Education is key for a thriving Life and Chemical Sciences sector in Scotland

The Life and Chemical Sciences Sector in Scotland continues to face challenges in developing a highly skilled workforce and an awareness from young people about what careers in the sector are available. In response, Edinburgh Napier University, supported by the Scottish Universities Life Science Alliance (SULSA) and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) hosted the Scottish Life and Chemical Sciences Skills Summit on Thursday 28 September at Craiglockhart Campus.

The aim of the summit focuses on solutions in two priority areas: (1) work readiness skills of new entrants and (2) collaboration between industry and academia.

The summit opened with Dr. Claire Garden, Associate Professor and Head of Teaching and Learning, School of Applied Sciences at Edinburgh Napier University and Chair of the SULSA Skills Committee giving opening remarks honing in over a decade of work in the life science skills space. She has brought this summit to life bringing together approximately 70 individuals comprising of industry from the life and chemical sciences sector, college and university staff, innovation centres, and wider public sector agencies.

Dr. Claire Garden

Mr. Ivan McKee MSP delivered the keynote speech for the summit to a room of widely attentive and keen professionals throughout his remarks. McKee noted, that the Life and Chemical Sciences sector is identified in the UK Innovation Strategy and is a priority area that Scotland can be competitive in internationally. McKee is also a member of the Cross-Party Group in the Scottish Parliament on Life Sciences and showed his enthusiasm for the potential of what the sector can do for Scotland’s economy. McKee stated that “a strong skills pipeline is essential to support Scotland’s fast-growing life and chemical science sector. I’m delighted to see the work of SULSA, bringing Universities, colleges, industry, and government agencies together at today’s skill summit to take forward concrete collaborative actions to address this need”.

The education system (including colleges, universities, training providers, and work-based learning/apprenticeships) is critical for the industry to retain and attract talent in the sector in Scotland. The solutions discussed in breakout sessions and workshops will mark the first step to influencing what comes next in the industry. According to Dr. Claire Garden, “the Summit was a resounding success where clear themes emerged. Work is already underway to address skills needs across the sector, however, there is a requirement for further support to share them in a visible way. There was also a clear desire for further opportunities to collaborate on targeted solutions.  Further details will be outlined in our report later in the year.”

E-bike boom: ENU researchers find electric mountain bikes could help tackle health inequalities

The biggest study of its kind also found cost remains a barrier to e-MTBs, writes Dr Lesley Ingram-Sills

New research into the use of electric mountain bikes (e-MTBs), led by researchers at Edinburgh Napier University’s Mountain Bike Centre of Scotland, has found they could have a role to play in reducing health inequalities – as well as offering a ‘unique opportunity’ to promote wellbeing.

The study, which was the largest undertaken into the recreational use of the e-MTBs, gathered more than 1300 responses were gathered from riders, retailers, manufacturers and land managers across Scotland, England and Wales.

It found evidence of an older participation base than general MTB cyclists, as well as a broadly similar number of disabled respondents to the British average, suggesting they could help more people stay fit and active.

Other conclusions included an increase in speed and distance covered throughout the year in comparison to other cyclists, this the majority of individuals participating to benefit mental health or have fun. Cost is the main barrier to participation and this is an important consideration moving forward to make it fully accessible as a sport.

The final report also makes nine recommendations to organisations involved in the sector, including education relating to trail etiquette and outdoor access codes, reducing the financial barriers and promoting its health benefits.

Within this research we attempted to understand the rider, the industry, and the most popular trails to ride e-MTBs on.  We continue to see a growth in this sector of the cycling industry and its great to see new users entering the sport for the first time. e-bikes really can smash down barriers making cycling accessible for all regardless of fitness, gender, disability or age. It’s great to see more individuals accessing green spaces to have fun and improve their mental health – we all need a bit of that after the last few years. The Stakeholders are trail blazers here, using this information to help with trail developments, infrastructure, and rider education to support e-MTBers just as the sport is gaining momentum.

