‘Waiting Times’ is funded by a Wellcome Trust Collaborative Research Award held by Dr. Lisa Baraitser (Birkbeck) and Professor Laura Salisbury (University of Exeter). Its remit is to investigate the relation between time and healthcare in the modern period. Spanning both Medical Humanities and Social Sciences, the project brings together and interdisciplinary team of eight researchers, to investigate waiting as a cultural and psychosocial concept, and an embodied and historical experience, in order to understand the temporalities of healthcare in the current climate of ‘crisis’ in the health service.
Under supervision, the successful candidate will devise and undertake a qualitative investigation of ‘watchful waiting’ as used by general practitioners as a practice of care. Data collection will take place across two GP practices in Hackney, London and Silverton, Devon.
Information for appLicants
Applications will be considered from candidates with an interest in qualitative research in health and social contexts, where an interest in issues of time and temporality can be demonstrated. All academic disciplines/backgrounds are eligible.
The studentship will consist of a fee waiver up to the value of the full-time home/EU rate for MPhil/PhD degrees, plus a studentship stipend based on current Wellcome Trust rates.
How to apply
To apply, prospective students are strongly advised to make informal contact with Dr. Lisa Baraitser (email@example.com) prior to the deadline.
They should then send the completed Wellcome Studentship Application Form to firstname.lastname@example.org with an expression of interest (no more than 1000 words) and a CV. The successful candidate will then be asked to apply for a full-time place on the MPhil/PhD in the Department of Psychosocial Studies.
Deadline for applications: February 12th, 2018
Interview date: Tuesday 27th February 2018
Further information about the Waiting Times project are available here.
Evgenia Markova and Laura Pokorny are PhD students who joined the UCL-Birkbeck MRC funded Doctoral Training Programme in Autumn 2016. PhD students on this programme complete rotation projects in year 1 before choosing and developing their PhD project. Both Evgenia and Laura are looking forward to increasing opportunities to engage with new intakes of students.
I obtained a BSc in Genetics from the University of York and during the course of my degree I completed summer internships in the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and in Genika, a genetic medico-diagnostic laboratory. It was at this point that I started considering a career in science, as I was surrounded by experts in their respective fields who warmly welcomed me into their research environment. I also completed a year-long placement in a biotechnology company, Heptares Therapeutics, where I discovered a passion for biochemistry and structural biology, which ultimately determined my choice of a PhD topic.
Rotation Projects (Year 1)
‘My choice of PhD project emerged through engagement with rotation projects which took my research in novel directions. This flexibility to develop and mould the final project has been a great opportunity.’
Rotation 1: My first rotation project ‘Structural elucidation of a component of the COPII secretion system’ was with Dr. Giulia Zanetti (ISMB, Birkbeck) where I encountered electron microscopy for the first time and obtained preliminary structural information on a component of the COPII secretion system.
Rotation 2: My second rotation ‘Age-dependent neuroinflammation in the brain of a Wnt signaling pathway mutant’ was with Dr. Patricia Salinas at the MRC LMCB and utilised immunofluorescence to study the time-dependent brain inflammation profile of a Wnt signalling pathway-defective mouse model.
Rotation 3: Finally, I spent my third rotation ‘Single-molecule fluorescence investigation of the COPII coat assembly’ in Dr. Alan Lowe’s lab in (ISMB, Birkbeck) where I studied the dynamics of an endoplasmic reticulum membrane model as remodelled by purified COPII proteins.
‘The ISMB has excellent facilities which provide access to structural biology and cryo-EM. It has been easy to move between facilities at Birkbeck and UCL as part of the jointly run ISMB.’
