Medical science degree taster – parasitology

Medical science degree taster – parasitology

Images: Medical science open educational resources.
Creative Commons BY SA.

Content Authors:

Malgorzata Rekas, De Montfort University
Marilena Ioannou, De Montfort University
Peter Gale, Department of Microbiology, Leicester Royal Infirmary


College, University, Specialist

OER Features:

58 light microscope photographs of 21 parasites.

OER Description:

The study of parasites – or parasitology – is perhaps one of the most fascinating area of medicine or a medical science degree. The subject covers the relationship between parasitic organisms and their hosts – be they human or animal. Thus in both human and veterinary medicine, understanding the life cycle of parasites, their means of infecting their host and the clinical picture, is important for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease.

Parasites are either microscopic or macroscopic organisms and often evolve innovative strategies for infecting and overcoming host natural defences. Our bodies react as an attempt to eradiate the parasite and this presents as symptoms, for example vomiting or diarrhoea.

Whilst healthy individuals may be host to parasites more common than they think, in malnourished or susceptible individuals, parasite infection can be life threatening.

The British Society for Parasitology brings together specialist and amature parasitologists from the UK and around the globe to share research news and information.

This series of photographs of 21 different parastites under the light microscope is freely available to use as part of teaching or student work, and is licenced under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA). All we ask is you attribute us.

What is biomedical science?

What is biomedical science?

Biomedical science is a subject studied at university that focuses on the human body in health and disease. Students often chose biomedical science because they enjoy biology and mathematics at school, and the subject is laboratory-based so an interest in chemistry and experimentation is also important.

Interview with Francesca Albertini a Biomedical Scientist at Ashford and St Peters Hospitals NHS Trust. Video by Oxford University Press.

Biomedical science degrees in the UK

What is biomedical science at university? It is an undergraduate degree taught at many UK universities. It is usually three years of full-time study but many institutions will offer a “sandwich” option where students can take a year out to work in a hospital or industry. This provides excellent real-life experience and the student will return in their fourth year to complete their degree. Some degrees are accredited by the professional body – the Institute of Biomedical Science, and if you are considering study, you should look carefully at course details to make sure your degree is accredited. You will need accreditation and then registration with the Health Professions Council to work in a hospital laboratory.

Other routes of study in the UK?

The video describes the old “co-terminus” system where students could study full time and undertake placements in hospital laboratories during their holidays. Again this provided excellent real-life work experience but is a declining option in the UK today unfortunately, but it is always worth asking the university you are applying to if the “co-terminus” route still runs.

The role of biomedical scientist

What is biomedical science on a day-to-day basis? The scientist often works with clinicians to obtain patient samples perhaps during surgery or during hospital procedures. The scientist collects and prepares the sample and performs the analysis in the laboratory. Some of this work can be routine, and much requires the use of large-scale automatic diagnostic equipment particularly for analysing blood for example.

More senior scientists also give opinions on the diagnosis of samples so have a direct link into patient care and management which is very rewarding.

Scientists often specialise in an area such as pathology and cancer screening, or microbiology. However biomedical scientists don’t just work in hospital laboratories in the UK but can also take their degree and work as scientists in the pharmaceutical or biotechnology industry. In these roles it is more likely the scientist will not specialise but undertake research across a number of bioscience areas for example microbiology, immunology and pathology. Scientists can have very exciting and rewarding careers in drug development, in food manufacturing or the cosmetic industry.

What is more fascinating than studying the human body, and what is more exciting than working in the hustle and bustle of a busy laboratory. If you are at school learning biology and chemistry I hope you now will find out more by asking yourself, “what is biomedical science?”

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!