Life Sciences Undergraduate Showcase

From Life Sciences to Chemistry and Engineering, the University of Lincoln’s College of Science hosts another remarkable showcase of our undergraduate students.

Good luck to everyone on getting back their marks over the next few days.

Here is a little look into a few of our students we spoke to over the two days.

IMG_1785

Zoology student Alexandra Briggs looked at the affect of visitor numbers on the seals at popular viewing site, Donna Nook.

Alex said: “We’ve found that a lot of factors are affecting the seals at Donna Nook and it’s confirming what a lot of people were thinking. The advice to to Donna Nook would be that more and more people are going to come it might be best to put in changes now.

“If the changes work, they can be put in place at other beaches where visitor numbers are a big issue, as some sites have no limitations between us and the seal. People will go up to the seals and pet them, and they run away and leave their pups and they then starve to death, so it can be a huge issue in some places.

“I didn’t just want my research to just be inside, I wanted to be out in the field and doing something I wanted to do.”

IMG_1786

Bioveterinary Science student,Charlotte Carr took up some great work experience at Gatwick Airport with the security dogs. With this interest in mind, she took on the research of looking at dog behaviour levels in the home compared to in a kennel facility.

“Dogs when they were at home and in kennels to see if there’s a difference with their activity, I also compared this to behaviour scores which their owners gave them on their impulsivity, behaviour regulation, aggression and responsiveness.

“I found that as the dog gets older, they get more activity and their impulsivity increases. I also found that females were more impulsive than males and the activity in the kennels increased depending on the breed type, and the impulsivity as well.

“The toy and utility breed type were the most active and the non-working was the least active. The older the dog, the more active. It was strange. We think it was because they’d spent so much time with their owners that they didn’t mind being on their own or in the kennels.”

Charlotte’s findings will help to make improvements on the kennel facilities within Gatwick Airport.

IMG_1787

Jorge Sobral studied the effect of photoperiods on the genitalia of the bruchid beetle.

“I grew them in different light regimes – no light, 12 hours with light and 12 hours in darkness, and I’ve found that photoperiods do affect the size and shape of the genital organs of the beetle.

“I found that beetles grown in half darkness and half-light seem to have the longest parameres, which are in the genitals, for their size. This implies that genetalia may not be a viable way to classify species, so my work kind of contradicts that and says that it might be best to back up with something else too.”

IMG_1805

Looking at a future in wildlife conservation, Chardè Anderson looked at tissue samples of Bottlenose Dolphin species and the possibility of hybrid species.

She said: ‘The university received some tissue samples of Bottlenose Dolphins, and we were looking to see if they belonged to the bottlenose or a hybrid with another species.

“Through a lot of studies, we found there to be a possible one hybrid out of the 24 samples between two different species. Although there did look to be other individuals in the samples to be the same species, but from different regions.”

An amazing array of projects were on show across Life Sciences and we are proud of every one of you. Take a look at our photo album of the two days on Facebook here:

Award-winning animal welfare specialist joins Life Sciences team

An animal welfare academic whose award-winning research is helping to improve health in pedigree dogs has joined the Life Sciences team at the University of Lincoln, UK.

Dr Lisa Collins, new programme leader for Bioveterinary Science at Lincoln, is one of the world’s few animal welfare epidemiologists – applying the study of the patterns, causes and effects of health and disease conditions to animals.

While at The Royal Veterinary College in London, she was principal investigator in a study examining inherited defects in pedigree dogs.

The team discovered that every one of the top 50 most popular breeds of dogs was predisposed to at least one inherited disorder linked to its physical appearance.

For the subsequent paper, The Veterinary Journal awarded Dr Collins the George Fleming Prize for the most meritorious and innovative paper published in 2009.

In 2010 a report by Sir Patrick Bateson, president of the Zoological Society of London, called for sweeping changes among breeders to improve the health of the animals. Dr Collins’ research helped inform Sir Bateson’s proposals and she now sits on the Advisory Council on the Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding, set up as a result of the report’s recommendations.

