Celebrating Black History Month

October is Black History Month.  This is an opportunity to share, to learn and to better understand black contributions to British society – and indeed around the world.  It is a time to celebrate how Britain and British culture has been made stronger and more diverse because of these contributions.  One of the many ways to embrace this is to watch a movie or two, read a book, listen to music or prepare a dish with a black history theme.

Our wonderful colleague and friend, Trust, has put together a great list of activities that will help you to celebrate black history and to develop a sense of what it means to be black.  This way you can best connect with our black students and colleagues who are more likely to be feasting on these during this month.  In addition, keep a look out for our inspirational blog posts featuring our staff and alumni.

Take a look at the list below, and join with us as we celebrate black history and what it means to be black.

Movies:

  • Hidden Figures (2016)
  • The great debaters (2007)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
  • A Ballerina’s Tale (2015)
  • Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013)
  • Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
  • 42 (2013)
  • The Help (2011)
  • Remember the Titans (2000)
  • And many more……

Books:

  • What Is Wrong With Being Black? By Matthew Ashimolowo
  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson
  • Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
  • Black Enough by Ibi Zoboi et al.
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Fake ID by Lamar Giles
  • And many more…….

Music:

  • Sam Cooke – ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ (1964)
  • Curtis Mayfield – ‘Move On Up’ (1970)
  • Aretha Franklin – ‘Respect’ (1968)
  • Marvin Gaye – ‘What’s Goin’ On’ (1971)
  • Bob Marley & Peter Tosh – ‘Get Up Stand Up’ (1973)
  • Sister Sledge – ‘We Are Family’ (1979)
  • Bob Marley – ‘Could You Be Loved’ (1980)
  • And many more…….

Meals

  • Jollof rice
  • Yam, plantain and lamb stew
  • Jamaican Jerk Chicken
  • Spicy Southern Barbecued Chicken
  • Fufu and Curried Chicken
  • And much more….

Also, check out the great pages from the Student’s Union for more events and celebrations and their great blog pages.

https://www.staffsunion.com/BHM/

https://www.staffsunion.com/news/article/staffsunion/Why-Black-History-Month-Matters/

Best wishes,

Sarah, Trust and the rest of the Biological Sciences Team

Staffordshire University’s Biological Sciences Students visit Istinye University

A blog written by student Max Clarkson (BSc Hons Pharmaceutical Science, Level 6)

Staffordshire University’s Biological Sciences Students visit Istinye University

Staffordshire University’s Biological Sciences students have just returned from one of Turkey’s largest cities, Istanbul – a city that embodies the country’s complex history and rich culture. In addition to the many tourist attractions within Istanbul (including the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, and Roman architecture), the city demonstrates well developed systems for healthcare and scientific research. Staffordshire University’s students visited Istinye University, a diverse institution, conducting research into complex topics such as artificial intelligence, stem cell technology, and virology.

Upon arrival to Istinye University (after a scenic, and luckily rather straightforward tram ride) we received a warm welcome from Asst. Prof. Zehra Aydin and her colleges who were very eager to show us around the University’s Topkapi campus.

To begin the tour, we were introduced to Istinye’s Artificial Intelligence laboratory and were surprised at the many applications of machine learning within the biological industry. Staffordshire University students were very excited to discuss the potential use of artificial intelligence in their own future projects – hopefully in collaboration with Istinye!

Students were also given the opportunity to visit various other facilities within Istinye, including: the tissue typing laboratory, the molecular biology laboratory, the cancer research laboratory, the CRISPR and gene editing laboratory and the infectious agent research laboratory. The investment and passion demonstrated towards the resolution of some of the biggest issues we face in the 21st century is enormous – we were quite envious of Istinye’s high-tech equipment!

Molecular Cancer Research Laboratory at Istinye University
Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Istinye University

The next day, Staffordshire students were welcomed behind the scenes of Istinye University Liv Hospital Bahçeşehir and Liv Hospital Ulus. We were very impressed with the relaxed environment and quality of care provided within each hospital – some students were even able to witness this first-hand during a live brain surgery! A surreal representation of what we can achieve together as scientists. Staffordshire students and Staffordshire University’s Dr Ahmad Haidery were also very keen to discuss the stem cell treatments being performed at Istinye University Hospital.  

