Tuesday Feature episode 33: Thomas Nuhse

This week we speak to Lecturer Thomas Nuhse about his unique role here in the Faculty of Life Sciences.


Please explain your role here in the Faculty.     

I’m just a regular lecturer at the Faculty of Life Sciences and about two years ago I moved to something called a teaching and scholarship contract. My main role is to teach and the scholarship means that I’m expected to stay on top of new ideas around teaching and learning. I have to stay on top of the current understanding of how people learn, and how our teaching can support that learning in the best way possible. The expectation is that I do professional development, to learn about the best ways to teach and to share these practices with colleagues.

What type of teaching do you focus on?

I’m teaching across a whole wide range of units and types of teaching. These include things like lectures: I do first year biochemistry, second year plant physiology and third year biotic interactions. I also teach in a range of practicals and I will soon be teaching medical groups.

Why is your role and scholarship an important part of the Faculty?

This type of contract is a relatively new idea and I think there have been a number of different drivers that got the Faculty to support the post. Traditionally, academics would all have a joint research and teaching position but this role is a bit of a specialisation. It has been recognised that even though universities have historically been built on the unity of research and teaching, there is now merit in more specialised jobs. People like me, who learn how learning and teaching works, are able to support their colleagues who are more research heavy. We can take on a slightly heavier load of teaching to allow other colleagues to focus on research.

We can also drive the quality of teaching forward. We have a little bit more time to really try out innovative ways of teaching. In a way, this should benefit the students because we can try new things, we can invest time in building new types of courses and in new ways of teaching. In the end, everyone wins.

Why did you first decide to specialise?

It’s a bit of a personal story because I started at the University of Manchester as a research fellow. I started here in 2007 with a fellowship. My first two years, I spent almost all of my time doing research. The project that I was on was a fairly ambitious and risky project and I found that after a couple of years that things hadn’t worked out as well as I would have liked.  This was partly through bad luck and partly because I didn’t make the right strategic decisions. At the same time, I found that the teaching part of my job was something that I enjoyed much more and where I felt I was being much more productive.

When the opportunity opened up and this type of contract was introduced, I felt I could make a better contribution to the Faculty. I applied to switch contracts and two years  ago I was awarded with this new type of contract.

Did you have any science heroes growing up? Who inspired you?

When I was younger, I was much more into chemistry and so Marie Curie was a hero of mine. Through incredible hard work and determination, she was able to achieve a lot of great things.

 How has working in Manchester helped you?

I think what I’ve really enjoyed is that this is a large Faculty that has a very broad range of research interests. It’s quite exciting to be exposed to top quality research from so many different areas. It allows me to be interested in and learn more about areas that I never really thought about: whether that’s neuroscience, ecology or anything else!

Of course we have great students! We attract some of the brightest students in the country. It is really enjoyable to work with them because they have good ideas and make me think about things I had never thought about. Working with students is something that I enjoy much more than I expected to. Before I arrived here, I worked for ten years in pure research institutes which didn’t have any exposure to undergraduates and it was a bit of a surprise just how much fun it can be to teach students.

What do you outside of work?

When I have the time and it’s not raining, I like to go for walks in the peak district and I like to cycle. Once a week during the semester, I also sing with the University chorus.




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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Tuesday Feature Episode 25: Lara Clauss

For many, this is the first week of lectures and it can be quite hard to imagine what it’s like to do another 3/4 years of study! Fear not, this Tuesday Feature is with a recent graduate and is full of some good advice. Check it out.

What did you study here at the University of Manchester?

In my first year, I studied Biomedical Sciences with Spanish. Although I enjoyed the combination of science with a modern language, I wanted to focus more strongly on a specific area of science, so I switched to Pharmacology and Physiology in my second year. It’s the only degree in the Faculty of Life Sciences that you can’t combine with a language, but humanities aren’t completely out of the picture: My final year project in the history of science really helped me gain a wider perspective on the role of science in society.

What are your plans for after University?

A few months ago I would have said travelling, but I was lucky enough to receive a place to do my Masters degree in Neuroscience. I’m excited because it’s in France, so there will be good food and plenty of opportunities to improve my French while I’m here. If all goes well I’m hoping to do a PhD afterwards, and I believe the additional degree will help me determine what I would like to spend four years of my life researching.

lara tfHow did you first become interested Life Sciences?

