Society of Biology accreditation for undergraduate courses

SB Acc Prog logosThe School of Biosciences has added to its impressive array of professional recognition, with Society of Biology accreditation for all of its undergraduate degree programmes.

From April 2015, students studying for undergraduate degrees in Biomedical Science, Biochemistry and Biology, including those with a Professional Year or Year Abroad, will graduate with degrees accredited by the Society of Biology. This followed a panel visit in which our degree programmed were scrutinised to ensure that they offered students the best training possible, and that it matched the needs of employers in the Biosciences sector. Kent is one of only 8 institutions in the UK to have achieved accreditation of its standard 3-year degree programmes.

SoB congratulationsThis most recent professional accreditation is in addition to the existing Society of Biology Advanced Accreditation for our degrees that feature an integrated sandwich year, and the Institute of Biomedical Science accreditation for all of our Biomedical Science degrees. All of our undergraduate degree programmes are now professionally recognised after rigorous scrutiny by relevant professional bodies.

Coupled with our consistently strong performance in the National Student Survey, and our top 10 position in the Research Excellent Framework (REF) for Research Intensity, in confirms Kent as one of the best places in the UK to study the biological sciences.

Science communication student’s crowdfunding success

Chrysanthemums, to be staged on Tuesday 21 April at 7.30pm, combines music from Monteverdi to Philip Glass with Argentine tango dancers. It is being produced by Jane Seaman, a part-time student in MSc in Science, Communication and Society, with donations from two crowdfunding campaigns.

Jane is fundraiser for The Mirabai Project, a not-for-profit collective of musicians, composers and performers, mostly from Kent, who stage innovative events to introduce audiences to new works by contemporary composers.

Jane says: ‘Being a new venture, funding was a challenge so I ran my first ever crowdfunding campaign, which was going well – until the crowdfunding platform we chose went bust eight days before we reached our target!

‘So I tried again, this time with Ideas Tap, and thanks to amazing supporters we reached our target. The show will be mesmerising and a first for Kent.’

The School of Biosciences is delighted that its students make an impact beyond their academic study. For more information on the event see the university news page.

Research Seminar: From its origins to the modern metabolic network

Dr. Markus Rasler, Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge

Wednesday 8th April, 4.00 p.m., Stacey Lecture Theatre 1

Every cell depends on a conserved core set of conserved metabolic reactions, and necessitates flexibility in the flux through the reactions in order to adopt to changes in physiology. We combine quantitative mass spectrometry with genetic tools to study how metabolic networks react upon changes in environment and during ageing. In this talk I’ll present novel results that indicate origins of this network date back to the prebiotic world. In chemical simulations of Archean ocean, we detect the enzyme-free interconversion of metabolites constituting glycolysis and the pentose phosphate pathway, indicating a pre-enzymatic origin of these reaction sequences.

In the modern metabolic network however, additional constraints arise from the limited number of catalysts over the high complexity of chemical molecules present in the metabolic network. Cells can overcome this by compartmentalisation of the networks over time and space. In the second part of the presentation and show examples how modern cells adjust their metabolic flux in order to adjust to rapid growth of a cells and during and stress conditions.

Research Seminar: A synthetic framework for understanding membrane domain formation

Dr. Chieh Hsu, Eastern ARC Research Fellow, School of Biosciences, University of Kent

Wednesday 1st April, 4.00 p.m., Stacey Lecture Theatre 1

To conduct and maintain specific functions of membrane compartments in the cell, the identity of a specific membrane region needs to be established before assembling functional molecular machineries. Small GTPases, amount other major molecular families, define the identity of membrane regions by forming domain structures in processes such as cell polarisation and endocytic cargo trafficking. It has been widely proposed that these membrane domains are formed and maintained via positive feedback loops – the membrane bound form of the small GTPases enhances the recruitment of the same form onto the surrounding membrane. Supporting this hypothesis, several mathematical models have been proposed to describe how loops result in domain structures. Yet, there remains a missing link between quantitative models and qualitative findings from experimental data. Synthetic approaches provide simplified and controllable systems by building up molecular processes in the cell based on theoretical models. With this strategy, one can pinpoint the core reactions/elements and quantify the determinants in a process. In this talk, I will discuss the current models and their limitations as well as present a design with synthetic approaches to study feedback loops in membrane domain formation.


Exploring the anaerobic adaptations of the mitochondrion-related organelles of Blastocystis

In December 2014, the School of Biosciences’ lecturer in Molecular and Evolutionary Parasitology, Dr. Anastasios Tsaousis was awarded a research grant for his research project on the mitochondrion-related organelles of Blastocystis.

The funding amounted to £383, 723 and was awarded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) for three years to start this month until March 2018.

