How to feed your gut microbiome on a budget

By Anna Slater

“Gut health”. We’ve all heard it, the latest buzzword that is trending all over the internet. But what’s good about this trend is that it’s not your regular ‘fad diet’, in fact the research is growing exponentially and has shown that your gut microbiome plays a really important role in our physical and mental wellbeing. The gut microbiome is found in the large intestine and describes the diverse ecosystem of bacteria that resides here. Each of us consists of about 100 trillion microbial cells, 10 times more than the number of human cells in our body! They do lots of great things for us, such as digesting food and absorbing nutrients, in particular dietary fibre and keeping our immune system healthy from any harmful pathogens. The most important discovery in the field of research is that individuals who ate more than 30 different plant based foods a week had a more diverse colony of gut bacteria than those who ate less than 10. We all know that on a student budget it can be difficult to get diversity in on a budget, so here are my top tips for feeding your gut bacteria at a lower cost.

  1. Bulk out meals with cheaper cupboard staples, such as chickpeas, lentils or beans. On average tins of these tend to be around 50p and contain all the gut loving fibre that your microbes will enjoy. You don’t even have to remove the meat from the dish if you enjoy this, it just makes sure you’ve got more fibre and plant based protein. Also, the more vegetables you bulk out the portions with the more food you will make so even if the vegetables are a little more expensive you may save in the long run
My prawn, sweet potato peanut butter curry – lots of hidden gut loving ingredients such as chickpeas and lots of added vegetables

2. Rotate your fruits and vegetables. If it’s hard to eat 30 plant based foods a week, just try not to stick to one food all the time. One challenge I’m doing at the moment is to try and get one fruit and vegetable in my shop that I don’t usually go for. This week’s is pineapple and sweet potato! Even using different colours of the same vegetables, such as peppers or onions, each different colour counts as more variety.

Food Love GIF
Via Giphy

3. Try buying frozen vegetables. Lots of people have the misconception that frozen fruit and vegetables are less nutritious, but sometimes they can actually be higher in nutrients as they are picked and packaged and frozen in hours which retains the nutrients more than storing at room temperature.  These options can be very cost effective and last longer than fresh vegetables.

4. Plan your meals for the week so that you know exactly what you need to buy and are less likely to shop. If you write everything down in a list, you are more likely to stick to it, rather than buying lots of random expensive ingredients and not knowing what to cook. I am a serial meal prepper so I love to make big batches of meals, so I find it really helpful to have a plan when I go to the supermarket so I know what I’m eating for the week.

Always making industrial quantities! This is my vegetable filled chicken lasagne

5. Have a go at experimenting with more herbs and spices. Did you know they also count as a ¼ of a plant point? If you add herbs and spices it can really make a dish more flavourful as well as being flavourful for those gut microbes to digest!

Would your blood glow?

By Sarah Holder

The Beginning 

All the way back at the start of my second year at Newcastle University, the thought of a placement year was a nice one, but I never thought I’d be one of the lucky few to be offered one! When I came across the advert for the job at Labcorp Huntingdon, I knew it would be the only intern position I wanted to apply for. The role sounded perfect and it was located only half an hour from my home village. I sent off my initial application and then received an invite for an interview! And then another! And another! I couldn’t believe it when I received a phone call in January to say I had been offered the intern position for Immunology and Immunotoxicology 2022-2023. Brilliant! 

Background to my Project 

Human blood is made up of several major components including plasma, platelets, red blood cells and white blood cells. White blood cells are involved in the body’s response to infection and need to be tested separately to the rest of the blood components to see the best results.  

Via Giphy.

Infections can come in the form of viruses or bacteria. Viruses present markers called epitopes on their surface which the white blood cells use to identify what they are. Bacteria don’t directly present these epitopes but via white blood cells they infect which present their epitopes for them. When these epitopes are come across in the bloodstream, specific white blood cells release chemicals called cytokines to activate the immune response and fight the infection. We were adding epitopes artificially in the form of our stimulants to elicit a response from six different human donors and judge the stimulant that gives the clearest response across the six blood samples.   

