Dr Jean Assender SF HEA, PGCAP, PGCE, PhD, BSc

Jean Assender

School of Biomedical Sciences
Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences

Contact details

Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences
Denis Howell Building

Jean Assender is a Lecturer in Institute of Clinical Sciences with an interest in breast cancer.

As Programme Lead for the MSc in Clinical Oncology she has increased the scope of the programme introducing new modules, an FRCR route and now a full time programme with clinical observership. The programme offers students from a variety of oncology related disciplines a high quality learning experience, taught by experts in the field.


Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences

  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, 2017
  • PGCert in Academic Practice, University of Birmingham 2016
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, 2007
  • PGCert in Further Education, UWCN 1996
  • PhD in Cell Signalling, UWCM 1992
  • BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry with Medical Biochemistry, University of Kent, Canterbury 1988


Jean Assender spent her early career at the Karolinska Institute, Sweden researching the role of cell signalling in controlling smooth muscle cell proliferation in atherosclerotic plaques, before returning to the UK and helping set up the Cell Signalling group at the Tenovus Cancer Research Centre in Cardiff, looking at how breast cancer cells modify their cell signalling pathways to become resistant to drugs such as Tamoxifen.

In 2003, she was appointed Lecture in Cancer Sciences at University of Birmingham and took on the role of Programme Lead for the MSc in Clinical Oncology. The MSc in Clinical Oncology is now more than 20 years old and has over 200 Alumni across the globe. She has overseen the diversified of the programme to better suit different student needs. The part-time programme provides specialist training for NHS staff, whilst the full-time recruiting International students, helping to deliver better oncology care in countries where this provision has previously been extremely limited. Many of the Alumni publish their research dissertations, go on to study PhDs, become consultants and/or take on leadership roles. She also identified the need for a parallel programme for biomedical and other science graduates wishing to undertake scientific research in cancer, leading to the development of the spin off programme: MRes in Cancer Sciences.

In recent years she have become more involved in teaching on the Undergraduate BSc in Biomedical Sciences programme, developing and leading a first year module 'Introduction to Research and Experimental skills'. Jean Assender believed that Higher Education should be an engaging and inspiring experience, nurturing students' study skills, increasing their knowledge and ability to critically evaluate information, whilst developing their confidence and ability to take ownership of their own learning. As Senior Tutor for the BSc Biomedical Sciences programme, she supports the 50+ Personal tutors involved in the programme's Personal Academic Tutoring system. Through a programme of skills teaching, PebblePad mediated reflections and face to face discussions with their Personal Academic Tutors, students are encouraged to examine their Personal and Academic Development and develop a portfolio of evidence to support their career plans.

Her current research focuses on pedagogic issues and curriculum development, particularly around the areas of academic skills, student engagement, employability and mental well being.


Programme Director for the MSc Clinical Oncology

Leading and teaching on modules in:

  • Molecular Pathology in Stratified Cancer Medicine
  • Research Methods and Statistics (Cancer Sciences)
  • Cancer Therapy
  • Dissertation module (Clinical Oncology)

BSc Biomedical Sciences

Module lead and teaching on:

  • Introduction to Research and Experimental Skills
  • Personal and Academic Development (Year 1)
  • Personal and Academic Development (Year 2)
  • Personal and Academic Development (Year 3)

Teaching on:

  • Cell Biology and Biochemistry
  • Foundations of Life Sciences
  • Cancer and Stratified Medicine
  • Cancer Pathogenesis and Treatment


Teaching on:

  • Introduction to Biomedical Sciences


Research interests

Current research focuses on Curriculum Development, particularly its impact on Employability, student Mental Health, student engagement and study skill development.

Current projects

  • Embedding Mental Well Being in the curriculum
  • Impact of curriculum design on UG student employability (particularly of First to University students)
  • Use of Writing Pools to aid PGT student dissertation writing and completion rates
  • UG student understanding of team work and the benefits of using Lego workshops to aid development of team working skills
  • Evaluation of different academic / personal tutoring support models across the University
  • Factors effecting student lecture attendance and impact of lecture capture
  • Impact of STEM teaching ambassadors working in primary schools.

Other activities

  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Beacon mentor and assessor for the University of Birmingham


Recent publications


Assender J and Leadbeater W. “Embedding research into the curriculum: Evaluating the impact on employability and progression to postgradaute study for BME and first generation university students” Higher Education Pedagogies

Education Conferences

Assender J (2019)“Writing Retreat Days support part-time students with dissertation writing” Poster- Advance HE STEM conference

Assender J and Leadbeater W (2017) “Transitions in BSc Biomedical science students’ identify and career aspirations Ignite Session: Higher Education Academy Annual Conference

Assender J and Leadbeater W (2016) “The trials and triumphs of embedding employability into the first year BSc Medical Sciences curriculum” Lightning Session: University of Birmingham Teaching and Learning Conference

Assender J and Leadbeater W (2016) “The trials and triumphs of embedding employability into the first year BSc Medical Sciences curriculum” Poster: Higher Education Academy Conference

Assender J, Tucker O and Belbin M (2013) “An inverted classroom blended learning module works well for postgraduate students”- Oral Presentation: University of Birmingham Teaching and Learning conference

Assender J (2004) “Does peer and self assessment add value to, and enliven, a poster session following a practical class?” Teaching Bioscience- Enhancing Learning Guide 1 “Self and Peer Assessment”, additional online case studies.  Publisher: Centre for Biosciences, The Higher Education Academy.

