Case Studies

CASE STUDIES

BEN SIMPSON – BSc Biomedical Sciences

Ben Simpson
“I thoroughly enjoyed the research internship experience, it allowed me to gain valuable insight into the practices of an active researcher. During the internship, I practiced and improved some existing skills (such as scientific writing) as well as learning a host of new skills. The internship allowed me access to techniques which were not demonstrated on my course (BSc Biomedical Sciences) and I was shown some of the essential skills necessary in research (or any scientific environment) for example: data analysis, sterile technique, health and safety practices and countless more. In addition, I became familiar with practices and challenges faced regularly by researchers; grant applications, lecture writing, balancing teaching and research, as well as poster making and public speaking. The internship is also a valuable addition to any science CV as most graduates suffer from a lack of laboratory experience. Overall, I would say that the summer internships are a unique opportunity given by UCLan, an opportunity which anyone who takes their degree seriously should consider and to top it all off – it is paid!”

DR SAURABH PRABHU – From brain tumour drugs to the anti-inflammatory action of plant metabolites

Saurabh Prabhu
Saurabh is currently investigating the mechanisms of action of metabolites of commonly consumed dietary flavonoids and unnatural analogues of these compounds in vascular and inflammatory cell models. He is working as a Senior Research Associate in Professor O’Connell’s group at the University of East Anglia. He pursued his BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Sciences, PhD in Cancer Biology and a two year post-doctoral position all at UCLan. Saurabh is now a UCLan alumnus and was a member of the Snape Research group within UCLan’s School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences.

MARK RAY – PhD : Understanding the preparedness of new dental graduates in England and Wales. Currently a director of Ravat and Ray Dental Care.

Mark Ray
My research topic was aimed at a greater understanding of the preparedness of new dental graduates in England and Wales. It was a mixed methods study, that included the development and deployment of a new questionnaire tool (the Graduate Assessment of Preparedness for Practice (GAPP)) which was sent to over 900 new graduates in Dental Foundation Training and their educational supervisors. It aimed to establish the quantum of preparedness across the whole undergraduate curriculum; the first time this had been done. In order to gain a better understanding of the underpinning factors contributing to their assertions of preparedness, focus groups were carried out with final year students, along with semi-structured interviews of senior academics in their dental schools. Thematic analysis allowed the generation of a thematic matrix to represent these data. Despite many anecdotal reports of new graduates not being prepared as they used to be, my research showed that on the whole they were well prepared for independent practice in their opinions, and in the opinions of their supervisors. Certain areas were felt to be less well prepared than others, which appeared to be largely explained by a lack of exposure to these skills at undergraduate level. Those who entered the course as a graduate were more prepared on graduation, and particularly those who attended a graduate-only dental school, such as UCLan. The findings may allow both undergraduate and postgraduate dental educators to look at ways of rectifying these concerns, and leaving them with a useful tool (GAPP) with which to audit the impact of curricular changes on their preparedness.

CHARLOTTE HUGHES – The war on superbugs : finding a lifeline for the drug of last resort

Charlotte Hughes
Infectious diseases remain a major cause of death in the UK, particularly amongst the very young and the elderly. The rapid rise of antibiotic resistance amongst bacterial infection agents means the world could be facing a global epidemic and possibly a post-antibiotic era in which drugs of last resort no longer work. The fight is on to discover how these superbugs are able to develop resistance to such powerful antibiotics and a PhD student from UCLan is playing her part in tackling this world-wide problem.

Charlotte Hughes, from the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, has spent the last three years focusing on an antibiotic called vancomycin, often used as a last resort drug against antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in hospital-acquired infections such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). In recent years superbugs such as MRSA have shown signs of resistance towards vancomycin and other penicillin antibiotics, causing concern for Public Health England.

Charlotte’s research, jointly funded by UCLan and Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron science facility, focuses on finding out what causes the antibiotic-resistant bacteria to mutate and resist treatment.

The 24-year-old commented: “Generally, resistance towards a particular antibiotic arises as a result of the use of the antibiotic – almost a survival response of the bacteria. Antibiotics work by disrupting specific cellular processes to weaken and kill the bacteria. So once one organism is able to avoid being killed by the The war on superbugs drug, the trait that has enabled them to survive quickly spreads throughout the population.
In the past, once resistance towards a drug had become widespread, alternative drugs were used, but this has helped to fuel the growth of resistant organisms. “A major problem with treating bacteria found in hospital-acquired infections is that they are naturally resistant to many commonly used antimicrobial drugs, which kill microorganisms, and are gaining resistance towards previously effective antibiotics such as the glycopeptide vancomycin, considered the ‘last-line’ antibiotic for the treatment of MRSA. My work aims to investigate the activating signals leading to the onset of resistance towards vancomycin in hospital acquired infections, with the long-term hope that it may aid the development of novel antimicrobial drugs which are able to bypass the current pathways for resistance.”

Charlotte’s research recently received wider recognition when she was invited to present her work in Parliament as part of a national competition. SET for Britain invites 210 early career science researchers from around the country to present their work to politicians and a panel of expert judges. “This is one of the finest ways of engaging with the public through our research, hopefully encouraging as much excitement for our work in others as we have ourselves,” she added. Charlotte is in the final year of her PhD.

By taking advantage of the state-of-the-art facilities at the Diamond Light Source, she’s immersed herself in an environment used by more than 3,000 academic and industrial researchers across a wide range of disciplines. “The joint studentship has given me a widespread scientific appreciation and provided opportunities to gain experience in a range of techniques and learn from experts in diverse fields,” she said. “Additionally, as the studentship has exposed me to both academic and industrial environments, it has prepared me to make informed decisions about my future career pathway.”