Wellcome Trust 4-year Interdisciplinary PhD Programme

Wt logo              ISMB logo

This brief profile of the Wellcome Trust 4 Year PhD Programme in Structural, Computational and Chemical Biology is part of a series looking at Doctoral Training Programmes which offer funded PhD studentships at Birkbeck. Many thanks to Dr Cara Vaughan (Programme Co-Director) for answering the following questions.

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 Department of Biological sciences, part of the Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology (ISMB). The department forms a part of a diverse and interdisciplinary environment across the PhD programme and the ISMB.

What strengths does Birkbeck bring to this Doctoral Training Programme?

Research in the Department of Biological Sciences is world-class, with strengths in structural and computational biology.

 conserved mechanisms of microtubule-stimulated ADP release
The conserved mechanisms of microtubule-stimulated ADP release (Professor Carolyn Moores’s lab)

How is the programme structured?

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?

The ISMB is extremely well-equipped with world-class instrumentation and research facilities in all three disciplines.

Anthony Roberts lab image
The dynein–Lis1 interface (Dr Anthony Roberts’s lab)

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.

Cryo-electron tomogram
Cryo-electron tomograms of a reconstituted COPII budding reaction (Dr Giulia Zanetti’s lab)

How can students find out about potential projects and supervisors at Birkbeck?

A list of potential supervisors and example projects are available on our ISMB WT PhD Programme website.

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.

Are there any key dates to be aware of?

  • The deadline for applications is 5 January 2018
  • The interview dates are 25 and 26 January 2018

Understanding the Origin of Sex Differences in Cognition: Rethinking Research Methods

Thursday 2nd November
3-4 pm, with networking from 4–5 pm
Venue: Birkbeck, MAL B04

About the event

The event is organised by the TRIGGER research team in partnership with Birkbeck’s Department of Psychological Sciences and includes 2 speakers who are Birkbeck research students.

The seminar will take the form of a conversation between:

  • Teodora Gliga (Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck)
  • Lucy Tallentire (School of Business, Economics and Informatics, Birkbeck)
  • Yanique Stanford (School of Business, Economics and Informatics, Birkbeck)

In this conversation, Dr Teodora Gliga will reflect on the tools she has developed to include gender in her research procedures at Babylab, a research centre in the School of Science which focuses on the study of infants’ cognitive development. The conversation will range over the innovative ways in which gender perspectives can be integrated into research processes, and how researchers might consider disseminating their work.

The event is free and open to everyone, but please book via Eventbrite here

Who is this event for?

Early-career researchers, PhD students and post-graduate students are particularly encouraged to attend.

About the speakers

Teodora Gliga

Teodora is the Programme Leader on the Infant Siblings Study at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, based in Birkbeck’s School of Psychological Sciences. Her research focuses on developmental pathways to autism and ADHD; the developmental origin of epistemic curiosity; the effects “social touch” has on attention and learning; and how acquiring language affects the way we represent and remember the world. She also led the ‘Rethinking Research Methods’ strand of the TRIGGER project.

Lucy Tallentire

Lucy joined Birkbeck in Summer 2016 to work as the Events and Content Officer for the School of Business, Economics and Informatics. She works closely with academics to consider the impact of their research, and innovative ways in which their findings can be disseminated to a diverse range of specialist, professional and general audience bases.

Prior to joining Birkbeck, Lucy studied BA Germanic and Slavonic Studies at the University of Sheffield (2011-2015) and MPhil European Comparative Literature at the University of Cambridge (2015-16). She has just last month begun a part-time PhD at Birkbeck, with a focus on the representation of dementia and the loss of first-hand testimony of WWII in contemporary German literature.

Yanique Stanford

Yanique has recently completed a M.Sc.in Bio Business, a collaboration between the Biological Sciences Department and the Department of Management. She has since transferred full time over to the latter department where she has started the PhD programme. Her undergraduate degrees are a B.Sc. in Biomedicine and a BA in Literatures in English. Additionally, she recently completed a three month internship within the bio-science sector at Consilium Strategic Communications, a specialist Healthcare Investment and Public Relations firm. Prior to the internship she spent approximately fourteen years working within the Retail Industry.

A brief profile of the BBSRC LIDo PhD Programme with Dr Mark Williams

This brief profile of the BBSRC LIDo programme is one of a series of brief profiles looking at Doctoral Training Programmes offering funded PhD studentships at Birkbeck. Many thanks to Dr Mark Williams for answering the following questions.

How would you describe the ‘BBSRC LIDo PhD programme’?

The BBSRC-funded London Interdisciplinary Doctoral programme in Biosciences provides PhD training in areas that lie between traditional biological sciences subject areas or at the interface of biology with the physical or mathematical sciences.

