Research Themes: Human Sciences

Impact Case Studies

Showcasing the range of impact case studies submitted by Bangor University's College of Human Sciences. 

Our Research Themes

Our research is highly inter-disciplinary and distinguished by its impact on policy, health and social care service provision and clinical practice.  Researchers in the College of Human Science are making significant contributions to our understanding of the basic mechanisms of psychological and physical illnesses across the lifespan and to the development and evaluation of interventions at the level of individuals, health services and communities in public health. Our major themes include:

  • Illness, recovery and rehabilitation
  • Cognitive neuroscience, and how the brain controls behaviour
  • Activity, exercise and performance across the life-span
  • Service-use, interventions & evaluation
  • Lifestyle, creativity, technology and consumerism
  • Teaching, leadership, life-long learning and bilingualism

The College of Human Science's research spans the diversity of research endeavours to improve health and well-being. Its strengths include the oncological drug development and molecular therapeutics, the physiology of cardiovascular and musculoskeletal diseases, neuroscience of developmental and social disorders including autism and dyslexia, as well as human health and performance in extreme environments. Complementary work to address health challenges and improve peoples' lives include rehabilitation following brain-injury and limb injuries/disorders, innovative interventions based on creative arts, programmes to caring and online interventions for informal carers, early educational interventions in Wales, the United Kingdom and lower-middle income countries. Other areas of excellence include the economics of health and pharmaceuticals. This work is underpinned by further excellence in the evaluation of complex interventions, service development, cognitive neuroscience, bilingualism and behaviour change as well as oncological drug development and molecular therapeutics.

In the most recent Research Exercise Framework (2014), 82% of the School of Psychology's research papers were judged as world-leading or internationally excellent; 73% of their impact cases were judged world-leading and 27% internationally excellent. In the School of Health Sciences' research papers, 40% of outputs were judged world-leading and 52% internationally excellent while 100% of their impact cases were world-leading or internationally excellent. Finally, 80% of the School of Sports, Health & Exercise Science's papers were judged either world-leading or internationally excellent (24% and 56%) and  67% of impact cases world-leading and 33% internationally excellent. The School of Sport, Health and Exercise (with Cardiff Met) was ranked 7th in the UK for research quality and research power (which takes account of the volume as well as the quality of research) within the Sports Science sector (Times Higher Education, December 2014).

Research Highlights

Learning to write with a prosthetic arm
Improving child prostheses, and rehabilitation of peripheral nerve injuries, using movement science

- Ken Valyear [PI], Simon Watt (Bangor University) and Ambionics (CEO and founder, Ben Ryan)

Valyear and Watt have won a Sêr Cymru Enhancing Competitiveness Infrastructure Award to develop upper-limb prostheses for young children that work better and are easier to use.

Valyear and Watt are combining their expertise in movement science with a social enterprise developer of innovative individualised upper-limb prostheses for young children ( The work addresses a major ‘roadblock’ particularly in developing prostheses for children, which is a lack of knowledge about natural, everyday hand and prosthesis movements - as opposed to the typical constraints of laboratory studies. An important objective will be to identify the basic sensorimotor principles that make prostheses intuitive for children, and use these principles to develop better prostheses partnership with Ambionics’ and their UK users. New designs will then be evaluated in real-world use, in the UK and abroad.

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Research Highlights

Synthesis of DNA
DNA stability and repair

- Dr Chris Staples

All cells must replicate their DNA before dividing, via what is a precarious process – indeed, errors in DNA replication can lead to genomic changes and ultimately, cancer. Such errors arise during replication stress, which is defined as any cellular stress that can impede the formation of newly-replicated DNA. In fact, many chemotherapies function by causing replication stress and inducing toxicity in cancer cells. Therefore, cellular mechanisms to deal with replication stress can function to prevent cancer, but can paradoxically help established cancer cells survive treatment, leading to poor patient outcomes. One of the ways that replication forks avoid stress is to physically reverse direction, and in doing so they create a 4-way structure often compared to a chicken foot. This creates a new DNA end that is vulnerable to destruction by a DNA-digesting protein called MRE11. Here, proteins that function to repair broken DNA – such as the tumour suppressor BRCA2 – also act to protect the newly-formed DNA from MRE11. We have identified a novel protein called MRNIP, which binds to MRE11 and inhibits its ability to digest DNA from the end of the strand. When we removed the Mrnip gene from the genome of cancer cells using a novel technology called CRISPR, we found that the cells were sensitive to multiple chemotherapies and had higher levels of DNA damage as well as increased degradation of newly-formed DNA. Inhibiting MRE11 chemically reversed this effect, telling us that MRNIP functions like BRCA2 to protect the DNA ends of reversed forks. We are now embarking on a UKRI-funded project to map how MRNIP binds to MRE11 using cryo-electron microscopy, and to determine the importance of MRNIP loss in various cancer models. Our findings reveal an exciting new gene, the status of which should be considered in future personalised medicine profiling of cancer patients.

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Research Groups: Health and Medical Sciences

We aim to conduct research of the highest standard, with UK and international impact and to contribute to improvements in local health and healthcare. The School hosts Bangor University's Institute for Health and Medical Research (BIHMR) comprising 6 key research groups:

Research Groups: Psychology

The School of Psychology at Bangor is a world-leading research centre built around two overarching approaches. The first is pioneering research in cognitive neuroscience techniques and applications where we seek to understand brain mechanisms underlying normal and disordered behaviour. Second is the application of interventions to promote mental wellbeing in children and adults. Some of our most important research in terms of societal impact looks at systematic interventions for improving children's lives, by targeting the behaviour of parents, teachers, and peers. A core theme is rolling out these interventions at scale. Our research is organised into four main groups, indicated below. Researchers have the freedom to explore the topics of importance to them, and many opportunities to share their expertise, and so there are many collaborations and interactions between groups.

Research Groups: Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences

Our mission is to guide the future of sport, health, exercise, and human performance science.

Our objective is to advance the global reputation of our impactful research. Our strategies to achieve this mission and objective are to:

i. Support a culture that values multidisciplinary collaboration enabling world leading research, innovation and enterprise to flourish.

ii. Support the maximisation of talent to continue to develop the next generation of “world leaders” and knowledge that challenges the status quo.

iii. Increase visibility and impact of our world-leading research within and beyond academia by fostering partnerships with business and enterprise.

iv. Continue to support a vibrant and cohesive postgraduate research body and valuing the contribution they make to the School, academia, and beyond

Our researchers are organised within two groups:

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