My first interests were in the application of scientific knowledge to a clinical environment, so I considered becoming either a doctor or a scientist. I did an internship in a virology laboratory which I really enjoyed, and Manchester showed me that working in a laboratory can be fun as well as challenging. My interest has just kept growing!

How has studying in Manchester helped you?

Manchester is brilliant because it is recognised internationally and as such it attracts brilliant researchers from around the world as well as great fellow students. I always had something to do with great people around me, and benefited from some amazing teaching and support. Also, I’m confident that Manchester will be a great asset to my CV when I start searching for jobs, because it’s one of the top universities worldwide (and definitely lives up to that reputation)!

What do you do in your spare time?

In my spare time, I got involved in halls of residence and many societies, which included managing FOLSS for two years. I also worked for the university as a Student Ambassador. The activities really helped broaden my skills set, and although not academic I think they helped show my eagerness to get involved in university life, which might have helped in getting a place for my Masters. I’m hoping to get more involved in sports now, let’s see how it goes!


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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Tuesday Feature episode 10: Kat Machin

From the ‘sunny’ gardens of Fallowfield last week (since then, the Manchester weather has returned back to its rainy norm) to the Seychelles this week, our Faculty is far flung and international. This week we feature another one of our graduates!

What was/is your role in the Faculty?

I was an undergraduate student, studying Zoology with Industrial Experience.  The course was fantastic, covered a wide picture three katrange of topics and offered loads of travel opportunities through field courses in places like South Africa, Belize (now Costa Rica) and Ecuador.  The Industrial Experience year allowed me to gain hands-on conservation work with the Island Conservation Society, an NGO in Seychelles.  In my second year, I co-founded the Zoology Society, which continues to be run by a committee of students, and in my final year I was a student ambassador.

What are you up to now?

After graduating in July, I travelled to Canada with a fellow zoology graduate and we volunteered at an eco-lodge, where we led guided nature hikes for tourists and helped out with the general maintenance of the lodge.  Then, after a couple of months at the lodge, we travelled around Alberta and British Columbia, stopping off at friends’ houses, who I’d met when they came to Manchester as exchange students.

Once back on home soil, I started the tedious process of applying for jobs, mostly in the conservation sector.  After a few months, I got offered a job as a Tern Warden with the RSPB and will be starting with them in a couple of weeks.  I’ll be working in Anglesey and my job will involve monitoring the populations of Artic and Common Tern, as well as one of Britain’s rarest breeding seabirds – the Roseate Tern.  I’m really excited to get started and put everything I learnt at Manchester to good use!

Why did you first get interested in your area of research?

I’ve been interested in animals for as long as I can remember but I suppose I really got hooked when I was a teenager and picture one katDavid Attenborough’s Planet Earth series was released.  I became obsessed with learning about how animals were adapted to their environments, was captivated by animal behaviour and probably most importantly, became really concerned with the conservation of the species that fascinated me.

When it came to choosing unis and courses, Manchester topped my list mainly because of the option to take a placement in your third year.  As a placement student in Seychelles, I was involved with the sea turtle and sea bird monitoring programmes and loved it. I was also involved in the Giant Aldabra Tortoise breeding programme and had the pleasure of sharing my house with tiny giant tortoise hatchlings, which were under my care.  Furthermore, I got the chance to design, implement and analyse my own research project, which looked into the forest rehabilitation of Desroches Island. My placement allowed me to get a real taste for conservation research and confirmed for me that that was the type of career I wanted to pursue.

Do you have any science heroes? Who inspired you?

It’s a bit of a cliché, and I suppose he’s more a science communicator than a scientist per-say but David Attenborough has definitely been my major source of inspiration. Growing up in Telford, there wasn’t a lot of nature around really, so the television was my window to the natural world.  I doubt I would have been inspired to pursue a career in conservation without having watched all those nature programmes.picture two kat

I was also very lucky to have a geography teacher, who after spending a decade travelling, really inspired me to get out and see the world.  She got me really interested in ecosystems, and I continue to be fascinated by ecology today.

How has studying in Manchester helped you?

Enormously.  Not only did the course provide me with the theoretical knowledge essential for a career in conservation, but I also gained practical field experience and developed a range of skills from analytical thinking to public speaking.  I decided to do a science media project in my final year, giving me an insight into science communication, and this project diversified my skills even further.  The placement year provided me with a year of hands-on conservation experience, without which I doubt I would have gotten the job with RSPB.

What do you do outside of work?