PhD Project: The Kinetics and Assembly of the COPII Secretion System (Year 2 onwards)
The intracellular trafficking of biomolecules is an essential property of eukaryotic systems. The COPII vesicular transport system is responsible for anterograde intracellular transport processes at the ER membrane, where COPII component-lined vesicles incorporate protein and lipid cargoes. My project aims to investigate the mechanisms of COPII budding and coat assembly, which are currently poorly characterised. I will study COPII assembly and dissociation using an established membrane model,
Giant Unilamellar Vesicles (GUVs), and the mammalian COPII proteins, as expressed and purified from insect cell culture. I will utilise cryo-electron microscopy and single-molecule fluorescence in the study of the COPII coat assembly through in vitro reconstitution. My PhD supervisor is Dr Giulia Zanetti, ISMB, Birkbeck.
I studied for an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at the University of York. In the summer between my second and third year I carried out a 2 month research placement in Paul Pryor’s lab at the Centre for Immunology and Infection at the University of York, where I was identifying chlamydial effector proteins involved in disrupting the trafficking of the bacterium to the host lysosome. I really loved working in a research setting and this was when I realised I wanted to do a PhD and pursue a career in research.
Rotation projects (Year 1)
Rotation 1: My first rotation ‘Manipulation of Nuclear Function by Chlamydia trachomatis’ was in Dr Richard Hayward’s lab (ISMB, Birkbeck). Previous research in the Hayward lab had identified alterations in nuclear architecture during infection by C. trachomatis. Namely, the nuclear shape becomes distorted in infected cells, lamin A/C is decreased at the inclusion distal face of the nucleus, and there was a degradation of nucleoporins at the inclusion proximal face of the nucleus. I confirmed these findings by aiming to understand the mechanism underlying the lamin A/C decrease.
Caspase 6 is a candidate for the degredation of lamin A/C due to the fact that lamin A/C is degraded by caspase 6 during apoptosis. By treating infected cells with a drug which inhibits caspase 6, I was able to block the lamin A/C decrease in infected cells. This was shown by confocal microscopy and by western blot.
Rotation 2: My second rotation ‘A novel mechanism of targeting and transport of a P. falciparum protein down the secretory pathway’ was in Dr Andrew Osborne’s lab (ISMB, UCL). The mechanism leading to protein transport, and in particular trans-membrane protein transport, in P. falciparum is not completely understood. Proteins destined for export must cross many membranes of the parasite before entering the host cell. Models have proposed whereby TM proteins are extracted from membranes at various stages of the secretory pathways and trafficked via chaperones (Papakrivos, Newbold and Lingelbach., 2005; Kneupfer et al., 2005; Gruring et al., 2012). However, the concept of pulling proteins out of membranes during protein export is unsupported outside the Plasmodium field. Recent work in the Osborne lab and others has provided evidence that the PNEP protein Pf332, which has a single TM domain, behaves in line with this extraction model. I used yeast as a model organism and showed that, when Pf332 is expressed in yeast, there is a subset of soluble protein. This suggests that the machinery needed to pull the protein out the membranes is conserved in eukaryotes. In this rotation I used techniques including western blotting, parasite culturing, cloning, and florescence microscopy.
Rotation 3: In my third rotation ‘Single-molecule studies of the molecular mechanisms of the nuclear pore complex during C. trachomatis infection’ in Dr Alan Lowe’s lab (ISMB, UCL) I used super-resolution microscopy to gain images of the nucleoporin degradation seen in my first rotation, and to learn more about the kinetics of importin-beta transport in the nucleus during infection. I used the technique of photoactivated localization microscopy (PALM). In short, PALM imaging uses the principle of stochastically activating, imaging and photobleaching photoswitchable fluorescent proteins in order to temporally separate closely spaced molecules (Betzig et al., 2006). The resolution achieved in PALM imaging is over an order of magnitude higher than the diffraction limit of light. By transfecting infected cells with importin-B (nuclear transport receptor) tagged to a photoswitchable fluorescent protein and imaging by PALM, we could gain a much higher resolution picture of the organisation of the nuclear pores, and could follow the kinetics of transport via single-particle tracking.
