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

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

Staffs BioSciences Graduate Stories – Meet Dominic Moule

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 alumni 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 Dom who original studied our Biological Sciences BSc Hons course before transferring to our Biological Sciences MSci and graduating in 2018. Find out how Dom is getting on with his journey as he shares a little about himself and his experiences with us.

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

Since graduation, I have further developed my ecological skills, gaining a position as an ecologist at an independent company. Through this position, I have completed first aid qualifications, an Ecological Clerks of Work course ran by CIEEM, and attained my Professionally Qualified Person CSCS Card, enabling me to work at a managerial level on construction sites. I have gained a position as a Field Officer for the Staffordshire Badger Conservation Group, undertaking rescues of badgers in danger and patrols of potential badger baiting or wildlife crime areas.

I am also returning to South Africa in early February to continue assisting with wildlife conservation and particularly rhino protection. I’m now in the process of organising my enrolment to Kosiçe University in Slovakia to complete my doctorate in veterinary medicine, with a focus on wildlife.

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

By having a high calibre of academic achievement and publications amongst staff meant I’m comfortable being around accomplished scientists.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Staffordshire University?

Going to Africa was the biggest moment of my life, and I couldn’t have done it without the help and support of the university.

What were the biggest challenges you had to overcome and how did you overcome them, whilst you studied with us?

I had to overcome stress and anxiety. I took my lectures and practical’s as time away from rumination and overthinking and as a side effect, I feel I became more passionate about my learning and development.

Would you recommend your course to others? If so, why?

I would! I really enjoyed my course, particularly the amount of free reign my degree allowed me to take regarding module choice. I liked the assessment styles of some modules as they gave you a rather grand question which allowed you to tailor your answer to suit your passions and interests.

As part of your course you may have completed a work placement. If so, could you tell us a little about your experience?

For my undergraduate degree (before I changed to complete an MSci), I volunteered at a veterinary surgery. This became apparent in a second-year module, however as I had been already been volunteering there since I began university, I just continued with this. My Masters placement was to a wildlife reserve in South Africa. This was perhaps the most life-changing period in my whole life thus far. It confirmed what I want to do in my career and where I feel I need to be to make the most impact. I also made long lasting connections and I will never, ever be out of South Africa for too long!

Secret Stoke – Tell us about your favourite places in and around Stoke that student may not know about but should check out.

Just near to Stoke is a beautiful place called Knypersley Reservoir. The university’s Nature Reserve itself can be a rather beautiful walk also.

It was fantastic catching up with Dom and what he’s been getting up to since leaving Staffs. We’re very proud of Dom and our biology alumni’s in all their achievements.

If you would like to keep up to date with Dom and his journey, be sure to check out his professional Instagram page @exoticbiologist for more photographs of his travels and the integral work he’s involved with in South Africa, veterinary school and beyond!

Facebook: @StaffsUniBio @StaffsLSE @StaffsUni

Twitter: @SUBioScience @StaffsLSE @StaffsUni

Instagram: @SUBioScience @StaffsUni @exoticbiologist

Teaching and Learning Conference

Tuesday 25th June 2019

This year’s Learning and Teaching conference focused on building the academic aspect of resilience, having the confidence to overcome problems that students often face in their learning, approaches to encourage a positive response by students to feedback, challenges and the fear of failure.

Trust Diya and Paul Orsmond gave a talk on ‘Resilience: a view from our BAME students’ as well as Dr Gavin McStay, Dr Sarah Williams and Paul Orsmond presenting ‘Resilience: authentic assessment and public engagement’ and how this is an integral part of teaching.

The West Midlands Big Bang Fair

Tuesday 18th June 2019

This year Staffs hosted the West Midlands Big Bang Fair again and welcomed 3000 students from Key Stages 2-4 across the county to our Stoke campus for a day full of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) lectures, workshops and stand activities to get involved with and inspired by. Not to mention the final judging and awards for all entries into the STEAM underwater competition of how to address the current issue of plastic waste in our waters.

