Summer Biology Internship

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, it’s been over 12 months since I’ve been properly on campus – with an ERASMUS+ internship in Sweden and a placement year in the USA, it’s weird to be back! However, there’s no rest for the wicked so I’m back on another internship, this time a lot closer to home. The biosciences department offer a number of summer internships aimed at second years who are progressing into third year. This year, 6 lecturers offered internships, in disciplines such as genetics, ecology, microbiology, covering organisms including plants, invertebrates and humans. I was lucky enough to receive a place on Paul Ashton’s internship, after applying for two of them (you can apply for two internships maximum) with a CV and cover letter. Being abroad at the time of application, I participated in a Skype interview – a strange experience!

The subject area of my internship is titled, “Does meadow restoration conserve genetic variation?”, although I haven’t actually got to that part of the work yet! Before I start on that project (being worked on by a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) and PhD student, Elizabeth Sullivan), I’m assisting on a different project to do with lime trees. This project is Carl Baker’s (a Postdoc Researcher). Right now I’ve been assisting in the final steps of DNA extraction, cleaning up the extracted DNA to try and get rid of any impurities in the samples. This process involves inverting and emptying a tube of liquid whilst keeping a pellet of DNA precariously stuck to the bottom – quite nerve-wracking to see your sample hanging by a thread!

Another unexpected aspect of this internship was setting up and running a session for the 2018 Edge Hill Biology Olympiad. The Olympiad is a series of challenges completed by teams from various sixth forms and colleges that come to Edge Hill University for the day. Each activity is graded and the scores released in a ceremony at the end of the day. I didn’t expect to be doing this kind of work but thoroughly embraced it – it was a great opportunity to push myself and see what it felt like to run a teaching exercise of sorts.

Changes at EHU in a Year

It’s been over a year since I was last properly on Edge Hills Ormskirk campus – with an ERASMUS+ internship occupying my summer and a sandwich year in Chicago from then onwards, I haven’t been able to observe the changes happening day to day. Now that I’m back, the changes really stand out!

Although I saw the Tech Hub being erected throughout my second year, it was not fully completed by the time I left last May. The lab on the top floor dedicated to biosciences wasn’t in full working order. Now that I am back and working an internship for Dr Paul Ashton over the summer, I’ve got to see first-hand what the new biosciences lab is like. I knew it was going to be big, but it’s also comfortably sized and open plan. Benches are neatly arranged in groups of four, two seats on each side. I’m looking forward to working there more as my internship progresses, and as I undertake my dissertation in the coming year.

Another addition to campus is Woodland Court, a new set of accommodation solely for 3rd year (senior undergraduate) students. I’ve heard it’s some of the best value for money accommodation in Ormskirk, as there is currently no summer retainer, costs £119-£124 per week for 40 weeks, includes utility bills, features en-suite accommodation, and has a washing machine in each cluster’s shared area. I’ll have the opportunity to check them out next year, as I’ll be moving back on campus! Woodland Court is set into townhouses from A-R and has 182 rooms. They match the aesthetic of the other newest halls: Chancellors, Founders, Graduates, and Palatine.

Very soon to be completed is the new Catalyst building. The Catalyst will house the new library on campus as well as Careers and Student Services. It’s situated right next to Woodland Court and also will provide 30 bookable rooms for students to use, 50% more than previously! In preparation for its completion, 502 books were passed from the old library to the new in a human book chain.

Applicant Visit Days Ahoy!

With the beginning of February comes the Applicant Visit Days, typically held between now and March/April, non-interviewing applicants will soon receive notice of these wonderful days – maybe you already have! Although I personally did not attend an applicant visit day for Biology, I have worked for the Biology Department as an Applicant Visit Day Helper, therefore I know a little something about what goes down on one of these visit days.

The Edge Hill University Biology Department is home to many sub-disciplines, from ecology to human biology – despite this, students from different courses will certainly overlap both in the common first year and in shared modules. In account of this, the Applicant Visit Day has an introductory talk given to the cohort as a whole, as well as area specific activities with a focus on either ecology, human biology, or genetics, for example. When I worked the Applicant Visit Day last year, I supervised the ecology taster session – and introduction to invertebrate ecology and identification, using keys and microscopes. Also part of the Biology section on Applicant Visit Days is the building tour, where you get a better look at the labs and equipment available to use once you begin studying with us. With the opening of the Tech Hub and the top floor lab, there’s even more space and equipment to use!

