Passionflash Finals 2021

The winners of Passionflash 2021 are announced!

By Charles Middleton and Nadia Patel

The Passionflash competition invaded the thoughts of many students here at Salford, with incredible prizes of up to £250 in Amazon vouchers per year group, funded by the Salford Community for Excellence in Learning and Teaching. Students from the School of Science, Environment and Engineering auditioned with a 2-minute Ted talk style video on a topic they were passionate about. Of the 30 auditions, just 18 were selected to go through to the finals – what a tough call for the judges! The finals took place on the 28th April 2021 as an exciting online event, allowing both student and staff to make the best out of a strange period in university life.

PassionFlash is likely to become an annual event that allows for development of a huge variety of skills. For more updates on opportunities like this, follow BiomedSoc on twitter @SocBiomed.

Public Vote winner

Aksa Ghulam stole the public vote with her dazzling transformation into an anatomically accurate human heart while sharing her personal story of spending her first days with a ventricular heart defect.

Level 4 winners

1st: Anna-Marie White – Bees and neonicotinoids (£250 prize)
2nd: Leanne Ashworth – Climate change (£150 prize)
3rd: Becky Owens – Lemurs (£75 prize)

Level 5 winners

1st: Adam Walker – Pleural mesothelioma, the sneaky secret assassin (£250 prize)
2nd: Aksa Ghulam – Congenital heart disease (£150 prize)
3rd: Nadia Patel – The future of gene editing (£75 prize)

Level 6 winners

1st: Michael Klunk – Extraordinary animal sounds (£250 prize)
2nd: Courtney Riley – Explaining genomics (£150 prize)
3rd: Angela Ouya – Decolonising education (£75 prize)

Missed out on the action? No worries! You can catch up on the full live event on YouTube:

Biomed book club: May 2021 update

By Megan Phillips and Marta Holowina

The Biomedicine society launched its very own book club! If you’re not already a member, it’s never too late to join. When you join the Biomedicinee society, you’ll be added to our Microsoft Teams page, where you will see all the updates about events!

Every month we will read and discuss a new book! This is a great chance to explore new ideas, ways of writing, and read books you might not have read otherwise. We might discuss controversial topics such as ethics and express our individual opinions. Being a student is a stressful experience (as we are sure you’ll know!) so reading is a great chance to have some much-needed downtime and lose yourself in a book! These fun and informal sessions are the perfect opportunity for you to meet like-minded people and explore exciting new books!

Our next book club meeting will be held via Microsoft Teams to discuss Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. Keep up with our MS Teams page to find out the date of the meeting!

The book addresses end-of-life care, hospice care, and also contains Gawande’s reflections and personal stories. Being Mortal reveals the suffering this dynamic has produced.  Nursing homes, devoted above all to safety, battle with residents over the food they are allowed to eat and the choices they are allowed to make. Doctors, uncomfortable discussing patients’ anxieties about death, fall back on false hopes and treatments that are actually shortening lives instead of improving them. 

The ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life – all the way to the very end.

Atul Gawande

Suppose you haven’t already joined the Biomed soc. In that case, you can do this by going onto the student union website, searching for ‘Biomed society’ and filling out your membership form!  Once you’re part of the Biomed Society, you will be able to access these monthly meetings. Get ready for some discussion, debate and reflection!  We hope to see you soon!

The Biomed Book Club Bonanza

Exhilarating events: Recent and future

by Charles Middleton, Events Secretary

With a great finish to trimester 1 and 2, students have organised some extraordinary and enjoyable socials in such a short time span. The excellent collaboration between students and teaching staff have brought about several exhilarating events since the last issue of the magazine. New developments of the society have thrived rapidly by the remarkable efforts of the Biomed Soc!

The trimester one launch event brought about the true motivation and hard work from the inspirational community of the biomedicine society which initiated further successful events. Shortly after, at the Xmas Extravaganza event students and staff came together once more – and we even had our Alumni Danny Gaskin join the festive fun whilst also sharing his career story. The hard work and determination of everyone’s contributions was celebrated with lots of fun, games, and positivity throughout. Achievements were celebrated with an array of entertaining stories, a festive quiz, a scientific adventure, Christmas bingo, origami and even some exercise! The unforgettable joyful atmosphere was enjoyed with great attendance- it was a shame we were not all gathered in Santa’s grotto!

