UWE Bristol Virtual Science Futures Fair 2022

Posted on

Science Futures is back! The Department of Applied Science welcomes you to our annual Science Futures fair taking place tomorrow (Wednesday 9th February 2020) online. This event brings together students and employers to discuss the diverse, wide range of roles available for life science graduates, internship opportunities, placements and more. Previously (pre-pandemic) Science Futures was held at UWE (see article) but similar to last year we will be online for 2022.

Not to worry, we have a great line up of employers engaging with our students on the virtual platform Handshake.

UWE Bristol Science Futures 2022

What to expect?

Science futures gives you (the student) the chance to ask questions, to learn about the types of roles on offer in different organisations and to ask as many burning questions that you may have about your career in the sciences or any other fields of interest. The attending organisations are sending delegates who understand what is like to be a student and are willing to provide ideas, suggestions and guidance on how you can develop your future plans and your career.

Engaging with Science futures 2022

Which organisations are attending?

We have a great list of organisations attending this year and interacting with students on the Handshake platform. They include

CatSci Ltd award-winning, fast-growing and agile innovation partner with a proven track record in developing economically and environmentally sustainable pharmaceutical manufacturing processes

Cellmark provides wide-ranging, multi-disciplinary DNA and forensic casework services. In the world of forensic analytical services, the company is viewed as an innovator, with a proven international reputation for quality, reliability and service excellence.

Department for Education Get Into Teaching is a free service provided by the Department for Education to give information and advice to those who are looking at a career in teaching. The service provides expert advice and support to prepare a strong application to teacher training.

North Bristol NHS Trust the largest hospital trust in the South West of England, providing hospital and community Medical and dental care covering Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset.

Black Pharma  Social Enterprise with a vision to see greater representation of Black professionals across the Pharmaceutical industry. We provide support for black students, graduates and early career professionals to achieve their career ambitions.

Oncologica® provides precision oncology testing to address the growing demand for molecular profiling of cancer patients for targeted therapies and functions as a Contract Research Organisation to support biomarker and drug development programmes worldwide

SRG are a global STEM recruitment agency. We apply our specialist industry knowledge to the full spectrum of roles and talent solutions

IEMA the professional body for everyone working in environment and sustainability. IEMA supports students looking to pursue a career in the environment and sustainability sector.

Zimmer and Peacock Ltd national and international nanotechnology and biosensing company, that work on making diagnostic measurements for a variety of causes

Keyence UK Ltd world leader in Sensors, Safety, Vision, Measurement and Microscopes. Founded in 1974, Keyence has experienced rapid growth, now turning over more than $5 billion global sales per year operating on over 50% profit due to our Direct Sales model! We have been on Forbes “The World’s Most Innovative Companies” Top 100 for 8 consecutive years and hold over 300,000 clients worldwide including top blue-chip manufacturers.

Do register on Handshake for the full list!

Who can attend?

This event is open to all Department of Applied Science students (undergraduate and postgraduate) including PhD students. It is also open to UWE Applied Sciences alumni. If you are or have studied any applied science courses from the department, this event is for you. The event is also open to staff who would like to engage with the attending organisations to find out more about the opportunities available in industry.

Not sure how to use Handshake?

If you are new to Handshake and not sure what to do, this video will help you sign up and guide you through the process: Handshake video walkthrough – registering and attending fairs

Virtual Job Wall

our colleagues in the careers team have also created a Wall of Work (WoW) with live job opportunities for you to apply for. Do check it out – it has lots of excellent opportunities.

We hope you have a fantastic Science Future 2022 and we look forward to connecting with you at the event

From the Science Futures organising team
To follow our updates, you can connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter. 

Remember, you can also write for us if you have any personal stories to share or any interesting Careers or Employability information.

Scientists should think like designers – Design thinking and the sciences

Posted on

Joseph, one of our team writers, has delivered yet another thought-provoking, inspiring article to help scientists elevate their thinking by thinking like designers. We hope you enjoy the read and challenge your thinking because of it!

Design thinking

I see design all around us, whether it be intentional or accidental, natural or human-made. Design is not limited to gizmos and gadgets, but also systems of organisation and interactions between them, the power structure when you envisage a countries parliament or a CEOs boardroom. None of these are free from the influence of design and this is shown in the Westminster system – a widely exported version of the UKs Parliament and is essentially a process for managing democracy.  

Communication unconsciously utilises design: we highly regard individuals who have the ability to create patterns of language which communicates technical, emotional and spatial information. The formation, structure and material content of communication and also its quality is subject to the influence of design; therefore, in our own way, we have a major influence over the language we create. This is because everything from your laptop screen (or any other device you are reading this on), to the experiments conducted in the worlds research institutions, and the words typed on this page is the subject of, at one point or another, a design methodology.

Photo by Leon from unsplash.


Focusing in on academia, the processes of curiosity demand the highest quality of design as it is essential in order to create data outcomes which can withstand criticism. Therefore, the ways we create experiments, communicate visions and translate data into the real world is influenced by the ability for academics to use good design techniques at every point in the process.

As a second-year biomedical science student, I have learnt to criticise papers that haven’t been kind to the readers or left room for doubt. For me this raised the question: where does poor experimental/ paper design end and bad science begin? Was it the language, experiment, graphical abstract, spelling, use of overly technical language? – these are all things we pick out of each other’s work and rightly so – but could the creators of the science improve their work by employing a form of design methodology? I think they probably could!

Photo by Christa Dodoo from unsplash.

Definitions and uses

I recently discovered the term design thinking. This is the process by which problems are solved by prioritizing the users of the systems needs above all else. It relies on observing, with empathy, how people interact with their environments, and employs an iterative, hands-on approach to creating innovative solutions (Graham Tuttle, 2021). As you can see, from the reference, I borrowed this definition from the WeWork website and modified it to give a more universal definition.

Now design thinking is cool because not only is it applicable to designing products, but also systems of government and everything in between. Therefore, it could, in theory, also be used to design good science and inform good practices within academic communities.

Fundamentally, design thinking is a way of designing around the human experience. There are some great books out there such as Tim Browns ‘Change By Design’ which I highly recommend keeping on hand for reference. This methodology is applicable to academics because it sets out a creative framework with certain guidelines to assure quality communication and quality development, which gives room for experimenting with ideas – all contributing to a quality end product. The obvious application of this in the sciences is in an idea that results in a human interacting product or service. More interestingly, design thinking can be applied within institutions and between scientific peers. This is because it promotes the use of prototypes, rough drawings, mimes and roleplay with a specific focus on quality communication and quality of understanding within the team – and this is a critical precursor to spectacular innovation.

Photo by Daniele Franchi from unsplash.

A new way to think

Thinking like a designer encourages a process called ‘Blue sky thinking’ – where members of the group innovate without the limitations of existing technology or the stiflings of ones own thoughts. This enables free reign when tackling novel problems. Design thinking is powerful because in the ideation stages, before the processes of creation has begun, we are provided with a framework that increases the potency of a group of scientists and their highly reactive mixture of energetic ideas.

Final thoughts

I believe a take-home message of how to apply what is such a broad methodology into each of our behaviours starts with the two following questions:

  • Have I thought about the users and those who will interact with the idea, with regards to what I have planned or will create?
  • Have I collaborated, communicated, innovated and iterated to the best of my ability and used as many mediums as possible to communicate and plan?

Try to think about how colleagues and peers would engage with your ideas – are they accessible? Do they promote innovation and creativity? By asking yourself these two questions throughout the lifetime of a project, I hope you will reap some of the benefits of thinking like a designer.