We had the opportunity to show off our biological knowledge to Prof. Engin Ulukaya – the Dean of Istinye’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

Level 6 Staffordshire University student Uzair presented some of his research on the bacteriophage virus; discussing the potential healthcare applications. Additionally, we had fantastic conversations with researchers at Istinye that are using nano-formulations with novel chemotherapeutics to target cancer cells.

After touring some very impressive facilities we got the opportunity to explore some of the marvels of Istanbul, and eat some great Turkish food, obviously.

The visit to Istinye University is one we will never forget, it has been the experience of a lifetime, we cannot wait to return!

Biological and Biomedical Sciences – Introducing Mascot David AttenBear

During the summer break we saw the arrival of a lone, quiet, little bear at Staffordshire University’s Biological and Biomedical Sciences department. This unexpected mysterious, arrival had no name, no identification, but a lot of curiosity for all things science and eager to gain some hands on experience. Being friendly scientists, and naturally curious ourselves, we welcomed this enthusiastic Ursine (scientific name of bears) to the department. Of course, every great scientist has to start somewhere and we’re more than happy to help them on their journey no matter the species. Our motto is ‘One Biology, One World, Endless Connections’ after all!

Firstly, we needed to enrol our new researcher into the department and for that our little bear colleague needed a name. The Ursine scientist asked if we could pick a name, but picking just one name proved difficult. We decided the best thing to do would be to put the suggested names into a poll for the public to vote. After some time, the votes were counted and there was a very clear winning name. Our excitement grew as we could finally enrol our furry friend but we wanted to get permission from the person whose name we would be using a version of. We know this seems strange but bear with us it’ll all make sense soon.

A letter was written and sent in the post while we all eagerly awaited the response, which we didn’t have to wait long for!

The science bear couldn’t wait to open (although clumsily) the letter to read the good news! The sender who gave their permission you ask? Well that was none other than the brilliant Sir David Attenborough himself! The winning name was David AttenBear, which Sir David was very flattered our fuzzy friend would take a version of his name.

We can now officially introduce our newest member of the Biological and Biomedical Sciences department, David AttenBear. After getting Sir David’s letter, David AttenBear was honoured as he knew of Sir David’s integral work in conservation and inspiring the next generation of scientist all over the world across the 67 years he has worked at the BBC. Now David AttenBear is enrolled he can begin to get his paws into some work experience. Over the coming months we have some exciting opportunities for AttenBear to get involved with and we’ve asked if he can keep us up to date with some blog entries of his own. We hope David will enjoy his stay with us at Staffs and the things we have lined up for him.

Not only to gain some experience of being a scientist but also getting to live the Staffordshire University values we hold dear. Keep an eye out for the upcoming blogs by David AttenBear on his scientific journey with us and you might even bump into our beary enthusiastic friend at a school, college or event near you. Be sure to say ‘Hi!’ and take a picture with David AttenBear and tag us in it @SUBioScience on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or send an email to Victoria.McQuillan@staffs.ac.uk (Victoria’s helping David get his bearings with researcher life).

Staffs BioSciences Graduate Stories – Meet Zuzana Tothova

In the Biological & Biomedical Sciences department, we celebrate our graduate’s successes with them on graduation day but also as their journeys continue after they leave us. Once you become an alumnus of Staffs and the Biology department you remain a part of our ever-growing family and we take joy in hearing from our alumni throughout their journeys. We value them and their thoughts on their experiences with us at Staffordshire University.

As part of our new series of Staffs BioSciences Graduate Stories, we’re pleased to introduce Zuzana who graduated from our Applied Biomedical Science BSc Hons course in 2013. Find out how Zuzana is getting on with her journey as she shares a little about herself and her experiences with us.

Tell us a little about what you have been doing since graduation?

I’ve been working in the Immunology laboratory at UHNM (University Hospitals of North Midlands) since graduation. At the moment, I’m finishing my Institute of Biomedical Science Specialist Portfolio in Immunology, a qualification necessary to become a specialist Biomedical Scientist (band 6 in the NHS). It took a while, but I’ve had my daughter in the meanwhile and currently, I’m working part-time.

How did your time at Staffordshire University prepare you for life after graduation?