Another recent event which took place was the Bioemd Soc spring social, where students had a chance to unwind with an origami session, played entertaining games like Among Us and Pictionary, and made some amazing memories! We want to offer a warm invitation to all students to come along to one of our socials – join our welcoming and friendly group! Everyone is most welcome! You will get the opportunity to make new friends, have fun and be part of a community. You do not need to travel anywhere too, so you can enjoy the advantages of being in the comfort of your own home or accommodation!

There are plans to get involved with raising money for charitable organisations, and students are planning on even designing an online Etsy store to sell handmade items and artwork pieces. This work will be funded by the Salford Advantage fund.

New exercise classes will be starting up soon, so why not join in? “I don’t think limits”, an inspirational quote from Usain Bolt may persuade you to give it a go! Broaden your horizons! We really do have something for everyone!

We have numerous ideas and several student-led events coming up in the pipeline for you to be involved in.

We are open to new ideas and feedback! We encourage you to actively contribute to these socials and get involved with the student community – other students have given us really positive feedback and had the opportunity to make friends despite not attending classes this year, and we think it’s important to remember that you won’t get this time back – so don’t waste it.

Our next social is May/June celebrating the end of trimester 2, and for most, the academic year. Look out for the poster!

Biomedicine society president 2020-21: Nadia Patel reflecting on the society

This academic year started off with a strong sense of confusion and uncertainty for many students, a sentiment that became apparent upon discussion with Biomedicine students in casual society meetings. The challenges that the pandemic posed were new and unprecedented: the seeming lack of proximity to the wider student community, inability engage in collaborative projects and the feelings of loneliness that came with this. Adjusting to this new form of university life through harnessing the power of technology was difficult at first, and called for an extraordinary form of grit and resilience. I am proud to say that these challenges paved the way for unparalleled growth for the society which has gone from strength to strength over recent months. We owe these achievements to wonderful diversity in the talents of Biomedicine students, and the invaluable support of academic staff.

Part of accommodating the restrictions imposed by the pandemic was finding (virtual) spaces to express ourselves and feel a sense of community, and if they didn’t exist, creating them ourselves. One such example is our use of virtual study rooms, where students continue to enjoy the company and support of other students whilst studying. Other initiatives include a Book club for invigorating discussions, our BioArt club to help relax and express creativity alongside a heavily technical programme of study, and online student socials for games and a good laugh. This is all aside from the launch of our most collaborative project yet: Bioscientist Magazine.

So yes, the year started off with the urgent need to adapt to and overcome challenges, but ended with a plethora of lessons, experiences and (online) friends, the main legacy of which is this very publication.

Biomedicine Society, it has certainly been a pleasure leading an exceptional team through this remarkable year. Here’s to the future!

Coffee with Caroline

Dr Caroline Topham answers your wellbeing queries.

Programme Lead Dr Caroline Topham has been hosting “Coffee with Caroline” drop in sessions for students to discuss their wellbeing. In this article, Caroline answers some of your queries. Have more? Email

1. How do I maintain a healthy work-life balance?

This is so important and getting into good habits now will help to set you up for a healthy work-life balance for the rest of your life. There will always be times when we need to work late or have a particularly busy period, but this should be every now and then, and not the norm if you can help it. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to choose a good work-life balance all the time – at the end of the day we all have to pay the bills – but if you find yourself spending a lot of time working, but not actually getting a lot done, then maybe your work-life balance is something you need to address. 

For me, a good work-life balance is partly about good planning, and partly about respecting your own wellbeing. Planning well helps you to use your time efficiently; instead of spending a week twiddling with an assignment, set yourself some deadlines. For example, spend an hour on your literature search, 4 hours of reading time (with a break!) then the next day you can crack that essay question. Planning little rewards and downtime can help you to stick to the plan. 

Now for the second part: respecting your own wellbeing. When you have a lot to do it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking there is no time for breaks or relaxation, but this is a false economy. If you feel overwhelmed with work, this is a sure sign you need to take a good break and focus on your wellbeing, even just an hour off can help. Take a walk, call a friend, cook a meal, spend some time doing anything that you find calming. Investing in your wellbeing this way will pay off, as you will be able to be more productive when you do choose to work.  

Peer pressure has role to play here too: if your friends are pulling ‘all-nighters’ or your colleague is always the last to the leave the office it can be tempting to think that you should be too. However, this style of working is often a result of bad planning and procrastination, and in ten years you will be very glad you took the time to look after yourself when you see your colleague is off work with stress and burnout. No one is going to tell you to look after yourself, so learn do this for yourself! It’s important. 

