Tag Archives: science

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Developing the next generation of scientists, engineers and technologists

What makes an effective teacher of vocational science, engineering or technology (SET)? How can a teacher’s effectiveness be improved in an education system under increasing pressures from changing economic, political and technological circumstances? These questions have an important bearing on current debates and policy concerning technical and vocational education – not least the recent Sainsbury Review – and are the focus of a three-year research project based in the School of Education and Professional Development.

ITE-VocSET

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Subject Specialist Pedagogy in Initial Teacher Education for Vocational Science, Engineering and Technology (ITE-VocSET) is funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, which has a long-standing interest in improving teaching and learning in SET subjects. This interest connects with a wider UK context of ongoing concern about the supply of scientists, engineers and technologists, not only of graduates but also at technician level where further education colleges – and their technical teachers – play a critically important role.

With its long tradition of teacher development for the further education sector, and its strong record of research in this field, the School of Education and Professional Development is uniquely placed to host the project, which combines research into subject specialist pedagogy with application to teacher development.

The project has a semi-experimental methodology based on a series of “interventions” – short programmes of study for trainee teachers in addition to their main teacher education programme. Based on a theory of change in which specific aspects of teacher development are identified as possible consequences of the intervention, the team then aim to evaluate its impact on what teachers do and how they think about their actions.

Learning resources

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The research began in October 2015 with a literature review aimed at building a conceptual model of subject specialist pedagogy appropriate to the teaching of vocational SET subjects. The resulting model of pedagogy was then used to develop and refine learning resources for use by trainee SET teachers taking part in the interventions. These resources include structured video materials based on teaching sessions in further education colleges, animations to explain and illustrate key concepts of pedagogy, and a website providing structured pathways through the conceptual model.

Alongside the resource development, the team has worked with partner universities and colleges to identify trainee SET teachers – and teacher educators – who would like to take part in the interventions. A key issue has been the shortage of SET trainee teachers across the country, which has meant approaching the project on a national basis, using online sessions and “Saturday schools” based in Manchester to facilitate participation.

The first of the interventions is now approaching completion and evaluation is under way. Working with colleagues from the Education and Training Foundation (the national body for further education teaching) the aim is to include up to 70 participants by early 2018. In addition to evaluating the specific approach used in the intervention, the research will provide a rich source of qualitative data on how SET specialists think about their teaching, their students and the relationship between the college and the workplace. This research should be the basis for a range of publications for the 2020 Research Excellence Framework.

Cluster of Differentiation CD40

New cancer treatment without the serious side effects

Researchers at the University of Huddersfield are the first to arrive at a deep understanding of a molecule that destroys cancerous tumours without harming healthy cell tissue. The discovery, which has been patented, opens the doors for a highly effective cancer treatment.

A journal article describes the science behind the breakthrough. The research team headed by Dr Nikolaos Georgopoulos has developed and patented a cancer treatment regime that exploits the unique properties of the molecule – a protein named Cluster of Differentiation 40 (CD40). The next phase is to secure funding for clinical trials.

Targeting tumour cells

Skin cells
Skin cells

Tumour cells proliferate by continuously dividing. This places them under considerable stress, but they have developed protective properties that enable them to cope.  CD40 removes this protection so that the tumour cells die, but because normal cells are not placed under “oxidative stress” they are unharmed by the protein.

It was vital to understand these remarkable properties of CD40, with their immense potential for cancer therapy.  Years of investigation began to unlock the mystery.

Cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, usually have side effects and healthy cells are destroyed along with cancerous cells.

Dr Georgopoulos and his co-researchers at the University of Huddersfield made this discovery because instead of working purely with tumour cells, they were able to make comparisons with the effects of CD40 on normal cells as well as engineered – para-malignant – cells that allowed them to mimic the process of carcinogenesis – cancer development. They have now identified exactly why this molecule can kill tumour cells and why it leaves normal cells unaffected.

Future cancer treatment

From left: Chris Dunnill and Nik Georgopoulos
From left: Chris Dunnill and Nik Georgopoulos

The team has also worked on a method of using CD40 in targeted, intravenous bio-therapy by discovering the best way to deploy the molecule. The discovery has been patented, and the University is exploring commercialisation through a spin-out company – provisionally called ThanatoCure™ – Thanatos is the Greek word for ‘death’, referring here to cell death.

Advanced discussions are being held with a company that specialises in early-stage development of innovative cancer therapies. It is hoped that the company will secure funding in the region of £900,000 for clinical trials that would see colorectal cancer patients receiving the new treatment. The trials could start as early as the end of 2017.

A big proportion of research leading to the breakthrough was conducted by Dr Chris Dunnill, during and beyond his PhD, supervised by Dr Georgopoulos.  Also part of the research team – and co-contributors to the new article in a leading journal – were PhD students Khalidah Ibraheem and Albashir Mohamed, supervised by Dr Georgopoulos, and Professor Jenny Southgate from the Department of Biology, University of York.

  • The article A redox state-dictated signalling pathway deciphers the malignant cell specificity of CD40-mediated apoptosis is in the journal, Oncogene.