Today, whilst our own students are taking their semester 1 exams, we are welcoming local schoolchildren in years 11-13 as part of the Big Visit widening participation event. These visitors will be doing some microscale chemistry in our laboratories looking at visual changes in reactions, as well as experiencing other STEM subjects on campus.
This month has seen the launch of a new widening participation initiative by chemistry@brighton. STEP UP has been designed to inspire students at 16-18 level and work with their teachers to provide opportunities for those students who show promise but are perhaps not so good at the traditional exam. Working with local schools in Brighton & Hove, East Sussex and West Sussex our aim is to show that chemistry@brighton is a real possibility for them. We have activities lined up to supplement their current studies including a lab experience day, taster lectures, study skills and work experience. Teachers are able to highlight to us students who have potential to succeed but for whatever reason might not see that result at A level. Working with the teachers we can then offer preferential admission to select students.
We’ve had a very busy summer here in chemistry@brighton and are looking forward to the return of students next week. Some exciting staffing news that has happened over the last few months.
Professor Lizzy Ostler has been promoted to the university professoriate as Professor of Chemical Biology. This reflects her fantastic research into the ageing process at the intersection of chemistry and biology and major contributions to the university.
We are delighted to welcome Dr Graham Pattison as lecturer in Organic Chemistry. I’m sure he’ll receive a warm welcome from all of the students when they return and already has some looking to undertake undergraduate research with him. He’s settling in well to the team and we wish him every success here with us. Stay tuned for more details.
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Today chemistry@brighton welcomes students in the middle of their A level studies from across Sussex for a day of practical work and advice about next steps. We’re really looking forward to welcoming them into our labs and showing them what the big instruments do. They’ll get hands-on experience of instruments they have been learning about and get a flavour of what it is like being a chemistry@brighton student. The day consists of a scenario where they are testing samples from the (unfortunately fictional) Huxley vineyard to find out why there is a problem with the taste. Is it contamination? Did someone use the wrong preservative? Hopefully the students will use their scientific skills to figure out what is wrong so the vineyard can get back on track.
Proving that chemistry@brighton graduates are a multi-talented bunch, one of our graduates Debbie-Ann Ofosuware School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences (BSc(Hons) Pharmaceutical and Chemical Sciences), and colleague Teniola Taiwo who graduated from the University’s Brighton Business School (BA(Hons) in Business and Marketing) founded the Sound of Zion Gospel choir whilst here at the university. The choir comprises singers from both Brighton and Sussex universities and has reached the final of the national University Gospel Choir of the Year (UGCY) competition.
University Gospel Choir of the Year is a voluntary organisation providing a platform for university gospel choirs across the UK to develop and showcase their musical abilities. Other finalists include Imperial College Gospel Choir, Cambridge University Gospel Choir Manchester Harmony Gospel Choir, and returning champions London College of Creative Media Choir.
Yesterday our final year MChem students had a day trip to London to the home of UK chemistry, the Royal Society of Chemistry‘s Burlington House base. The event was an early career research conference on environmental chemistry hosted by the RSC Environmental Chemistry Interest Group
An event of this sort welcomes research presented by PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, a smaller friendlier way to present your work and gain valuable experience as well as find out about a wide range of topics in the area. In this case though, we showcased how undergraduate research can be every bit as important and that it is never too early to start your research career.
The day started with a warm welcome and some interesting talks from early career researchers from several different institutions.
Good time was given to the poster session which allowed the presenters time to speak to everyone about their work. The worthy winner of the poster prize certainly had a good talking point with acetate overlays for her mapping project of lead in Glasgow. Interactive posters, a great idea. Our students got to talk to PhD students about their work and what it was like to do a PhD, the real life version from the coal-face.
Lunch provided additional networking opportunities, and a free lunch which students always seem to enjoy! Though for one of our students the nerves were setting in as her talk neared.
Sarah Chandler presented her work from her third year research project on developing autonomous electrochemical sensors to analyse metals in the marine environment. It’s quite unusual for third year students to undertake real research but here at Brighton we feel it’s the best way of developing their practical skills and ability to think about more than what is presented for examination. Starting in the third year also means they are already skilled researchers by the time it comes to their final year projects and their can use this experience when applying for PhD positions.
