by Meriel Jones
Over the years I’ve given many presentations at schools and colleges about what the biological sciences are like at University. So far this year I’ve been to Xaverian College (http://www.xaverian.ac.uk/) in Manchester and King Edward VI College (https://www.kedst.ac.uk/) in Stourbridge near Birmingham.
Xaverian College is in central Manchester and has high expectations of its students. Many continue to higher education and each January the College holds an event with speakers from many universities and subjects areas. This begins support for the students to decide on their career paths post A-level. I go along to talk about the biological sciences. I feel that talking about the subject content is better left to perusal of the websites and prospectuses, and that I should rather include my personal insight from my own experience. My focus is always on the ways that university differs from school, and what sorts of careers are open to those with biological science degrees.
King Edward VI College is on a (large) traffic island in the centre of Stourbridge near Birmingham. The college also has great ambitions for its students. My talk there is at a similar careers event in March that starts the path to UCAS applications and university. This time my topic is the biomedical sciences, and I explain about the important choice between accredited degrees that are a direct pathway to roles within the NHS and non-vocational degrees that can leave additional career paths more open. I also talk about the difference between medical and biomedical degrees and careers.
Both colleges have a large and diverse group of students who take these career events very seriously and ask perceptive questions. Every year, it is a pleasure to see their enthusiasm. It is also great to answer questions from their teachers, who act as hosts during the events.
Dr Michael Berenbrink’s research is a major focus of an award winning TV documentary about the world-best synchronised swimmers. The documentary, made by Japan’s public broadcasting company, NHK, won the first prize in the Sports Activity Category in the 2017 World Media Festival, with the prize awarded on at festival in Hamburg on the 10th of May.
The documentary is available on YouTube miracle body documentary. Although in Japanses, the footage of the athletes and their under and over water acrobatics is stunning. Dr Berenbrink was involved in filming in Tokyo, Barcelona and Liverpool, and developed a protocol for measuring changes in the size of the red blood cell storing spleen while the athletes were holding their breath in an MRI scanner, and compares the athletes’ abilities to those of specialised diving mammals, such as otters.
- New Teacher Subject Day, Organised by the Prince’s Teaching Institute, Pimlico Academy, Saturday 14th January 2017
On Saturday, 14th January 2017, IIB researcher Dr Michael Berenbrink has been taking part in the New Teacher Subject Day organised by the Prince’s Teaching Institute (http://www.princes-ti.org.uk/). The event took place at Pimlico Academy School, London, where Dr Berenbrink presented a talk about his work on the diving capacity of marine mammals to 20 newly qualified and trainee school teachers for Biology. The Prince’s Teaching Institute is a charity whose mission includes to ‘invigorate headteachers’ passion for education, re-awaken teachers’ love of their subject, and show the newly qualified how to enhance their impact.’ Providing a wealth of resources, the New Teacher subject days are delivered by experienced teacher leaders in conjunction with leading academics and are designed to improve confidence and bolster ability.
- Symposium of the Liverpool Veterinary Zoology Student Society
On the weekend of March 25-26th IIB researcher Dr Michael Berenbrink took part in a seal necropsy and presented a 50 min talk on the “Evolution of oxygen stores and mammalian diving capacity – from water shrew to blue whale” at the Northern Zoological Symposium in Liverpool, a multi university event with the aim to educate about all aspects zoological. This year’s event was organised by the Liverpool University Veterinary Zoological Society and included a series of lectures and practical sessions and a formal gala dinner at the Albert Dock.
- CNN Digital Commentary of naked mole rat study
On Friday 21st April, IIB researcher Dr Michael Berenbrink was interviewed by the news channel CNN Digital for his professional opinion on a study published in the magazine Science about the extreme ability of naked mole rats to survive without oxygen. The full report about the study including Dr Berenbrink’s comment can be followed here: http://edition.cnn.com/2017/04/21/health/naked-mole-rats-oxygen-study/
Earlier this year sixth formers from Shrewsbury School visited the IIB, hosted by Professor Alan McCarthy.
After listening to lectures around the IIB’s key research themes, the students were given a guided tour.
They gave this report in their newsletter:
“The research facilities at Liverpool are, without exception, world class. We saw their next generation DNA sequencers, capable of reading an entire genome in just a few days; their ‘GeneMill’ for making synthetic DNA; and a ‘laser capture microscope’ that can cut out a single cell from a thin section and capture it for genetic analysis.
“We visited a humming lab filled with mass spectrometers able to detect in real time the chemical fingerprints that differentiate healthy from diseased tissues. We saw the x-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging suites that are the workhorses in the ongoing effort to model the actual 3D structures of proteins, and in one case we were shown a novel drug being tested against an intricate virtual model of a mutant enzyme.”