This study was funded and supported British Cycling, Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland, Forestry England, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Cycling, NatureScot and Forestry and Land Scotland. It also suggests targeting under-represented groups to make cycling more diverse, promoting a positive image of e-bike use, and conducting more research on their environmental impact in future.

Since being introduced into the cycling industry, sales of e-bikes have grown exponentially over the last five years. They are expected to surpass 130 million in 2023 with some estimates predicting as much as an eight-fold increase by 2030.

Sighthill science labs benefit from £700k upgrade

After a busy programme of work over the summer, our fantastic team of technicians in The School of Applied Sciences have spent a few weeks over the autumn kitting out our newly extended and refurbished labs. And don’t they look great!

The full programme of works – representing an investment of more than £700,000 in lab facilities at Sighthill – have provided:

  • more lab benches for our increased undergraduate students studying on our biosciences suite – this is the extended Microbiology lab.
  • flexible project space for our 4th year and MSc students to do their project work
  • our new tissue culture suite for practical class teaching,  4th year undergraduate and MSc projects in programmes such as  Biomedical Science and Biological Sciences.
  • A brand new VR research lab (below) which will be kitted out with the latest research technology for Psychology students.

Students are now enjoying the new facilities, which will make a positive impact on everyone’s work in 2023.

Happy New Year when it comes!

Empowering every player

As the knock-out stage of the Qatar World Cup kicks off, a new generation of football heroes are being forged. One name now familiar in most UK households is Kylian Mbappé. In 2018, the French striker – then aged just 19 – became only the second teenager ever to score in a World Cup Final. (The first was Pelé, in 1958.) It’s the stuff that dreams are made of.

2022 is already a bumper year for football heroes, with the summer success of England’s Women’s team captivating everyone, not just football fans… and also making household names of young players like Lauren Hemp (21) and Georgia Stanway (23).

There are now thousands upon thousands of youth footballers, right across the UK, who are dreaming of a future moment when they too can lift a trophy.

But football is a grassroots game – with more than 60,000 youth players registered in Scotland alone – and while not every player will make it to a Cup final, let alone a World Cup, everyone can improve and enjoy playing to the full in their local team.

The value of science in youth football/grassroots football is being promoted by Scottish-based, based on academic research by Dr James Dugdale of Edinburgh Napier University.

“We have worked with James since he was a PhD student at Stirling University, where we funded his studies to validate data for our app” explains founder and CEO Jacob Gordon.

Dr Dugdale is now supervising his own PhD students in the School of Applied Sciences at Edinburgh Napier, and both Alban Dickson – the psychologist with Heart of Midlothian – and nutritionist Saumya Khullar will see their PhD research applied for practical benefit, helping nurture young players through the SoccerPDP app.

SoccerPDP provides an in-depth development plan across four key pillars: strength and conditioning, nutrition, psychology, and technical skills. That empowers every player to maximise their potential and help realise their long-term ambitions within the game.

“Our science-based approach provides players with a pathway to improve,” says Jacob. “We demonstrate how the exercises and drills should be carried out, along with the scientific reason behind each training task, allowing young players to gain an understanding of how each action will help them improve their game, alongside regular training and matches.”

soccerpdp empowers players, parents and coaches
The soccerpdp app empowers players, parents and coaches, allowing young players to gain an understanding of how each action will help them improve their game.

James adds: “The app focuses on players aged 10 – 18, who can track their development individually. Both our new PhD’s are looking at aspects of communication, to better engage the target market.”

The research will inform new iterations of the platform, and both PhDs are being co-funded by SoccerPDP and Edinburgh Napier, (which also offers a unique BSc degree in Football Coaching, Performance, and Development, backed by the Scottish FA).

SoccerPDP provides access to a 12-month personal development plan for players of all abilities, and can be used by players, their parents, and coaches. It provides techniques, support, and education opportunities to improve performance both on and off the pitch.

Everything Soccer PDP does is based on sound scientific theory. Developed initially in partnership with academics at the University of Stirling, the programme continues to apply the latest scientific advances and understanding to provide accurate assessment, which helps track the progress of players throughout their development.