‘Working within the ISMB environment has been a great way to find out more about the work of other PhD students and staff through weekly presentations during term time known as Friday Wraps’
PhD project: Studying Vaccinia virus fusion using a minimal model system (Year 2 onwards)
Vaccinia virus (VACV) is the prototypical Poxvirus. Poxviruses enter cells by acid mediated fusion, using the most complicated virus fusion machinery identified. Whilst genetics indicates that poxvirus fusion relies on 12 viral proteins, to date the organisation of this machinery, its mechanism of fusion, its fusion peptide, and the structural and molecular details of poxvirus fusion remain a mystery. Therefore to address this lack in our knowledge, I aim to develop a new minimal model system to study VACV entry and fusion. This system will be amenable to super-resolution imaging studies allowing us an unprecedented view into the biological requirements of viral entry. My PhD supervisor is Dr Jason Mercer LMCB.
The following training opportunities are available to all Arts and Humanities research students at Birkbeck.
Thought and Image: Processes of Reciprocity
Friday 2 February 2018 | Goldsmiths, University of London
The process by which an idea becomes an image and an image an idea is by no means straight forward, nonetheless this alchemy is the key task Audio Visual PhD students must perform. We are happy to announce this programme of Master Classes with leading artists who will talk about the generation of ideas and artworks in their current practice. By taking advantage of the collaborative nature of this venture between Goldsmiths, LUX and Birkbeck we will present a wide variety of subjects and approaches from both UK and internationally based artists.
The first event features Alia Syed, a London and Glasgow based filmmaker who has been making experimental films for over 25 years.
Researching Popular Music: Methods, Debates, Publics
Friday 2 – Saturday 3 March 2018 | Goldsmiths, University of London
Students are investigating music-making communities, musical-cultural identities and histories, modes of musical production and dissemination, theories of sound and sonic practice, and other musical topics. What ties almost all of these projects together is some idea of the popular: of music’s publics, and its modes of everyday musical participation. But the popular music studies canon cannot always provide methodological models for what is a set of highly innovative PhD studies. To address this, Researching Popular Music will bring together students across the CHASE institutions to present and discuss their work, both with each other, and with invited speakers working at the forefront of music and sound studies.
This brief review highlights BGRS training and development opportunities organised in the 2017/18 Autumn term. These opportunities are part of a wider landscape of training and development resources available to PhD students at Birkbeck and which are summarised on the BGRS Moodle site. Birkbeck is in the process of establishing Training Needs Analysis for PhD researchers to identify their training priorities and navigate their way through the wide range of opportunities which are available at Birkbeck and beyond.
Autumn term highlights
PhD students who began recently were invited to attend a workshop titled ‘Making a success of your doctorate’. This all day event led by Professor John Wakeford of the Missenden Centre, provided expert advice and hints covering the organisation and management of PhD research and how best to complete PhD studies.
Students who were already underway with their PhDs were able to attend a ‘Surviving your Viva, and Beyond’ workshop led by Dr Jennifer Fraser, formerly from the Centre for Transformative Practice in Learning and Teaching at Birkbeck. This interactive workshop helped prepare students for their PhD viva and decisions about what to do afterwards.
Several new sessions have been organised for postgraduate research students.
Birkbeck’s Equality and Diversity Lead, Ammara Khan, ran the first Unconscious Bias Training session for postgraduate research students exploring the concept of unconscious bias and how it could impact on life as a PhD student.
In order to supplement existing resources for all Birkbeck researchers a Research Integrity and Ethics Session specifically for PhD students was held by Dr Sarah Lee, Head of Research Strategy Support, in order to provide a better understanding of personal, pragmatic and policy factors and to help attendees apply this in their PhD.
Other workshops provided training for: impact and communication skills; for how to make calls for papers at academic conferences; good prose writing for PhD Students; and an historical methodological masterclass with Professor Julian Swann.
The BGRS Moodle site will be used to establish digital objects (e.g. handouts or lecture capture) for those who wish to re-visit course material or who were unable to attend on the day. We have begun to make such resources available and will continue to develop this over the coming year.