Facilities
The Biosciences building for Biology at Edge Hill

I have also worked for the Money Advice Team on applicant visit days, as a Money Buddy, positioned in The Hub. The Money Advice Team hold presentations on student finance, as well as budgeting – particularly from a student’s point of view (hence the Money Buddies). My role was to speak to potential future students about financial help offered by EHU as well as budgeting advice.

The Tech Hub

One of the pros of attending an Applicant Visit day (other than getting a better feel for your course and department) is getting to meet other students. If you’re worried about meeting new people at university, your course is the best place to start, and Applicant Visit days give you a head start. I hope you’re able to attend one and take advantage of this opportunity!

Computer Science and Edge Hill – If you leave Windows open your computer will get cold

Computer Science Students at Edge Hill


Computer Science is a wonderful, broad subject that covers every aspect of computing. It can range from database design all the way to systems administration. I am a first year student in Computer Science (Network, Security and Forensics) and there is a few things that I would have liked to have been told before I started the course. If any of you are thinking about taking this pathway in higher education then these might just help you along the way


Computer Science students have a joint first year

No matter what you specialise in, if you are a computer science student (Without Math) then you are lumped into a joint first year. That means that although I am taking Networking, Security and Forensics as my specialisations within computing science I will still be exposed to other elements of computing such as web design and computing with business.


Edge hill has just got a new tech hub

The £13 million tech hub was opened with the idea of bringing state of the art technology to the computing students of Edge Hill. It features the UK’s first super immersive 3D virtual environment (C.A.V.E) and computer labs spread throughout its 3 floors. It also houses the staff of the computing department.


All computing courses are BSC accredited

Edge Hill computing courses are accredited by the British Society of Computing aswell as The Chartered Institute of IT. They meet all the latest requirements of employers and are ever expanding to keep up with the fast changing environment of Computing.


These are just some of the things that make studying computing science at Edge Hill amazing and enjoyable. If you want to learn more about computing send a email to think@edgehill.ac.uk for advice or leave a comment bellow and I will get back to you personally.

Public Lectures, Research Seminars and More!

Throughout the year, Edge Hill University hosts a number of public lectures. These are can be in subjects such as my own, Biological Sciences, or others, such as Education or History.

Banded archerfish (Toxotes jaculatrix). Lithograph, published in 1884.

Recently, my personal tutor and department head of biology, Dr Paul Ashton, gave his inaugural lecture titled “Contemplate an Entangled Bank” after the opening to the final paragraph of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Paul’s lecture was on the culmination of his work to date, from lime trees to sedges.

The Biosciences Department also hosts research seminars typically at lunchtime, as well as public lectures in the evening. Previous research seminars from this term were on biogeography (the origin of the Lusitanian flora), a rare genetic disease (Fanconi Anaemia), and how plant-atmosphere interactions shine a light on the origin of flowering plants. Although the schedule for 2018’s public lectures is not yet released, check back HERE for details! I attended Dr André Antunes’ talk, “Living on the Edge: Life in high salinity environments” last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. Also of note for the department is “ENTO’18: The Good The Bad and the Ugly” – an annual entomological conference which this year is being hosted at Edge Hill University during the 29th to the 31st of August.

The Geography department also holds public lectures in the Geosciences building, the most recent two being a lecture on coastal vulnerability to climate change and rising sea-levels, and perceptions of “Globalisation, Sustainability and Culture” in regard to “the Identities of old/new Empires and their colonies.”

Conferences and talks are held by the Faculty of Health and Social Care in their own building, as well as the Tech Hub and the Manchester campus – particularly for open days, where the Operating Department Practice programme is held. Conferences are also held by the faculty, such as the Digital Ecosystem event.

Education students have an interesting research seminar scheduled for early 2018 on January 11th – The Teaching and Learning of Britishness and Fundamental British Values, by Dr Sadia Habib, who has also published a book on the topic. Past seminars and lectures have included teaching in South Africa, lesson study, and educational responses for the future.

The Department of Performing Arts also has had many events throughout the year, two workshops of which were on Mindfulness and Butoh in Dance Movement Therapy. Another inaugural lecture was held by Professor Stephen Davismoon earlier this month.

Finally, students of English, History and Creative Writing have enjoyed lectures on The Politics of the Neo-Victorian Freak Show, how the illustrations of Sherlock Holmes affected the success of Doyle’s success, and “what it meant to be a girl in the late Victorian period and how women editors played a role in shaping the modern girl,” in a paper reading by Dr Beth Rodgers.

As you can see, Edge Hill University offers numerous lectures across the board of courses! I’ve found that attending these talks for my subject has allowed me to get an idea of which topics I find enjoyable both inside and outside the curriculum.