Please comment some of your thoughts below – do you already employ these ideas? Let us know in the box or by sending us an email.

Thank you for reading.

By Joseph Myatt

Edited by Jessica Griffith

Joseph Myatt

Joseph Myatt, one of our writers, is a 2nd year Biomedical Sciences student at UWE, Founder and entrepreneur at WRENt.

His main field of interest/ research through university and into masters/ PhD is in relation to torpor and improving our understanding of inducing, maintaining and managing torpor and its applications within space flight and medicinal benefits.

From the editor: We love articles that challenge us, especially how we think and Joes article has done just that. Thank you for taking the time to read this and we hope you find ways to employ the nuggets you have just been given to elevate your own scientific practice (this is for students and professionals!).

We always welcome new articles and so hope you will also consider either joining our team or writing an article for us to be featured on our blog. If so and/ or you have any other queries, please get in touch via and also be sure to follow us on social media!

Enjoy the lovely summer weather (for the most part) and see you next time!


Featured image: Photo by Daria Nepriakhina from unsplash.

Reaching Out – Career in Science Communication

Posted on

Piotr Sordyl wrote this article as a summary of the importance of science communication. If you’re looking for an exciting communication career and are passionate about science – reading this article could spark the next step for you! Enjoy the read.

Encountering Science Communication

The first time I encountered the idea of Science Communication was through wonderful books authored by Carl Sagan, an American scientist in the field of astronomy, an author, and a great science communicator. Through the explorations of tantalising topics and fascinating presentation of many reflection-inducing thoughts, his books sparked my interest in science and pursuit of the unknown. They also allowed me to realise how much the popularisation of science is needed in our world. By doing this, society—or more specifically, every person— would have access to and a better understanding of the vast pool of knowledge that discipline of thought unlocks for humankind, influencing and altering every aspect of our lives.

Science Communication is one of the non-traditional career paths open to an individual interested and passionate about science. Last year December, Andy Ridgway, who worked as a science journalist (and still writes) and is currently a Senior lecturer for MSc Science Communication/PgDip at the University of the West of England (UWE) Bristol, hosted one of the DAS monthly employability seminars ‘Careers in science communication’ with guest Sophie Pavelle, a Campaign and Communications Coordinator for the Beaver Trust, Freelance Science Communicator and UWE alumni (graduate of MSc Science Communication). They both spoke about their experiences, the nature of Science Communication and steps worth taking in the pursuit of such a career.

Photo by Galen Crout from unslpash.

What it’s all about

What does Science Communication entail? As the name suggests, it focuses on communicating the science to the general public that are not experts themselves and have varied levels of understanding, helping make science approachable and comprehensible. Andy broadly summarized it as a science that is not published in scientific journals, but instead in magazines (e.g. New Scientist), or presented in shows, festivals, television, podcasts (e.g. SETI Institute’s Big Picture Science, or for the promotion of STEM). He also spoke of the important shift in paradigm in recent decades from simply reporting research to society to an increased engagement and dialog between the two – producing an exchange of knowledge and ideas.

A more open attitude in communication between science and society can lead to more people experiencing science and have a more informed view on it. Misinformation and misrepresentation of facts often lead to confusion, fear, and rejection of what is unknown or poorly understood. As science technology evolves, a reliable communication platform between science and society needs to be well established now more than ever. It is important that the ethical issues of how to best implement current and future discoveries, and if at all, is discussed on a societal level aswell.

Photo by Shahadat Rahman from unsplash.

What to expect

What can you do to become a Science Communicator? There is no one, simple answer to such a question, however, there are certain steps that you may wish to consider. The simplest would be to read a lot, as it will potentially lead to new discoveries and improve your vocabulary, style, and intuition of your own writing. Another step (suggested by Andy), is creating your own blog, allowing you to practice and develop your own skill whilst making your work available for others to read. Even if the blog is not on the matter of science, it allows you to show off your passion for a given topic and your writing capability.

You may also consider joining one of the many UWE blogs, such as this one, and write content for them. Alternatively, if you would like to author an article for a magazine, there is an opportunity to write for the departmental publication called Science Matters. If you are interested in this, email Andy (contact details below) and he will add your name to the writers list – you will be assigned a topic, which involves interviewing a researcher (a staff member or postgraduate student) and writing about it.

Photo by Headway from unsplash.

The Journey

Sophie shared her experiences of uncertainty along her own journey to where she is now. Her words can bring a little bit of solace to those who are worried about not having a set path yet: “There is beauty in not having a plan.”. I share that sentiment, and I wholeheartedly recommend you seek, explore and gain experiences, as all of them can lead you to discovering your life’s greatest passions, and discovering what makes you happy.

Nowadays, it is an advantage, often even a requirement, to have work experience — which can be daunting someone new to the job market. Sophie helpfully shared a few tips regarding how to search for a placement opportunity: make a list of your interests; google it; speak to people you know and including those who are (or might) be doing a placement and compare your experiences; keep your CV clear to read with highlights of what you have accomplished; and reach out to the organizations you are interested in working for by sending confident yet concise emails.

Another value in work experience pointed out by Sophie is that you can take that opportunity to see what you are good at, what you might like to do as a job, and what you might not. It is as valuable to quit something after five minutes, as it is to have a completed work experience—some places are right for us and some are not, and we can only benefit from paying attention to how they make us feel.

Photo by Felipe Furtado from unsplah.

Moving Forward

Yet another step you can take towards a career in Science Communication are further studies, such as MSc in Science Communication. Sophie (graduate) spoke highly of the course, emphasizing it as practical, non-lab based and highly creative.

Andy pointed out that UWE is one of the few universities in the UK that has a dedicated group of academics who research into Science Communication but also practice it as well, for example the Science for Environment Policy newsletter that goes across Europe (aimed at policy makers). The Science Communication unit at UWE is also involved in the RETHINK Project, which considers how science is communicated online, who does it, in what way, and how the information provided is perceived by its readers.

Photo by Wonderlane from unsplash.

Final Thoughts

Science Communication is an important part of science, especially since it serves as a spokesperson for the sciences in its interactions with the public. It also very importantly fulfils the role of a trusted friend and confidant — it listens to the worries and hesitations of the public and is responsible for relaying truthful and reliable information.

In the times like ours, when we face issues globally, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate and biodiversity crisis; Science Communication is essential to enable informed action and positive change in the right direction, to create a strong link between science and society (conversing as two respectful partners, without condescension, or fear), and to emphasize dependencies between the state of the natural world and condition of humankind. These are all great challenges for the new generation of Science Communicators to tackle.

To write for Science Matters, contact Andy Ridgway: Andy.Ridgway@uwe.ac.uk

Thank you for reading.

Written by Piotr Sordyl

Hello, my name is Piotr (I can assure you it is not as difficult to pronounce as it may seem) and I am a mature, international student on Foundation Year Biological Sciences course. I am originally from Poland, however, Bristol has been my home for over 7 years now (which sometimes makes me stagger when asked where I am from).

I take great pleasure in weaving tales, and so I have been writing and working on ideas for novels. I am interested in neuroscience, zoology, astrobiology, planetary science, to name a few and I intend to use the knowledge gained through my studies to write books, popularizing it to a wider audience.

I run roleplay games sessions for my friends, collaboratively telling stories that become alive in our shared imagination. I am also an aspiring violinist, learning how to take my first steps.

