The majority of the department’s teaching takes place in our well-equipped Biosciences building which features an excellent range of laboratories. From the beginning of the course, students have access to specialist laboratories including Scanning Electron Microscope, physiology, invertebrate ecology, plant science, histology and climate-controlled insectaries. Alongside the purpose-built BioSciences building is the £13million Technology Hub building. These new facilities enable students to undertake; molecular biology, microscopy, cell culture, microbiology and DNA sequencing. Access to these facilities put Edge Hill undergraduates at the forefront of experience in modern biology facilities.
Our team of friendly tutors are all based in the Biosciences building and are on hand to offer one-to-one support and advice. These facilities help to ensure that your studies are a rich and rewarding experience.
Plant Science facilities
Our Plant Science laboratory is equipped with state-of-the-art LED growth light systems, which can recreate any light environment within the visible, IR and UV spectrum (over 1 million possible combinations!). The lab is also very well equipped with sensory equipment including turgor sensors, a thermal imagery system, a leaf area meter, an AP4 porometer, soil sensory equipment (e.g. tensiometers, temperature, soil moisture meters etc.) and atmospheric sensors (e.g. pyranometers, spectrometers, quantum sensors, pollution sensors, relative humidity and temperature sensors etc.). A climate controlled growth chamber and plant microscopy equipment is also available.
The department is fitted with state-of-art labs and equipment which include dedicated facilities for microbiology, molecular biology, cell and tissue culture, microscopy and vector biology. Highlights of available equipment and techniques include anaerobic microbiology chambers, gas chromatography, high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), laboratory-size parallel bioreactor system for plant and mammalian applications including drug development, fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS), several types of microscopy (e.g. SEM, laser-microscopy, time-lapse and live imaging microscopy, fully-automated fluorescence microscopy, DNA extraction and sequencing, qPCR and PCR facilities and mosquito-rearing facilities. Module teaching introduces students to real-life scenarios of the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, as well as visits to some of them.
Biomedical Science facilities
Students have access to a state-of-the art cell culture facility dedicated to undergraduate student teaching and research. This facility encompasses class-II safety cabinets, various humidified incubators, a fully automated inverted fluorescence microscope to monitor cell growth and study advanced cell culture experiments. Students have access to modern biomedical research equipment, including cooled centrifuges for small and large tubes, fine-scales, pH-meters, water-bathes, hot-plates, various shakers, consumables and material for Western-blotting, toxicity and hormone level analyses. Module teaching introduces students to special application and training in flow cytometry (using a BD FACSMelody machine), an in-depth understanding and hands-on-training of all relevant histological instruments available in our histology suite which houses a fully-automated Tissue Processor, an Embedding Station, as well as semi-automated Microtomes and a Cryostat. 2nd and 3rd year students have access to molecular biology facilities (e.g. PCR, DNA analysis) but 3rd year students will perform in-depths expression profile analysis using human samples in a real life scenario in module-led teaching. Specialty training for 3rd year module teaching encompasses uses of a parallel bioreactor system for rare-disease drug production in bench-to-industry research. Student-led studies are supported by time-lapse microscopy (video microscopy) and stereomicroscopy for various life cell applications.
Students on the genetics programme have access to the Biotech laboratory which houses a DNA sequencer, DNA/RNA/Protein Bioanalyser, PCR machines and quantitative PCR machines capable of measuring gene expression, methylation studies and genotyping applications.
Ecology and Conservation facilities
Our ecology teaching and research takes advantage of the outstanding countryside in the vicinity. This includes one of the best coastlines in Europe, ancient woodlands, uplands and species rich meadows plus distinctive rare habitats such as limestone pavement. In addition the department has the use of a private local woodland for research. We also have excellent lab facilities including soil labs and microscopy facilities, dedicated labs for invertebrate ecology and plant science, including reference collections, and bookable labs open to all students.
Biology facilities are wide-ranging with students having access to equipment such as a Scanning Electron Microscope, biotechnology labs and insectaries where we rear the world’s most deadly organism, the mosquito. For more details on the biology facilities please see the description for the other programmes.
For field work we have access to the outstanding countryside in the vicinity. This includes one of the best coastlines in Europe, ancient woodlands, uplands and species rich meadows, as well as dedicated plant and ecology laboratories.
Biologists work in laboratories (labs) and we want you to do this as soon as possible. Alongside your sessions in teaching labs we have a number of research only labs. Almost from day one, you will have the opportunity to use these. In your first year you will have a slide preparation assignment that requires you to book the lab time, undertake the necessary training (including health and safety), and then proceed with the assignment. As part of your second year you will have a Research Methods module that will see you working in labs on your own small project. This is in preparation for your final year dissertation when one of the research labs is likely to become your second home.