My A-Z of Edge Hill University

A – Art’s Centre: The Art’s Centre hosts a wide range of entertainment available for anyone – film, theatre, and music. Currently, students can get a free membership that comes with a few free tickets.
B – Biosciences: Obviously the greatest department around, is the department of biology. The building is filled with great equipment such as the electron microscope as well as having the brand new tech hub lab next door. Of course, the department staff are as well phenomenal – the technicians, administrators and lecturers.
C – Campus: Our wonderful campus is fairly small but incredibly beautiful. With two lakes and plenty of green spaces, you will never be far from nature, yet the modern facilities are equally as stunning.
D – Ducks: If you don’t know already, you should know that the ducks on campus are essentially the mascots of our uni.
E – Edge Link: The Edge Link Bus runs from campus to Ormskirk throughout the day, roughly every 15 minutes.
F – Facilities: Many impressive facilities exist at Edge Hill, the newest of which is the Techhub. It hosts the new biotechnology lab, as well as the CAVE. Other buildings worth mentioning are Creative Edge and Sporting Edge – both being modern facilities for the computery creative and the athletic populations of Edge Hill.
G – Green: Facilities Management became the second university in the UK to gain the Green Flag Award for maintaining an attractive and welcoming campus. Our uni is also green in that it is environmentally conscious, sporting solar panels, ground source heating and thermal heat recovery.
H – History: Edge Hill College, as it was once known, was originally a women-only teaching college, until accepting men in 1959. The history of Edge HIll has links to women’s rights and the Suffragette movement.
I – International: The International office allows students the opportunity to study abroad on the ERASMUS+ program. We have links to Sweden, Cyprus, Belgium, and many more.
J – Joint Honours: Those wishing to study a joint or combined honours degree will find a number of options available to them at Edge Hill, particularly in the Humanities subjects on offer here.
K – Knowledge: Those studying at Edge Hill will gain knowledge into their degree subject that only a lecturer could give. Studying Biology at Edge Hill has presented me with many opportunities to learn that would not have been available to me otherwise.
L – Liverpool: A mere 30 minutes on the train from Liverpool, Ormskirk is nicely situated near the bustling city.
M – Money Advice Team: The Money Advice Team offer advice at drop-in sessions all throughout the term, providing support on money management as well as information regarding scholarships and the hardship fund.
N – Nightlife: There are few clubs and bars in Ormskirk, as well as the SU Bar and Quad, ensuring you will have plenty of choices if you decide on a night in town.
O – Ormskirk: A quaint market town that makes a lovely place to call your home away from home. From the clock tower to coronation park, I know I’ve come to love it.
P – PGCE: Qualifications for teaching are also available at Edge Hill, alongside other undergrad and postgrad degrees.
Q – Queer representation: Our students’ union have both an LGBT+ Officer and also the upcoming position of a Trans Officer.
R – Red Bar: The Red Bar – adjacent the Arts Centre – is the location of the Open Mic nights and serves delicious pizza! The staff are incredibly welcoming too. Also here are many board games for a nice quiet social time.
S – Societies and Sports: So! Many! Societies! Ranging from Sports clubs to liberation or recreational socs.
T – Tutors: I can speak from experience when I say that my personal tutor has been very supportive of me and has provided great support when I’ve needed it. Personal tutors definitely make an important part of the incredible student support system at Edge Hill.
U – University of the Year: Back in 2014-5, Edge Hill won the University of the Year in 10th annual Times Higher Education (THE) Awards – a title it rightfully deserves!
V – Varsity: The annual sporting competition between us and the University of Central Lancashire is a great opportunity to get involved in competitive sport. Bonus V – Vikings: The Edge Hill American football team!
W – Whatuni awards: This year, Edge Hill won top accommodation, third for student support, and placed in the top five for Courses and Lecturers and Uni Facilities.
X – Xenobiotics: One of the areas of study by our biology department is mosquitoes as a vector for human disease. A topic that accompanies this is the use of insecticides – xenobiotics – to kerb the spread of said diseases.
Y – You: Our Student’s Union values you, and is made by you. Our bar and house staff are students, as are the elected officers, president and vice presidents.
Z – Zoo: Chester zoo is not far, and was one of the trips I attended during the first few weeks of my biology degree. It was a great icebreaker and helped form bonds that would only be strengthened in Cyprus, another trip in the first term of my first term of Biology.

