Human biomonitoring research at De Montfort University: school and university participants' recruitment experience


Involving teachers in scientific research can increase schoolchildren’s interest in studying science from an early stage which is critical to increase the numbers of high-school students studying scientific subjects. This will impact on the number of students enrolled in university science degrees to satisfy many basic human needs. A group of academics at De Montfort University (DMU, UK) have involved the Ravenhurst Primary School (RPS) in biomedical research, specifically a human biomonitoring (HBM) study involving schoolchildren (aged 6-9 years) and university students (aged 18-22 years) in Leicester (UK) to determine their nutritional status and exposure to metals. We have adopted a school-based approach to recruit participants from both educational arenas following the recommendations for executing HBM studies in Europe [1] with some modifications. Permission from the school authorities was requested after gaining ethical approval from the DMU Research Ethics Committee (Ref. 1674). Parental/student consent was obtained by invitation and appointment letter, with the project details and ethical and data protection aspects written in simple language. Appropriately developed flyers, posters and information leaflets for each audience were also used to enhance the recruitment processes. Scheduling and facilitating flexible face-to-face appointments was critical for collecting the human samples needed for the project (urine and scalp hair) as well as comprehensive details about participants’ diet and anthropometric measurements. The involvement of teachers and lecturers in conjunction with a registered general nurse (school nursing) was of paramount importance for achieving these goals, as they were encouraging participation throughout the process. During the appointments, parents and participants were debriefed in more detail about the project and the relevance of performing HBM to improve health in the community. The school-based approach achieved the following results: a) the recruitment of a relevant number of participants (12 schoolchildren and 111 university students); b) the provision of a satisfying educational experience for parents, teachers/academics and participants in both educational arenas; c) the involvement of school-children in scientific research; d) the acquisition of awareness of the impact of environmental contamination by metals on human health; e) informing participants about their diets and body composition (e.g. percentage of body fat) promoting the necessity of adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle. In conclusion, the project was successful in involving School teachers, University lecturers, schoolchildren, University students and community health workers in a research project. It provided an opportunity for educational development, promote staff motivation and students’ interest and involvement in scientific research. Teachers updated their biomedical knowledge and skills by participating in this research and learnt new methods to engage schoolchildren (by promoting healthy lifestyles, protect the environment, etc.). This could help increase students’ interest in studying science subjects at University and motivate them to embark on a future scientific career. Finally, the UK education system should do more to engage schools and teachers in performing scientific research and thereby make the scientific curriculum more practical that will facilitate students’ learning and engagement.



Involving teachers in research; lessons learned; human biomonitoring


Peña-Fernández A., Ali N., Millington D., Lobo-Bedmar MC., Haris P. (2018) 'Human biomonitoring research at De Montfort University: school and university participants' recruitment experience.' 12th International Technology, Education and Development Conference, Valencia, Spain, 5-7 March. Valencia : IATED, INTED2018 Proceedings; 6258-6262. Available at:


Research Institute

Institute for Allied Health Sciences Research
Leicester Institute for Pharmaceutical Innovation - From Molecules to Practice (LIPI)