If you think you might fall into the procrastination trap (we’ve all been there!), have a go at these training sessions from the university for some practical advice on how to use your time efficiently: 

 2. How do I relax when stressed about assignments?  

A good starting point is to try and identify what exactly is causing the stress. Having to complete assignments doesn’t have to be stressful, so maybe there is an underlying issue which is causing the stress. For example, is it a topic you feel under-confident about? Have you run out of time? Do you feel like you don’t know how to start? If you can identify what the barrier is before your stress levels get too high, then you can take action to fix it.  

Without exception, getting started with assignments as soon as they are set will always work in your favour as it gives you time to identify the gaps in your skills or knowledge and then take steps to work on them. I really recommend these tutorials from the library when preparing for your assessments; they have some practical hints and tips to help you do your best: 

3. How do I manage my time when I have multiple deadlines due at the same time?   

The best way to manage deadlines that are close together is to set yourself a false deadline. For example, if you have 2 weeks to complete two assignments, spend a week on one and set yourself a ‘pretend’ deadline 1 week earlier than the actual deadline. Then when it’s done, leave it alone! Now you have a week to work on the next assignment. See the link below for a nice tutorial about ‘owning your learning’ which can help you to take control in situations like this:

Biomedical Science Apprentices at Salford and the National apprenticeship week award 

Dr Lucy Smyth outlines the biomedical apprenticeship scheme at Salford University and announces one of its own apprentices, Christine Edgerton, as winner of the National Apprenticeship Week Award

By Dr Lucy Smyth

The government apprenticeship scheme launched in 2017 enables staff to become upskilled via 20% off the job study, while maintaining their full-time salary. This of course benefits the staff concerned but also their employers that are supporting the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of their team and developing a more skilled workforce.  The partnership between universities and employers are powerful enablers for collaboration and generating new opportunities.  Apprenticeships ensure that students are presented new challenges in the workplace as an integrated part of their study.  

The University of Salford strongly supports apprentices raising their profile in the scientific community during their learning.  One such opportunity is during the annual ‘National Apprenticeship Week (8th-14th February 2021), where high-flying apprentices are nominated for the ‘Apprentice of the Year Award’ within each school.   For the School of Science, Environment and Engineering this award went to Christine Egerton who recently completed her integrated Biomedical Science degree.  Here’s her story. 

Christine recently completed her final (3rd) year of her apprenticeship combining her study with a full-time time role based in Manchester Foundation Trust pathology labs specialising in Biochemistry and Genetic Medicine.   

Dr. Lucy Smyth, nominated Christine with wholehearted support of the apprentice academic team. Dr Smyth said: “Since joining the Biomedical Science programme, Christine has diligently immersed herself into the academic work, gaining superb marks in many of her 2nd year and final year modules. Apprentices have not had an easy journey through the pandemic. Shining through the adversity means Christine can now register with the Health Care and Professions Council, progress her career and perform the role of a fully registered biomedical scientist. Well respected by peers and staff, we feel Christine has truly deserved the award of Apprentice of the Year.” 

Dr Smyth added: “Christine’s diligent attitude in working as an apprentice through the pandemic displays her professionalism and quiet resilience, which alongside an impressive performance in the degree’s End Point Assessment shows her merit in earning the title of Apprentice of the Year. Congratulations Christine.” 

Christine’s employer (Willink Laboratory, Genomic Medicine at the Manchester Royal Infirmary), Robert Gibson, said: “Christine is a model employee. She has put a lot of hard work and effort into becoming a Biomedical Scientist. She has also had to manage her time very effectively to ensure all deadlines and objectives have been meet. Christine is an asset to the laboratory, and I am certain she will make a great success of her career as a Biomedical Scientist.” 

About the opportunities and experience of the programme Christine (pictured) said: 

“My career progression had come to a standstill due to not having a Biomedical Science degree. The apprenticeship opened up the opportunity for me to be able to study for my degree while also being able to continue to work. Salford was the most appealing as the scheme was already up and running. This meant my attendance was only required one day a week, which was a set day, during term time to attend practical sessions on campus. The advantage of this was that it enabled my employer to easily plan for my absence. The apprenticeship at Salford appeared to offer me the best opportunity to equip me with the knowledge and learning to successfully complete my degree. 

“During my (workplace-based) final year project, I developed an alternative method for the diagnosis of Gaucher disease. The laboratory currently performs a lysosomal enzyme screen that consists of 16 enzymes being tested on a 5ml EDTA blood sample; Gaucher disease is currently tested in this screen but the method used requires a large volume of sample to perform the analysis.  The method I developed requires less sample volume, which enables more enzymes to be added to the screen without the patient needing to provide more sample. 