Sarah’s project was very successful and she worked hard to understand a new area and add her own ideas during the process. Ultimately she managed to develop a sensor that could detect sub-ppb levels of As in real samples, and with a little more development should work well in the field without additional reagents. During the talk she impressed with her knowledge and ability to convey the intricacies of her work with clarity and interest. That she is still to complete her first degree only added to the impact of her presentation.
The day ended with a great keynote explaining one very varied career path with some interesting tales and some great advice for the students starting out. Not least that often what seems like a disaster at the time can turn out to be great interview fodder when you explain how you dealt with it.
The final act of the day after thanking all the presenters was the oral presentation prize. Much to her surprise Sarah was awarded the prize, testament to her talents and proving that you don’t have to be doing a PhD to undertake great research. I’m sure she’ll go far.
All the students got so much out of the day, from hearing research from people not far from where they are in their careers, to the great career advice from the two keynotes and the networking opportunities provided so well throughout the day. We’d like to thank the RSC Environmental Chemistry Group organising committee for a successful day, we’ll definitely be back.
Many students on the Chemistry and Pharmaceutical and Chemical Sciences courses at Brighton will already be familiar with the exciting world of small molecule therapies designed to slow ageing –through Dr Ostler’s (in)famous CH210 group consultancy report. The joys and difficulties of sorting anecdotal life extensionist optimisim from genuine scientific discoveries brought to life in this second year assessment gained a new twist this week.
Exciting new research conducted in a collaboration between Dr Ostler, Professor Faragher (also at the University of Brighton) and Prof Lorna Harries at Exeter University was recently published in BMC Cell Biology.
The discovery showed that novel small molecule analogues of the stilbene resveratrol (found naturally in red wine and chocolate) could “rejuvenate” senescent cells. The treated cells began to grow again and took on many features of “young” cells. The team also showed that this was because of changes in RNA splicing factors, the cellular machinery that allows cells to make many different kinds of protein from a single DNA sequence. The ability to use small molecules to intervene in this previously unexplored mechanism provides new possibilities for the development of anti-degenerative compounds that could allow people to remain heathier well into old age.
Earlier this week the mainstream press became interested in these discoveries, leading to some great headlines including the Sun’s “Wine’s end of the lines, Red wine and chocolate are secret to beating wrinkles, study says” and the Daily Mail’s “Chocolate and red wine ‘are the secret to beating wrinkles’: Scientists find both help rejuvenate old cells as well as the less dramatic “Reversing Aging: Scientists Make Old Human Cells Look And Act Younger in Breakthrough Discovery” from Newsweek and “Breakthrough: Scientists reverse aging in human cells” from Medical News Today. Our thoughts on the subject will be appearing soon in The Conversation.
All of this was made possible by chemistry and biology researchers working together – something we prize in our undergraduate degrees and that is reflected in our multidisciplinary School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences. Whatever your conclusions about red wine and chocolate, it is clear that our researchers and students will keep generating much food for thought!
The University of Brighton is holding its annual careers fair on wednesday 8th November at the Amex Stadium, Falmer 11 am – 3pm..
Many employers will be there alongside guidance on options for further study and for improving your chances of getting that job.
More information can be found on the university careers fair website, including a full list of exhibitors at the fair.
Of interest to chemists might be BMW, where we have had students attend placements in the last few years, CGG a geosciences company, NHS scientist training, Roche Diagnostics, Southern Water and postgraduate education information (including PGCE).
Professor Richard Faragher, Professor of Biogerontology here at University of Brighton and based in our School, will be debating whether science should be able to help us live forever (or longer at least). The debate will be streamed live tomorrow, Tuesday 7th November at 7pm (UK time) from the Universty of Santiago de Compostela. It promises to be an entertaining and informative discussion covering everything from the science of ageing to the ethics and social implications surrounding it. You can tune in to the debate live at the Regueifas de Ciencia ’17 website here you can also find out more about the debate itself.
Update of publications from our chemistry staff and research students
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Dr Ostler and Dr Vishal Birar (ex-PhD student) are co-authors on the open access article “Small molecule modulation of splicing factor expression is associated with rescue from cellular senescence” in BMC Cell Biology.