From the editors: Wow. We hope you are as inspired about the reach and potential of science communication as you are! Piotr shared so many nuggets from the DAS Monthly Employability seminar and we hope that you take this on in your pursuit of curiosity into the sciences.

As always, we welcome articles and contributions from everyone who has a story to tell and a question they would like to be answered through this blog platform. Please get in touch via email – ScienceFutures@uwe.ac.uk. Also connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter

Meet our ever-growing blog team!

Posted on

In this article, we are showcasing our blog team. Run by Dr. Emmanuel Adukwu (Editor) and Jessica Griffith (Associate Editor), we formally introduce the members of the DAS Employability blog team. You may have seen or read articles from some of our writers previously, this time, you get to find out more about the writers. Be inspired! We all are inspired by each other and we hope you are too!

Our Writers

Joseph Myatt

Biomedical Science Undergraduate at UWE; Founder and Entrepreneur at WRENT

Hi readers of the DAS Blog, in what has been a rather interesting past two years, it has never been more important to focus on the future. I believe it is our responsibility to push our collective and individual envelopes of knowledge. Therefore, I foresee my future scribblings focusing on self-development in relation to employability within the sciences.

I am first and foremost a biological sciences student, however, my entrepreneurial journey actively exposes me to experiences I believe are worth sharing on this platform; lessons from business are highly relevant to the sciences. I hope you all continue to tune in to this Blog and find the content stirs your own interests, curiosities and provides meaningful advice that resonates with you.

Piotr Sordyl

International student on Foundation Year Biological Sciences at UWE Bristol

Hello, my name is Piotr (I can assure you it is not as difficult to pronounce as it may seem) and I am a mature, international student on Foundation Year Biological Sciences course. I am originally from Poland, however, Bristol has been my home for over 7 years now (which sometimes makes me stagger when asked where I am from).

I take great pleasure in weaving tales, and so I have been writing and working on ideas for novels. I am interested in neuroscience, zoology, astrobiology, planetary science, to name a few and I intend to use the knowledge gained through my studies to write books, popularizing it to a wider audience.

I run roleplay games sessions for my friends, collaboratively telling stories that become alive in our shared imagination. I am also an aspiring violinist, learning how to take my first steps.

Sophie Harris

Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Science degree, Creator and President of the Wildlife & Environment Society at UWE Bristol

Sophie is in her third and final year at the University of the West of England studying Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Science. She is the creator of Peculiar Pangolins, a blog dedicated to all things pangolins related as well as running a wildlife dedicate Instagram page.

Whilst on a six-month internship monitoring wildlife on a game reserve in South Africa, she fell in love with the world’s most trafficked mammal, the pangolin. After being fortunate enough to see one in the wild, she decided to apply to university, to help these illusive creatures. She was also the creator and President of the Wildlife & Environment Society in her my first and second years.

In Sophie’s spare time she can be found in nature reserves, mostly looking for birds to add to her list, or climbing, either indoors or out, depending on the weather.

Isabela Rodrgiuez

Biomedical Science at UWE Bristol; Online nutrition coach at Happyhealthyizzy

Hi, my name is Isabela (Izzy) and I am currently in my 3rd year at UWE Bristol studying Biomedical Science. I intend to study post-graduate medicine after my degree to eventually become a doctor. Because of this, I have been going through the application process and I think it would be great to share this experience to any wannabe med-students.

Last year, I set up an online nutrition coaching business which has become very rewarding; I also love the perks of being self-employed as it fits around university life very easily. I would like to share my story of setting up a business during the pandemic and try to inspire others to do so as a result. I’m a big believer in being ambitious and that you can do anything you put your mind to. In my free time, I enjoy triathlon training and I’m part of the UWE athletics and cross-country club, and the cycling club which I find is a great stress reliever.

The DAS Editorial Team

Jessica Griffith

Health Protection Practitioner at Public Health England South West; Associate Editor for the DAS Employability Blog at UWE Bristol

Hi all! As Associate Editor for this blog platform, I have thoroughly enjoyed writing and editing blog articles for this platform alongside Dr Emmanuel and other writers for over a year now. I am a recent master’s graduate of MSc Public Health and work as a Health Protection Practitioner for Public Health England and as an Associate Editor for the DAS Employability Blog.

I have been involved in many extra-curricular activities during my years at university including Africa Week, Fashion and Health Conference, radio guest appearances and my very own event which I co-organized and co-hosted: ‘My Fro and Me’, a Black History Month Event with the Student’s Union at UWE.
Over the years, I have developed various skills from having undertaken leadership (co-organizer, panel chair and PAL leader) and voluntary (student ambassador, panellist, mentorship) roles. My interests are in health improvement and the arts.

I hope you enjoy reading our articles and are inspired by what you see!

Emmanuel Adukwu

Interim Deputy Head of Department; Trustee (SFAM); Co-Founder, Blogger & Editor, Aspiring Professionals Hub (APH)

Starting a blog platform is not the most difficult part. Creating ideas, producing content and maintaining the platform is where the challenge is. As the Editor of the Applied Sciences Employability Blog, I am incredibly proud to see the development of the blog and the new path we are taking with a new team of fantastic student writers and of course our Associate Editor, Jessica Griffith.

This blog showcases some of the amazing work staff within the Department of Applied Sciences are undertaking to enable career successes for our students. Our programme and module teams supported by the employability coordinator and programme champions are constantly looking at innovative ways to prepare students for life beyond the degree. Our colleagues in the careers service are constantly creating opportunities that get our students noticed and hired.

I am also the co-creator of a widely read blog platform Aspiring Professionals Hub (APH) with readership in >180 countries. We have been active for many years and have writers from across the globe and we are on different social media platforms. In my day time, I am an academic and researcher in the department (DAS) where I lead my own research group addressing important scientific questions around antimicrobial resistance, novel antimicrobial compounds and preventing infections caused by pathogenic and infectious microorganisms. When I get some down time, I enjoy reading all sorts and I transcend into a creative writing space where I produce writing that gives me life.

Written by Dr. Emmanuel Adukwu, Jessica Griffith, Joseph Myatt, Piotr Sordyl, Sophie Harris and Isabela Rodrgiuez

Edited by Jessica Griffith and Dr. Emmanuel Adukwu

Note from the editors: The DAS Employability blog is an inclusive platform. We welcome articles and contributions from everyone who has a story to tell and a question they would like to be answered.

All we need you to do, is engage with us, send us articles and help us grow this platform. We look forward to enabling the development of our students, staff, alumni and a much wider community of readers. Do get in touch via email – ScienceFutures@uwe.ac.uk. Also connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter

Thank you for reading!!

Onward and Upward – Making Progress Through COVID-19 Confinement

Posted on

Grace Russell, an alumni at UWE Bristol, has written an inspiring, motivating blog article. This article endeavours to spark you into getting your own career life on track and achieving what you want by making the most out of what you have and taking new opportunities as they come! Enjoy the read. 

An introduction  

Hi, I’m Grace, a recent graduate from the Biomedical Science Master’s (MSci) programme at UWE. I’m writing this blog as I have taken an unconventional path into my career as an academic.  

During the 4-year programme, I adapted to university life by becoming involved with my subject, the tutors, the technicians and administration staff alike, and poured a lot of energy into it. I became a student representative, founder of an academic society, landed two Summer internships, and produced a series of magazines. Sounds like a lot, looking back on it I can only admit that I am an ambitious person. I like to be busy, and I’m curious, not a ‘whodunnit’, but a ‘what does this do, and what does that do’ kind of person. 