“I think that studying as an apprentice during the pandemic has taught me to consider different ways of approaching challenges.    

“My ambition is to secure a job as a HCPC-registered Biomedical Scientist within the NHS. My workplace-based learning linked with my degree has given me first-hand experience of what is required to be a Biomedical Scientist, and I feel that I’ve gained the confidence and knowledge to continue to develop and progress my skills. I have a real sense of achievement having completed the degree and I believe it has equipped me with the tools to carve out a good career within the field.” 

From Syria to Salford 

By Hussam Almawal

I started my career in Syria in 2007 as a laboratory scientist. Shortly after this, I was promoted to manager of the general laboratory and IVF laboratory in 2009. My role grew quickly at the hospital, and it wasn’t long before I was overseeing the laboratory activities across seven floors, managing 40 laboratory staff – until 2013.  

When the war started in Syria, in the blink of an eye I had lost everything you can imagine. Members of my family and friends, my house, and my job. My family and I crossed 14 countries just to find a safe place to live.  

I arrived in the UK in 2014 speaking zero English. I started to learn the language and worked in a coffee shop at the same time. I also started my study at the University of Salford because I had been told: 

 You will never be able to work as scientist again.  

Since then, I’ve been on a mission to prove to the world that I’d be able to not only learn English, but also make my life a success story once more, so that my daughter would be proud of me. It’s hard to believe I’m now in my final year. I would be lying if I said it has all been sunshine and roses. I cried and slept in pain, feeling confused, lost and exhausted. There have been times where I have questioned myself, thinking, ‘why am I putting myself through this?!’ But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.  

First day at university

First day at University 

Today, I’m a Bioscience lead at one of the largest UK testing centres. I am so proud to be a part of the fight against COVID-19 with the Department of Health and Social Care and Lighthouse laboratories. 

I’m responsible for overseeing a lab-based team from sample receipt through to RNA extraction and delivery of PCR data. This includes troubleshooting and solving problems with PCR machines and supervising scientists carrying out their lab activities. I have had the opportunity to complete a portfolio of training activities including health and safety, manager essentials, and performance and improvement courses. Together with my team, we have delivered 7 million COVID test results to patients.  

2020 at #Lighthouse labs – COVID-19  responders Department of Health and Social Care 

I could say so much more about my experiences and journey so far. I can honestly say that I have always appreciated the support that has been provided to me by the University of Salford and that I wouldn’t be here without it. My journey at the University of Salford is not yet over, as I intend to study an MSc in Biotechnology after I graduate from my BSc in Biomedical Sciences.  

Through my educational journey at the University of Salford, I have learned four major lessons that I think other people may benefit from:  

1. It’s NOT too late, never give up.  
2. To finish any great endeavour, you must first start.
3. If you want happiness, help other people.
4. Failure and mistakes make you stronger.   

A practical guide to Biomedicine career planning

Dr Sara Namvar and Aimee Pinnington share their practical guide to Biomedicine Career planning for Salford Students

By Dr Sara Namvar and Aimee Pinnington

Whilst at university it is vital that you start planning your career as early as possible. The Biomedicine academic team have prepared some guidance for you! ‘How to start planning your career’ will support you in assessing where you are up to at this moment and also provide some immediate steps you can take. ‘Building a strong CV whilst at university’ is ideally suited to first and second year students who have lost of time to get career savvy!

How to start planning your career

Building a strong CV whilst at university

Your priority must always be to achieve the best possible grades. However, extracurricular activities help you build a vast range of additional skills that not only build your CV and make you more attractive to employers, but they also make you more confident and allow you to have fun! It can be difficult to select appropriate activities both (on and off campus) to suit your career of choice.

The table below is by no means exhaustive, but maps out recommended activities to support your career of choice. In addition to these, the library, SU and careers & enterprise team offer a huge range of development opportunities. You may wish to become a student rep, ambassador at open days or mentor, which will help with all careers. Ultimately there is no right or wrong and the important thing is to get involved! You must start drafting your CV from the first year and continue developing it throughout your time at university.

Graduate-entry Medicine, Dentistry and Physician Associate careers

Dr Sara Namvar and Prof. Niroshini Nirmalan give an overview of careers as a medic, dentist or physician associate after studying biomedicine and detail the Graduate Entry Medicine Mentoring Scheme at Salford

By Dr Sara Namvar and Prof. Niroshini Nirmalan

Postgraduate students may access careers in Medicine or Dentistry either at undergraduate (more expensive) or graduate-entry (more competitive) level. Only postgraduate students may access Physician Associate studies.

