Centre for Biomedicine, Self and Society


Staff at CBSS teach, lecture, and tutor on a wide range of courses across the University

PhD supervision and Postgraduate Teaching 

Wellcome Trust PhD programme in One Health Models of Disease

Sara Al Disi
First year students take rotations in both bioethics and biosciences

This 4-year Wellcome Trust PhD programme combines key training in experimental techniques, bioethics and social sciences, to apply new ‘One Health’ models of neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, developmental, and infectious diseases of humans and animals. 

The bioethical and social scientific component of the PhD is designed to supplement the biomedical training in cutting-edge fields like genome editing and animal biosciences. Bioethics and social sciences are integral to the PhD to ensure students appreciate the ethical and societal implications of these powerful new approaches.

In their first year, students take six core modules - including one in bioethics and social science. The taught courses include specific sessions on the social and ethical aspects and implications of animal research, and application of genomic technologies in health. They also take two rotation projects, with the option for one to be in bioethics and social sciences. In the final three years of the programme, students can choose to specialise in bioethics and social sciences entirely

The programme is co-directed by Martyn Pickersgill, and CBSS Associate Director Sarah Chan is a member of the Leadership Team. Agomoni Ganguli-Mitra also supervises student theses on the programme. 

You can find out more information about the programme as a whole here.

Hi, I’m Emma Nance and I am part of the first cohort of the Wellcome Trust One Health Models of Disease: Science, Ethics, and Society PhD programme.

The best part of the programme is that everyone in the cohort has such different knowledge and expertise — from microbiology and virology, cardiovascular sciences, genetics and genomics, infectious disease, bioinformatics, to English literature and law — which makes our discussions fascinating and extremely varied. The synthesis of biosciences and bioethics makes the OHMD programme truly unique.

Emma NanceOne Health Models of Disease PhD student specialising in bioethics (2020-2024)


I’m Sara Al Disi, a biosciences PhD student on the Wellcome Trust One Health Models of Disease Programme.  I am not just a scientist, but a member of the community who is interested and impacted by social issues and global politics.

I had never liked the wall scientists sometimes create between science and other aspects of our lives, and the OHMD promised a scientific program that is conscious of the world outside of labs and cell culture hoods.

As part of our first year rotations, I chose to take a bioethics rotation in CBSS under the supervision of Sarah Chan. Coming from a scientific background, this proved to be a difficult yet eye-opening task. The rotation, along with a series of seminars we took as part of our second semester course, have introduced me to concepts I took for granted, and ideas that never crossed my mind about lab culture, animal use, and public health.

It has made me more conscious of how my work can affect others, something that I will carry into the rest of my PhD project. I highly encourage scientists to apply to this programme, and choose a bioethics or social sciences rotation as part of it. It enriches your experience and widens your perspective.

Sara Al-DisiOne Health Models of Disease PhD student specialising in Biosciences (2020 - 2024)

PhD supervision

Members of the centre also supervise a range of PhD students, across a number of disciplines and topics within bioethical, legal, and social aspects of medicine and biomedicine. 

Our Chancellor’s Fellows (Nayha Sethi, Ingrid Young, Ellen Stewart, Lukas Engelmann, and Agomoni Ganguli Mitra) as well as our Associate Directors (Sarah Chan and Martyn Pickersgill) and Co-Directors (Sarah Cunningham-Burley and Steve Sturdy) all supervise PhDs. 

You can find out more information about what topics they can supervise by clicking on the links to their Research Explorer profiles. 


Ellen Stewart
Ellen Stewart

Masters of Public Health

Ellen Stewart leads a team-taught advanced qualitative methods elective on the Masters in Public Health.

Qualitative Research in Health allows students with a keen interest in qualitative research to explore methods (such as visual methods, and community-based participatory research) beyond the introductory grounding provided by the compulsory MPH courses.

Members of CBSS also supervise student-led qualitative dissertations on a wide range of topics within the Masters in Public Health (MPH).

Example dissertation topics have included:

  • Trans and non-binary experiences of cervical screening in Scotland

  • Older people’s experiences of mHealth technologies

  • How disclosure of PrEP status on gay sociosexual media platforms affects safer sex negotiations and practices of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM)

You can find out more information about the Masters of Public Health here.


Undergraduate Teaching 


Intercalated BMedSci in Bioethics, Law and Society in MBChB Medicine

Sarah Chan
Sarah Chan

An understanding of the wider ethical, legal and social context of biomedicine is increasingly recognised as important to the practice of medicine and medical professional development.

This programme offers students an opportunity to gain in-depth and interdisciplinary knowledge of bioethical, legal and social science approaches to contemporary challenges in biomedicine, ranging from clinical issues to health research and emerging biotechnologies. 

Students enrolled in ‘Bioethics, Law and Society’ work with leading researchers in bioethics, health sociology and medical law, based within or associated with CBSS.

They gain a broad understanding of these different disciplinary perspectives and their application to current issues in health and medicine.

Students develop more specialised skills and knowledge in an area of their choice through a range of electives, and apply these to undertake an original research project.

Our interdisciplinary approach combining bioethics, law and social science (sociology, anthropology and STS) provides a unique opportunity for students to explore the broader context of healthcare.

Students complete the programme with theoretical understandings and practical research skills that will enable them to address future social and ethical issues in relation to their own future practice as healthcare professionals - and also as citizens in societies where biomedical science and technologies hold ever-more visible roles.

I really enjoyed my time studying Bioethics, Law and Society. Learning about the ethical, social and legal aspects of biomedicine was very interesting, and I enjoyed having the opportunity to view medicine from a different perspective to that adopted during pre-clinical years.

There's a good selection of modules to choose from, allowing you to pursue your interests in greater depth. Personally, I enjoyed the social science side of the course most and I appreciated the option of being able to select a dissertation topic and different courses in that area specifically. 