Photo by Ian Schneider from unsplash

The process 

I was fortunate to find a great supervisor in Professor John Hancock, who mentored me through my undergraduate projects and instinctively knew how to tap into my potential and reveal the budding scientist within me. The great working rapport led to my first publication in the journal ‘Reactive Oxygen Species’. To my surprise, we made the front cover! To put this into context, I didn’t just ‘off-the-cuff’ write an article. I was taught how.  

The first Summer internship programme I did involved an 8-week investigation into biologically-active turmeric metabolites. It truly was an insight into how research is applied to business and commerce that we see in everyday life (FYI – I was a second-year undergrad and I had no idea what a career in research could look like). But, possibly the more valuable lesson I learned was how to conduct a professional and systematic review. This skill directly led to my first publication, which coincidentally was achieved through my second internship, directly funded and supported by the university and its staff. 

As you can imagine, I was chuffed at having my article accepted for publication; I wanted the world to see it. I recalled a seminar by Dr. Emmanuel Adukwu in my first year, who described how important it was to promote yourself and your work when building your career. The platform that stuck in my mind and seemed perfect for this purpose was ResearchGate. And so, I uploaded my paper onto here. 

Photo by Markus Winkler from unsplash

Making the most of everything 

Time went on and I completed the laboratory projects required for my qualifications. Then COVID-19 struck. I was nearing the end of the MSci course and thankfully had uploaded the work that was needed to complete the degree. Nevertheless, it was still an unnerving time – with COVID, everything was delayed. It was during this unstable time, that Prof. Hancock asked whether I’d like to write a review focussed on the potential benefits of hydrogen therapy for people suffering with COVID-19 symptoms. It was an extension to the project work; it was timely and interesting – and I said yes.

After 8-weeks of intensive study, meticulous planning and wide-reaching collaboration between colleagues in Pakistan, the UK and the US, our review on the effects of molecular hydrogen and how it could be implemented as a treatment for COVID-19 was accepted for publication – note: use the folks you have at your disposal – they genuinely want to help. 

Photo by Angela Compagnone from unsplash

Moving forward 

The third paper is a bit of a blur to be honest. As I had been working on the effect of hydrogen on the activity dehydrogenase enzymes in nematodes, my supervisor asked if I would like to contribute to an article, he and a colleague were putting together for a journal called ‘Plants’. I had little to do at this point as we were all in lockdown, so I said yes. My supervisor (Professor Hancock) had the idea and the contacts in the realm of publishing, whilst I and the other authors all contributed to the writing and editing of the piece. I now have access to the editorial teams of two international journals and can confidently approach them, developing my professional network and building my profile as a respected academic in my chosen field of study. 

Once each article had been accepted for publication, I again uploaded them onto ResearchGate; this proved to be a great decision. Not only have thousands of people worldwide read our work, but it inspired a company director to contact me and ask whether I would be willing to work alongside their team with a view to carrying out the research they needed to validate their device as a medical product.  After a few online meetings, we agreed on a plan of action that included PhD funding. Letters of intent have been sent, and I’m working on extra funding applications. It’s a busy time. Throughout the current restrictions, I am keeping myself engaged with research by working evenings and weekends, and I now have two further papers in the final stages of editing. The next step is to submit the final manuscripts for peer-review.  

Photo by Susan Yin from unsplash

Onward and upward! 

It’s now a year since COVID-19 first hit the news. What a difficult time it has been for us all. Having secured a part-time position in retail before lockdown two, I have been able to continue my research whilst also maintaining a modicum of financial security through these testing times. By purposefully staying at home, I have had the opportunity to focus on academic study and the emerging role of molecular hydrogen in cellular systems. I have continued to liaise with a company who would like to sponsor further research in this area, and we are at the final editing stage of our first collaborative review (link below). This is really exciting as this field of research is in its infancy, with only a handful of researchers working on this subject globally, and thus our efforts are genuinely contributing to the advancement of medical science. 

I’ve also been accredited by the Molecular Hydrogen Institute as an advisor, and hope to complete the consultancy exam in the near future. And, as I’ve had an awful lot of time being at home, I have authored two more articles recently that are in the final stages of editing and due to be submitted this month. Whilst continued collaboration with both international and business colleagues has allowed me to co-author two more publications, I am currently undergoing the peer-review process.  

Finally, what does the future look like? Lambert Academic Publishing have offered to publish my first book, and I have been asked to present on stage at the Med-Tech International Conference in September. Here’s to better and brighter times ahead!

Photo by Damian Park Kim from unsplash

Final note 

The future is yours and you have the power to shape it.

For me, an important part of growing as an academic, a business woman and a scientist, is to find a subject that makes you ask questions. Connect with people who inspire you, ask them if they have the answers to your questions, be inquisitive, and be bold. In my experience, this opens doors.

Continue believing in your dreams and give them strength in a world that was built to challenge you.  

Thanks for reading.  

Please find the links to our journal articles below. 

First author:

Is glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase a central redox mediator? By Russell, Grace; Veal, David; Hancock, John T.

An overview of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) infection and the importance of molecular hydrogen as an adjunctive therapy By Russell, G., Rehman, M., LeBaron, T. W., Veal, D., Adukwu, E., & Hancock, J. (2020).

Hydrogenases and the Role of Molecular Hydrogen in Plants By Grace Russell, Faisal Zulfiqar and John T. Hancock.


Herbal Teas and their Health Benefits: A Scoping Review By Fatima S Poswal, Grace Russell, Marion Mackonochie, Euan MacLennan, Emmanuel C Adukwu, Vivien Rolfe.

You can keep up with my research or contact me on here

Written by Grace Russell 

Grace graduated from UWE in 2020 with distinction after studying Biomedical Science (Msci) for a total of four years. She lives and works in Somerset, UK, where she has set up her own company – Avalon Research Consultancy Ltd, providing editing, manuscript formatting and proofreading and publication services. 

Grace’s research interests include natural and sustainable healthcare products, including the new and emerging medical gases, molecular and oxy-hydrogen. Much of her academic focus has involved investigating the molecular mechanisms and downstream cellular effects associated both culinary herbs and the aforementioned gaseous compounds. 

Currently, like most people, Grace is waiting for the world to open up again, before she can fulfill her next goal, gaining a PhD. 

From the editors: Wow. What a great read! It is so inspiring and challenging (in a positive way, of course) to see someone doing so well, especially during such difficult times! It is a real testament to the fact that persistence and passion will take you a long way and it’s great to hear Grace’s journey since graduating from UWE. We hope you are also bursting to get your career rolling and your dreams fulfilled as the only one you need to get on board is yourself. 

We are eager to have more contributors so please do get in touch if you have an article you would like to release (like Grace has) or join our team of writers. Interested? Please get in touch via email – ScienceFutures@uwe.ac.uk. Also connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter

Enjoy the new month of February!  

Until next time, keep well and stay safe. 

How to Grow During Difficult Circumstances part 2: Career Chasers

Posted on

Sophie Harris, one of our writers, wrote this article as a great reminder to realign ourselves with our desire to have a career we love by seeking continuous growth, even during difficult circumstances. We hope that as you read this article you begin to see that opportunities are still accessible to you, all you have to do is take the first step and be persistent and committed to your growth. By actively growing yourself in whatever field you desire to be in, you will surely achieve the career of your dreams.


There is no doubt that for the majority of people, 2020 was a tough year. For students, many have had their summer plans scuppered, placements cancelled, and have had to make tough decisions about whether to start or return to courses that are almost completely virtual or defer a year. However, through the doom and gloom, there is one way to keep yourselves progressing that has been made easier by the pandemic.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop from unsplah

A changing world?