Staffs Uni has enabled me to “put my foot in the door” and secure my job virtually straight after graduation. I’ve learnt an important lesson during my time at Staffs – you will only get as much out of something, as you’ve put into it and, hard work, really does pay off! Most importantly, if you don’t know or understand something, ask! If you don’t ask, you won’t know the answer and the academics really emphasised this during my studies. Continue reading

Celebrating Black History Month – Meet Ugochukwu Uba

Ugochukwu Uba, Biomedical Scientist

I have had a bit of experience in laboratory work as a laboratory technician back home (Nigeria). When I arrived in UK, I started applying for medical laboratory assistant jobs but couldn’t succeed, this was because I did not have any UK experience. That is when I decided to do my studies here in UK all over again- Starting from Access to Higher Education in Science at Stoke on Trent college followed by my undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science at Staffordshire university. In my first year at Staffordshire University we covered modules that prepared us for professional practice of biomedical science. This helped me to get one of the few coveted placements in hospitals to earn me an applied biomedical science route. With this, I completed my professional portfolio which led to HCPC registration.

 After my studies and HCPC registration (thanks to Ian Davies), I started working as a medical laboratory assistant with agencies which gave me the opportunity to gain a bit more experience. I made a lot of applications for BMS jobs and attended a basket full of interviews, but all came back pointing out that I did not have any UK experience. After loads of perseverance, I finally got an offer to become a Biomedical scientist in Haematology and Blood Transfusion.

Reflecting on my experiences at Staffordshire University, I realised that there are challenges associated with African males in terms of acquiring a voice and breaking into fields that are typically Caucasian dominated. The university, however, has many positive initiatives and role models that attempt to bridge the gap. The fact that I was one of the few people that got the opportunity for a university driven hospital placement where I got my professional registration gives evidence to the level playground the university endeavours to give.

 

 

Celebrating Black History Month – Meet Ian Muusha

Ian Muusha, Embryologist

I graduated from Staffordshire University in July 2017, with an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science. During my time at Staffs, I always intended on working within the healthcare sector, whilst helping to save and change lives. As beautiful as being a Biomedical Scientist sounded, I wanted to be more, and so I worked towards becoming a clinical healthcare scientist. After Staffs Uni, I went on to complete master’s degree in Clinical Embryology and Assisted Reproductive Technology.

I have recently just finished my master’s course at Leeds, with a projected grade of a distinction. However, whilst studying, I was approached by a team of vets that had just finished setting up a brand new, state-of-the-art bovine IVF facility and wished for me to come on board as the head embryologist, I accepted! This centre is only one of two in the whole of the U.K., and I get to be at the forefront of it all with a very dedicated team. This is a great achievement to me because I have broken into a field where few members of my ethnic background have had opportunities to break into.

Even though I am currently not working in a human IVF laboratory, I am still utilising all the skills I learned from my time both at Staffordshire University and the University of Leeds. Not only this, but I get to perform sophisticated techniques such as ovum retrieval, ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) and my favourite – embryo biopsy for genetic analysis. I am immensely proud to be part of the team I work with and performing IVF on cattle for both herd expansion and genetic recovery. However, one day I do hope to eventually work in a human IVF clinic, and if it was not for my varied undergraduate degree from Staffordshire University, I would not be where I am today. Not to mention the support I received from the staff which was integral to my studies at Staffs. Being a student at Staffordshire university helped me fall in love with Science all over again, but it also helped me learn the professional etiquette that the profession carries. Staffs helped me realise my dream.

 

 

Celebrating Black History Month – Meet Alexander Makanga

Alexander Makanga, Senior Biomedical Scientist (Betsi Cadwaladr University Board)

Alex Makanga is one of our illustrious alumni who finished his MSc in Molecular Biology with a merit. He was in the department of Biology and Biomedical Science in the School of Life Sciences and Education. His research project at Staffordshire University was on Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC), a subject that is making headlines in the field of Biomedical Science.