“With support from an international research network of collaborators, our system now brings an inclusive and standardised approach to the development of grassroots footballers,” says Jacob. “We create a highly accurate ‘football CV’ that allows a player’s development to be continuously tracked and benchmarked against their previous performances and the results of others.”


BSc (Hons) Football Coaching Performance and Development (with Scottish FA) Undergraduate Full-time (

Pioneering sports official graduates mark the final whistle of their Edinburgh Napier studies

Christina Barrow and Clare Daniels are the first to complete the world-leading master’s degree for referees and umpires.

Edinburgh Napier University is celebrating the achievements of two trailblazing sports officiating graduates.

Christina Barrow and Clare Daniels are the first to be shown the red scroll after completing the world’s first taught master’s degree of its kind – designed specifically for referees and umpires.

Christina took on the three-year programme with ENU alongside her work as International Officiating Manager at World Netball, a role she has achieved after only getting involved in the sport at the age of 30.

Clare undertook her studies while working as a Performance Reviewer and coach for match officials in rugby union’s Professional Group of Match Officials Team, following a successful refereeing career on the pitch.

Both carried out pioneering research as well as completing the bespoke modules on skills including decision making and communication. They have been presented with their degrees during a graduation ceremony at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh on Wednesday 26 October.

As part of her research into the challenges faced by female match officials, Somerset-born Clare compared the world of sport with sectors like the fire service and STEM industries.

She said: “Many of the challenges female referees deal with are very similar to those women face in industry and the corporate world. I found there are a lot of things we can learn and share from other sectors.

“Before I looked at academia and thought it was nothing to do with me, but when you dip your toe in the water you see there’s a wealth of knowledge that can help make us better. I think it’s hugely underused.

“When I left college I went straight into work, but I felt that at this stage in my life I have a much more curious attitude and a desire to learn. My mindset was right.

“I’ve become more curious in how we could do things differently, asking more questions and not just accepting the way things are done. It brings a fresh perspective.”

Christina, from Chorley in Lancashire, whose research looked at wellbeing support for officials, said: “The course seemed like a perfect fit. It’s allowed me to find out things that will help other officials in netball.

“It’s been challenging – you have to dedicate yourself – but what you gain is definitely worth it. Personally, you achieve great things.

“To be an umpire, or a referee, you have to be resilient. Netball officials are managing themselves well, but the support they get could be improved. My research found that help was often unstructured.

“It’s given me a platform to understand the problem so I can solve it and represent our officials better. I think it’s also a springboard to maybe expand into other sports and see what we can learn from each other.

“I see research as a jigsaw puzzle – you’re just looking to add more pieces. Sometimes you don’t find the pieces you want, or you need to shuffle them around, but it all helps add to the picture.”

Dr Duncan Mascarenhas, Associate Professor and Programme Leader for MSc Performance Enhancement in Sports Officiating at Edinburgh Napier University said: “It’s so exciting, I’m so pleased for them. They’ve put in the hard yards. It’s a big statement for the university that we’re able to upskill these high-profile experts in their fields.

“These two students are pioneering the programme in very different contexts – Christina as an administrator and leader in netball and Clare as a former referee and now a referee coach for rugby.

“They’re trailblazers and great role models for others coming through.

“All the modules in the programme are tailored to the students’ needs. It means we’re dealing with areas of sport which have never really been tested.

“Officiating research is relatively young. It effectively began in the eighties but only really started growing in the late nineties. There’s so much that’s still unexplored and it’s an exciting area to be involved in.”

Christina Barrow and Clare Daniels

Help the hunt for west of Scotland’s herring

Historically, Atlantic herring were a vitally important fish to the people of Scotland. Once the largest fishery globally, stocks dramatically collapsed in the 1970s. On the west coast of Scotland, herring never fully recovered, but since 2018 large shoals of spawning herring have been observed off Wester Ross.