The Biological and Biomedical Sciences team were very busy amongst the buzz of activity on campus, delivering workshops and interactive stands throughout the day. Ian Davis along with ERASMUS students Mariona and Laia were in full flow educating students on biomedical science and investigating diseases, proudly celebrating Biomedical Science Day 2019. Eleanor Atkins along with some of our brilliant specialist technicians ran workshops throughout the day of a taster into being an Eco Detective. This workshop saw students being hands-on in investigating incidences of dead fish being discovered in the Dee Estuary, testing samples collected from the river Dee and the estuary itself to identify the pollutant and its source, all technics which would be used by The Environmental Agency. Continue reading

Staff Research Conference

Wednesday13th June 2019

The Staff Research Conference is also held annually and follows on from the PGR. Just like the PGR the Staff Research Conference allows staff members to present the research they are undertaking to fellow staff, post and undergraduate students. Several of our brilliant academic staff members presented throughout the day.

Head of department Dr Angela Preistman along with Dr Dave Skingsley and Dr Richard Halfpenny presented on the Entomological collaborations underway with Tri-services Environmental Health Officers. This collaboration follows a successful bid to supply the MoD (Ministry of Defence) with training, identification and guidance on entomology for Environmental health officers, who are deployed around the globe to support military and humanitarian aid. The afternoon sessions saw talks from Dr Gavin McStay on Mitochondrial respiratory chain assembly in health and disease. PhD student Eleanor Atkins presented her collaborative work with Dr Richard Halfpenny of the improvement of biodiversity and wellbeing value of urban road verges through the inclusion of hedges and wildflowers.

This work is developing on from Eleanor’s thesis research that she presented at the PGR. Paul Orsmond spoke about his work on turning consultancy into collaborative research while Dr Kevin Reiling presented his research into using ‘Feeding astronauts’ as a vehicle for delivering the Primary Science curriculum effectively to nurture scientific thought and curiosity.

Biological & Biomedical Sciences Recent Events

The last few weeks have seen a buzz of activity on campus at Staffordshire University with the Staff and Post-Graduate Research Conferences and The West Midlands Big Bang Fair. The Biological and Biomedical Sciences department have been busy getting involved, proudly presenting their research progressions and engaging thousands of students from various schools and colleges to the breadth and importance of biology.

PGR Conference

Wednesday 12th June

The PGR Conference is hosted annually at the university to showcase the post-graduate research being carried out from all schools across the university. We saw two of our PhD students informing other post-graduates and staff members of their research.

Eleanor Atkins presented her work on the biodiversity value of urban hedges highlighting the biodiversity in urban hedges, the public perceptions of urban hedges and the importance of habitat availability for invertebrates and vertebrates in urbanisation for the ever-growing population. Elle also spoke about the good practice guide she has put together on managing urban hedges for aesthetics and biodiversity, which details cost-effective small changes that would benefit biodiversity. Elle touched on her survey findings that suggest the general public found hedges which were less managed more aesthetically pleasing then over managed hedges cut and shaped regularly. These more ‘rugged’ hedges which were aesthetically pleasing have more biodiversity than those over managed.

Eleanor Harrison presented the beginning of her research into soil microplastics. Speaking about the need for research into terrestrial microplastics as current research and media attention is centred around marine macro and microplastics which is an issue but studies of plastics in soil and the effects that it may have on agricultural, environmental and human health aspects are lacking. Ellie is in the early stages of her PhD but has already begun testing the effectiveness of methodologies in separating the microplastics from the organic matter in soil samples to be able to analyse the samples. Ellie is now in America with colleagues from the School of Law, Policing and Forensics, taking part in a expedition of the Hudson River with the Rozalia Project, sampling soil from river banks along the way and analysing them for microplastics, mainly nurdles (small plastic pellets roughly the size of a lentil) which are used industrially to make plastic products.