I'd definitely recommend the course as I feel it has hugely furthered my understanding of health and illness which will hopefully aid me in my future career. For example, by gaining a more holistic understanding of patients' health and the social factors influencing it, we can hopefully become better physicians.

The tutors on the course are also fantastic and helped make the year highly enjoyable despite the unfortunate circumstances brought about by the pandemic. I hope you consider the course!

Jamie BeverstockBioethics, Law and Society BMedSci student (2020-21)

Students on the programme will use a range of disciplinary  approaches to explore key contemporary issues in biomedicine, such as:

  • What rights do we - or should we - have to new biotechnologies and what are the implications for social inequalities?

  • What does reproductive justice look like in the context of limited resources and an increasingly hostile environment? 

  • How does digital medicine transform the patient experience and what can we learn about the role of the digital in contemporary health practices?

  • Should NHS health data be available for research?

  • How have - and should - governments, health systems and communities respond to public health crises, such as COVID-19?

  • Who owns genetic information and why does it matter?

  • How can we regulate stem cell therapies?

The programme is led by 

  • Sarah Chan 

  • Ingrid Young 

  • Nayha Sethi 

  • Sonja Erikäinen

  • Ellen Stewart

You can learn more about Bioethics, Law and Society here.

I would strongly recommend Bioethics, Law & Society to anyone deciding their intercalated degree.

I felt well supported by all the staff throughout the course, particularly whilst doing my dissertation (during a pandemic!). 

I really enjoyed the versatility of the course: within each module, there was an opportunity for everyone to find an interest of their own. For myself, I feel like the biggest benefit of the course was that it provides you with the tools to critically discuss and analyse different topics throughout medicine, whether that be biomedical research or ethical conundrums. 

Doing this course helped me to widen my perspective of medicine: it is not just a science, but also a humanity. 

As someone who has no idea of what they want to specialise as in the future - Bioethics, Law & Society was the perfect choice for me, as a social and ethical knowledge basis is relevant (and vital) across the board.

Aoife O'NeillBioethics, Law and Society BMedSci student (2020-21)
Martyn Pickersgill
Martyn Pickersgill

Research and Evidence-based Medicine (REBM) in MBChB Medicine

This core first year module is led by Martyn Pickersgill, Associate Director of CBSS. Julia Swallow is Deputy Lead for semester one, and several CBSS Postdoctoral Fellows and PhD students contribute as tutors on the course as well.

REBM gives students a critical understanding of how different kinds of research are vital for improving individual and population health, the role of research and evidence in health and health care, and the ethics and politics of research and evidence-making.

Bringing together anthropology, epidemiology, health services research, history, philosophy, postcolonial studies, public health, science and technology studies, sociology, statistics and more.

The course is a markedly interdisciplinary offering - reflecting the realities and necessities of contemporary healthcare. 


Ingrid Young
Ingrid Young

Mainstreaming of LGBTQ+ health into MBChB Medicine

CBSS staff have taken an active role in developing inclusive curricula for undergraduate medical students. Socio-ethical Aspects of Medicine (SEAM) is the first and second year compulsory module for MBChB students which covers social determinants of illness, meaning of illness, experience of illness, medical ethics, public health and health improvement.

Ingrid Young, a Chancellor’s Fellow at the Centre, developed and ran an LGBTQ+ workshop for 1st year SEAM students between 2017 - 2020, which brought together people with lived experience of LGBTQ+ health issues to talk to medical students.

Sonja Erikainen, Chase Ledin, Nicola Boydell and Lewis Clarke helped to support this workshop. MBChB years 1 and 2 curricula have recently been redesigned and further work has been done to integrate LGBTQ+ content and focus throughout both years of SEAM.  

As part of the MBChB curriculum redevelopment, Ingrid has also been working with colleagues on a new 2nd year module - Transitions - which will introduce an interdisciplinary focus on trans health and menopause. Ingrid is working with colleagues across CBSS (including Sonja Erikainen), the Medical School and community partners to develop this module.  


Catherine Montgomery
Catherine Montgomery

Understanding Medicine: Social Science Perspectives in BMedSci Anthropology and Sociology of Medicine 

This course is co-convened by Catherine Montgomery and introduces students to key anthropological and sociological research, concepts and approaches for studying medicine and healthcare.

Among the questions it asks are: What is distinctive about the ways anthropologists and sociologists think about and engage with medicine and healthcare? What can social scientific knowledge contribute to medical thinking and practice? How might social scientists productively engage with the wider field of medicine and healthcare in different cultural contexts? 

Far from being a monolithic entity, what counts as medicine, health and illness is diverse, contested, constantly changing and contingent. Drawing on in-depth readings and discussions, the course explores different aspects of medical knowledge and practice.


Steve Sturdy
Steve Sturdy

History of Western Medicine 1

This course is covened by Steve Sturdy and taught on by Lukas Engelmann, and is available to first and second year students from all three Colleges of the University.

It explores changing ideas about health and illness from Ancient Athens to the AIDS crisis, asking big questions about the historical origins of modern scientific medicine. It explores the changing role of patients and practitioners in society; traces historical shifts in medical concepts of the body; examines different understandings of disease over time; and discusses the impact of epidemics in different periods. 

Lectures on the nineteenth and twentieth century focus on the extent and limits of scientific thinking and reflect on the ethical implications of technological innovation in medicine.

Themes covered on the course include:

  • Philosophical medicine in ancient Greece
  • Medieval anatomy
  • Plagues and people
  • Medicine and the body in the Enlightenment
  • Visualising and classifying disease
  • The changing role of hospitals
  • Laboratory medicine
  • Eugenics and human experiment
  • Colonial medicine and Global Health
  • The pharmaceutical industry
  • Patient power