X-ray crystallography imaging suite
Dementia awareness week (15th – 20th May) has all been wrapped up, and in light of the event Dr Jill Madine and her amyloid group (Kieran Hand, Dr Hannah Davies and James Torpey), Prof Jerry Turnbull and Dr Scott Guimond (Institute of Integrative Biology), and Prof Alan Morgan (Institute of Translational Medicine) participated in the Alzheimer’s Research UK North West public engagement event hosted by the University of Salford on Wednesday 17th May 2017. To celebrate the grand opening of the Universities new Dementia hub, scientific researchers from the University of Manchester, MMU, University of Liverpool, University of Salford and Liverpool John Moore’s engaged in an academic event in the morning showcasing what dementia research is taking place at each institution, followed by an afternoon demonstrating their on going efforts to tackle this life changing disease… to the public! A breadth of “hands on” activities were available for all ages, and we also invited Liverpool Life Sciences UTC to get stuck in and showcase their ongoing collaborative projects! Activities ranged from how worms are really changing the way in which we can study dementia (with some brilliant videos) (Morgan group), how a ‘spoonful of sugar’ could help treat dementia (Turnbull group) and all the way to what dementia means to you (Madine group). In this activity, the Madine amyloid group asked individuals or groups if they could write or draw their feelings on dementia, have their photo taken with their work, where the public were delighted with the idea that it’s going to be made into a collage for others that were unable to attend the event to see. There were some truly incredible thoughts on the subject from individuals who had been directly impacted by dementia, and as a group we were incredibly humbled by the positive responses to our ongoing efforts in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and associated disorders. See you next year!
This year our fruitful collaboration with Liverpool life sciences UTC has continued and we would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Laura Hurst on the success of her Year 13 Project.
Laura has been working on our Neuroblastology programme at UTC and designed and carried out an experiment to investigate the neuroprotective effect of lemongrass on brain cells in Alzheimer’s disease. Laura has cultivated SHSY5Y neuronal cells, exposed them to amyloid beta protein (protein involved in neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease) and explored the protective effect of lemongrass on these affected cells. Laura has now finished the project, written an excellent report and presented her findings to her peers and the teachers at the school.
This is her abstract from her report.
This project’s main purpose is to explore the potential neuroprotective effects of lemongrass (Cymbopogon Citratus) and how these effects can be utilised in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. The rates of this disease have greatly increased over the past few decades and so the development of new pharmaceuticals is increasingly important to society. To test the hypothesis of lemongrass having neuroprotective effects two well plates were set up with neuroblastoma cultures, one of which had beta amyloid protein (one of the key pathological markers of Alzheimer’s disease) added. Three different solutions of lemongrass essential oil were also added (0.1%,0.5%, and 1%) as well as two control groups containing either F-12 Ham’s nutrient media only or 100% ethanol. The results of the experiment suggested that an increase in lemongrass solution reduced the concentration of cells per mm² but increased the viability of the cells in the amyloid beta protein plate. 0.5% lemongrass solution almost doubled the viability of the neuroblastoma from 37.04% in the media only control group to 68.61%. These results support both the Amyloid hypothesis and the hypothesis established for this project, and so it can be concluded that lemongrass has potential as a treatment to Alzheimer’s disease if further research is carried out.
The school are so impressed they are using her work as a model to show students and teachers alike how science project work should be conducted and reported.
We would all like to congratulate Laura on her fantastic success and wish her luck in her dreams to pursue a career in neuroscience!
In more good news, Dr John Dyer at UTC is involved in the process of arranging an exchange programme to enable students from different schools in Europe to work on extended projects at different sites dependant on their interests. UTC (in collaboration with the University of Liverpool) is hoping to make the neuroblastology project their specialty! So hopefully soon we will be welcoming students from across Europe to learn cell culture techniques and do more exciting experiments.
This was a huge display within the conference venue – amazing photography!
Last week three members of IIB, Dr Hannah Davies, James Torpey and Prof. Jerry Turnbull went to Vienna to find out about the latest research and technological advances in the field of neurodegeneration and dementia at ADPD 2017. This five day conference saw over 3000 clinicians, researchers industry specialists from around the globe discuss recent advances in the field, including reports on the latest drug trails, new avenues for treatment and patient perspectives. This busy meeting gave us the opportunity to catch up with colleagues from around the world, and share the exciting research we are doing here at Liverpool with a huge audience.
The conference venue and an action shot of James presenting his findings at one of the poster sessions
During our stay in Vienna we were treated to welcome reception at Vienna’s beautiful City Hall, we ate traditional Austrian dishes, talked science and enjoyed an impromptu opera performance from one of our colleagues!
Welcome reception in the impressive Vienna city hall
We came away from the conference, tired but full of new ideas and renewed enthusiasm for our projects.