Opportunities for Birkbeck PhD students to meet
During the Autumn term there have been two opportunities for the wider community of PhD students to gather and meet. The BGRS induction session welcomed new PhD students to Birkbeck and invited returning students to meet at the start of term, with around 70 attendees. Later in the Autumn term the BGRS Winter party provided another opportunity for students to meet with around 50 postgraduate researchers attending.
Shut up and write
We have continued to organise Shut Up and Write sessions, with more than 220 registrations to attend since we began running them in July/ August. During the Autumn term we organised 2 to 3 session every 2 weeks. Attendees have continued to give positive feedback about these writing sessions which provide opportunities to concentrate on writing alongside other PhD researchers and to build connections with those who take part. The BGRS intends to continue these shut up and write sessions throughout the year and registrations are now open for the Spring Term. During the Spring Term we hope to offer a concentrated all day writing event based on the same format as these sessions – this will be announced in due course and listed on the BGRS Eventbrite page.
On the 4th of November 2017 Birkbeck’s Graduate Research School hosted ‘No Trespassing: The Risks and Rewards of Interdisciplinary Research’, a half-day workshop organised by Dr Dermot Hodson from the Department of Politics. Inspired by Albert O. Hirschman’s concept of trespassing, this workshop, primarily taught by members of staff from across the School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy (SSHP), brought together a wide range of expertise and personal perspectives on the intellectual benefits and dangers of interdisciplinarity. Understood as studies that deploy methods and insights from several traditional fields with the aim of integrating and combining multiple forms of knowledge, interdisciplinary research aims to make connections between concepts and to reassemble them in a circular way. Recognising the value of interdisciplinarity, the workshop stressed that interdisciplinary training should be integrated into academic careers. At the same time, it warned about the risks of superficiality associated with interdisciplinary research and the dangers of being excluded by disciplinary politics. In this sense, collaborating across disciplines involves a serious and careful rethinking of well-established academic borders that give meaning to specific fields of knowledge. Taking research beyond its comfort zone involves a creative crossing of a range of subject boundaries. Even though not all research should be interdisciplinary, the increasing complexity of issues with which we are faced as scholars compels us to look beyond single subject areas by stepping over the borders that contain our academic reality.
As Birkbeck students, we think that such boundaries are crossed in libraries, mediated exclusively on search engines and during formal academic meetings. What if we also attempt to trespass such delimiting lines of knowledge in other ways? While my first year as MPhil/PhD student in the Department of Politics was rewarding, I initially struggled to connect with many of my fellow students. Since last year I started organising monthly meetings with Politics PhD students and this year we have a WhatsApp group with more than 30 members. November’s workshop was also a fantastic opportunity to reflect upon our links with PhD students from different schools and departments at Birkbeck. At the event, we had the opportunity to discuss ways of increasing our interdisciplinary ambitions on a human level. Thanks to the efforts of Janice Lazarus, from the Department of Geography, PhD students from across the School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy are now meeting weekly. This new intellectual network is helping us to step over our own disciplines by generating relevant ideas and arguments that go beyond departmental affiliations. Why is it working? Because it is an informal, real and direct way to avoid more ‘structured’ conversations that allow us to reflect upon personal experiences and projects with the potential to enrich our work.
Law, History, Geography, Politics, Art, Biology and Archaeology at times seem incommensurable but we are linking them through methods of analysis that are discursive in theory but practical in scope. By sharing research goals, we are becoming more aware of the fact that there are different paths of knowledge. Qualitative and quantitative methods, immersive fieldwork, archives and discourse analysis are being shared as a way to trespass rigid theorization. In so doing, generating new knowledge becomes a social activity of discovery that gets more and more exciting each week. Such meetings can also offer a possibility to ‘humanise’ the unpredictability of our research, both in premises and intentions. This is not necessarily something that can be grasped easily from our laughs, personal biographies or individual storytelling or from our most awkward and funny moments. Interdisciplinarity is not just a matter of addressing complex questions through a multiplicity of perspectives. Interdisciplinary research should be about reflexive rethinking and informal interaction that trespasses disciplinary boundaries.