Many organisations have switched to virtual events such as webinars, conferences, and courses. These courses tend to be free or subsidised and are broadcasting across the world. This global pandemic appears to have made science a lot more accessible to professionals and enthusiasts, no matter their location. This is being driven by a common understanding – money is tight right now and so, many of these events simply ask for a ‘pay what you can’ situation, which is perfect for students or those on a tight budget. Not only are people paying less (or nothing) to attend these events, but the other costs associated with them are eliminated as well. For example, you do not have to pay for transport, food, or accommodation, allowing you to save those precious pennies for when you can physically attend.

Another positive of having virtual events is that you aren’t limited by location; you can access talks from all over the world. For many people, especially students, travelling to events in your own country, let alone across the globe can prove to be a huge challenge with regards to time and money. Instead of having to take a day off work or miss something else important, virtual events allow you to access proceedings that you have always wanted to attend, from the comfort of your own home. Furthermore, most events are being recorded; this means you do not have to miss out on events that might otherwise clash with your schedule. This is especially useful when it comes to time zones, as you would not, for example, have to miss out on precious sleep to watch a talk in New Zealand! Instead, you can press play whenever it is convenient for you.

Photo by Jing Xi Lau from unsplash

Opportunities in a crisis

Although having virtual events will never feel the same as being there in person, it should not hinder your networking ability. There are often Q&As after sessions where you can ask your burning questions. Furthermore, you can always reach out to people of interest via emails or connect with them on social media platforms (Twitter and LinkedIn to name a few). This could actually expand your network as it is easy to connect with experts from around the globe. There is no pressure to get a word in edgeways at a conference when everyone is swarming guest speakers with questions – asking for advice, or explaining their work to them. Instead, you have time to think about what you are going to say and construct it carefully, making sure you can get your point across in a professional way.

Photo by Pope Moysuh from unsplash

Final thoughts

So, while the pandemic has brought a lot of isolation and misery, especially during winter, there is still hope for your professional growth. Don’t forget there are still opportunities to get extra qualifications/ certificates on your CV, meet new people, and quench your thirst for knowledge. If you need motivation, attending virtual events may be the perfect place to reinvigorate yourself on a cold January evening. Use these events to progress your CV and yourself, grow your network and your knowledge, and when the world returns back to its busy state, you can look back and know that you used your time to the best of your ability, and took advantage of the nuggets of opportunity the pandemic had to offer.

Photo by Nanxi wei from unsplash

Thank you for reading!

Written by Sophie Harris

Sophie is in her third and final year at the University of the West of England studying Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Science. She is the creator of Peculiar Pangolins, a blog dedicated to all things pangolins related and has been invited to Uganda to see Chester Zoo’s Giant Ground Pangolin project.

Whilst on a six-month internship monitoring wildlife on a game reserve in South Africa, she fell in love with the world’s most trafficked mammal, the pangolin. After being fortunate enough to see one in the wild, she decided to apply to university, to help these illusive creatures. She was also the creator and President of the Wildlife & Environment Society in my first and second years.

In Sophie’s spare time she can be found in nature reserves, mostly looking for birds to add to her list, or climbing, either indoors or out, depending on the weather.

From the editors: It’s a new year and one of the perfect times to realign yourself, get yourself and your career stirred up again and this blog article is a great reminder of that. We hope you enjoyed the read as much as we did!

We are keen to have more contributions to the blog about careers in the Sciences and STEM. If you are interested, please do get in touch via email – ScienceFutures@uwe.ac.uk. Also connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter!

Take care and stay safe.

How to Grow During Difficult Circumstances part 1: Health and Wellbeing

Posted on

This blog article has been written by Jessica Griffith, encouraging us to seek continuous growth, even during difficult circumstances. 2020 definitely threw a number of curveballs at us and we did well to make it through! However, if we are to keep pressing forward in this new year, we need to make sure we are growing in all aspects of our lives, health and wellbeing in particular. The first part of this article therefore will explore your health and wellbeing, focusing on good physical and mental health practices. Enjoy and put the following tips into practice so that you can enjoy this year to the fullest.

‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’

World Health Organization

Physical health

Staying healthy is a good thing, it helps us to be our best, most productive selves and is something we can all strive towards and achieve.

Image rom Healthy Mind In A Healthy Body by Maria Urban

1) Eat right

We all know that we should eat right (and exercise) but sometimes we don’t for various reasons; whether we don’t feel like it, regard it as being important or believe that it actually helps us.

But, here are some things you should consider:

  • Remember why. Healthy eating is an important aspect of taking care of yourself and can help you feel happier and have a clearer mind
  • Now is a good time to start. With the extra time you have found you can explore the internet for advice on how to obtain a healthy, delicious balanced diet
  • It’s achievable. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be stressful. Simple start by getting some advice (especially from people and free online resources) that can guide you through this process so you can start to start and maintain healthy eating

Finally, don’t forget to drink water AND other healthy drinks for hydration in all seasons 😉

2) Stay fit!

Just as important as healthy eating is exercise! This will help you keep fit, feeling good and it is a great way to be productive.

The benefits of staying fit:

  • It can be fun! Be creative in the exercise you do, making sure to do the ones you enjoy the most and make your body feel its best so you are more likely to stick to it
  • It’s flexible. Exercise comes in all forms, shapes and sizes – from indoor workouts in your living room to going for a run or walk in nature. Going outdoors is a great one as we all need fresh air regularly (social distancing of course!)
  • Every little helps. Busy or not, doing just some exercise regularly will help you feel better. If you haven’t worked out for a long time, it is recommended that you start at beginner level and then gradually increase the intensity and frequency of your workouts over time.

By starting with what works for you, over-time you will see yourself improve. As you stay fit (and fresh from having good hygiene practices) it will help keep your spirits up during this time.

Mental health

This by far is one of the most important parts of having good health and wellbeing, and I’m sure you can agree on this based on what you may have seen or experienced during this lockdown. Taking care of your mind will help you to have better days and enjoy life even times get tough.

Image from AI’s Potential to Diagnose and Treat Mental Illness by Parie Garg and Sam Glick

1) Stay connected

Many companies have been advertising and posting on social media about ‘staying connected’ to help you stay mentally healthy. We all need each other and so let’s all make an effort by reaching out, being there for people (friends, family, colleagues) through messages, phone and video calls. Even though we are emerging from lockdown, is can still be useful to stay in constant communication, especially with those that are further away from us. In doing so, we are building and strengthening our support networks and improving our own mental health in the process; it’s a win-win situation!

2) Take out time for your self

In all that you are currently and planning to do, make sure you carve out some time for yourself. Some of us have been, doing university work, starting online courses, working on projects and other things that have been keeping us productive during this time. But, alongside all of this, I encourage you to give yourself some ‘me time’. Loving yourself in this way will help you to keep helping others; afterall, you can only take care of others as well as you take care of yourself.

“Loving yourself isn’t vanity. It’s sanity.”

Katrina Mayer

The importance of ‘Me-time’:

  • It’s unique to you. Your ‘me time’ will look different to that of others, but the key is to do something for yourself during the week. This time could be enjoying a movie, tv series, book, or sitting in the garden – just something (or a combination of things) that helps you to relax
  • It gives you time to recharge. This self-treatment should be done regularly – the best practice is every evening and weekly as a day-off

It is also important to highlight that whilst you need to stay up to date with the news on the pandemic and justice movements happening, don’t overwhelm yourself. Always balance your day with positive and negative content that is relevant to you.