Edinburgh Napier University is now leading a project working with Scottish west coast communities and organizations between the Clyde and Cape Wrath, including the Hebrides, to identify herring spawning habitat and help conserve it.  This will give the silver darlings’ populations on the west coast a chance to reproduce and grow again. The project is called the West of Scotland Herring Hunt (WOSHH) and funded by the William Grant Foundation*.

WOSHH launches a new website today [4 August] at the Gairloch Museum. The website is the first dedicated to Scottish herring.  It is a place to share knowledge on Atlantic herring in Scottish seas and find out more about their ecological, economic and cultural importance. The public will also see a demonstration of a forthcoming new citizen-science tool, a web app, inviting everyone to join in on ‘herring hunts’ to report signs of spawning.

Both website and the hunting tool have been co-developed by staff and students from Edinburgh Napier’s School of Applied Sciences and the School of Computing, under the guidance of Karen Diele, Professor of Marine Ecology, the lead of WOSHH, and co-investigator Dr Simon Wells.

Unlike most other marine fish, reproducing herring relies on specific benthic (on the seabed) spawning habitat. But knowledge of location and status of such essential habitat is scarce on the west coast of Scotland.

“Healthy spawning habitat could help rebuild inshore herring populations, with potentially positive social and economic impacts, as well as improving biodiversity and ecosystem functioning,” explains Professor Diele. “WOSHH will establish connections and dialogue between key stakeholders, promote co-management strategies of inshore waters, and champion the integration of essential spawning grounds into herring management.”

Dr Michelle Frost, WOSHH’s project coordinator continues: “Herring are important to a wide range of species that feed upon them, including not only humans but also sand eels, haddock, cod, many seabirds, porpoise and minke whales. By attracting these charismatic species, herring can benefit local communities, increasing income from wildlife tourism”.

Herring themselves feed mostly on plankton and help move energy from the bottom of marine food webs to top predators, functioning as a keystone species.”

Peter Cunningham, biologist from the Wester Ross Fisheries Trust says “Herring have been so important locally, and our community has a renewed interest in west coast herring now, since we observed large shoals recently near Gairloch for the first time in almost 50 years”.

Dr Karen Buchanan, curator of the Gairloch Museum explains “We are delighted to add our support to the WOSHH project, which is helping to address urgent research needs in our area, and to host the outreach event today”.

The WOSHH project will help determine the location and status of essential herring spawning grounds in inshore waters on the Scottish west coast. “The new herring hunting web-app will increase this project’s inclusivity, since it will allow everyone to contribute as citizen scientists”, says Dr Wells.

Professor Diele adds that the WOSHH project is also linking research and teaching: “It was fantastic to work with our enthusiastic and capable Undergraduate (Lewis Watson), MSc students (Serajus Salekin, Bhaavya Malpani) and volunteers (Laura McBride, former Edinburgh Napier University student) to build the citizen-science web-app, the webpage and for support of our research.”  The Gairloch Museum outreach event was supported by the University’s Public Engagement Interdisciplinary Fund, bringing Edinburgh Napier University’s research and teaching expertise to Wester Ross.

“Herring is important for healthy functional Scottish seas that provide humans and other species with so many benefits,” concludes Professor Diele. They deserve our support, so that populations can re-establish where possible.”

*The William Grant Foundation is a non-profit association established to support charitable causes in Scotland. Its work is funded by William Grant and Sons Ltd.


Prof Karen Diele

Dr Michelle Frost:

Professional Learning for Chemistry Teachers Short Course

Edinburgh Napier University have launched a new CPD short course for Chemistry Teachers in Scotland. The course, starting in September, will develop pedagogical content knowledge and improve confidence of teachers to deliver high quality learning experiences.

CPD has a positive impact

The Scottish Government’s Science Technology Engineering Mathematics: Education and Training Strategy for Scotland aims for increased practitioner engagement in STEM professional learning opportunities”, and the Education Endowment Foundation have linked high-quality teaching to closing the poverty related attainment gap. Research has shown that effective professional learning has a positive impact on teacher retention. It is clear from these findings that high-quality subject-specific CPD has a positive impact in a number of key areas.

The idea for this course arose from the Planned in Scotland for Scottish Teachers series of events organised in partnership between Edinburgh Napier University and the Royal Society of Chemistry. The engagement with and feedback from these sessions confirmed a real appetite for subject-specific professional learning with the chemistry teaching community in Scotland.

Developing chemistry teachers professional knowledge

The course will provide a series of CPD sessions for chemistry teachers in Scotland, targeted at developing their pedagogical content knowledge. The overall aim of the CPD is to improve the confidence of teachers in delivering high-quality learning experiences, help close the poverty-related attainment gap, and improve teacher retention.

The course will develop chemistry teachers’ professional knowledge and understanding in the following areas: cognitive load theory; questioning; feedback; effective use of practical work; chemistry-specific literacy; chemistry-specific numeracy; explanations; formative assessment; self-evaluation of teaching.

Successful completion of the course will be displayed by:

  • Increased professional knowledge and understanding of how to support learning in the chemistry classroom
  • Reflecting on current practice and on the impact of the learning from the sessions

Register for the course

This course will be of benefit to chemistry teachers at all stages of their careers. Those at the beginning of their career will improve their subject-specific pedagogy, while those with more experience will have the opportunity to explore and refine their current practice.

The course will be delivered via seven, one hour online sessions, with attendees reflecting on and sharing their learning with their peers via a Padlet.

The short course starts in September 2022 and costs £50.

Register for the Professional Learning for Chemistry Teachers short course.

3PO: Understanding online risks to protect police officers and their families

A new £3.4 million research project, 3PO, will explore the unique challenges faced by police officers and their families online, and offer solutions for greater privacy, protection, and a safer online experience for six UK police services.

The project has been funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Strategic Priority Fund as part of the Protecting Citizens Online programme.

Understanding the unique challenges faced by police officers

The internet is a huge part of our daily lives, but for many public-facing professionals, being online can be a high-risk activity. Policing professionals working in the public eye face a unique set of challenges, from assault and harassment to being the targets of threats from terrorist groups and serious organised crime. These risks can also extend to their family members who sometimes receive direct threats or have safeguarding and privacy fears.

3PO will seek to build a detailed understanding of the specific risks faced by policing professionals and their families. Once these are fully understood the project aims to provide technologies and solutions that will empower police officers and their families to participate in online life in a more private and secure way.

While the focus of the research is very much on the police and their dependents, it has been designed to ensure that solutions are transferable to other public-facing professions and members of the public like teachers, politicians, journalists, and advocates who are also exposed in a similar way.

Edinburgh Napier key part of highly experienced team

Researchers at Edinburgh Napier University will form part of a highly experienced research team, collaborating with four other universities (Sheffield Hallam, Oxford, Cambridge Universities and University College London), six UK police forces, the Home Office, and the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR).   

Joining the research team from Edinburgh Napier are Dr Liz Aston, Associate Professor of Criminology and Director of the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR), and Dr Shane Horgan, lecturer in Criminology and programme leader for BSc Policing and Criminology and Monica Boyle, SIPR Knowledge Exchange and Business Manager.

When speaking of the fieldwork involved in the project, Dr Shane Horgan said: “Policing is a diverse occupation, with many roles that look often nothing like each other. Different roles involve exposure to different types of risks. I will be looking at how information about privacy and security is communicated to a variety of units within police organisations, allowing us to build up a picture of where these supports work best to build on good practice. Equally, it will allow us to identify where they can be refined and improved to support different roles more effectively.   

“When we have developed tailored materials based on data generated by the project, I will lead another phase of fieldwork to explore how our materials work for these different groups, and most importantly where they don’t work. This will allow us to further refine the outputs for our stakeholders, but also develop a uniquely detailed picture of the diverse security and privacy challenges different policing roles face.”  

Dr Liz Aston said: “We are delighted that Edinburgh Napier University and the Scottish Institute for Policing Research are leading the dissemination work package for the 3PO project, which seeks to understand the risks and mitigate the online harms that public-facing professionals and their dependents face. We are looking forward to working with a range of partners to deliver this exciting project, which will have important implications for the protection of citizens from online harms.”

Addressing Scotland’s skills gap in Advanced Therapies with a second upskilling course this May

After identifying a shortage of skills in advanced therapy and vaccine manufacturing in Scotland, Edinburgh Napier’s School of Applied Sciences teamed up with Charles Rover Laboratories last January and ran a short course for students and recent graduates interested in the topic.

The five-day programme – which formed part of the UK’s Advanced Therapies Skills Training Network (ATSTN) – was highly successful, with three of the graduates already being offered full-time employment in the Lifesciences industry. And the good news, the course is returning this May to train another cohort of interested participants.

Dr Claire Garden, Associate Professor in the School of Applied Sciences, says: “Advanced Therapies offer enormous potential and promise to protect our society from current and future diseases, but when the UK government conducted research with companies in 2019, 83% were concerned about their ability to capitalise on emerging opportunities because skills anticipated to be essential were – at that time – missing. With our industry skills focus and partnership with key employers, recognised in our recent reaccreditation by the Royal Society of Biology, we have the track record to continue bringing this training to a wide audience.”

On the course, students learn about Good Laboratory Practice and are supplied with theoretical knowledge, including sterile manufacturing and the development and production of Advanced Therapies. In addition, they gain practical skills that allow for entering the Advanced Therapies workforce, such as cell culture and immunoassay techniques, and lab auditing; and learn about the quality and regulatory environment as well as the Good Manufacturing Practice within an industrial setting.

Carmen Martel – a student from the first cohort shared her experiences with us, stating, “Through the ATSTN advanced therapies course I got to experience how an industry laboratory operates and it helped me decide whether that was the industry I wanted to work in. It also put me in contact with valuable people in the field and helped me secure a job even before graduating.”

Another student, Petra Ceresnikova told us, “Having the opportunity to participate in the ATSTN course allowed me to act more confidently in the skills that I build over the years of studies. The environment of the course, the experience of the industrial work, and the very welcoming and supportive staff inspired me to try and apply for a job at Charles River laboratories. Before, I would hesitate, however, this course gave me an inside into what the job would be, together with skills needed and increased confidence in my technical performance.”

ATSTN was launched in 2020 and operates through three centres, two in England and one in Scotland. Edinburgh Napier is the only university in Scotland to be a member of ATSTN. This week, the School of Applied Sciences will partner once again with RoslinCT, SULSA (the Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance), the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre, and Ayrshire College to deliver this bespoke and highly targeted training programme.

Edinburgh Napier launch new PGDE English

Teacher Education at Napier University is undergoing an exciting development. After three hugely successful years of teacher education for Science and Mathematics teachers, it is expanding to include an English PGDE from August of this year.

This dynamic one-year course will empower new teachers with the knowledge to teach English in Scottish schools. If you have a passion for the subject of English and an enjoyment of working with young people, then this course would be the first step into the wonderful career that is teaching.

At the core of teacher training at Napier is equipping teachers with both practical classroom skills and engagement with a wide range of research. A range of thought-provoking modules on education will balance the subject-specific seminars on English teaching, leaving trainee teachers ready for the various demands of the modern-day classroom.

Module leader, Jamie Thom, is excited to share his passion with English and teaching and learning with new teachers. He has written and published three books on teaching, run a range of educational podcasts, and qualified as an educational coach.  He has taught in various schools across the UK, and the fact he only left the classroom in April of this year means he well-informed about the reality of how to be successful as an English teacher.

This drive to make sure new teachers are both enthused and equipped with practical knowledge about teaching English, and working with young people will be at the heart of the new programme.

Education in Scotland is at an exciting cross-roads, with an increasing demand for dynamic and creative teachers. New English teachers are always in demand in secondary schools and it is a career that can open up a range of exciting opportunities.  The potential to inspire and engage young people in the subject of English, and to build life-changing relationships in the process, is too good an opportunity to miss.

Find out more>>> PGDE Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (English) Postgraduate Full-time (