Group of scientific researchers in genomics lab

New research centre puts Brighton at cutting edge of the fight against disease

A new UK hub for the development of new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat disease has opened its doors at the University of Brighton.

The Centre for Precision Health and Translational Medicine brings together experts from a range of fields including biomedicine, engineering, mathematics, computer science and social science to develop new approaches to healthcare. Using the latest technology and techniques such as genome editing and stem cell modification, the centre aims to advance the delivery of personalised, proactive and predictive healthcare, tailored to the needs of individual patients.  

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Ecology and Conservation second-year fieldwork

Applied Ecology and Conservation Field Course module

As part of the second year Applied Ecology and Conservation Field Course module, we visited a range of local wildlife sites, such as the British Wildlife Centre, Waterhall, Knepp Estate, Rye Nature Reserve, Blue Reef Hastings and the Hastings Fisherman’s Protection Society. The module very well attended and the students continued to build a diverse skill set. Along the way there were some interesting talks on ecological processes as well as surveys and management experiences. Opportunities for further involvement in the form of volunteering or final year projects have also arisen and these offer excellent opportunities for employment. One of the highlights was the Knepp bird ringing day were we had the opportunity to get close to some amazing birds thanks to Penny, Josie and Dave.

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A frog in the grass

Froglife workshop and fieldwork

In November students went along to Froglife’s ‘Discovering dew ponds: Amphibian habitat management training workshops’. These sessions were run by the wonderful Jennifer Hooper and William Johanson. Split into two sessions, the first covered amphibian ID and a habitat management theory session. This included sessions on how to identify many of the amphibian species native to the UK, such as the smooth newt, and their eggs. The students were also tasked with coming up with ideas on how to make example landscapes more amphibian-friendly.

The second session was more hands-on! Despite the heavy rain, the group worked on a pond in Stanmer Park that had been struggling to hold water. This was likely due to damage to the liner underneath, so a lot of stomping was done to compact the sediment beneath the liner to prevent any water from leaking into the sediment below. These workshops were really helpful to those studying or going on to study our final year ecological consultancy Ecological Impact Assessment module, as it gives an insight into what conditions amphibians need and what their habitats might look like.

Amy testing samples in the lab

Amy’s summer internship success

Amy Austrin secured a five-week internship as part of the Interreg REDPOL (reduction of pollution by endocrine disrupting compounds at source) project this summer, and helped Dr Wulan Koagouw in the lab. Read what Amy has to say about the skills learned during her internship.

280L of artificial seawater, 300 cleaned mussels and 120 tissue samples later…Over the last 5 weeks, I have spent some fantastic days in the laboratory with the Redpol team at the University of Brighton. It has truly been an invaluable experience.

Amy working in the lab

From day one my supervisor Wulan made me feel comfortable within the lab and talked me through the programme to make sure we could fit in two rounds of exposures within my time there. As a student who feels very comfortable doing fieldwork, I was nervous about being within the lab. Although there was a lot to learn to ensure each step was performed correctly, Wulan talked me through each process I would be performing clearly, which allowed me to feel confident to undertake the tasks correctly. Some of my responsibilities was creating the artificial seawater, pipetting tissue preservatives, setting up the cold room and the final task of dissecting the mussels for molecular and histology analysis.

Throughout the weeks, my confidence and abilities have grown in all these areas, showing that this opportunity has provided me with transferable skills for future lab experience and experimental design. Some of the essential skills gained are being aware of potential cross-contamination and learning the anatomy of mussels to identify the correct tissues for dissection.

Also, the importance of asking questions as you learn so much! I got to discuss the rationale for concentrations of each contaminant, how collaborations with other universities and researchers help inspire experimental design and the hopes for the future impacts of the research.

This internship has definitely inspired me on what I would like my future career to be. Thank you to Interreg RedPol for the opportunity!!

Meet Professor James Ebdon

I am an Environmental Microbiologist interested in the role of water in the spread and control of water-related diseases. I’m particularly interested in how we can protect human health and aquatic environments.

What drew you to teaching your subject?

I first became interested in water pollution during my undergraduate degree at the University of Brighton, nearly 30 years ago. I was fortunate to be taught by an inspirational lecturer (Prof Huw Taylor) who got us investigating the impact of agriculture on local river water quality. This involved fieldwork at a nearby agricultural college and laboratory testing back on campus. From this moment I never looked back, and to this day I thoroughly enjoy the combination of fieldwork and lab-work. Only now I get to lead fieldwork activities and lecture about the joys of conducting environmental research in a range of challenging settings. 

How do you combine teaching with your professional life/work in the field?

Throughout my teaching career I have been heavily involved with international research projects, conducting fieldwork in Malawi, India, Nepal, Brazil, Vietnam, and Hawaii (funded by UNICEF, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, British Council). This has allowed me to bring in contemporary, real-world case material into my teaching on modules such as Global Environmental Challenges, Water, Sanitation and Health and to develop dissertations with my students focussed on addressing pressing environmental challenges. This way students get to engage with and benefit from cutting-edge applied research, long before it has even been reported in leading international scientific journals.   

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Corina Ciocan

Meet Dr Corina Ciocan

A marine biologist, Corina’s expertise is in functional ecotoxicology, focusing on biological responses of marine organisms to environmental stressors.

What drew you to teaching your subject?

I always lived by the ocean and I was absolutely fascinated by the marine environment. After working for more than 25 years in the research sector (in various Marine Research institutes and University groups) decided it’s a good time to bring my research into the class room and give the students the chance to have a very hands on experience of the marine exploration.

How do you combine teaching with your professional life/ work in the field?

I like to teach Marine Biology in ways that place the experiment and practice at the centre of everything I explain, for there can be no successful teaching without creating an active learning environment.

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