The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word “crisis”. One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger – but recognize the opportunity.

John F. Kennedy

Final thoughts

For many, these things will be like having a fresh start. Whilst the storms of the world continue whirling all around us, it is important to keep yourself grounded so you don’t get lost in everything that’s happening. Making time to break from old bad habits by making new ones can help you to keep striving forward to a better future that we all look towards. We believe that as you take the time to make these changes, you will cultivate a better, more balanced life.

Always take care of yourself and stay connected; this is not just for lockdown (or whatever restrictions we are currently facing) but for you to keep doing throughout your lifetime. Choose to see the good in all circumstances. Doing these things will help you to endure life’s tough storms, especially these current ones. Let’s all strive to feel and be better!

Image from 5 Ways to Wellbeing MK by Milton Keynes Council

Thank you for reading! If you have any tips on how you have been trying to stay well during quarantine, please share them in the comments below so we can all benefit. Also, stay tuned for pt. 2 as we explore the topic of self-development and career goals – let’s be ready for it.

Written by Jessica Griffith

Jessica is a recent master’s graduate of MSc Public Health and works as a Health Protection Practitioner for Public Health England and as an Associate Editor for the DAS Employability Blog. She has been involved in many extra-curricular activities during her years at university including Africa Week, Fashion and Health Conference, radio guest appearances and her very own event which she co-organized and co-hosted: ‘My Fro and Me’, a Black History Month Event with the Student’s Union at UWE. Over the years she has developed various skills from having undertaken leadership (co-organizer, panel chair and PAL leader) and voluntary (student ambassador, panellist, mentorship) roles. Her interests are in health improvement and beauty.

Edited by Emmanuel Adukwu and Jessica Griffith

From the editors: Growth will help us achieve our goals and taking care of our health and wellbeing is a key part of it. These aren’t just 2021 goals; they’re lifestyle goals. We hope this article reminds you of the importance of taking care of yourself, especially during such challenging times, and nudges you into action as you begin to cultivate a balanced life that you enjoy. Remember: “Loving yourself isn’t vanity. It’s sanity.” – Katrina Mayer

We welcome contributions from staff, students and anyone who would like to contribute to our content about careers in the Sciences and STEM. If you are interested, get in touch via email – ScienceFutures@uwe.ac.uk. Do also connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter! We hope you enjoyed this read and look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

Rest, Reflect and Grow

Posted on

As the Christmas season is upon us, Jessica Griffith wrote this article to encourage and inspire you to not only enjoy this season but to reflect, grow and prepare for the next as we enter the New Year, 2021. This year has been a rollercoaster (with many unexpected dips) but nonetheless, the decision to make the most out of everything we have and achieve our dreams is always down to us. I hope you pick up some pointers that will not only help you during this season but also help carry you through this upcoming year.


“A car cannot last without fuel. Neither can we without rest.”

Jessica Griffith

Christmas is the time of year where everything in our lives can get quiet. With this, it brings the opportunity to sing about the things that matter the most to us at the top of our lungs as doors are closed, work pauses and we can enjoy some peace and quiet (for the most part). It is a time where, when done intentionally and properly, we can rest and enjoy the fruits of our labour. Considering the year we have just had, this is especially appropriate. I don’t know about you but I could definitely do with some down time!

Rest is something we don’t often get enough of – usually because we don’t think we need it or don’t value its importance. But I’m here to gently nugde you in the direction of slowing everything down, to sit back and relax. Whatever this looks like for you – sleeping, catching up with loved ones, going for a long walk round the block to see Christmas lights, watching your favourite Christmas movies or reading a classic (non work related) book – or a combination of these things – make sure you do it! Let (or make) everything quieten down so you can truly enjoy a time of rest – whatever you have done this year – you deserve it and need it.

Photo by Sincerely Media from unsplash.


“The more reflective you are, the more effective you are.”

Pete Hall & Alisa Simoral

Where are you now?

2020 has been full of (often unwelcomed) surprises. But, instead of ignoring this or trying to forget some of the hardships that came with it, I encourage all of us to reflect upon all that has happened and what this means for our lives. We can argue that many things are out of our control and this often leaves us feeling overwhelmed and discouraged to do anything at all. Rather than leaving these emotions in the background of our minds/ lives and running with them into 2021, let’s endeavour to look reflect. It is through this process that we can get a good look at all of it, identify what has and hasn’t gone well, what we can and can’t control and thus what we can do to look forward to a brighter 2021 for our own lives and those around us.

Where do you want to be?

Many of us know about GOAL setting and if you haven’t already, now is a good time to start doing that! Whether you need a word document, vision board or accountability partner, do all you can to make sure that you plan what you want your 2021 year to look like and start putting that plan into action now.

As we know, it is those who plan and act who succeed. Now, this doesn’t mean there won’t be some bumps in the road (we are still in a pandemic afterall) and some things are out of or control, but trying is always better than nothing at all (nothing = nothing as we know!). Plan, take action, reflect continously, adjust and you will find yourself stepping closer and closer to achieving your goals.

Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin from unsplash.


“Flowers grow out of dark moments.”

Corita Kent

A key part of growth is reflection. Once you have done this, you have now given yourself the opportunity to improve your life (and others) by taking action on the lessons you have learnt. As I mentioned, there are many things we cannot control (especially in a pandemic) but let us not forget or undermine the things we can change.

Many of us have maybe given up on GOALs or are waiting until certain things happen to enjoy our lives (such as COVD-19 and every strain it brings disappearing off the face of the earth – we can all agree this would be a great start!). But, I encourage you to take up your pens, open up your laptops and try again. Why? Because we never get the time back that we have now. When time goes, its gone, and we are painfully reminded of this every year when we reflect on what we did or did not accomplish that year. Some things didn’t happen this year that you couldn’t help and that’s okay. What isn’t okay (in terms of moving forward in your life), is stopping there, not doing anything to try and make the most of our lives whilst we still have it. Am I happy with my life right now? How can I enjoy the rest of the year? What can I do now to prepare for 2021? These are some key questions to get you onto and continuing down the road to achieving your dreams, whatever they are for you.

Photo by Andrew Seaman from unsplash.

Final thoughts

“You never fail until you give up.”

Jackie Law

As this year comes to a close, I don’t want to remain the level I am at and I’m sure you don’t either. I hope this article has encouraged you to move forward as best as you can, to take each challenge as it comes and keep pressing forward. I believe this is how we will truly enjoy our lives, no matter what the circumstances and season we are in. So go on, rest, reflect and grow. When you look back at the end of 2021, you will be happy that you kept on going and what you accomplished because of it.

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi from unsplah.

Written by Jessica Griffith

Jessica is a recent master’s graduate of MSc Public Health and works as a Health Protection Practitioner for Public Health England and as an Associate Editor for the DAS Employability Blog. She has been involved in many extra-curricular activities during her years at university including Africa Week, Fashion and Health Conference, radio guest appearances and her very own event which she co-organized and co-hosted: ‘My Fro and Me’, a Black History Month Event with the Student’s Union at UWE. Over the years she has developed various skills from having undertaken leadership (co-organizer, panel chair and PAL leader) and voluntary (student ambassador, panellist, mentorship) roles. Her interests are in health improvement and beauty.

Thank you for reading!