All second-year students have the option to study a Lab Masterclass module, which allows them time to develop expertise with equipment and also to gain more transferable and essential, lab skills such as keeping a lab notebook, risk assessment and health and safety. The Masterclasses also give students considerable experience of working in three key areas of biology: molecular, microbiological and histological core-techniques, including light microscopy and Scanning Electron Microscopy, equipping them with the skills required to impress employers.
“For the last five years students have enjoyed a unique opportunity to develop lab skills across a range of equipment to a high level. This has had multiple benefits, and has resulted in higher numbers of our students moving on to employment in labs or excelling in postgraduate courses with a considerable lab component.” Professor Paul Ashton, Head of Biology
You will have the opportunity to undertake a wide range of field based activities developing skills important for a career in ecological consultancy, conservation or wildlife management or simply to develop a personal interest further. From a variety of optional modules you can choose to develop field-based survey skills for plants, terrestrial invertebrates and mammals and birds and explore findings in the context of real world scenarios of habitat and species management. You will also have the opportunity to engage with aspects of field work important to employers including safe and ethical working practice and use of navigation equipment (GPS, map, compass).
Exploring living things in their natural habitat is crucial to an understanding of the natural world in all its glorious complexity, and fieldwork is a key component of many programmes. Field trips provide a mixture of practical and fieldwork teaching along with opportunities to participate in half and full day field trips as well residential trips around the UK and abroad at no extra cost. Current week-long residentials include Cyprus, Tenerife and the South Wales coast. One of our graduates, Megan Hockenhull, BSc (Hons) Ecology & Conservation, shared her views on fieldwork:
“I find fieldwork to be one of the most enjoyable parts of doing an Ecology degree. The hands-on approach to fieldwork at Edge Hill gives a true insight into the world of research within many different subject areas and offers a much higher level of experience than most other universities.”
A number of the leading nature reserves in the country are in close proximity. You will be taught within a short travelling distance of impressive field sites such as one of the finest saltmarsh and dune systems in Europe, restored mires of international importance, hay meadows and limestone woodlands. Almost adjacent to the University is a farm sympathetically managed for biodiversity and a mixed woodland.
Fieldwork is an engaging and important aspect of all our programmes, giving the degrees real-world value and developing teamwork skills. Each excursion provides the opportunity to learn and apply a range of fieldwork techniques and methodologies in a field environment. Moreover, all costs are met by the department
First Year field trip to Cyprus
Currently, the first trip is in year one to Cyprus in the first few weeks of teaching.
This field course is all about helping new first years in the Department of Biology to get to know their group while learning the fundamentals of scientific research – and we do this by taking everyone to the Med for a week! The design of the field course aims to maximise the development of student’s research skills. We address a number of scientific questions during the first part of the week using a range of different methods and then students develop their own investigation in groups during the second part of the week.
Field-based research really lends itself to learning this scientific approach, but what students really gain from the week is getting to know their whole cohort, making friendships that will endure for their whole degree course, and becoming accomplished at working as part of a team and meeting various challenges along the way.
Second year trip to Tenerife
In order to develop important botanical skills that you can also apply to plants that can be found outside the UK, the Plant Diversity module will be taught during a one week course on the island of Tenerife, off West Africa. We will be undertaking a number of botanical activities including visiting some of the worlds most beautiful Laurel forests. You will be learning important taxonomic skills that will enable you to recognize plants you are likely to be less familiar with, and you will have the opportunity to visit many habitats that you will not find anywhere in the UK – a botanical extravaganza!
Third year trip to South Wales
The Biodiversity and Conservation module is delivered through a week long residential field course staying at a Georgian House adjacent to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Here we undertake a variety of activities across several habitats including assessing cliff top limestone grassland as a habitat for rare birds, mapping a farm managed for conservation and undertaking a bat surveying (our accommodation has its own bat roost of rare species). Weather permitting (it is always glorious) we will visit one of the offshore islands and we will use these experiences to consider conservation issues at local, national and international level.
The biosciences department prides itself on utilising assessments that are innovative and enhance employability. For instance, the Biochemistry and Metabolism year two module assessment includes an animation of a biological process. Here you work with an animation student to produce and present a short animation.
Several modules have assessments relevant to professional skills. The Field Botany and Invertebrate Ecology modules assessment includes production of a museum standard specimen collection, while Laboratory Masterclass assessment is a Scanning Electron Microscope image and description, together with submission of your lab work. Further, if you opt for a year two Human Genetics module you will produce a case report, a special form of publication designed to discuss rare and unusual clinical cases. Medical progress depends on each single patient, a proper understanding of their history and a successful treatment of their condition. Based on real medical data from a range of patients with different conditions you will conduct further research and present your results ready for publication.
In your first year Biodiversity module you will learn how to stain, visualize and identify plant tissue and structures. You will be assessed on the quality and accuracy of several tissue sections you will have to prepare. By the end of the assessment you will be proficient in plant microscopy and the accurate presentation of your sections relevant to taxonomy.
