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 (http://www.nutritionsociety.org/).

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

Medical Science Degree and Biomedical Science

The HALS project team are working to establish open education practices within their undergraduate degrees including the Medical Science Degree.

There are a number of university science degrees in the UK that focus on diagnostic and clinical aspects of understanding the human body in health and disease. The names of such degrees can often be confusing.

Biomedical Science is a professionally accredited degree by the Institute of Biomedical Science and contains set disciplines including haematology and microbiology to reflect the job requirements of hospital scientists.

Biomedical Sciences on the other hand might not be professionally accredited and will reflect the subject more generally in line with the research interests of the staff at a particular institution.

Making things even more confusing is the fact that at some universities, a degree similar to the above one might be called Clinical Sciences.

Medical Sciences however is different and is offered at only a small number of universities including Glamorgan and Edinburgh. Rather than focusing on laboratory aspects of diagnosing and investigating the human body, the degree also incorporates more medical subjects for example physiological measurement and patient interaction. This degree attracts students who may want to go into Medicine or medical research.

At De Montfort, because our emphasis is slightly away from having to provide laboratory training, students are offered a more independent experience being able to choose their own topics for study and assignments. We can offer much more in the way of research training which is much sought after by employers in the UK.

Medical Science Degree

Photograph: Normal Blood Cells, CC BY SA, SCOOTER Project. (Medical Science Degree)

The HALS team are working with external partners – including Leicester Hospitals NHS Trust – to produce exciting and high quality Medical Science degree learning resources in the areas of gastroenterology and nutrition for example. On January 3rd 2012 Viv attended a meeting at the Gastroenterology Department and the gastro staff came up with several areas for collaboration.

One exciting area is the production of nutritional resources to support medical science degree teaching around the UK. Nutrition is often an under-represented subject area and at De Montfort we run a final year module on gastroenterology and nutrition. We are excited about sharing some of our teaching and assessment materials with the wider community.