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Picture of Bethany23-year-old Bethany from Liverpool studied A levels at Notre Dame Catholic College, Liverpool, before securing a level 3 Science Apprenticeship with the UKs largest water supplier, United Utilities.

To achieve her Apprenticeship qualification, Bethany attended St Helens College, one day per week. Upon successful completion of her Apprenticeship and impressed with Bethany’s abilities, United Utilities were keen to support Bethany in progressing onto higher level study, in an area relevant to her interests, career goals and current role.

With an already well established relationship and offering one of only a handful of Applied Microbiology degrees on a part-time basis in the country, University Centre St Helens became the natural choice for both Bethany and her employer. Already familiar with the Town Centre Campus location, which is central to both Bethany’s place of work and home, Bethany secured an offer on the FdSc Applied Microbiology.

Quickly realising that the degree content was of extreme relevance to her current job role, Bethany explained:

“There have been many skills I have learnt in the workplace that I have been able to apply in both lectures and practical sessions at University Centre St Helens. I have also been able to use my work experience during in-class discussions, to provide relevant insight into industry. Equally, there have been a number of subjects covered in lectures throughout the duration of the degree, which have related to my day to day working as a microbiologist in the water industry and widened my knowledge of certain topics. For example, in the Parasitology module we studied, we have looked at Cryptosporidium in detail (an important organism in the water industry), and carried out a practical experiment in Biochemical Oxygen Demand, a parameter which is actually tested for at the laboratory where I am based.”

Continuing, Bethany said:

“I am enjoying the variety of subjects covered within the degree, the fact that there are practical elements as well as lectures, keeps the content exciting. I am really enjoying how, through the study of certain modules, such as the Biology of Disease and Medical Microbiology, you can see how microbiology works and is relevant and applicable to a wide variety of aspects in the ‘real world’.

For me, seeing the practical application of a topic I am studying gives it much more purpose – there is a reason why these things are studied, for example, to make medical and technological advancements, which ultimately improve lives, and this makes me motivated to learn more.”

Explaining how teaching typically takes place on the FdSc Applied Microbiology, Bethany added:

“Applied Microbiology is a practical degree, so teaching takes place in a variety of formats. Usually we have a lecture to cover particular subject theory and this is followed with laboratory sessions to develop practical techniques in both general and specialist laboratory working and analysis. Microbiology labs can function very differently to chemistry labs, so through these practical sessions we are able to gain experience in the use of aseptic technique, a critical skill needed for success in a microbiology lab, alongside the general running of experimental procedures. Many students on the FdSc Applied Microbiology degree progress onto careers or further study involving laboratory work, so these practical sessions are useful preparation for future working environments.”

University Centre St Helens prides itself on smaller class sizes and unrivalled access to industry experienced lecturers. The FdSc in Applied Microbiology is no exception, with all students having open access to a brand-new set of microscopes, available exclusively for use by degree level students, heavily enhancing the quality of practical sessions.
In addition, the lecturing team are all industry experienced, with Bethany commenting:

“The lecturing team that I have worked with so far on my degree have all been very approachable, understanding and supportive. They are always available to answer any questions students may have about course content, and always endeavour to make time to work through subjects that students may be finding particularly difficult. They understand the commitment part-time students make and the challenges of balancing full-time work with part-time study and other commitments and for me, personally, they have been particularly helpful in the run-up to exams, often providing drop-in sessions for questions and subject areas refreshers.”

Upon successful completion of the FdSc Applied Microbiology, Bethany would like to progress onto The University of Chester Medical School, to complete an additional year of study, allowing her to ‘top-up’ her qualification to a full, BSc (Hons) degree in Microbiology.

When asked what advice she would give to a prospective student considering the degree, Bethany said:

“My advice to anyone starting the degree is to not just restrict learning to the hours you spend in the classroom or laboratory - reading articles of relevance to the subject, which pop up on the internet, on social media or in the news are all really good ways of keeping yourself up to date on current scientific or medical events/developments, and this can prove useful throughout the degree. Even articles which aren’t considered totally factual can be useful as it is always interesting to have an insight into the public opinion of scientific events and advances - just make sure you know the difference between the sources! I would also recommend making the most of the resources provided by the lecturers via the University of Chester website, and lastly (but most obviously) to space your workload out evenly, leaving you plenty of time to perfect assignments and have adequate exam revision at the end of the year. The nature of the material can make assignments more time consuming than you might think and time is always of the essence when you work and study at the same time.”