. My name is Elinor and I am a first year undergraduate on the Biology with Science and Society degree. The only first year undergraduate, in fact – so hopefully I will be able to impart a different perspective on the life sciences. I will be writing a short series of weekly posts based on what I’ve learnt in the previous week. Now the formalities are out of the way, prepare to find out what I have discovered this week…

Students have varying standards of hygiene

While unsurprising, there is some interesting scientific and historical debate surrounding that statement. During my Bodies in History: An Introduction to the History of Medicine seminar, we were discussing a lecture given by the infamous Sigmund Freud.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Freud changed the field of psychology entirely with the development of psychoanalysis. But how, I hear you ask, does this relate to student cleanliness?

Well, Freud treated patients of hysteria. He believed that repressed memories could manifest themselves into the physical Sigmend Freud courtesy of Max Halberstadtsymptoms shown by hysterical patients, and these memories could be drawn out by hypnosis. One woman treated with this technique, Anna O, was a hysterical patient who suffered extreme thirst yet was unable to drink.

Under hypnosis, she revealed that when she was younger, she witnessed a companion let a dog drink out of a glass of water. Anna was disgusted by this, yet repressed her anger for fear of upsetting her friend.  Freud and his colleague believed that this was the cause of the symptoms she experienced. The focus of our discussion rested with one word: why?

Some believed that it was because letting a dog drink out of a human’s glass is unhygienic. At that time, Anna would have been recipient of new information claiming that germs were everywhere and spread disease. Increasing emphasis on the importance of cleanliness may have caused her to feel such a great level of disgust.

Others took a different angle. They believed the Freudian approach was simply wrong, because a dog drinking out of a glass isn’t such a terrible thing. This, of course, begged another important question: is letting a dog drink out of a glass unhygienic? The resulting vote was inconclusive.

I thought of another joke, but it was a bit cheesy…

It’s a pretty standard viewpoint that letting bacteria and fungus into our food is a bad thing. However, many things we eat and drink actually require these microorganisms to turn the raw materials into delicious consumables. As lectured about in the Microbes, Man and the Environment module, microbes are particularly important in cheese making. Hopefully you haven’t got any nearby, because this actually sounds pretty disgusting….

Camembert of Normandy - image courtesy of NJGJCamembert is a popular French cheese with a soft, creamy interior, but how does the inside come to be that way? This is where it gets a little icky. After being cut into rounds, a mould called Penicillium camemberti is added to the surface of the cheese. This grows over the surface into a large structure of fungal branches called a mycelium. As the fungus spreads, it releases enzymes which break down the proteins and fats in the cheese. This partially liquefies the inside of the camembert, giving a soft texture.

While this is rather interesting, I would not recommend mentioning this if served camembert at a dinner party. It’s not very polite to tell the host that they’ve served partially digested fat surrounded by a nice coating of mould!


On that note, this concludes the most interesting things I have learnt this week. Hopefully you have learnt something new too, whether it be that Freudian psychology was rather odd, or that some mould is actually delicious. See you next week!

Worm Wagon – From Parasite Selfies to worms in a jar

On Friday 6th March, The University of Manchester hosted the ‘Worm Wagon’. The Worm Wagon, which started here at the Kory as a wormUniversity in 2009, has gone around the UK teaching the public about neglected tropical diseases. Specifically, the group looks at parasitic infections and how our bodies help fight against them. With over 25 different locations visited and with more than 5,000 people attending events, the Worm Wagon has proven to be a huge success.

The Worm Wagon workshop uses various different interactive elements to effectively communicate ideas about parasites. For example, the ‘parasite plunge’ is used to teach participants about how our body produces mucus which helps to purge the invaders from our bodies. The volunteer has to place their hands inside a mucus and parasite filled container (made up of rubber worms and jelly) and pick out a worm which they get to keep. This activity is coupled with some fascinating teaching resources which look at the lifecycles of worms such as Helminths and Tapeworms. Perhaps the most bizarre activity you can take part in is the ‘Parasite Selfie’. A cut out of a Whipworm, a type of Helminth which affects the large intestine in humans, is set up so that guests can be pictured as if they were the worm!

Visitors can also get up close and personal with worms by viewing specimens in jars.  From the tiny little Ascaridia Galli which is found in chickens, to the potentially enormous tapeworms that are found in millions of people, guests get to see exactly how these parasitic worms enter our bodies. This allows them to get a better idea of what the parasites look like and helps to educate them about preventative measures they can take to ensure they don’t become infected. This knowledge can then be tested in a fun game of Parasite Top Trumps! This specially designed game helps participants compare parasitic infections to other global diseases to help raise awareness of just how prevalent these conditions can be.

When asked about the importance of a better understanding of parasitic worms, Professor Kath Else, a Senior Research Fellow at the FLS and Worm Wagon coordinator had this to say: “They [parasitic diseases] have huge consequences because of the ill health – they trap whole countries into poverty because they have a knock-on effects on worker productivity and big effects on child development”

With parasite infections affecting well over a billion people worldwide, perhaps more people should come visit the worm wagon!


Guest blog by Kory Stout, Video by Matthew Spencer

International Women’s Day events (Guest blog by Natalie Gardiner)

It was International Women’s Day yesterday, and we hope you all saw our inspiring quotes for females across the Faculty. nataliegardinerToday, Dr Natalie Gardiner, our Women in Life Sciences lead, tells us a little bit about the people who put this project together. We also hear from a few more women working in the Faculty.

I worked initially with Moyin Kwok and Sarah Ingham to develop events for International Women’s Day, aimed at engaging with FLS undergraduates. So we were pleased to be joined by a team of enthusiastic undergraduates, Lara Clauss, Christina Mott, and Khatsha Ali  who all took leading roles in the projects and events.  I’d like to thank them all; Nick Pettican who designed the posters and of course everyone who gave up their time to join in these events, particularly Nancy Rothwell, Sheena Cruickshank, Kathryn Else, the Worm Wagoners, Helen Ryder, and Manchester Debating Union.  I hope we can continue to run annual events.

The University of Manchester should be really proud of its cultural diversity and of course, its achievements in Life Sciences – do I need any more reason to participate in such an exciting project?

Moyin Kwok | International Recruitment and Marketing Manager

I am a firm believer that institutions have both a social responsibility and a key part to play in reducing gender inequality, boosting the representation of women in academia and working to remove obstacles to their participation in public life. I see the events we are organising for International Women’s Day as being a small part of that overall process which the University of Manchester is striving to attain and am proud to play my part.

Sarah Ingham, Faculty Development Manager

I’m really keen for undergraduates to recognise the role of Women in Science, so that in future we may be better represented

Laura Clauss

The idea behind the Women In Science photo series was to challenge the perception of what most people instantly think of when they hear the word ‘scientist’. It was more than just highlighting that there are increasing numbers of women in the STEM workforce. It was about capturing the ‘individual’ within the white lab coat

Christina Mott, who worked with Shi Yu (Arthur), Cecil Barnett-Neefs, and Chen Xin En (Felicia) to create the portfolio of photos taken with some of our Faculty’s life scientists

I think its important for women in science to inspire and celebrate each other, the events organised in honour of international women’s week promotes this at a wider scale

Khatsha Ali