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Student stories - antibiotic resistance

26 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 perceptions of British consumers towards American and Scotch whiskies, the effect of a cancer drug on preventing heart disease and attitudes to three-parent families.

Biomedical Science student Rebecca Dalgliesh’s project looked at the use of antibiotics in livestock and food production.

Here she tells us a bit more about this subject and why she chose to study for her BSc here at Abertay.

Antibiotic resistance

"My Honours project evaluated different farming practices to find out the strength of the relationship between antibiotic use in livestock farming and antibiotic resistance in humans.

"Farmers use approximately ten times the antibiotic tonnage that is used in human medicine, but when the topic of ‘antibiotic resistance’ is discussed most people just think about the human use of antibiotics – the over-use, misuse and over-prescribing by doctors for example.

"What they don’t realise is that the antibiotics that farmers give to livestock to treat disease and enhance growth probably have a much bigger impact on microbes’ ability to develop resistance.

"My interest in this subject was influenced by my granddad who is a dairy farmer, so it’s something I really enjoyed finding out more about."


"My project involved carrying out a meta-analysis, which is quite a complicated statistical method for comparing different studies that have all been carried out on a similar topic to see if there are any interesting relationships between them.

"I looked at seven published papers in total, and these were about farms in the US, Germany and Canada. I wanted to look at a range of farm areas as one of the things I discussed in my project is how the intensity of the farming practices influenced the results – and the intensity of use varies due to different laws in different countries.

"For example, the US administers a total of 17 different classes of antibiotics for growth promotion practices, whereas Germany only uses antibiotics to treat animal disease, which means the use is less frequent.

"The result of comparing these two countries revealed that the US farms had a much stronger association between antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance than Germany did, due to the excessive use of antibiotics.

"However, all papers revealed a positive relationship which strongly suggested that livestock antibiotic use influenced antibiotic resistance levels."

Sense of achievement

"The Honours project was extremely daunting. No other Honours student at Abertay had ever pursued a meta-analysis study design like this before, so it was quite nerve-wracking to think that I was the first to attempt it.

"Dr Anne Savage was a tremendous help to me though. Her wealth of statistical knowledge was a real encouragement and a meta-analysis study design would not have been achievable without her help.

"At the beginning I felt very overwhelmed, but I felt a real sense of achievement when I reached the end and felt very proud of what I had achieved."

Biomedical science

"The Biomedical Science course at Abertay is accredited by The Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS), which is why I chose to pursue my degree at Abertay.

"I really struggled to decide what I wanted to do when I left school though. I didn’t decide until my very final year. But I think my interest in biomedical science stemmed from an Advanced Higher Biology project in that year, where I investigated the antibacterial properties of different types of honey and was introduced to a variety of lab techniques.

"I also had some work experience in some labs at Dumfries Hospital near home, and the work shadowing experiences in these labs further encouraged my interest in the subject.

"My love of lab work was one of the reasons I chose biomedical science, but another was that I was just interested in so many different aspects of science that I felt by studying biomedical science I could learn about a very broad range of subjects I was interested in."


"To anyone thinking about pursuing a biomedical science degree at Abertay I would say ‘definitely apply’, as they will undoubtedly receive superb teaching, help and reassurance throughout the four years of study and will feel like an individual rather than just a number in a sea of students.

"That’s one particular aspect I have liked about Abertay – there were only 50 students in my class and I feel all lecturers knew me by name. 

"I really enjoyed the teaching and learning aspects of the course and the opportunity to meet so many great people – both friends and lecturers. I will always look back very fondly on the time spent in practical lab classes – there was lots of laughter and I have many funny memories.

"I have felt truly inspired by the enthusiasm and passion of all the Abertay lecturers who have taught me over the last four years, but particularly Dr Phil Collier.

"He has left Abertay now, but he was a true inspiration to me and is the wisest man I have ever met. His wealth of knowledge and passion for microbiology was very encouraging."

The future

"At the moment I am primarily interested in a job involving any kind of lab-based work, as that is what I really enjoy.

"I feel that by studying biomedical science I have covered a broad spectrum of very interesting topics – pharmacology, microbiology, haematology and pathology for example – and I have been interested in all of the modules I have studied so there are lots of different avenues I am considering going down when it comes to job hunting."

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


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