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My lab: teaching laboratories

Dr Jess Dale and Dr Matt Griffiths give a guided tour of the biomedical science facilities at Nottingham Trent University.

The teaching labs at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) are equipped to build students technical skills, from basic foundations to proficient in many laboratory techniques that can be applied to NHS practice. As a university with a very strong focus on practice, we have nine full-time registered biomedical scientists and many visiting biomedical scientists delivering teaching. NTU is based in the East Midlands and has strong links to many of the local hospitals – with several of the staff having worked in them.

Our goal is to produce graduates with well-developed practical, scientific and technical skills – as well as developing a passion for the profession. As such, we seek to deliver practical classes that use industry standard equipment, or close analogues. Within the labs we have Sysmex differential haematology analysers, Randox semi-automated biochemistry analysers, Siemens POCT analysers, a tissue processor, industry standard microtomes, an automated immunostainer and a new electron microscope. We also have phlebotomy teaching equipment, which we can use in educating students on the importance of pre-analytical variables.

We have an amazing anatomical model we can use for anatomy teaching; it can be intubated and even catheterised. The chest cavity is accessible for post-mortem-style labs with animal organs, which the students then dissect themselves.

We have extremely close links to the IBMS – within the NTU teaching team we have a Chief Examiner, Deputy Chief Examiner, three Scientific Advisory Panel members and an IBMS National Council Member. These links mean we are well placed to develop teaching that maximises student links to graduate skills and meeting their standards of proficiency around safe working, limits of practice and so on. It also means that our postgraduate students are able to benefit from courses that are designed with post-registration qualifications in mind, such as the evolving Specialist Portfolio.

We have a huge variety of teaching labs – from our “Superlab”, which can accommodate around 150 students all working together, to smaller labs for 10–20 students. In our Superlab, academics brief students via radio headsets and work with close support from the amazing technical team, using colour-coded lab coats, so it is always clear who to seek help from. There are much smaller research labs for postgraduate students and PhD candidates where they work with differing levels of supervision, as appropriate for their level of practice. We have tissue culture, physiology and pharmacology, and microbiology labs all in use by our future biomedical scientists. For those interested in cross-disciplinary working, there are also physics labs (with an MRI), sport exercise labs and chemistry labs, to name a few.

The range of equipment and facilities is a testament to how well recognised the biomedical science route is by the university. The quality of the practical classes provided is a co-creation between the academics and the technical team. The academics work with the technical team to figure out how to make best use of the available facilities, align these to the graduate attributes, the professional skills, and the student’s interests – designing high-quality practical learning experiences, which prepare students to apply these skills in employment.

The team at NTU has a real passion for biomedical science – we see these students as our healthcare workforce of the future. These will be the people who are checking our blood results, or reviewing our biopsies, in the coming years. We strive to ensure that they are as excited about this profession as we are.   

Dr Jess Dale is Senior Lecturer in Virology and Course Leader and Dr Matt Griffiths is Principal Lecturer in Cellular Pathology.

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