Where it starts after graduating: Most students will start a 2-year Physician Associate Masters. Others may apply and secure a place on a 4- or 5-year Medicine or Dentistry course. Carefully considering finances and workload both during your undergraduate degree and beyond graduation is required.

Where you can end up: A Physician Associate, Doctor or Dentist. Your career can grow in any specialty you wish. You may also get involved with university teaching/research eventually.

Benefits of a career in this field: Working closely with patients and shaping healthcare. Being able to diagnose and treat your own patients.

Graduate Entry Medicine Mentoring at Salford (GEMMS) was established in 2015 by Prof Niroshini Nirmalan and a group of Biomedicine students with the objective of inspiring students to apply for careers in Medicine and Dentistry.

In 2019, the scheme was expanded to include post-graduate entry for Physician Associate studies with Dr Sara Namvar overseeing and co-leading GEMMS-PA. Each year as many as 30 students have taken part in elements of the mentoring scheme, with 4-5 students successfully transitioning onto Medicine or Dentistry. Many more successfully join Physician Associate courses. The mentoring for this working group is quite intense and involves close collaborative activity between staff and students with reliance upon the good will of our alumni.

Large scale events are regular and popular (e.g. Personal statement writing, mock interviews, external inspirational talks etc) attracting 100 students at a time and are usually held many times during the year. These are followed up with smaller bespoke events depending upon the needs of students at the time. Mentoring generally begins with career management support – helping students decide upon the extracurricular activities they need to engage with and providing references to hospitals for instance. There are regular personal statement workshops and personalised feedback on statements. Interview practice sessions are also a regular occurrence and often involve our valued alumni sharing their experiences. For students working towards Medicine or Dentistry, a working group of students has been established which holds regular UKCAT/GAMSAT study sessions to support preparation.

Research Careers

Dr David Greensmith explains research careers and details the Salford Biomedicine Research Careers Working Group and why student should join.

By Dr David Greensmith

Research careers are extremely varied, typically covering academic, industrial or clinical research but usually require the continuation of the academic pathway and  strong interest in a specific area of biomedicine.  These careers are competitive but are the literal advancement of science.

Where it starts after graduating: Most research-based careers start by securing a PhD position. You may need to undertake a Masters (preferably by research) first, but this is not an absolute prerequisite; it will depend on the level of research experience developed during your degree. For details see the recording mentioned later.

Where you can end up: There are many research-based careers in a huge range of disciplines. Broadly speaking, they fall into three areas: (1) Academic (undertaking research in a university setting), (2) clinical (for example working on clinical trials) and (3) industrial (product and process development).

Benefits of a career in this field: No two careers are the same and for most you will have a high degree of autonomy; you will heavily shape the exact course of the research you undertake and therefore your job. Successes mean a lot in research and can be incredibly rewarding. For example, you will publish your research and may become an internationally recognised expert in your field. You will likely travel the world to present at scientific conferences and in some cases pass on your knowledge to the next generation of undergraduate scientist.

Salford’s Research Careers Working Group (RCWG) seeks to facilitate undergraduate progression to research-based careers including Masters by research and PhD positions. I established the RCWG four years ago as a platform for students to engage with research and to mentor students through PhD applications. Since then, the scheme has developed, and we now have a dedicated Teams Site, student leads and a growing membership that forms a vibrant community of like-minded students.

The RCWG is suitable for all students at any level. As you progress through your degree, we’ll help you build a research-aligned CV through activities such as a regular journal club, dedicated seminars, discussion groups, learned society engagement, facilitated conference attendance, vacation scholarship and travel grant applications, research career events and scientific writing competitions. Then, when you are ready to apply for research-positions we will mentor you through the process.

On the 24th February, the RCWG hosted the inaugural “An introduction to research-based careers” symposium. Attended by around 40 students, I gave a brief overview of the PhD position then Dr Caroline Topham explained where a PhD can lead and considered the pros and cons of a research-based career. We were also joined by an international panel of scientists at various career stage who shared their experiences, advice and insight. The subsequent Q&A session was incredibly engaging. Don’t worry if you missed the symposium as it was recorded and can be accessed via the RCWG Teams site.

It’s also the first of many exciting events. Membership is free, and virtually all our activities are highly transferable; they will look good on any CV. As such, it’s well worth joining even if a research-based career is only one of many options on your radar.