• University of Leeds

Discovering Science: Global Challenges

Can chemistry help to feed a growing population, or overcome increasing bacterial resistance?

10,044 enrolled on this course

Discovering Science: Global Challenges

Find out how the Penicillin class of antibiotics has been a major breakthrough in the treatment of patients. However, with bacteria developing efficient ways of resisting antibiotic treatment, discover how scientists are treating patients with infections resulting from resistant bacteria.

The world’s population is approaching eight billion people, putting increasing strain on our ability to feed everybody. Explore the strategies currently being developed, and the role that chemistry plays in finding solutions to food security.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds Examine today’s global challenges with leading academics, and explore possible solutions to some of the greatest threats we face today. In week one, Professor Colin Fishwick introduces the rise of the superbugs and the challenge of bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Understand how bacteria have developed a resistance, which scientists fear could lead to a return to a pre-antibiotic era. Find out how advances in research are helping to overcome this resistance. In week two, Professor Steve Marsden highlights some of the challenges of feeding a growing population, presenting two alternative methods of agriculture. He explores the use of GMOs and organic farming and discusses the effects of changing diets on food production.

Skip to 1 minute and 5 seconds As part of the Discovering Science programme, this course will demonstrate how science is communicated and will further develop your science writing skills, helping you reach a wider audience.

Skip to 1 minute and 19 seconds Sign up now for Discovering Science: Global Challenges.


  • Week 1

    The fight against bacteria

    • Welcome

      Welcome to Discovering Science: Global Challenges. This course explores two topics related to global challenges: the fight against bacteria, and feeding a growing global population.

    • Historical perspectives

      In this activity, you are introduced to the history of penicillin and the research behind antibiotic development.

    • Science in action

      In this activity, you hear from a consultant in infection and travel medicine regarding her clinical research, and hear reflections on the case study.

    • Future perspectives

      In this activity, through the use of scenarios, you consider the ethical issues associated with powerful medicines, and reflect on the appropriate uses of them.

    • Revision

      This revision activity provides further opportunity to explore the topics covered this week. It is recommended that you join this activity if you have signed up for the program and are working towards academic credit.

    • Summary

      To close this week of the course you have the opportunity to reflect on the week and explore the glossary.

  • Week 2

    Feeding a growing global population

    • About Week 2

      This week you will find out about the challenges of feeding a growing population, and some of the strategies and interventions that are necessary. You’ll look at the discovery of fungicides from a naturally occurring molecule.

    • Historical perspectives

      In this activity, you hear from Professor Steve Marsden about the use of chemistry in addressing the challenges of feeding a growing population.

    • Science in action

      In this activity, you hear from a synthetic chemist about the natural origins of a fungicidal agent. Dr John Clough looks at how it was developed to become the world’s most widely used product of its type.

    • Future perspectives

      In this activity, you’ll explore alternative methods of agriculture including genetically modified organisms and organic farming. You will also compare uses of natural crops and their genetically modified alternatives.

    • Revision

      This revision activity provides further opportunity to explore the topics covered this week. It is recommended that you join this activity if you have signed up for the program and are working towards academic credit.

    • Summary

      Paul reflects on the week through a summary of discussions, questions and comments. There is also an opportunity for you to test your understanding and find out more about the other courses in the program.

Who is this accredited by?

The CPD Certification Service
The CPD Certification Service:

This course has been accredited by the CPD Certification Service, which means it can be used to provide evidence of your continuing professional development.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explore the origins of antibiotic development and how some bacteria are able to become resistant to antibiotics.
  • Explore the challenges behind educating people in the proper use of antibiotics.
  • Identify uses of chemistry in addressing the challenges of feeding a growing population.
  • Explore the uses of natural crops and their genetically-modified alternatives.

Who is the course for?

The course is suitable for anyone with a general interest in chemistry; no previous knowledge or experience is required.

If you are working in the field of science and would like to practice and improve your science writing skills, this course is designed to support you as a professional. By completing all aspects of the course you will have achieved 14 hours of CPD time.

If you intend to complete the Discovering Science collection of online courses, it is recommended that you complete Discovering Science: Science Writing before starting this course, however, this course can still be studied independently.

Who will you learn with?

I'm from West Yorkshire. I'm a Professor at the University of Leeds & Dean : Student Education. I research cancer & evolution https://physicalsciences.leeds.ac.uk/staff/210/professor-paul-taylor

I'm a research scientist/Teaching Fellow within the School of Chemistry at the University of Leeds, interested in the structure-based design of novel medicines for infectious diseases.

Who developed the course?

University of Leeds

As one of the UK’s largest research-based universities, the University of Leeds is a member of the prestigious Russell Group and a centre of excellence for teaching.

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