Assender JW and Woodgate LJ (2001) “Medical practical classes for the 21st Century: An idea”.  Biochem Soc Trans 29 (5) A135: 102

Science Publications

Assender JW, Gee JMW, Lewis I, Ellis IO, Robinson JFR, Nicholson RI (2007). Protein kinase C Isoform Expression as a Predictor of Disease Outcome on Endocrine Therapy in Breast Cancer” J Clinical Pathology: 60 (11) p1216-21.

Fredholm, BB, Assender JW, Irenius E, Kodama N, Saito N (2003) “Synergistic effects of adenosine A1 and P2Y receptor stimulation on Calcium  mobilization and PKC translocation in DDT1 MF-2 cells” Cell. Mol. Neurobiol.: 23 (3) p370-400.

Hussain S, Assender JW, Bond M, Wong LF, Murphy D, Newby AC. (2002) “Activation of protein kinase-Cζ is essential for cytokine-induced metalloproteinase-1,-3 and 9 secretion from rabbit smooth muscle cells and inhibits proliferation.” J Biol Chem: 277(30) p27345-52.

Harper ME, Goddard L, Glynne-Jones E, Assender J, Dutkowski CM, Barrow D, Dewhurst OL, Wakeling AE, Nicholson RI (2002) “Multiple responses to EGF receptor activation and their abrogation by a specific EGF receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor.” Prostate: 52(1) p59-68.

Assender JW, Irenius E, Fredholm BB (1997) “5-HT, Angiotensin and Bradykinin transiently increase [Ca2+i] and PKC-α activity but not mitogenesis in human vascular smooth muscle cells.” Acta Phys. Scanda.: 160, p207-17.

Assender JW, Irenius E, Fredholm BB (1996) "Endotehlin-1 causes a prolonged protein kinase C activation and acts as a co-mitogen in vascular smooth muscle cells".  Acta Physiol Scand 157: 451-60.

Assender JW, Kontny E and Fredholm BB (1994) “Expression of protein kinase C isoforms in smooth muscle cells in various states of differentiation”  FEBs Letters 342 76-80.

Newby AC, Assender JW, Evans MA, Lim K, Bennett MR, Evan GI. (1994) “Transduction pathways for growth stimulatory and inhibitory actions of vasoactive agents”.  Exp Nephrol 2: 94-100.

JW Assender,KM Southgate, MB Hallett, AC Newby (1992).  Inhibition of proliferation, but not of Ca2+ mobilization, by cyclic AMP and GMP in rabbit aortic smooth muscle cells. Biochem J: 288,527-532.

AC Newby, KM Southgate, JW Assender (1992).  Inhibition of vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation by endothelium dependent vasodilators.  Herz: 17,1-7.

Science Conference Presentations

E. Phillips and J. Assender (2017) “Tamoxifen Resistance: A Proteomic Approach” New Zealand Society of Oncology Conference

Shawcross E, Martin A and Assender JW(2008) “Proteomic profiling of Tamoxifen resistant MCF-7 cells”. Poster: British Association of Cancer Research Conference.

JW Assender and I Lewis (2007) “Up regulation of PKC-α and δ in tamoxifen resistant breast cancer – a role in insulin like growth factor stimulated cell proliferation”.  Poster: Life Sciences 2007

I. Lewis,JW Assenderand RI Nicholson (2004)Do Protein kinase C isoforms play a role in acquisition of resistance to anti-oestrogenic therapies in breast cancer” Poster: Keystone Symposia: Protein kinases and Cancer: The promise of molecular based therapies.

Hall SK,Assender JW.(2001) "Mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway mediates volume regulation in embryonic chick cardiac myocytes" Journal of Physiology: 536.P; 106P.

Assender JW, Dutkowski CM, Nicholson RI (2000). “IGF-1 induced increase in PKC-δ and PI-3-kinase activity are on different signalling pathways in breast cancer cells”.  Poster: Signal Transduction 2000, Luxembourg.

Assender JW,Chapman J, Hall, S. (2000) “Mitogen-activated protein kinase mediates cell volume regulation”.  Poster: IUBMB meeting, Birmingham.

Assender JW, Dutkowski CM, Nicholson RI (1997).  “PKC isoform expression changes with endocrine responsiveness in breast cancer cell lines”.  Poster: Nottingham 5th International Breast Cancer Symposium.

Assender JW, Irenius E, Fredholm BB. (1995) “Protein kinase C isoform expression and ATP response changes with smooth muscle cell differentiation”.  Biochem Soc Trans (654th meeting): 453S.

View all publications in research portal