The broad study of living beings encompasses everything from botany to immunology, biochemistry to neuroscience. The life sciences inspire studies that seek to eliminate devastating disease, protect endangered species from extinction and create sustainable, creative solutions to modern day problems.
For example, this summer great advancements have been made in the field of gene-editing for the purpose of effective treatment for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), a degenerative disease in which a genetic mutation prevents sufferers from producing dystrophin – a protein that’s vital for muscle strength and function.
This is a condition shared by both canines and humans. In fact, there are 2,500 men and boys suffering from the condition in the UK. With the gene-editing tool Crispr, scientists have been able to restore dystrophin in four dogs, an achievement described as a key step forward in the treatment of pet dogs and in the future, humans.
In the natural world, Dr. Maggie Georgieva’s study of hydrothermal vents, nutrient-rich oases in resource-poor deep seas, and peculiar species such as the ‘Hoff’ crab (Kiwa Tyler) is helping to protect the ecosystems against deep sea mineral mining in an agreement being implemented by the UN over the next two years, striving to protect the high seas from overexploitation.
With such interesting advancements being made across the board, the Life Sciences sector is economically significant, standing as a major employer with an increasing demand for technically-skilled and educated candidates. In 2016, the UK life sciences sector comprised nearly 4,500 companies and generated a turnover of over £56 billion.
The importance of diversity in Life Sciences is reflected in its own subject matter. Nature demonstrates that biodiversity creates some of the most abundant and successful ecosystems. With no two species being the same, symbiotic relationships form and species are able to thrive.
The same goes for the human species in the world of education and work. Different ways of thinking, teaching and learning adopted by people from a range of backgrounds create more diverse perspectives, helping us achieve our most significant goals and create a greater range of solutions to each specific problem.
“A diverse workplace can make for novel and innovative science brought about via the richness of different approaches and experiences, and add to the robustness of proposals and solutions,” says Trish Lawrence in Why Diversity Matters.
This synchronicity wouldn’t be possible without equality and inclusion measures such as Athena SWAN awards, earned by ground-breaking colleges such as the School of Life Sciences at the University of Sussex.
Athena SWAN (Scientific Women’s Academic Network) is a charter set up to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research. Each of the following universities or schools holds an award from Athena Swan.
The School of Life Sciences is one of the largest schools at the University of Sussex, offering teaching that’s research-led and interdisciplinary, spanning a wide range of degree courses. This collaborative school is focused on developing the skills and employability needed in the next generation of scientists and innovators.
“The breadth and depth of cutting edge research and innovative teaching practice makes Life Sciences a leading centre of excellence. With expertise that cover a broad range of subjects, including Chemistry, Biomedicine, Neuroscience, Pharmacy and Ecology, we are a diverse community. We increasingly work across boundaries, facing outwards to forge extensive external partnerships and networks,” says Professor Sarah Guthrie, Head of the School.
The Sussex Life Sciences research that informs teaching programmes is nationally and internationally recognised, with world experts on many topics. In the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF2014), 87 percent of the school’s research in biological sciences was rated as internationally excellent or higher while 48 percent was rated as world-leading.
The School holds a Silver University award from Athena SWAN, and has established numerous initiatives to give women in these fields more opportunities, development and mentoring.
Ranked in the top 25 percent of UK universities for world-leading research, Ulster University and its forward-thinking Faculty of Life & Health Sciences is dedicated to positively impacting the future of STEM.
Ranked 33rd in the World for Nursing, 2nd in the UK for Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 2nd in the UK for Optometry and 4th in the UK for Biosciences, the faculty provides a comprehensive selection of undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Striving to offer outstanding study opportunities and revolutionary research initiatives, this school inspires both staff and students to maximise their potential.
Situated in Northern Ireland, Ulster also aims to drive student ambitions further by establishing the country’s first Graduate Medical School. With plans to open in 2019, the fundamental focus of the project will be to provide more physicians and address the ongoing workforce shortage across the medical profession in Northern Ireland.
On the subject of equality and inclusivity, the Faculty of Life & Health Science’s longstanding history of inspiring female scientists and engineers to pursue their aspirations helps it thrive and stand out. Here, the faculty produces ground-breaking research in pancreatic cancer, mental health and diabetes, promoting a world-leading research culture that gives students a definite edge.
With many student success stories to show and an informative student support service, it’s no surprise that 93.7% of their graduates find employment or pursue further study within six months of leaving.
Manchester has a diverse population with a higher than average instance of cancer; together with the infrastructure, scientists and doctors successfully placed Manchester University as a world leader in cancer research.
The Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health has a proven commitment to cancer research, using prevention and early detection as a key focus of its research program. With £39 million of funding awarded from Cancer Research UK (CRUK), Manchester is one of only two designated major centres supported by the charity.
The faculty uses public and patient involvement and engagement at all points during teaching and research, giving students the chance to develop and hone their skills whilst contributing positively to the local community. This represents an excellent, research-led institution in a diverse and exciting city, again, embellished with its own Athena SWAN award.
Cardiff University is officially 2nd in the UK for its world-leading research in psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience, with 92 percent of research submitted deemed to be world leading in the Research Excellence Framework (REF2014).
The College of Biomedical and Life Sciences at Cardiff University if renowned for its holistic, student-focused education, with specialty training targeted at improving the health and well-being of society.
In terms of student diversity, not only does the university hold an Athena SWAN award, but more than 3,500 life sciences students are international, coming from 100 different countries and contributing to the varied international life of the institution. Furthermore, the College has formal links with more than 35 countries, including 38 partnerships in China, 16 with the US and 12 with Malaysia.
With campuses in both Exeter and Falmouth, the College of Life and Environmental Sciences consists of over 4,100 students; 280 of whom are international, creating a vibrant community in areas that span the Biosciences, Geography, Psychology, and Sport and Health Sciences.
Conducting research which is often interdisciplinary, the college equips students with discipline-specific skills and experiences that are highly sought-after by employers.
The College has significant business partners, including Shell, whom they have been able to help meet major challenges facing the fuel industry in terms of sustainable mobility and carbon reduction, powered by Dr. John Love’s research into advanced biofuels.
The College of Life and Environmental Sciences at Exeter also holds a Bronze Athena SWAN award for its commitment to supporting women in STEMM subjects.
*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International