Find out more about the Department of Psychological Sciences here.

LIDo is one of the largest Doctoral Training Programmes in the country; a collaboration between six of London’s world-class universities and specialist science institutions (Birkbeck, Kings, LSHTM, Queen Mary, RVC and UCL). Students on the programme have a wide range of scientific backgrounds (e.g. cell biology, chemistry, genetics, physics, engineering, psychology, neuroscience, biochemistry, mathematics, statistics) but a common interest in solving problems in the life sciences. The consortium provides these students with a unique opportunity to pursue innovative interdisciplinary and cross-institutional research projects in the heart of one of the world’s most vibrant cities.

Which departments at Birkbeck are taking part in this DTP?

The Department of Biological Sciences and the Department of Psychological Sciences

What strengths does Birkbeck bring to this Doctoral Training Programme?

Both Birkbeck departments are among the top ten university departments in the country in their subject area in terms of the quality of their research (REF 2014), and have a substantial profile of world class activity, particularly in structural biology and in understanding the processes of cognitive development.

How is the programme structured?

Crossed Legs Shut Down Molecular Motor Dynein. Find out more here.

It is a 4-year programme, based around projects that are proposed by a team of two (or more) supervisors from different disciplines. Around 40 studentships are available each year for students to undertake lab rotations in the first year with different supervisors in different institutions. Then, toward the end of their first year, they select their PhD project. They will subsequently be registered at their primary supervisor’s institution for their PhD. In addition, around 15 CASE projects are available each year that have an industrial co-sponsor. CASE students begin their PhD project right from the start and do not undertake rotations.

All students also undertake classroom training in the first year in computational modelling, statistics, aspects of biology driven commerce and ‘hot topics’ in biological research.

What kinds of resources and facilities are available to students who are offered a place on the programme?

Given the variety of the six institutions involved, it is impossible to summarise adequately. Somewhere in the consortium are resources and facilities for any particular area of research to more or less match anything available at any university in the world. Birkbeck and its neighbour UCL jointly operate a number of world class experimental facilities e.g. x-ray crystallography, NMR, electron microscopy, infra-red and magnetic resonance brain imaging.

What are the advantages for students taking part in this DTP in particular?

The camaraderie of being ‘in it together’ with a large and diverse group of students. The potential to undertake research in several of the colleges of the University of London in different research areas before deciding where to register for their PhD. The huge number and variety of projects that are available.

Are there any features of supervision within LIDo that you would like to highlight?

All students have at least two scientific supervisors to provide guidance and advice. In most of the institutions students will also be assigned a thesis mentor to act as an independent source of advice. LIDo keeps an eye on all the students, supervisors and host departments throughout the PhD. The LIDo representatives at each institution and the LIDO administrative staff are always available to help resolve (usually non-scientific) problems.

Are there any features of training or professional development and employability within LIDo that you would like to highlight?

To broaden student’s experience, all BBSRC-funded students also undertake a paid 3-month internship in an external organisation during their PhD. For CASE students this will be with their industrial partner. For other students the internship can be in any organisation able to provide an appropriate training environment. Students have taken placements in the biotech industry, in the voluntary sector, in a wide-range of start-ups, in policy roles, in government and in science communication. The program also has several networking events per year with invited participants from industry.

How can students find out about potential projects and supervisors at Birkbeck?

For students interested in the CASE studentships, a list of projects is available from November each year (for a following October start) at the LIDo website. Occasionally a few other specific projects affiliated to the programme are also advertised by the individual institutions. Most students are, however, initially recruited to the programme not a specific project or supervisor. For those students who are successful in their applications, a project list is provided in the Summer before they start their first year from which they choose labs to rotate in. There are usually over 200 projects to choose from, of those usually around 20 involve Birkbeck supervisors.

How would you describe your roles within the LIDo?

Multi-faceted. We have an oversight and pastoral role for LIDo students carrying out their PhD projects at Birkbeck. We represent Birkbeck’s views to the consortium. We work with staff from the other institutions in the consortium to take strategic and financial decisions for the DTP, and to organise bids for the funding to continue the programme (current grant funding is £20 million). We develop and enact policies regarding the student training aspects the programme. And finally, and by no means the least of our tasks, we work with staff from the other institutions to select students to join the programme from the many hundreds of applicants that LIDo receives each year.

What background and experience would successful students be able to demonstrate?

High level of recent academic achievement, typically either a First Class BSc or a Distinction at Masters level should be achieved or confidently predicted. Previous experience of research is also important, for example, through an extended undergraduate project, a Master’s degree project or one or more summer research internships. Almost all successful applicants will have spent at least 2-3 months working on a research project and have a good reference from their research supervisor. Applicants with more extensive experience in academia or industry in a research or technical role are regarded favourably even if their academic record is slightly less than perfect.