My Project 

My project during my time on placement at Labcorp had two parts. Improving the white blood cell isolation method and investigating white blood cell responses to positive controls we added to them and attaching fluorescent green and red markers to the different cytokines produced. We had longer to plan my project than expected so it didn’t get into the lab until May, creating more pressure for everything to go smoothly once it was underway. If anything had gone drastically wrong, we wouldn’t have had enough time to order the reagents required for another attempt. The images taken at the end were full of fluorescent spots so the project worked! 

Via Giphy

My project has provided a future method for FluoroSpot assays to be carried out at Labcorp on our Huntingdon site which will hopefully be able to bring more revenue into I&I. Future research into the method we developed for my project could be done to optimise it further and make it a more streamlined process. 

Life on Placement 

I was lucky enough to not only secure a placement but secure a placement I could commute to from my home. Thankfully, my parents were happy to have me back for another year! While the 6:45am wakeup call wasn’t my favourite, I could spend my evenings visiting my friends from home, which was lovely. I worked a mixture of 8am-4pm and 8:30am-4:30pm throughout the week and it was nice actually being able to catch a glimpse of daylight in the winter when leaving at 4pm instead of both arriving and leaving in what feels like the dead of night every day. 

Every month a department social was held by the I&I Social Committee. My favourites were the Halloween bar crawl, Christmas party and lab getaway weekend to a lakeside cabin with the team.  These really helped me to feel part of the team during my time working at Labcorp. 

Via Giphy

Summary 

I would really recommend a placement year to anyone considering one, the lab experience gained is a perfect CV addition for life after university and the additional skills of working in a team and independently while in an industry setting are invaluable. I was very fortunate and had the best line manager in terms of supporting my transition into a working environment, this was aided massively by the chocolate that magically appeared on my desk every Friday. I’m not sure what my future after university is going to be yet, but thanks to my placement year I know I can join a workplace and adapt to fit in very quickly, and training can be provided if I feel I have any gaps in my knowledge for my future role. No question is a stupid question! 

My Experience as a Year In Industry Student

By Joel Tyler, BSc Physiological Sciences

Edited by Maddie Wildridge

Reckitt is a Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) company with offices and employees spread out across the world. Founded in 1870, Reckitt started off by selling laundry starch in Hull, now, Reckitt operates in a range of markets and is the owner of various health and medicinal brands such as; Neurofen, Strepsils, Dettol, Vanish and Durex to name a few.

Examples of some Reckitt products sold around the world

My placement year was a lab-based role involved in working for the brand Veet, this included both formulation manufacturing and analytical testing for the depilatory cream products currently available to buy in shops as well as a new product being developed and to be released in the near future.

A Day in the Life

Using a Light Microscope to examine the structure of a hair sample

Due to the fast paced environment (as an FMCG company), I found that there was always something to do all the time and the days/weeks were fairly similar. This is because of the constant manufacturing of different formulations of new products to be tested under different stability conditions, and then followed by analytical testing of the formulations to identify which was the best product.

Therefore, my normal day would start with a team meeting to discuss where everyone was at with formulation/testing work and to discuss steps/processes going forward or if anything had failed/gone wrong with the batch. After, I would go to the lab to complete any formulation/analytical testing which needed to be done.

I enjoyed this working routine as it meant I gained far more lab experienced than I initially thought I would, it was always very clear what work I needed to be doing and I was always given lots of support if things ever went wrong. I would say I definitely wasn’t treated as a ‘student’ but a very integral part of the team which also surprised me!

Student Project
In the second half of my placement, I organised and created a project alongside my line manager which involved testing the tensile strength of hair using a texture analyser and a brand new test method. I also presented my results to the rest of the Veet brand to explain my findings.

Hair sample being tested in the Texture Analyser to investigate the tensile strength

During my project I had to test thousands of individual hair samples and as a result became the most experienced within the lab at using the texture analyser, this meant that I had the opportunity to present and perform samples to higher up executives within the company (and even the Global Head of R&D) which was an amazing experience.

A Becomix machine used to formulate and manufacture different depilatory creams during my placement year

Why I Chose To Do a Placement
I decided during first year of my degree that I wanted to do a placement, specifically a lab based placement, because I was enjoying being in the lab at university but I was curious if I would enjoy working in a lab as a full time job to give myself an idea for post graduate jobs.