Alexander Makanga is now a Senior Biomedical Scientist in Imunohistrochemistry (IHC) and Special Stains working for Betsi Cadwaladr University Board (BCUHB) Histopathology Department.  He began his Biomedical Science career as a trainee BMS at Sheffield teaching hospital (Royal Hallamshire) and later went to work for Belfast Health and Social Care Trust (Regional Neuropathology Service), followed by North West Wales NHS Trust (NWWT) and Wales Cancer Bank now BCUHB. During his time with NWWT/BCUHB, Alex was involved in the amalgamation of histopathology service across the North Wales region.  He currently participates in research and the lecturing of biomedical science students at University of Bangor.  His main research interest is Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) and pancreatic adenocarcinoma.   The main goal is to improve efficacy of chemotherapeutic drugs in TNBC thereby improving patient care. Alex is passionate about molecular genetics and introduction of new immnohistochemical markers, reducing turnaround times while maintaining quality and accuracy of Immunohistochemical stains.   In addition, he actively seeks to foster environment which values learning and collaboration between institutions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Black History Month – Meet Natasha Rufurwekuda

Natasha Rufurwekuda, Medical Student

I studied a Biomedical Science degree at Staffordshire University. Initially, I found it difficult to find my feet, but I soon did with the help of my tutor & colleagues. There was a huge group presence on my course, which really helped me gain confidence as I felt supported and included. During my studies at staffs, we were often required to complete presentations as part of our assessments. This is a skill that I still use today as we’re often required to present patient case studies within my degree as a medical student.

After graduation, I managed to obtain a band 4 post as an associate practitioner in the NHS. This was a major achievement for me as positions within the laboratory are usually very competitive. Within 8 months, I had gained my accreditation as a multidisciplinary biomedical scientist. This was a really challenging time for me as a black female trying to break into the biomedical scientist world. I overcame this by working harder than everyone else. Usually, only trainee Biomedical scientists are entitled to complete the training portfolio. However, I approached my employer & promised that I would complete my training portfolio by coming into the lab after my normal working hours. Completing the portfolio wasn’t difficult as I sought guidance from fellow alumni who had gone through the coterminous route. I also kept in touch with my university peer mentor who supported me in completeing my portfolio.

A year later, I got accepted onto a medical degree programme in Bulgaria. Staffordshire university prepared me for this moment because we were always encouraged to be self-motivated, overcome obstacles and lead with confidence. I carried this lesson with me, and it gave me courage that I needed to pursue medicine. I am currently in my 5th year and using knowledge that I acquired during my first degree at Staffs. The solid science background makes it easier to understand things.

Every aspect of my training to become a doctor requires good listening skills. I’ve found myself being very good at listening to patients, particularly when taking patient history. I believe that I naturally developed this skill at Staffs Uni as I had a module that equipped us with life skills, teamwork and professional attributes of the field.

Through study group discussions at Staffs, I developed & realised the importance of social networking skills. A transferable skill that has enabled me to build healthy colleague relationships in the workplace. Additionally, I’ve been able to use this skill in order to connect with & meet doctors & consultants who ultimately have given me work experience opportunities. My personal life is filled with many highlights and moments that have also aided me in developing my career. One of those moments is summing up the courage to move to a foreign country by myself with no friends or family around. However, this experience was made easier as I had previously moved away from home to peruse my 1st degree at Staffs. I suppose this gave me the practise of independence that I would need in future.

 

Presenting at The Royal Entomological Society’s ENTO-19 Conference, an academics perspective

An academic’s perspective of presenting mosquito behaviour and chemical ecology research at The Royal Entomological Society’s ENTO-19 conference at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Dr Richard Halfpenny and recent graduate and biological sciences intern Steven Lloyd-Jones have been collaborating on this project to present at ENTO-19. Both Richard and Steven have written about their experience during the project, the lead up to and during the conference itself. Although both worked on the project and attended the conference, their blogs provide an interesting insight into how perspectives of the same events can differ based on personal experience. Read below for Dr Richard Halfpenny’s thoughts.

