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!

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:

Coffee with Caroline: Stress at University

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.

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

How can I avoid/deal with stress? 

Stress can be very uncomfortable but is also very important, and the right amount of stress helps us to perform at our best. Professional athletes talk about ‘arousal levels’ and find ways to achieve optimum ‘arousal’ in order to give their best performance; if arousal levels are too low they are not focused and energised to perform, too high and they become too stressed and crumble under the pressure. 

Stress is a necessary part of life, we as human beings need it to push ourselves to achieve difficult things, but when stress levels become too high they have the opposite effect and can stop us from thinking clearly. Each of us also have our optimum state where we are most productive, for example I prefer working to a deadline and find the time pressure very helpful to focus my thoughts and motivate me. Other people hate deadlines and find the time pressure stressful and very unhelpful. 

So it helps to know yourself so you can manage your workload to meet your strengths. Think about your assessments so far this year, how did you feel about them? Did you prepare far in advance or did you leave it to the last minute? Did that work for you, or did it make you feel anxious? This will help you to avoid making the same mistakes twice.

When stress levels are so high that your usual stress relief techniques (good sleep, relaxing in front of the TV, exercising, praying, meditating, chatting with friends, whatever works for you) stop working and stress is stopping you from working and interacting with people as you normally would, then it’s time to get help. If this happens my advice is to reach out to the people around you for support if you can. That might be family or friends, or fellow students or tutors, or it may be professional counsellors and wellbeing advisors (see below). Whoever it is, sharing your anxieties can really help you to find a way forward, and it’s never too late to ask for support. 

How can I make friends if I can’t meet classmates in person? 

This is a great question, and some of you may have better ideas than me! We are all learning fast when it comes to our online lives. To start with, I would recommend joining in with programme activities such as participating in your tutorial group discussions, joining in with activities during online teaching, and going to online social events such as those organised by the BiomedSoc. Joining societies is another great way to make friends, we have our own BiomedSoc and there are many other societies hosted by the Students Union for different sports, hobbies, faiths and more. Outside of university, there are many opportunities for volunteering in your community and this can be a great way to get out of the house in a safe way too. 

How can I catch up with things if I fall behind?

If you feel you are falling behind, the most important thing to do is to speak to someone at Uni, usually your personal tutor or me as your programme leader, and we also have Del, our Student Progression Administrator (SPA – see below) who is very helpful to talk to if you are struggling. 

Catching up with missed lectures is now possible as everything is recorded, and making time to watch these lectures and do any related activities is crucial to getting back on track. Visit each of your module sites on Blackboard and identify any assessments you may have missed. Every student will get another attempt at an assessment automatically, although marks are capped at 40%. If your reasons for falling behind are due to reasons outside of your control then you can use the Personal Mitigating Circumstances (PMC – see below) system which allows you to apply for the opportunity to submit work at a later date without your marks being capped, so please use this if illness or other life circumstances have stopped you from completing assessments. 

It’s helpful to understand why you have fallen behind, if it’s a short term problem (e.g. short illness) then please use the PMC system to take the pressure off your current deadlines. If something in your life has changed permanently that is preventing you from studying as much as you need to, then speak to us at the university and we can advise you on the best way forward.

How can I stay positive and motivated in such challenging times? 

As human beings we thrive on variety and social contact and we get a sense of achievement from being out and about in the world. During the pandemic, it has been much harder for many of us to do this, and so staying motivated has been very difficult for lots of people. There is no magical fix for this, but there are three things which have helped me which I will share: 

  • Keep your eye on the bigger picture – what is your goal, what are you working towards? Keeping the end goal in mind can keep you on track. 
  • Stay humble – we all know people who have lost their jobs and health as a result of the pandemic, it helps me to remember that we are privileged to still be able to work and study during the pandemic. 
  • Set daily goals – I’m a big fan of setting small goals and chipping away at work a bit at a time, for example I’ll do half an hour on one task and then go and make a coffee. I’ll do another hour then reward myself with ten minutes of playing with the dog. If I finish this task by the end of the day then I will have some chocolate/ wine/takeaway (insert treat of your choice) on Friday! Try the pomodoro technique to help you to focus for short bursts of time.

Helpful links for Wellbeing

Our Student Progression Administrator (SPA), Del:
Wellbeing and Counselling at Salford:
Information about the PMC process: