Great Minds

Dr Angela Priestman

Sixty seconds with a scientist.....

Dr Angela Priestman

Principal Lecturer in Biological Sciences
Academic Group Lead for Biological & Biomedical Science

Angela joined Staffordshire University in 1990 as a Lecturer in Biological Sciences. She specialises in parasitology, applied entomology and disease biology and has extensive experience in teaching and research. It was her undergraduate studies in Environmental Biology at Queen Mary College (London) that sparked a lifelong interest in parasites and led to a PhD in tapeworm biochemistry at Keele University. Angela next secured a postdoctoral research position at Salford University where the focus of her research moved from tapeworms to haematophagous (blood sucking) insects. Over 8 years she worked on a variety of projects, both in the UK and overseas, funded by the WHO (World Health Organisation) and MRC (The Medical Research Council) before taking up her post at Staffordshire.

What attracted you to Biological Sciences?

I can honestly say that I find biology captivating and always have done. I remember, as a child, watching ants in the garden and being full of questions, just wanting to know more. As an undergraduate I did a project on fish parasites and it was this experience, together with inspiration from my parasitology tutor that embedded a passion for parasitology. I am fortunate to have turned that passion into a varied and very rewarding career.

What are your research interests?

Cuticular hydrocarbons are biochemicals which can be extracted and analysed from the waxy layer covering insect exoskeletons. They have many biological effects including, in some insects, a role in communication and mate recognition. It is this latter aspect that I am particularly interested in and how it affects the mating behaviour of closely related species of insect disease vectors such as mosquitoes. I am also developing molecular techniques to explore the genetics of epicuticular hydrocarbon expression. By understanding mating behaviour of insects we can explore ways of disrupting this in order to control pest insects. I am interested in many new technologies and their application to entomology.

Where has your research taken you?

I have worked in many parts of the world where insects transmit disease and where parasites can be challenging to control. In West Africa I have worked with colleagues in Burkina Faso and Mali, Ivory Coast, Senegal and the Gambia. I was fortunate also to travel to Tanzania to collect mosquitoes for my research and to liaise with scientists in research on tropical diseases.

What is it that you teach?

Currently I teach about disease agents, disease processes, epidemiology, public health & the environment and bioethics. I provide the parasitological expertise in human infectious disease and emerging/re-emerging disease modules. At masters level the focus is on the molecular biology of infectious disease.

How do you bring your teaching to life?

Students thrive when they are able to ask questions and focus their learning on enquiry. So, I like to use case studies, real-life problems or simulated scenarios to engage students actively in discussion. Together with academic colleagues, our focus is to develop students as the scientific practitioners of the future skilled, knowledgeable and able to make a real contribution to biological and biomedical science.

How do you continue to develop your teaching?

The biological science group have active research in teaching and learning and this enables healthy debate and discussion. I also have a long association with the University of Birmingham Graduate Entry medical degree where I am involved in the delivery of the problem based learning course. This has been of much mutual benefit and continues to enable us to work collaboratively in the publication of pedagogical research.

And finally, what makes your job worthwhile?

Interacting with colleagues and students and discussing matters biological. From first year undergraduates through to PhD students, I aim to nurture talent and encourage students to enquire and challenge understanding and get involved. I cannot think of a better job frankly.

And finally, is this a good time to be studying the Biological and Biomedical Sciences?

Yes, it is an exciting time to be within these bioscience disciplines. Technology is moving at a very fast pace and the spin offs from genome sequencing have yet to be fully realised in medical applications, healthcare and the environment. We need people who are interested in research and in making a difference.