I like to be outside.  I like to feel connected with nature and, for me, there’s no better way to do this than to simply immerse yourself in it. So, I walk a lot and hike as often as possible. Travel is a big passion.  I got my first taste of travelling as a

student at Manchester.  I went to South Africa on the Animal Behaviour field course in my first year, travelled to Belize for the Marine and Terrestrial Ecology field course in my second year and nabbed 10 months in Seychelles for my placement, it was incredible! Both travel and hiking tie in quite nicely with my other hobby – wildlife photography.picture four kat

Thanks for the interview and stunning photographs Kat,  and good luck with the new job!

I hope you can see the exciting opportunities our undergraduate students have and it might just inspire you to come to the Faculty! 


Faculty student to give presentation at UK PlantSci 2015.

Faculty student Emily Schofield has recently been chosen to give a presentation at the UK PlantSci 2015 confereem photonce.

An annual event hosted by the UK Plant Sciences Federation, UK PlantSci brings together eminent plant scientists from all over the UK to discuss research and outreach. The conference, that takes place over two days on the 14-15th April, will feature a range of interesting talks from leading professionals in their field.

Emily, who is a 3rd year Plant Science undergraduate, has been chosen to give a talk on orchids. The talk entitled ‘Fungal symbionts and their role in germination and seedling development in British orchids’ is part of a series of talks about ‘Roots and soil – Finding riches in the dirt’. It is based on Emily’s work with Kew Gardens. She is there as part of her third year industrial placement, where students are able to get real-world experience in their degree area.

Emily says:

‘The application was to write an abstract for a current area of research. I chose to focus on British orchids as the data we were getting looked really interesting. It’s really exciting to be chosen to present at a national conference, I can’t wait to meet other scientists passionate about plants.’

For more information about the conference, please go to www.plantsci2015.org.uk

Benjamin Stutchbury wins over audience at FameLab Regional Finals

stutchbury (1)Faculty PhD student Benjamin Stutchbury recently took part in the North West regional finals of FameLab UK 2014, a competition to find new voices in science. Four other University researchers were also involved.

The event, hosted by MOSI, saw the region’s finest communicators battle it out to impress a judging panel of Dr Phil Manning (University of Manchester), Carolyn Bishop (University of Huddersfield), and Victoria Gill (BBC). The prize on offer was a place in the FameLab UK National Final. Each contestant had three minutes to present accurate and interesting science in an accessible way, using everyday language and storytelling.

Benjamin won the audience vote at the Regional Finals with his presentation entitled ‘Designing drugs on the London Underground’. His talk focused on the use of systems biology to improve drug design. Mathematical networks are widely used in systems biology so Benjamin used the London Underground map as an example of a mathematical network that the audience could easily relate to. Benjamin said:

“The ability to communicate complex scientific concepts to a wide audience is an extremely important skill to develop. Concentrating complex science into a (hopefully) entertaining three-minute talk was extremely challenging, but also great fun. I was amazed by how inventive some of the contestants were and the range of scientific topics covered. I would recommend anyone to give it a go next year!”

Dr Jo Pennock, a lecturer from the Faculty, also participated in the Regional Finals. Jo was chosen as a wildcard and will go into a draw for the last spot in the National Final, held at Bloomsbury Theatre on the 23rd April.

Medical Research Council centenary celebrations

Manchester students on placement at the Medical Research Council in the Gambia played an active role in the recent celebrationgambia (1) of the MRC’s Centenary year. The students involved were Beth Coe, Thomas Elliot, Alex Clark, Richard Morter, Jack Bibby, and Megan Chasey. All embraced the experience, and Thomas even designed the centenary t-shirt. They were also introduced to MRC Chairman, Donald Brydon, when he visited the unit for the centenary celebrations.

The students were invited to join the organising committee and run stations for the open day which formed a central part of the celebrations. 150 children from 15 local schools attended. Richard and Thomas served as microphone runners at a high-profile ‘Ask the Experts’ event which featured a distinguished panel of guests. The event was attended by over two hundred people.

Alison Offong, Head of Communications at the MRC Gambia said:

“Richard and Tom ensured seamless operations on the night!”

Tom and Beth were honoured to attend the Directors Award Dinner, held at Professor Corrah’s house. They were seated at the MRC Chairman’s table and had a very enjoyable evening. Beth said:

“It made it us feel part of the MRC as a whole and it was such a privilege to be given the opportunity to get involved. Meeting the local school children and their teachers made us feel that we belong and that the work we are doing is so worthwhile.”