Bilal Mohammed - Waste not, want not
Our Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP) allows undergraduate students to work on real research projects alongside academic researchers at the University. For MPharm student Bilal Mohammed, the scheme also provided the opportunity to present his research in Parliament.
Whilst on placement during his MPharm studies at a local pharmacy, Bilal had encountered the problems faced by pharmacists due to shortages of medicines. One solution that came to his mind was increasing the reusability of medicines. Little did he know that working on a UROP research project would take him closer to turning the thought into reality.
"UROP is a very competitive research programme and I am really happy to get through. Working on the project was the best use of my time during summer. I got to learn something new and even got paid for it!"
Bilal worked on a 10 week long summer project in collaboration with academics in biomedical engineering and pharmacy to design enhanced pharmaceutical packaging to facilitate medicine reuse and improve adherence. His project was supported by an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Vacation Bursary awarded by the University of Reading.
" As per the current policy of the NHS, a patient can return unused medicine to a pharmacy. However the pharmacy will destroy it as it is deemed unsafe for reuse. In such cases, what is the cost of medicine waste to NHS? What impact does this have on the environment? "
In order to reuse medication you must ensure it is safe and effective for the next patient. Drugs can stop working if exposed to extreme temperatures, humidity and microbial contamination. Bilal looked at applying different technologies to packaging to ensure medicines' safety and reusability.
"I looked at the food industry and created prototypes of some temperature and humidity sensors that can be placed in medicine packaging."
The research Bilal undertook received the prize for the best UROP research project in the Health Research theme last year and he was named as one of two overall winners to present their work at Posters in Parliament in Spring 2020.
would He recommend urop?
UROP isn’t just a great experience, it gives students the skills they can take on to their undergraduate study and their working life.
"Working on the project gave me a head start to build the right independent research skills. Whether it is carrying out a systematic literature review, data collection or a comparative study, I now have a thorough understanding of each aspect of research. The skills I have learnt are proving helpful with my dissertation as well."
What about the support offered?
"I was treated as an important member of the team, working alongside warm and welcoming University academics. I always felt my opinion is valued and they gave me enough room to share my research findings and ideas. I even had the opportunity to share an office with other PhD students who gave me advice on best practices in research. "
Bilal is now looking forward to doing a pre-reg year working in a hospital pharmacy. Inspired by his academics, he also hopes to further his passion for research completing a PhD in drug delivery.