Having completed my full year, I now know I could happily work in a lab after university, so applying for lab based roles isn’t a big risk but also that I know I can work efficiently and thrive under the environment. My placement gave me many challenges along the way (which is natural when learning new things in a short space of time) but I gained valuable and employable experience in overcoming these obstacles and realised that I feel confident within a lab setting.

I Would Highly Recommend a Placement!
Completing my placement year was definitely one of the most important things I have done within my life. The obvious reasons being all the different skills and attributes which I learnt/developed along the way, but also, the experiences which are available in just one year really surprised me, with the huge amounts of social networking needed to be done for my day to day job, I found myself naturally speaking to and shadowing other departments, creating professional relationships which will last for life. So I would say even if you are even considering to apply for placements, just go for it because you won’t regret it!

My week as a student at the University of Padova: Views of a summer school student

By Charlotte Ripley – Food and Human Nutrition Student

A trip to Italy?! Yes please!

In June, I attended a Food and Health Summer School in Italy, mixing with students from the University of Padova and the University of Sydney.

The focus was on the effects of different food components on overall health and well-being, with topics ranging from the effect of soil on the micronutrient content of foods to the worldwide issue of obesity – so the week was specifically aimed at those with a medical or food science background. Thankfully, everything was taught in English, as even Duolingo wouldn’t have prepared me for terms such as ‘squalene’, ‘fetotoxic’ or ‘teratogenicity’.

Though the week was primarily lecture based, we visited 2 different food producers (Grandi Molini Italiani –  one of Europe’s largest flour mills – and Prosciuttificio Attilio Fontana Montagnana – a family-run prosciutto factory) and got to see some of Padova’s biggest attractions (Orto Botanica, Palazzo Bo and the Museum of History and Medicine). We even had our very own gala dinner to celebrate the end of the summer school – luckily, the lectures didn’t quite put me off the free wine on the tables.

Prata Della Valle – just a 5-minute walk from my hotel.

Continue reading “My week as a student at the University of Padova: Views of a summer school student”

The STAR technique – what is it and how do you use it?

By Beth Lawry

There’s an awesome placement / graduate role / further study position that you really want….

How do you succeed in getting it?

Answering those important questions

You will be asked questions, either in applications or interviews, to determine if you are the right fit for the role and how you would react in workplace situations.

Interview. Photo by Johanna Buguet on Unsplash

You will be asked competency questions e.g. ‘Tell me a time you’ve worked in a team’ or ‘How have you used organisational skills to good effect’ or ‘Describe a situation where communication has been important’. Continue reading “The STAR technique – what is it and how do you use it?”

So your immune system’s an overachiever; what I’m doing about it during my placement at GSK

By Emma McCarthy

Hey, it finally worked!

I look at the screen and smile. After an intensive six-hour lab session involving lots of careful pipetting, I’m ecstatic that the experiment I’ve spent weeks on has succeeded at last.

At the moment, I’m based in a biology research unit at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies on the planet. I’ve been on placement here for over nine months; I still can’t quite believe it some days.

Continue reading “So your immune system’s an overachiever; what I’m doing about it during my placement at GSK”

STEMtastic 2019

What an amazing day the SOLAR outreach team had teaching 365 very excited primary school children all about STEM…..it really was STEMtastic!

Our Team

Our SBMS students, Gokul Krishnan, Sophie Amato, and Molly Johnson joined Dr Vanessa Armstrong and Dr Beth Lawry at the Centre For Life to inspire the next generation of scientists at STEMtastic 2019.

Our fantastic scientists, Gokul, Sophie, Molly and Vanessa all set to teach the children about the heart and exercise

Continue reading “STEMtastic 2019”

Meet the Employability Ambassadors

Meet the employability ambassadors

Meet the Employability Ambassador Team 2018-2019

Want to make yourself more employable? Well, we are here to help!
As employability ambassadors, we are keen to assist School of Biomedical Sciences students like you in their career development and to help prepare you for life after university. Whether you want advice on placements, work experience, mentoring or just need some guidance on how to structure your CV, please let us know.

Keep an eye on Blackboard community and your emails for our upcoming events!

Check out the careers service events page for what workshops the careers service have coming up including CV writing, interview practice, assessment centres, recruitment fairs, journalism, starting your own business, careers fairs and lots more! Continue reading “Meet the Employability Ambassadors”