Medical Science Degree Nutrition news

My role at De Montfort involves leading the Medical Science Degree. To develop the curriculum further, the HALS team had a good meeting last week with a Clinical Nutritionist from the Leicester Royal Infirmary. I was surprised to hear how the subject of nutrition is rather under-represented for those studying a biomedical and medical science degree, yet the subject offers many exciting career opportunities for students.

Medical science degree image

“Fruit and Vegetables: Turnham Green”
© Pam Brophy, CC BY SA

There are several universities in the UK offering degrees in human nutrition and dietetics, but in more general life science degrees, the subject more often does not get a mention. I do run a final year undergraduate module on “Gastrointestinal Disease and Nutrition” as part of my Medical Science degree, and the Leicester Royal Infirmary will be providing cases study materials and research project opportunities for our students. We therefore aim to release these learning resources on the HALS website as OERs.

Nutritionists can be employed in a variety of jobs within the NHS and other industries. People can train as dieticians or nutritionists, working to gain registration from the Health Professions Council and other related professional bodies. In other government organisations nutritionists can be involved in food safety and public health awareness.

I worked previously in the food manufacturing industry having done a medical science degree. This is a large industry sector in the UK, and clearly both human and animal nutritionists played a vital role in product development. Nutrition is a vital subject not just in terms of understanding nutrition related disorders such as obesity, but how nutrients, functional foods, phytochemicals are potentially important clinically to manage disease and in generally in providing benefits to health. In my role as scientist I conducted animal feeding studies to look at the health benefits of fibre, antioxidants and probiotics for example. Just as these nutritional components are important for human health, they are equally important for the health of our animals and pets.

For further information about nutrition and nutrition jobs that would be relevant to those studying a medical science degree, visit the Nutrition Society website (

For educational resources on nutrition for use in an undergraduate medical science degree, watch this space!

Open Educational Resources to Support Biology Courses and Prospective Students

The aim of this website is to share university learning materials to support biology courses not just in the UK but around the globe. The HALS OER project staff are academics and researchers in Biomedical Science, Medical Science, Forensic Science and Midwifery.

Why are we doing this biology courses website?

Many universities and colleges in the UK and indeed around the globe have started to share their academic resources with each other. As a lecturer involved in delivering biology courses, there is nothing worse than writing resources for students knowing that the work you are doing is duplicating the efforts of many other people involved in the same subject. The move to start sharing at least some of what we do makes perfect sense economically and for purposes of efficiency. I can take someone else’s materials as a starting point and then spend time enhancing and updating them to suit my purpose, thus benefiting both me and my students. I save time, and they get better quality assistance. This works well at a basic level teaching fundamental skills and principles. Think about how often for example the anatomy of the heart must be taught in biology courses not just in the UK but globally? The same basic material must be being duplicated thousands of times.

Biology courses open

What is different about our biology courses project?

Of course there are plenty of resources, tutorials and materials already available on the internet. There are two things wrong with these however. Many resources are not accessible and are locked behind passwords on institutional repositories. Many more biology courses materials that are on the web are simply not copyrighted for use. You may be able to show a website in a lecture but you cannot download the resource and add to it. I suppose an additional problem is the author and therefore credibility of the resource is sometimes also hard to judge.

Our HALSOER project funded by the JISC and HEA in the UK (Open Educational Resource Programme Phase 3 2011-2012) has opened the doors to college and university learning materials and is helping to make these available to all learners and educators via our biology courses website. They key to this is dealing with the copyright by using a Creative Commons Licence (CC). The copyright is still ours – De Montfort University, but the licence opens up the content to everyone. Many of our users are just enquiring members of the public. One user of our laboratory skills website VAL (Virtual Analytical Laboratory) said:

“I always wondered how a microscope worked”. Trash collector, New Jersey.

We use a CC BY SA (attribute and share alike) licence – so you can take our stuff, link to it, down load it and edit it; the only requirement is that you attribute or reference us at biology courses, and share the new resource back via the web.

What resources are we going to share?

We aim to produce biology courses materials in a range of file formats. Here are some currently being developed:

  • A series of parasitology interactive PDF files – with photographs and videos and animations.
  • Basic microbiology skills – videos and demonstrations.
  • Forensic science photo gallery – a bundle of JPEG assets for other forensic academics and students to use in their lectures and studies.
  • A series of histology resources – JPEGs and animations for undergraduate bioscience students and to serve biomedical science training.

When we are sharing our materials on biology courses we use a range of formats so that people can access them by both computer and mobile devices. We also know how to design resources to be effective educational tools – for example multimedia formats combing images and sound, and the inclusion of quizzes to test understanding.

Who else is involved in the HALSOER Biology Courses project?

We are working with employers – for example the NHS and the Leicestershire Constabulary who are providing case study and data for us to adapt. We are working with Oxford University Press publishers as a collaborative venture using our biology courses resources to support a series of biomedical science text books. This external input is very exciting and is providing real – life scenarios that are meaningful to students. Also having these conversations is also mutually beneficial and is leading to other opportunities in research and other aspects of work.

And finally……

Around 10% of people going to university take biology in the UK – be they life science, healthcare sciences or medicine. As part of this project we are also working with local Leicester schools and colleges to help young people make choices about their futures and help generate interest in biology courses and the wide range of exciting career opportunities available.

Open Education DMU History

De Montfort University has been involved in open education projects for several years. More details can be found on the About Open Education page. But I thought it would be nice to start this new website off with some information about De Montfort for people who aren’t familiar with the university. When I tell friends we are based in the heart of historic Leicester surrounded by some amazing architecture they are often surprised.

Trinity House is the oldest building on campus and was originally the Trinity Hospital built in the 1300’s. The university senior executive is now housed there and in the summer university staff and conference guests can enjoy access to the croquet lawn and herb garden. They might even meet the resident DMU cat.

Adjacent to Trinity House are the Castle Gardens which was the location of Leicester Castle. The Southern Gateway still stands to the right of Trinity House, and walking through the arch takes you through to St Mary De Castro church.

Looking back through the arch and walking back onto campus, the first building on the right you will see is the Hawthorn Building, home to part of the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences. This building has itself an interesting history. The Hawthorn Building dates to Victorian times and had some later additions to its structure. It was in fact built on another church – St Mary of the Annunciation and part of one wall is visible in the foyer. It is reputed that a Monk prowls the corridors of the building, but few have seen him.

The impressive steps of the East Entrance lead up to art deco turnstiles. These provide access to what was originally a stage and performance area. This is now our largest lecture theatre with seating for around 200 people. I was told when I first joined the university that artists like Jimmy Hendrix performed here in the 1960s, but I have never found any evidence of this but would certainly be interested to find out.

A more detailed history of the university can be found on our website –

History of DeMontfort University
And also at-

De Montfort continues to evolve as an institution. Now all of its schools are on the one City Campus with the School of Nursing recently moving into the newly refurbished Edith Murphy Building (2011). The next advancement will be the formation of a Centre of Open Education in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences to be launched in 2012. This also coincides with the 20th anniversary of De Montfort changing from the former Leicester Polytechnic when it was awarded university status in 1992. The new Open Education Centre will bring together staff and students with an interest in open education resources, be a point for sharing ideas on how to advance open practice for the benefit of everyone. We also have a track record of obtaining research funding and hope to recruit more post-graduate students to the centre to explore the educational benefits and wider impacts on society that the concept of a more open education has to offer.