Dr Collins said: “The Kennel Club, who had commissioned the inquiry with The Dogs Trust after concerns highlighted in a BBC documentary, has now put every single breed through a review process and standards are being changed.”

Dr Collins is currently involved in two major European projects, which she will continue at Lincoln. The first is a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) funded study to create a mathematical model that can predict poor welfare in groups of pigs.

Working with Queen’s University of Belfast, The University of Nottingham and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute in Belfast, Dr Collins aims to develop a statistical tool as an early warning system, predicting which groups and which individuals within them are likely to have a welfare problem at a later stage.

She said: “Developing validated tools to assess animal welfare remains one of applied ethology’s greatest challenges, so we have designed a wide-ranging experiment that will incorporate a large amount of detail from each animal. Validated indicators could then be used to develop a predictive early warning system so that any potential welfare problems can be detected and mitigated in advance.”

The study will also investigate whether pigs that do have poorer welfare also have a poorer functional memory and whether they also perceive time to be passing at a different rate.

The second project focusses on animal nutrition and the strategies that could be employed to improve the efficiency of feed for pigs and chickens.

Called ECO-FCE, it will provide the pig and poultry industries across the EU with strategies and tools to accomplish the task of feeding a growing world population in an efficient and ecologically-friendly manner.

The team will use state-of-the-art genomics technology to gain an improved understanding of the digestive system of pigs and chickens. This information will then be combined with data collected from over 10,000 published scientific studies to develop unique and effective system models to help those in the industry understand, manage and measure the impact of different factors on feed use efficiency and environmental impact.

New findings could inform horse welfare

New research has taken another step towards developing an understanding of the cognitive processes that inform the practical issue of how, and when, to introduce horses into social groups.

A study, carried out by undergraduate Bioveterinary Science student Rebecca Ward, aimed to investigate the ability of horses to distinguish between the body odour samples of unfamiliar horses.

The findings suggest, for the first time, that horses are able to discriminate between two stimuli derived from body odours over a short period of time.

The results, which have now been published in the journal Animal Cognition, showed a decrease in the time horses spent investigating a certain body odour after repeated presentations – therefore, becoming accustomed to the same odour.

Dr Oliver Burman, from the School of Life Sciences, co-authored the paper with Research Fellow Dr Franck Peron.

He said: “A better understanding of social memory and recognition processes may help us to refine husbandry/management techniques and consequently improve animal welfare. Given that increased social contact between horses is likely to be beneficial in relation to animal welfare there is a need to identify suitable and safe ways to integrate horses together and the use of olfactory cues could be one way to achieve this.

“The results of this study indicate that horses have a social memory that can be based on body odours (lasting for at least 15 minutes), and this may well be a step towards developing an understanding of the cognitive processes that inform the practical issue of how, and when, to introduce horses into social groups.”

Further research is required to investigate how the retention interval and the quality of the sample influence the process and whether the familiarity of odour cues influences resilience of social memory.

The paper ‘Horses (Equus caballus) discriminate body odour cues from conspecifics’ is published in the Journal Animal Cognition DOI 10.1007/s10071-013-0717-9.

Multi-million pound science and innovation park announced

Lincoln is to become home to some of the finest scientific minds and most innovative high-tech businesses in the UK, thanks to ambitious plans announced today (Thursday 2nd August 2012).

The University of Lincoln and Lincolnshire Co-operative are joining forces to transform a disused 10-acre site in the heart of the city into a world-class science and innovation park.

The multi-million pound project will see a substantial plot of land and buildings on Green Lane (off Tritton Road) becoming a hub of science and technology expertise and home to a mix of university and commercial enterprises in what is a first for the city.

Part of the development of the park, which is owned by Lincolnshire Co-op, is the University’s plan to locate its School of Life Sciences and the proposed new School of Pharmacy in Becor House.

Significant refurbishment of this landmark building by the University will create state-of-the-art laboratories and teaching spaces for disciplines such as biology, biomedical science and bioveterinary science.