From the editors: Now is the perfect time for a restart and this blog article is a great reminder or that. No matter how you feel about 2020 or how you are thinking towards 2021, don’t forget that there are many decisions you can make and going after your dreams and not giving up should be the ones you should be making. Stir up your resolve and start again! As always, we welcome contributions from staff, students and anyone who would like to contribute to our content about careers in the Sciences and STEM. If you are interested, get in touch via email – ScienceFutures@uwe.ac.uk. Do also connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter! We hope you enjoyed this read and look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! 2021 is just up ahead 😀

Be a Leader in Your Own Life

Posted on

Piotr Sordyl has written an excellent summary of the Equity programme launch event. Beyond being a great summary, Piotr has highlighted the key things that we all need to know to thrive as a leader, be it personal or business. We hope you enjoy this read and are inspired by the excellent, diverse role models in our community. From this thought-provoking article, we encourage you to aspire to make your own difference in your own community and field of choice.

The Launch

I spent my Thursday evening (22.10.20) attending an Equity Programme 2020 launch event ‘Owning Your Leadership Journey’. I was led by curiosity, wanting to discover what it was about, and little did I know I would become so inspired to write the blog entry you are reading now.

Equity is a positive action programme run at University of the West of England (UWE) and it provides support to assist in facing and overcoming challenges stemming from disadvantages and obstacles, providing both personal and professional development opportunities for Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students.

Dr Joanna Abeyie MBE,Founder of Blue Moon consultancy, opened the event by sharing reflections on her personal journey so far. She emphasized the importance of being proactive and how sizing the initiative enabled her to overcome challenges related to family difficulties, socio-economic background and gaining work experience. In effect, she created many initiatives, such as a mentoring programme ‘Magnet,’ ‘Hyden’ brand, and finally, her current consultancy ‘Blue Moon,’ which overall have helped over 3,000 to find employment.

Photo by Tobias Tullius from unsplash

The Panel

Soon after, Professor Paul Olomolaiye invited the panel of four speakers to the conversation by echoing quintessence of Joanna’s words, which could be considered fundamental qualities of sound leadership: trust yourself, create your own opportunities, acknowledge that you are not meant to be perfect, and, most of all, be kind.

Another speaker, Cllr Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor at Bristol City Council, began the story of her journey reflecting on the necessity to step up to help at home after her mother had died during her childhood. She engaged in community activism early on, and before she became an ‘accidental politician’—as Cllr Asher herself referred to — she partook and gave birth to many projects, a number of which developed into organizations, such as Bristol Black Careers, and was the Head of Black Development Agency for 11 years.

Also present on the panel were Roger Griffith MBE, UWE Associate Lecturer and Diversity & Community Projects, and Xavier Baker, Assistant Support Lecturer at UWE Bristol. The rest of the night was hosted by Precious Onyenekwu Tatah, Former and First Black President at UWE and Former UWE Equity Project Coordinator.

Photo by Product School from unsplash


When we think about ‘leadership’, our thoughts stray towards leaders in politics, corporations, religious congregations, or communities; we tend to associate it with status, power, and wealth. However, leadership can be also perceived as being proactive in our own life, taking initiative to innovate and implement change to advance our goals and plans and to lead others towards fulfilling their dreams. Therefore, we can be leaders in our families, friendships, or in enterprises and initiatives we create ourselves.

The conversation touched upon what characteristics are important to be a leader and, given a thought, how one could produce a plethora of such, as it seems that there is never a shortage of qualities that a person in a leadership position, whether in a business or personal setting, can benefit from and should strive towards. Authenticity, honesty, confidence, and dedication to a given cause, are a few to name.

To paraphrase the words spoken by Xavier, we are unable to do all nor know it all, just as we are unable to become an expert in everything; however, not all hope is lost. There are specialists and experienced people who we can ask for help. Taking that thought further, we too can offer guidance to others within our own fields of expertise. This is an important observation, something that is easily forgotten when we speak about or think of leaders – again, they are neither omnipresent nor omnipotent, and neither are we on our leadership journey through life. Being a leader does not mean you cannot nor that you should not listen to and learn from others. Acknowledge when you are wrong and remember that we learn throughout our whole life, especially from our mistakes and failures.

Photo by Clark Tibbs from unsplash


Near the end of the event, the panellists were asked to share their reflections regarding setbacks they experienced and how they overcame them. Roger spoke of stubbornness in face of challenges, stressing that resilience and perseverance are crucial to progressing and achieving one’s goals. Asher emphasised that one cannot allow failures to hinder one’s undertakings and that everyone’s voice deserves to be heard. Joanna pointed out that many people forget that success is not a straight line.

Indeed, success is quite like the ability to play an instrument, speak another language, paint, or write. It is similar to the process of gaining knowledge or sculpting one’s body. All of those require work and effort, are filled with hardships, elicit elation upon mastering yet another fraction of it, or dispiritedness while facing lack of progress. The path to fulfilling one’s dreams is not always covered with rose petals, but rather than dread the obstacles, try searching for inspirations and focus on solutions.

Being the best leader on your own journey, wherever it may be taking you, becomes easier to achieve through communication, empathy and remembering about the human factor in everything. By realizing that behind every job role and title there is yet another individual, someone just like us, who has his own history and experience, equally valuable to ours, should help us remember to respect and appreciate each other more, especially when we are still strangers only beginning to get to know about one another.

Photo by mauro mora from unsplash

Final Thoughts

To summarise the inspiring essence of the event: in your leadership journey, never take no for an answer, be purposeful and ask questions of people – including those running institutions. Visualize where you are, where you came from, where you are heading to, how to get there and what prevents you from achieving it. Do not hinder your efforts by disqualifying yourself from undertakings and positions, based on the inability to see yourself in such context. Instead of closing doors towards the path that could lead you to becoming fulfilled, remain confident and trust your own worth. When you struggle, remember to talk to other people. You are not alone in what you feel and experience; reach out for support when you need it, offer it whenever you can.

The event has been recorded and is shared through Equity channels. To find out more about Equity, visit their website or twitter. Also connect with the panel members on twitter: Joanna Abeyie, Cllr Asher Craig, Roger Griffith and Xavier Baker.

Written by Piotr Sordyl

Thank you for reading!

Piotr Sordyl is a mature, international student on Foundation Year Biological Sciences course at UWE. Originally from Poland, but Bristol has been his home for over 7 years now. He is interested in neuroscience, zoology, astrobiology, planetary science, (to name a few) and aspires to write books collating all the knowledge he has gained to a wider audience.

Article edited by Jessica Griffith

From the editors: Thank you very much for taking the time to read an article that has been a great inspiration and encouragement to myself. I hope it not only challenges but also pushes you into action as you endeavour to make your own impact as a leader wherever you are.

We welcome contributions from staff, students and anyone who would like to contribute to our content about careers in the Sciences and STEM. If you are interested, get in touch via email – ScienceFutures@uwe.ac.uk. Do also connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter!

Keep well and enjoy this festive season.

Building Learning Communities in Digital Spaces – First Lessons

Posted on

‘Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.’


The above reference from The Wizard of Oz has become an expression when one finds themselves in new and unfamiliar territory. To call this academic year, new and unfamiliar is an understatement to say the least. It has been a series of firsts for me. My first time of organising Induction & Orientation activities for online delivery. The first time of delivering teaching and learning activities without having met our students in person or even in the tiny little ‘boxes’ in my Collaborate classroom. However, as I come to the end of the third week of teaching and I begin the reluctant  gradual acceptance of what is actually within my control at the moment with respect to teaching, a short note from a student prompted me to reflect.

“…I also wanted to say that the session yesterday was really great. I really enjoy your classes.

