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Dr Mark Pickard is a senior lecturer who currently leads the BSc (Hons) Biotechnology programme. Since graduating with a PhD in microbial biochemistry from the University of London, he has gained over 30 years’ experience and he has published over 60 scientific papers in the fields of neurobiology, oncology and nanotechnology. Mark has been teaching on various bioscience programmes at University Centre Shrewsbury since early 2016. His current research interests focus on long noncoding RNAs and their roles in the development of various cancers.

What is a typical day at work for you?

There is no typical day! I have a fixed and busy teaching timetable, so usually there is some element of teaching - be it a lecture, a seminar or a practical session. A large amount of time also goes into preparing these sessions so that students receive a high quality and up-to-date experience in their academic studies. I also lead several modules and I am responsible for setting and marking coursework and exams, so there is usually some element of dealing with assessment matters. For most assessed work I usually offer some formative assessment opportunities, which allows me to give feedback to students on how to improve their performance before the submission deadline. This can be work-intensive, but it is worthwhile, as it can really help students progress in their academic studies and ensure that they reach their full potential. As leader of the BSc Biotechnology programme, I am also responsible for engaging in programme development and programme administration, which can involve various meetings or e-mail correspondence with other members of the Department and the University, as well as applicants and their families. Last, but by no means least, I also serve as a personal academic tutor to students, so I may also be advising my tutees on their academic progress, future prospects or any issues that have arisen in their personal lives.

What is the favourite part of your job?

Seeing the progress of students throughout the three years of their study. It is really rewarding when a student you have been helping has had that ‘eureka’ moment and starts to achieve higher grades. We had our first graduation last year and it was very fulfilling to see the students finally be rewarded for all their hard work in front of their families. I also relish some of the group discussions on scientific topics that I lead with students in class, as you are never fully prepared for some of the responses!

If you had a superpower what would it be?

Precognition - so I really could focus my help and efforts on those situations and students that need it the most.

Choose a movie title for your life.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I was the first member of my family to attend University and it was certainly my golden ticket to a more enriched life.

Do you have any exciting upcoming projects?

I am really looking forward to supervising an MRes student in Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine who has opted to do his experimental project with me. This will be the first postgraduate student to be taught in the Biosciences Department at UCS, and will hopefully pave the way for setting up Masters’ provision for our existing students in the future.

What is the best thing about Biotechnology?

Biotechnology is an emerging area of the Biosciences and it has huge potential to solve many of the global issues that we face in the twenty-first century - be it in medicine, agriculture or the environment. For example, there has been much in the media in recent weeks about the contaminated blood scandal of the 1970/80s. Such a situation is unlikely to arise again in the future, as the introduction of genetic engineering approaches has removed our dependence on blood for the production of essential pharmaceuticals, which are used in the treatment of various diseases. As regards the environment, biotechnology is facilitating the development and production of new green biofuels and offers many opportunities in the form of bioremediation for cleaning up environmental pollution. Finally, agricultural biotechnology is offering ways to improve crop yields, while tissue engineering approaches are coming up with new alternatives (in vitro meats) to traditional farmed meats, which are likely to enter the marketplace in the near future.

What has been your proudest moment while working at the University Centre Shrewsbury?

Winning the Above and Beyond award for ‘Most Inspiring Lecturer’. These awards are voted for by students and it was really heart-warming to see the comments made by students and to know that you are really making a big difference to some of their lives.


Find out the latest news from the UCS Bioscience department at their Facebook page. If you'd like to learn more about studying Biotechnology at UCS, why not come along to one of our upcoming Open Evening? You can book your place here

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