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Student stories: attitudes to three-parent families

25 May 2015

We recently held a day of celebration for our final year science students, where the posters that presented the results of their fantastic Honours projects were put on public display.

Posters are one of the main ways that scientists share the findings of their research and are a feature of any academic conference, so they are an important part of the science degrees here at Abertay.

The posters – and the projects on which they are based – were all assessed by academic staff before the event opened.

The marks the students achieve for these will go towards the final grade they are awarded for their degrees.

The topics covered were wide ranging and included the use of antibiotics in food production, the effect of a cancer drug on preventing heart disease and the perceptions of British consumers towards American and Scotch whiskies.

Medical and Molecular Biology student Kayley Archibald’s project was about triple-parenting. She has been studying for her BSc with us in conjunction with Fife College. Here she tells us a bit more about her project and why she chose to study on this course.

Three-parent families

"My project was about students' attitudes towards mitochondrial replacement, which is a cutting-edge technique that was legalised in the UK earlier this year.

"The therapy was developed to give couples who are at risk of having a child with a mitochondrial disease the opportunity to have a healthy baby unaffected by the disease, but still genetically related to both parents.

"The procedure requires a female donor to donate her healthy mitochondrial DNA, which replaces the mother's faulty mitochondria.

"Despite its legalisation, the technique has sparked controversy among the general public.

"Dr Kevin Smith – who carries out research in the related areas of genetics and bioethics – was my supervisor and had a range of project ideas for us to choose from. I picked this topic because it was a brand new technique and I thought it would be interesting to analyse students' views of it.

"The results from my study found that 75% of 300 students were either strongly or slightly in favour of these mitochondrial replacement techniques."

Sense of achievement

"I can't believe I finished this project – it is my biggest achievement so far. At the start of the project I was worried, as there wasn’t a great amount of published work about attitudes towards mitochondrial therapy and I wasn’t sure that I would have enough time to visit classes for students to answer the questionnaire.

"However, by the end I managed to complete all visits and find some more published literature. I am relieved that it is now complete and so happy with the outcome."

Medical and molecular biology

"Biology was my favourite subject from third year onwards at high school. I loved learning about the human body and how it functions and how it combats disease so, while looking through the prospectus, medical and molecular biology just jumped out at me.

"The course content is what really appealed, as I am really interested in human disease and cell pathology, and the course had a human disease unit in both third and fourth year.

"I was also guaranteed a 10-week work placement in third year. My placement was at Scottish Water working in a cryptosporidium laboratory."

Work experience

"Cryptosporidium is the parasite that causes gastroenteritis, and the scientists in the lab are responsible for testing all water samples to determine whether the water is safe for us to drink.

"There are four species of cryptosporidium which are infectious, so the cryptosporidium lab performs various techniques to determine whether the water sample contains an infectious strain.

"Working in the lab was great work experience: I was working as a laboratory assistant preparing samples for the scientists, analysing water samples and recording the levels of bacteria within these samples.

"When I graduate I hope to be involved in work associated with infectious diseases, particularly re-emerging diseases such as Ebola and HIV. I would love to have a job developing diagnostic tests for diagnosing diseases or developing treatments for emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases."

The Abertay experience

"I would definitely recommend Abertay to prospective students. I have met so many new people, and have learnt about so many fascinating topics – all the modules have been really interesting, so, if you’re thinking of studying at Abertay, go for it!

"The facilities are fantastic as well, and all my lecturers have been really approachable and so helpful. In particular my supervisor, Kevin Smith, was fantastic – without his help I would not have been able to do my project, so I am incredibly grateful for all his guidance."

To find out more about the science degrees we offer here at Abertay, please visit our course pages.

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