Learning how to conduct research is essential for enhancing graduate skills, challenging students to achieve their full potential and increasing employability. In the Department of Biology, it is also a key part of the curriculum for all students.
Part of the Department’s employability strategy, the Research Methods module allows students to get hands-on experience of research by planning and conducting a short research project, followed by data analysis and results presentation. The highlight of the module, which involves all members of the Department, is Research Week – an intensive period of student-led, lab-based research, culminating in a Research Poster Evening, when students present their results in a scientific conference setting. Research Methods provides the basis for the final year Dissertation project. During the Dissertation module, students will develop a wide range of practical and communication skills based on their interests in specific research areas. For 3-6 months, students will have access to our research facilities as well as expert support from tutors who will guide students through individual research projects.
Edge Hill is partnered with Public Health England (PHE), helping to stop life-threatening illnesses, like dengue, yellow fever and zika, spreading into Britain. You can read more about this research.
We also have a research partnership with the Forestry Commission, helping to maintain biodiversity in the UK’s woodlands. Dr Anne Oxbrough, Reader in Ecology, said of the research:
“Our recommendations aim to protect biodiversity in commercial forests ensuring important ecosystem functions, such as decomposition and predation, are maintained into the future, particularly as climate and environmental conditions change.”
Read more about the Forestry Commission research partnership.
Opportunity to undertake a work placement
Increasing your employability is something we see as vital, and all our degrees have work-based learning and skills development opportunities built into the syllabus. Students currently have the opportunity to complete a work placement, which is an ideal opportunity to gain experience in a branch of Biosciences that is of particular interest. Previous students have enjoyed placements in a range of organisations, including the RSPB, National Trust, the Wildlife Trust and local microbiology labs. Watch this video to hear some of our tutors explain the opportunities.
One of our students, Ashley, has had the opportunity to work as a Research Affiliate at The Morton Arboretum, Illinois, USA. Ashley said:
“This placement has helped me gain an understanding of what it’s like to work in research – both heading a project in the field and being part of a team in the lab. I’ve learnt new lab techniques and developed my leadership and resource management skills through various projects.”
You can read more from Ashley on our student blog site, InsideEdge.
The department runs a very successful eight-week summer internship programme.
Selected students have the opportunity to be fully immersed in current research projects of the department and gain relevant new skills. For example, our 2nd year student Graham worked over the summer of 2018 with one of our MSc Conservation Management students on the impact of visitor numbers on deer stress in a National Trust park near Manchester: Graham said:
“During my internship I have learned how biological research works in a real-world setting…[I also learned] how to meet deadlines and work to a tight schedule.”
Our students graduate with a broad range of marketable skills such as problem solving, communication, teamwork, research, and project management alongside detailed subject knowledge and extensive hands-on practical experience.
Recent graduates have progressed to successful careers in a wide range of fields, namely as a Microbiologist, Clinical Research Associate, Nature Reserve Warden, Ecological Consultant, Wildlife Refuge Manager in Malaysia, NHS Data Analyst, Museum Entomology Curator and Food Analyst.
A significant percentage of our graduates progress to Masters and PhD level research.
Discover the experiences of some of our recent graduates below:
“Without Edge Hill University I would be nowhere close to getting the job I came to uni wanting –a role as an Ecological Consultant. Edge Hill has equipped me with both the knowledge and field skills that, in part, have enabled me to get my current job.” Josh Styles, BSc (Hons) Ecology
“I didn’t see research as a career, however, the careful attention to detail, accurate recording and demanding analysis showed me that a career in laboratory work was something I was capable of and would enjoy.” Liam Purcell, BSc (Hons) Biology
Our students are best placed to give you an insight into studying Biology at Edge Hill. In the video below a few of our students give you an insight into studying a BioSciences programme and what life is like on campus.
Amy shared what it is really like to study Biology, watch the video below for her perspective:
Adam also shared his perspective on the course, with the three things he loves about studying Biology at Edge Hill. Watch the video below to find out more:
We also asked Amy what three things she loves about her course. Find out what she said below:
In the last three years several new lecturers have joined the Biology Department, each bringing new expertise and knowledge to the team which means greater areas of study for our students. Areas of research include the study of microbial communities thriving in marine and extreme environments; pregnancy and its related diseases; the genetic basis of skin conditions; and the regulation of stress responses in the bacterial genus Streptomyces, the producers of many clinically useful antibiotics.
To find out more about the staff in the Department please click on the images below:
If you haven’t already visited our campus, or would like to visit again, you can discover everything you need to know about life at Edge Hill by attending one of our Open Days. Student guides will be on hand to take you on a tour of the halls of residence and faculty buildings, you can also attend subject presentations and speak with tutors and current students.
Alternatively, our Campus tours take place each month and provide a great opportunity to see Edge Hill University’s award-winning campus and get a taste of what the student experience here is like.