Brief.. but was like a glass of cold water after walking for hours in a desert. After weeks of going round in circles, decision making and increasing anxiety about how everything was going to go this year, it was some validation that I did not even realise I needed. It got me thinking about what could be have prompted the feedback and space to reflect and get a more accurate picture about how things are going. COVID-19 is not going anywhere, and I cannot tell how long we will be in the spaces we are currently occupying – as educators and as learners. These lessons are from my reflections and are helping me to navigate the sea of uncertainties in respect to facilitating learning in the digital/virtual/online spaces we all occupy at the moment.

“We are not ‘just’ delivering lectures, seminars, webinars or attending them. We are building, hopefully, a vibrant community of learners.”

Amara Anyogu, PhD (@intentionalacad)

Being intentional – Over our two-week Induction, I had the opportunity to ‘meet’ with the students on our course and share my thoughts and hear from them about building community. Research shows that learners who develop a sense of belonging are more likely to be successful in achieving their learning goals. I talked with our new learners about how they were not just joining an institution but a community of educators and learners. While community members may have distinct roles and responsibilities, there should be a shared, communal goal of achieving success. Each individual brings something to the table, each individual has a responsibility towards ensuring learning happens. While our community is still taking shape, it has been so heart-warming to see so many acts of kindness from our students. Developing a communal set of ‘netiquette’ principles for our online sessions, students managing discussion boards and chats, answering their peer’s questions and queries before I can even pick them up. We had our first onsite session this week and it was so great to meet in person. Afterwards, I realised there was no real awkwardness of meeting for the first time. Investing time over two weeks for Orientation enabled us to feel like we had known each other as there were different opportunities to engage. It was like meeting someone you ‘know’ from social media when you have built up enough positive interactions to get over the initial awkwardness. Learning, is in part a social activity and as the semester goes on, I hope we can continue to build on this. Building a community anywhere and at anytime is hard work but it is so essential.

Embracing speaking into space – I have been a silent observer in many Teams chats, email discussion threads and Twitter conversations about our discomfort as educators of seemingly speaking into space i.e. learners not using their videos. Over the summer, I had the opportunity to participate in and moderate panel discussions and speak to large audiences at online meetings. The first time I gave a talk and could only see my slides, I remember calling out to ‘space’, ‘Can anyone hear me?’ It felt so odd…I cannot believe I miss the whole spectrum from engaged to bored, incredulous to antagonistic facial expressions in my classroom. A few months later, I am adjusting, the key word being ‘I’. Of course, we would prefer to put a face to the names in the little boxes on our screen and pick up on body language cues when facilitating sessions. However, as an introvert who often switches off her own video in large group settings, I can empathise. For many students, it is less about engagement and more to do with bandwidth, nerves, and maybe even trust. I love this discussion from Dr Carina Buckley which is encouraging us to focus less on cameras and more on creating avenues for students to participate. I choose to meet students where they are. ‘I would love to see who I am speaking with but please only do this when you are ready’ is my position. I am trying to remind students that their voice matters in the classroom and to use it as. My class has over 160 students who are just starting their Higher education journey. As the weeks progress, I can see more students speaking in class and switching their cameras on in the smaller breakout sessions. I even got interrupted once (smile emoji), a nostalgic reminder of face to face lessons. For any educators out there teaching large groups, I totally understand.

Image credit – Pixabay

Finding what works includes failing forward – As we approached online learning, there were many webinars, many ‘how to’ guides and many discussion forums focused on ‘how to get it right’ online. Asynchronous vs. synchronous? Should we Kahoot or Padlet or PollEverywhere or Google Doc? Chats on or off in large lectures? I remember being told about the attention span online is much shorter than face to face, so to embed an activity after each 7-minute period of speaking. A positive element of learning in digital spaces is the disruption to the status quo. I am asking new questions about the clarity and alignment of learning outcomes, how I am orientating students towards the topic being discussion and better ways to display information and support students in reviewing their learning. However, I must confess being overwhelmed by the plethora of how to’s. I have decided to start by keeping it simple (and sensible) and working from there. I identified that a lot of my anxiety was centred around perfection. How does one achieve perfection as a novice though? As a scientist, I believe in evidence. Experiment, analyse data and make a decision. My simple idea was to deliver synchronous learning around pedagogic principles I use in face to face but realising that while there are many tools (and many of these are useful) I do not need to use all of them, all of the time. In addition, having identified that some learners are engaging asynchronously, it is important that my design includes them too. Some things work, some things not so much. I realised that online, everything seems to take slightly longer. Two hours goes by like its 30 minutes but after the session I feel like I have been at it for 4 hours…lol! How to find a balance between responding to chats in a room with 150 people and delivering, try toggling between ‘chats on and off’ or shut down the notifications. Ask the students what works best and keep an open mind. I am still trying to find the right balance between in class and independent activities and the best tools for engagement in class but I have noticed these days that with most breathes come the mantra to ‘Keep it simple and fail forward.’

Doing starts with being – This took me back to thinking about the best teachers I have had the good fortune of meeting over my studies and career. They may not always have had the slickest slides or the most polished presentations, but there were other, more valuable (to me anyway) things they had in common. They always had a passion for their subject, were patient and creative in explaining difficult concepts and more importantly made me feel I mattered. In a highly metric driven, performance-oriented space that HE has become, it can be easy to forget that at the heart of education and learning are people. Educators, professional service providers and learners, all working together towards a common purpose. Human imperfect beings who are (mostly) doing their best. Yes, I found a way to bring it back to community. Strong communities identify their core values and try their best to live these out in practice. Sometimes in all our learning about how to ‘do’ things differently online, I hope we do not forget to ‘be’. To do good things starts from being good. In these times we have found ourselves, we need to be kind, compassionate, empathetic, sympathetic…to ourselves and then to others.I have received so many kind messages from my students this year, more than I can remember in previous years. At the end of sessions, many students post a Thank you in the chat before leaving the classroom.  In a meeting with my personal tutee last week, she shared that her anxiety at starting University as a mature student was reduced by what she called ‘my positive attitude.’ I was not even aware of what I may have said or did that supported her arriving at that conclusion.  We are all living (teaching, learning, working) in a pandemic. We should not forget this. I think all students starting this year are heroes. I am not sure if I could display some of the resilience I have seen over the last few weeks when I was at the stage of my studies.. Whether we are sending emails or setting deadlines, we should not forget. We should give the compassion we would like to receive. On my to do list is to find spaces and networks that top up my wellbeing. It is hard to exhibit empathy for a student or colleague when you are stressed and running on empty. I have a lot of work to do on my ‘being.’

So, there it is, a few lessons from a few weeks. Although physically tired, I do feel slightly mentally stronger than at the start of the academic year with. I am hopeful for what the next few weeks have in store and will be back to share them. Please do share how your teaching (or learning) has been progressing online. Let us learn from each other.

Written by Dr Amara Anyogu.

Originally posted on The Aspiring Professionals Hub.

About the writer – Dr Amara Anyogu is a widening participation educator with expertise in developing and leading Foundation year programmes to support successful transitions into Higher Education for all students. She is a microbiologist with research interests in food safety and security issues. This includes antimicrobial resistance in the food chain, harnessing microbial diversity for food production and the microbiology of food spoilage. A firm believer in the benefits of mentoring in building a successful career, she is the Co-Founder of the Aspiring Professionals Hub, a professional development resource for successful early career professionals. She is also the Co-Convenor of the Nigerian Applied Microbiologists network, a platform for developing research collaborations and mentoring a new generation of scientists. She tweets @intentionalacad.

Back to top