Birkbeck is a member of the prestigious ESRC-funded UBEL Doctoral Training Partnership, which welcomed the first intake of students in October 2017.
Applications for entry in 2018/19 are currently open and prospective PhD students can apply for ESRC funding through any of the following UBEL Doctoral Training Partnership pathways. Studentships are offered on a full-time and part-basis, across a range of routes including opportunities to to complete attached Masters programmes.
The following training opportunity is open to all Arts and Humanities PhD students at Birkbeck.
This training programme will explore dramatising research, the use of fiction in research and the position of the playwright/author/composer in historical contexts.
If you attended the CHASE Encounters conference on Saturday 1st December, you will have heard course leader Dr Jeremy Krikler (University of Essex) introduce the themes to be explored in this training programme during his keynote lecture.
Various dates in 2018 starting with Winter School 15-17 January
at the Open University
The CHASE Arts and Humanities in the Digital Age programme will engage you with the concepts and practices that form the field of Digital Humanities, preparing you for the challenges of doing research in an increasingly digital world.
After completing the course, you will be able to analyse, understand and use digital data, to assess information technologies critically, and to integrate discipline-specific enquiry with digitally-driven methodologies and media to develop your own research. You will learn through workshops that combine methodological reflection with hands-on exercises and by developing a Digital Humanities project together with other students.
The following CHASE training opportunities are open to all current Arts and Humanities PhD students at Birkbeck.
The London Docklands Walk (part of Critical Excursion series of events)
Monday 27 November | 15.00 – 18.00
The London Docklands was at one point one of the world’s largest ports and central to the economic growth of the British Empire. As one of main port arteries connecting London to its colonies, the Docklands holds a rich and complex cultural tradition often neglected in understandings of the formation of British culture and society. This walk will move through the existing geographical site of what was in 1981 ‘The London Dockland Development Corporation’ (LDDC). The LDDC was the flagship of the radical right’s attempt to regenerate inner city London by minimising public sector involvement in order to incentivize global capital to take the lead in social and economic redevelopment.
Friday 15 December | Lunch 13.00, Workshop: 14.00-16.00/16.30
Medieval and Early Modern Coinage
Hands-on workshop at the British Museum, led by Dr Martin Allen (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge).
This is a workshop for all medievalists and early modernists – historians, literary scholars, art historians and beyond – who are looking to learn more about coins and monetary systems. The session is conceived as a focussed introduction, and source of inspiration, for people working broadly on the Middle Ages and early modern period in Europe (including the British Isles).
This series of in-situ training sessions seeks to direct critical and creative attention to a range of aesthetically under-imagined or neglected fringe environments such as landfills, industrial wastelands and utility plants, as sites of an emerging cultural sensibility (as distinct from the established critical category of ‘non-places’ such as shopping malls and retail parks and other familiar spaces of urban and peri-urban modernity).
The aim of these training sessions will be to investigate these materially and economically significant terrains, exploring their cultural and historical groundedness, while asking a number of questions about the changing uses and stresses to which land and environment are put.
Friday 19 & Saturday 20 January 2018 | Goldsmiths, University of London & Birkbeck, University of London
A CHASE Advanced Research Craft Workshop Session
This two-day advanced training workshop brings key practitioners in film, video, and sound together with CHASE PhD students and staff to explore new research methods for creating moving-image works organised around an ecological sensibility; one that is attuned to both human and non-human modes of perception.
The notion of “sensible cinema” around which the workshop and its training sessions are conceptualised might be characterised as advancing a geo-aesthetic approach to filmmaking; tapping into an expanded acoustic frequency range and exploring the limit conditions of the electromagnetic spectrum.