Biological Applicant Day

From February to April 1st, applicant days are occurring here at EHU and you may be wondering what it’s like and how it will benefit you. Since Edge Hill University is so far away from my hometown, I could only make it to an Open Day, and not the applicant day (plus, I was already certain Edge Hill was to be my firm choice). However, I had the opportunity to work on the recent Applicant Day, both for the Money Advice Team, and the Biology Department.

First up in the day was a talk by the Money Advice Team. This covered specifically the loans, grants, and budgeting involved with university. Personally, I spoke in the presentation about budgeting at university from a student perspective, but more information was given by another team member on the intricacies of the loan system and also how the university delivers its scholarships.

After the morning finance talk, we moved onto the biological section of the day. This portion was for prospective students only (bar the department tours) and took place in the biosciences building. It started with Paul Ashton, the department head, giving an introductory talk about the biology department, its research, and staff. Whilst prospective students go off to this section of the day, parents and caregivers can attend a talk aimed specifically at them, providing more details on finance, UCAS, and accommodation.

After this, the students were split into three, based on the type of degree they have applied for. The university currently offers five undergraduate biological science degrees: BSc Biology, BSc Ecology & Conservation, BSc Human Biology, BSc Genetics, BSc Biotechnology. Those who chose either Genetics or Biotechnology did a genetics based practical, those who chose Ecology & Conservation an ecological practical, and those who chose Human Biology a human based practical. For anyone who chose straight Biology, they could pick which they preferred.

Despite my degree being in Genetics, I also have an ecological focus, so assisted another current student in supervising the prospective ecologists along with Anne Oxbrough, Reader in Ecology. After a presentation detailing the degree a bit more, and what modules and trips were available, the practical began. The ecological practical was centred around invertebrate identification, using microscopes and keys to identify specimens down to the class, if not the order.

Once the practical was over, building tours were given to anyone interested in viewing the department’s facilities, including a demonstration of the scanning electron microscope (SEM) and insectary. Also, the new Tech Hub’s top floor was available to be toured, showing the new labs that might be used primarily for biotechnology in the coming years.


On a separate note, current students may have noticed the flags up in the Hub – this is because it is Edge Hill’s first ever Pride week! Events still to come are: pride social tonight; a trans-exclusive sexual health workshop on Thursday; and a pride march around the campus on Friday, along with the showing of Rent in the Arts Centre for Free Film (and food) Friday.

nice one edge hill 👌 #prideweek

A photo posted by james 🌙 (@clokkerfoot) on Feb 6, 2017 at 1:32pm PST

Semester One Biology Highlights

Since semester one has essentially finished (bar a few exams and reports being due), I thought I’d take this time to look back on my favourite parts of the modules I’ve experiences on the second year of my undergrad Biology degree.

Life On The Edge

Tech Hub

Life On The Edge (LOTE) is the new and improved version of the Environmental Physiology module from previous years, it deals primarily in microbe, plant, and animal extremophiles. The largest addition to the module was Life On The Edge Evening, a series of short presentations, by the students, on a chosen extremophile. This was hosted in the lecture theatre of the new Tech Hub. One of the purposes of the event is to test the students’ research and presentation skills – which counted towards our grade. Although public speaking isn’t my strong suit, it did give me the chance to bust out my PowerPoint skills – as lame as it sounds, I’m quite fond of designing the slides. However anxious it made me, I’m sure the experience improved my public speaking abilities and got me used to presenting in a professional environment.

Another point of interest for this module was the field-trip to Anderton Nature Park, where we sampled the salt springs for microbes and isolated them from the water back at the lab.

Molecular Biology

This module featured quite an insight into the techniques and points of interest in the field of molecular biology. My personal highlight was learning about epigenetics, as I already knew a little about it and was interested in it before knowing it was featured in the module. Google defines epigenetics as, “The study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself.” This module was quite technical but very rewarding, in that the subject matter is complex but also very cutting edge.

Laboratory Masterclass

The highlight of Lab Masterclass has got to be using the scanning electron microscope (SEM). It’s an expensive piece of kit, so it’s incredible that the department to trust all the second year undergraduates to use it for our practical coursework. The assignment in question had to contain two images from the SEM which both had to be scientifically relevant, as well as a short report on the subject matter of the images. This practical was weighted quite heavily for the module, so it was imperative we used our time wisely on the microscope to get some impressive images. We could’ve chosen any sample with biological relevance to look at under the SEM, and being a fan of plants, I chose leaves. I won’t go into the details, but here are some of the images I didn’t use, that I think are still pretty impressive:

The course page for biology has a tab that gives an overview of the modules.