In addition, the University as the anchor tenant would create spin-out businesses and attract onto the site high-tech companies in the fields of pharmaceutical science and biotechnology as well as other areas of scientific and industrial development and engineering.

Professor Mary Stuart, Vice Chancellor of the University, said: “This is a tremendously exciting step for the University as we strengthen and grow our science provision, and one which will bring massive benefits to the city in terms of employment and inward investment.

“Highly skilled professionals who have previously looked outside Lincolnshire for career opportunities will be attracted to the area or be encouraged to stay, and the potential to bring in new investors and high-tech businesses to boost the local economy is enormous.

“Our shared vision with Lincolnshire Co-operative is to build a vibrant and successful community of knowledge creators and businesses, working together creatively to promote enterprise, employment, investment and education in Lincoln.”

Co-locating academia and commerce will bring benefits for both, and investment in the site by the University and the Co-op could reach £14 million.

There is a range of similar successful projects nationally. Cambridge Science Park was founded in 1970 by Trinity College, Cambridge, and hosts businesses such as Toshiba and Bayer CropScience Ltd.  Biopark, near Welwyn Garden City, features companies working in various fields including the development of oncology drugs, supplying advanced medical equipment and researching new innovations in electronics.

Chief Executive of Lincolnshire Co-op Ursula Lidbetter said: “We think there’s a huge opportunity to turn this underused site into a stimulating place to work and study. It’s an ideal location for a science park as it’s so close to the University campus and Lincoln city centre.

“As a co-operative, we share our profits with our members and their communities and we want to be involved with developments like this which will bring employment opportunities and investment to the city.

“We also run 47 pharmacies across our trading area and are keen to support the proposed new School of Pharmacy. We’ll be able to offer placements to students during their courses, and then potentially job opportunities. Our pharmacists will be able to take advantage of the facilities for their professional development.”

Initial work on the complex will be completed by the end of 2013, with between 1,200 and 1,500 science students based there, along with around 100 academic and research staff.

Professor Andrew Hunter, Pro Vice Chancellor for the University’s College of Science, added: “The University is in the process of recruiting more than 20 new high profile life and pharmaceutical scientists who need access to good laboratories and offices. But alongside the academic spaces will be industrial developments and we will be looking for other organisations to partner with, following a similar model to our highly successful engineering collaboration with Siemens.”

Exciting Revamp of Life Sciences Courses

Students starting life science courses in September, such as biology, biomedical and forensic science, and animal programmes will benefit from an exciting revalidation of their degree programmes.

The new School of Life Sciences was formed in January; bringing together two Schools which had previously focused separately on natural and applied (human) sciences, and biological sciences.

As animal behaviourists and biologists join forces with specialists in chemistry and forensic anthropology, incoming students will be able to benefit from a wider range of optional modules to reflect the breadth of expertise within the School, and learn about areas of science which they otherwise might not have the opportunity to study on their chosen course.

The changes to the Life Sciences programmes were commended during the revalidation process for their involvement in ‘Student as Producer’ as students are offered opportunities for practical engagement with research-active staff. An example of this is the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Scheme, which enabled 1st year students on the BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science to work with a world renowned cancer biochemist within the School to produce a poster at a UK scientific conference and a journal manuscript with undergraduate student authors.

Head of School, Dr Libby John, said: “We are very excited about the changes to our courses. We have a lot of expertise within our School, and are using it to provide all our students with the best advantage. We think giving students the opportunity to choose from a wider range of modules, and the responsibility to be fully engaged in research within the School, provides them with a real opportunity to enter the world of employment with a truly unique, and relevant, degree.”

In addition to the improvements to the Life Sciences courses, the majority of teaching on Bioveterinary Science and Animal Behaviour and Welfare programmes will, from September, be delivered at the Brayford campus, to enable students to benefit from the state-of-the-art science facilities on site. Specialist animal facilities will continue to be available at the Riseholme campus, 4 miles from the main city centre campus.

Changes to courses are subject to final approval.

www.lincoln.ac.uk/lifesciences