August 20-22nd 2019 saw the Royal Entomological Society’s annual conference Ento-19 arrive at the prestigious London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. This year’s conference had a focus on the impact of insects on disease around the world. This impact is vast and unrelenting and is borne by plants, animals and humans alike. Alongside human diseases such as malaria, dengue, Zika and West Nile virus that cause such mortality and morbidity around the world. Then there are veterinary disease that cause suffering to domesticated animals, reducing farming yield and greatly increasing welfare costs. And then we need to factor in the enormous impact of insect pests on agricultural crops – not only are these herbivores and therefore directly reducing crop yields, but they also spread diseases between plants that can decimate crops. As is often the case these burdens are disproportionately borne by those countries least well placed to carry them. Continue reading

Presenting at The Royal Entomological Society’s ENTO-19 Conference, a student’s perspective

A student’s perspective of presenting mosquito behaviour and chemical ecology research at The Royal Entomological Society’s ENTO-19 conference at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Dr Richard Halfpenny and recent graduate and biological sciences intern Steven Lloyd-Jones have been collaborating on this project to present at ENTO-19. Both Richard and Steven have written about their experience during the project, the lead up to and during the conference itself. Although both worked on the project and attended the conference, their blogs provide an interesting insight into how perspectives of the same events can differ based on personal experience. Read below for Steve Lloyd-Jones’ thoughts.

Hi, I’m Steve and I’m a bioscientist – it feels good to put that and not chef (my previous career)! I graduated with a BSc (hons)in Biology from Staffs in 2019. I love life in all its many forms and have been blessed by the staff at Staffs and been able to follow my passions; not that I could have told you what they were before I started this journey.

As my kids approached university age, I dreamt of not being a chef anymore, so I trained as a welder to which I qualified but never felt competent. Then after a family tragedy, I decided to become a nurse and make a difference. During my access course bursaries changed and my biology teacher ignited a fascination I didn’t know was there, so I enrolled in Biomedical science.  After much soul searching in the first year and although I loved Biomed, I knew I wanted to do broader research and be a bioscientist, evolution and behaviour were my real passions, so I changed to biology.

In my, about section a put myself as a bioscientist which still feels like a dream, imposter syndrome and all that.  However, I should probably put Entomologist specialising in how neuronal development affects behaviour. On one hand that feels too highfaluting and on the other feels like not enough to express how well Staffs biosciences have trained me. I’m at a real crossroad in my life but I now have the tools and confidence to make the most of any chances. Unlike most graduates I was given (or earned – depending on your perspective!) an amazing opportunity that meant even before my graduation ceremony I was doing real-life research for Staffs that would be presented at a major conference Ento-19.

Continue reading

Celebrating Black History Month – Meet Trust Diya

Prior to studying Biomedical Science, I was an automotive design engineer. I lectured in engineering in further education (college) and managed contracts for the MOD. Outside the UK, I was the national secretary of the Institute of Motor Industry, a role I held for 5 years.

In 2009 I enrolled for the Biomedical Science degree at Staffordshire University and I qualified with a BSc (Hons) Applied Biomedical Science which came with an HCPC registration for practice as a biomedical scientist. My final year project was a microbiology study on the antimicrobial properties of ash as a potential hand-washing agent. During my undergraduate years, I was involved in STEM ambassadorial programmes and I taught mathematics in high school as part of the teaching associate program.

After my bachelor’s degree, I enrolled for a PgCE in Mathematics at Keele University. I focused on special education and I have continued with special education both in formal and informal educational settings. Alongside teaching and special education, I have also attained role specific qualifications in mentoring and tutoring for university students with personalised learning agreements.

I am currently studying for a PhD in cell and molecular Biology at Staffordshire University. My research interests are in the elucidation of the structure function relationship of dietary plant flavonoids on adipogenesis. Alongside my PhD studies, I teach Biology and Biomedical Science modules across all the levels in the department.

My passion is in exploring different learning approaches by diverse ethnic groups. A colleague and I are currently investigating the retention and attainments gap of BAME students compared to their Caucasian peers. We are especially interested in attributes such as institutional culture; role models; inclusive curriculum content, design and delivery; sense of belonging; prior attainment; information, advice and guidance; financial considerations and preparedness as contributing factors leading to attainment differentials. We hope our study will chart a way to meet the holistic needs of the BAME student.

As a lecturer at Staffordshire University, I have received many nominations by students and staff. These include: Lecturer I would get out of bed for award, Distance Learning Excellence Award, Best feedback Award, Student Experience Award and Connected Communities Stories Award. Most of these got short listed and in 2018 I received the Student Experience Award. I was also shortlisted for the staff People’s Choice Award.

Trust Diya

BSc (Hons) PgCE, PgCRM, FETC, MRSB, MIMI(Zim), FEBS.

Lecturer, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, School of Life Sciences and Education, Staffordshire University