Here is a lay summary about the research, by Dr. Tsaousis:

Blastocystis is a single cell eukaryotic organism with undetermined pathogenicity. It is currently estimated that this organism is present in the guts of more than a million people worldwide with several reports showing an association of this organism with gastrointestinal diseases including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Blastocystis also has another unique characteristic: it has adapted to survive in environments that lack any oxygen and it is therefore very difficult to maintain in culture. These characteristics make Blastocystis unique and thus a model organism for investigating the adaptations of various organisms under anaerobic conditions.

In this project, we will investigate the adaptations of the mitochondria of Blastocystis. Typical mitochondria are considered to be the “powerhouses of the cell” and their energy production is based on aerobic respiration, which is completely dependent on the presence of oxygen.

Due to the unique lifestyle of Blastocystis its mitochondria have adapted to a “life without oxygen” and accumulated unique characteristics to support the organism with energy along with other valuable components.

We will attempt to characterise these adaptations but also provide insights into how these mechanism can be used in synthetic biology and as anti-microbial drug-targets.

For more information about Dr. Tsaousis and to find out about his other research areas and interests, visit 

Research Seminar: Biophysics: Investigating the folding, misfolding and assembly of multidomain proteins

Professor Jane Clarke, Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge

Wednesday 25th March, 4.00 p.m., Stacey Lecture Theatre 1

Most proteins in Nature are not the simple, single domain structures that appear most often in the databases, but larger multidomain proteins and even larger assemblies.  Examples include the giant muscle protein titiin, spectrin, a protein of the cytoskelton, and “hub” proteins and transcription factors, such as CBP and P53, which use disordered regions that fold upon binding to form large multi-protein complexes.  We use a multidisciplinary approach to study the folding, misfolding and assembly of these larger proteins and their complexes.  In my talk I will describe some of our recent discoveries.

Research Seminar: Mechanism and regulation of small RNA-induced chromatin modification in fission yeast

Dr. Elizabeth Bayne, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh

Wednesday 18th March, 4.00 p.m., Stacey Lecture Theatre 1
RNA interference is a conserved mechanism of gene regulation mediated by small RNAs. Although commonly functioning post-transcriptionally, these small RNAs can also act at the transcriptional level by directing modifications to chromatin. Such RNAi-directed chromatin modification plays important roles in gene regulation and genome stability in a range of organisms including plants, flies and worms, but in most cases the mechanisms underlying this process remain poorly defined. To address this we are studying one of the best characterised examples of small RNA-directed chromatin modification: RNAi-dependent heterochromatin assembly in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe. I will describe our recent progress in understanding the molecular mechanism by which RNAi is coupled to chromatin modification in fission yeast, as well as our ongoing investigations into additional factors that contribute to heterochromatin regulation in this system.

Royal disease mysteries explored in Esteem Lecture

Vice-Chancellor’s Esteem Lectures

Royal diseases: Medical mysteries of Queen Victoria’s haemophilia and King George III’s madness

Professor Martin Warren, School of Biosciences

Date: 11 March 2015
Time: 6pm
Grimond Lecture Theatre 1

In a collaboration between history and science, which combines historical records of illness and suffering with the latest advances in forensic technology, we have been able to trace an extraordinary and fascinating detective story involving two separate yet debilitating diseases that have been associated with the royal families of Europe. Did King George III suffer with a rare inherited and incurable blood disorder called porphyria? Why did it affect him at a relatively late age and could it have been passed onto his descendants? We all know that Queen Victoria was a carrier for haemophilia, which was passed into the Russian royal family with disastrous consequences. But from where was the faulty gene inherited given that there was little evidence of haemophilia previously in the family? These questions and other will be answered as we look at DNA evidence that takes us back to Anne of Bohemia.

Research Seminar: Perception of host imposed oxidative stress by the human fungal pathogen Candida albicans

Professor Janet Quinn, Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences, Newcastle University

Wednesday 4th March, 4.00 p.m., Stacey Lecture Theatre 1

Candida albicans is an important fungal pathogen of humans causing approximately 400,000 life-threatening systemic infections each year. Stress responses are essential for this fungal pathogen to evade host anti-microbial defence mechanisms and to survive rapidly changing microenvironments found within diverse host niches. We are particularly interested in the sensing and signalling mechanisms employed by C. albicans to perceive and respond to reactive oxygen species (ROS) encountered during infection. Upon contact with C. albicans, the NADPH oxidase complex in phagocytic cells produces high levels of superoxide which is rapidly converted to H2O2. To survive in the phagocyte C. albicans must mount a rapid transcriptional response to induce the expression genes encoding antioxidant and repair proteins. Furthermore, phagocytosis of C. albicans by macrophages, or exposure to ROS in vitro, initiates filamentous growth. In this talk I’ll highlight how oxidation of specific signalling proteins plays a key role in the perception and regulation of both transcriptional and morphogenetic responses to ROS in C. albicans. In addition, I’ll also describe some recent findings detailing mechanisms employed by the host to prevent the rapid oxidative stress responses needed for fungal survival.