CHASE PhD students will workshop their research ideas and current projects alongside that of our guest practitioners and staff in a series of four closed sessions followed by two public events comprised of screenings and discussions to be held at both Goldsmiths and Birkbeck.
Training sessions will combine the presentation of practical work and technical insights with theoretical reflections upon these engagements and will thus require certain preliminary preparation on the part of students in the form of a reading package with links to projects, clips and new technologies.
The workshop is also open to students who have a direct interest in the subject area and wish to participate in the unfolding discussions
Birkbeck PhD students invited to submit applications to inaugural Public Engagement Awards
About these awards
These Birkbeck Public Engagement Awards will build on the College’s tradition of socially engaged research and its historical mission to engage with a wide and diverse range of people outside of academia, to recognise and celebrate those researchers who have undertaken innovative and exemplary public engagement activities.
Applications have now opened and entrants can be at any level in their career. Public engagement activities on any scale are welcome.
Lunchtime launch and Q&A
The Launch is taking place at RUS (30) 101 on Monday 27 November 2017 from 12pm-2pm, and will introduce the Awards, give an overview of the application form and address any questions you may have about the application process. Attendees need to register here by 20 November.
How would you describe this Wellcome Trust 4 year PhD programme?
This is a fantastic interdisciplinary program that enables students to experience three distinct yet synergistic fields, that together can lead to the most exciting developments in biomedical research. These are structural, molecular, cellular biology and biophysics, computational biology and chemical biology.
Which departments at Birkbeck are taking part in this PhD programme?
The first year involves rotation projects in 3 different labs, each specialising in one of the 3 disciplines within the program. In addition, students attend both foundation and advanced lectures to strengthen their understanding in these fields. At the end of their first year students choose the project that will be the focus of the remainder of their PhD and spend the remaining 3 years affiliated with that lab answering exciting questions at the forefront of biomedical research. Further information about the programme structure is available on the WT PhD Programme webpages.
What kinds of resources and facilities are available to students who are offered a place on the programme?
How are PhD students supported during their postgraduate research and in preparing for their careers after the PhD?
Students are supervised by senior scientists who are recognised at an international level in their chosen field, both during rotations and during the PhD project itself. They are exposed to a highly interdisciplinary environment through which they gain experience of working in a dynamic and challenging way. In addition to opportunities to undertake taught programmes across a range of ISMB disciplines students also take part in WT PhD programme activities including literature clubs, and gain experience in presenting their data. Students can attend career days, where PhD-qualified scientists working in non-academic environments give talks and meet students and they can also access professional development opportunities within Birkbeck and UCL.
What are the advantages for students taking part in this Wellcome Trust PhD programme?
Exposure to and involvement in some of the best biomedical research in the UK and interdisciplinary training which is shaping the future of biomedical research. Profiles of some of our PhD students are available.
Are there any features of supervision within the Wellcome Trust programme that you would like to highlight?
In addition to every student having a thesis committee that meets at regular intervals throughout the 4 years, the student also meets the program director/co-director to ensure that the project is on track, to resolve any issues early on and to ensure that the student has the best possible outcome form their PhD.
How can students find out about potential projects and supervisors at Birkbeck?
How would you describe your role within this Wellcome Trust PhD programme?
As co-director I work closely with the director, Finn Werner, and the administrative support staff to ensure the smooth running of the program. This includes everything from sifting through applications to the program, to interviewing students, to a more pastoral role for students in the later years of their PhD.
What background and experience would successful applicants be able to demonstrate if they are interested in joining the programme?
This is a highly competitive program and successful students are exceptional. They should have an excellent degree in one of the disciplines in the program, or a related discipline, and hands on experience of working in a lab in one or two of these areas covered within the program.
What do students need to do to apply?
Students must follow instructions for applicants carefully. Student need to complete an online Graduate Student application form from UCL and submit a single document with a current CV and a statement explaining why they are a suitable candidate. They also need to provide details of 2 referees. Full instructions for applicants are available here.