Where can potential students and supervisors find out more about LIDo?

The LIDo website.

What do students need to do to apply?

Follow the application guidance available from the LIDo website – a completed application form, CV, references and transcripts need to be provided.

Are there any key dates to be aware of?

The closing date for studentships beginning in Autumn 2018 is 19 January 2018. Applicants should check the LIDo website for further information. It is advisable to begin the process at least a few weeks ahead of the deadline so that you can arrange for all the paperwork to be submitted before the deadline.

Interactive workshop: Learn to Enjoy Public Speaking and Presenting

Summary

Presenting your research is an important aspect of completing your PhD. This training will give you the chance to learn how to communicate your research effectively at conferences and seminars. It is part of the Birkbeck Institute for Social Research (BISR) programme on Developing Your Research Career and funded by a BGRS generic skills training award.

Dates

Two separate sessions are planned.

  • Autumn Term: 24 November 2017, 10.00 – 17.00
  • Spring Term: 9 February 2018., 10.00 – 17.00
Objectives

This one-day interactive workshop will cover the following key aspects of presenting:

  • Making a persuasive case through the structure of your presentation
  • Using visual aids with impact
  • How to develop your personal presence
  • Managing nerves
Format

In the afternoon you will have the opportunity to give a 3-4 minute presentation. You will then receive feedback and have the chance to revisit a section of the presentation, incorporating the recommendations you received into your performance.

This will be a hands-on workshop for a maximum of 8 people and you will need to have prepared the short presentation in advance.

Who is this course for?

This workshop is free and open to all PhD students at Birkbeck.

Applying for a place

A maximum of 8 places are available. To apply for a place please complete this brief application form and send it to the BISR Manager, Madisson Brown by Monday 6 November 2017.

Workshop leader

The workshop will be led by Karen Glossop from Resonance Training. Karen is a coach and lecturer in public speaking at UK business schools, and for a range of clients across the public, corporate and voluntary sectors. Since 1997, she has delivered courses that focus on areas such as communication, understanding your audience and making an impact. As well as working as a training consultant, Karen is co-artistic director of award-winning theatre company, Wishbone – www.wishbonetheatre.co.uk.

Bee Composed Live talk – 27 October

Join Birkbeck’s artist-in-residence Lily Hunter Green to hear about her project ‘Bee Composed Live’ and opportunities to get involved in her workshops leading to her final exhibition in May, 2018.

In this first meeting (Friday, 27 October, 6-7.30pm) Lily will introduce her work and her new project exploring the connection between the worlds of bees and humans in relation to the timely question of climate change.

Attendance of this first meeting is a requirement for participation in the four subsequent workshops.

The workshop series is open to all undergraduate and postgraduate students interested in participating – you can register here.

You can read Ilter’s interview with Hunter Green here.

Workshop dates

1: Friday, 24 November, 6-9pm
2: Friday, 12 January, 6-9pm
3: Friday, 23 February, 6-9pm
4: Friday, 13 April, 6-9pm

New highlighted CHASE training opportunities for Arts and Humanities students at Birkbeck

Scholarly Editing Unpacked

17 November 2017, 10.30-18.30, followed by drinks reception

Keynes room (114) Birkbeck, University of London

While most of us acknowledge that scholarly editing underpins a wide range of our literary research many of us know very little about its processes. Editing can seem arcane, and something that happens only in specialist domains. The environments in which editing takes place, however, are quickly changing. Digital innovation is transforming text and object, making questions of textual manipulation and presentation newly urgent.

This day-long workshop brings together leading scholars to explore why editing matters and to exchange and develop practical advice and experience. It will challenge preconceptions of the relative unimportance or invisibility of scholarly editorial skills, and will equip its delegates with nomenclature and a roadmap for navigating the field.

Whether you are embarking on an editorial project, harbouring thoughts of doing so in the future, or are simply keen to know more – and to know more accurately – about the literary objects you study this workshop will be of value and use.

Bursaries are available for students at CHASE institutions.

Read the full programme here

On the Social in Architecture

24 November, 9 March & 21 June

ICA, London

These three CHASE training days, co-organised by the Institute of Contemporary Arts and the ASSC (Architecture, Space and Society Centre, Birkbeck) will collaboratively consider a question fundamental to PhD students in architecture and other disciplines, particularly in relation to public institutions, social housing, and resettlement: ‘What is the social in architecture?’

Each training day will be comprised of a participatory training/skills session and a more public presentation of exemplary work in this area. Students will be expected to take on active roles in chairing discussions, acting as discussants, recording events, conducting and transcribing interviews, writing posts for the ICA/CHASE blogs, and thinking about the ethical, political and social structures in which their own research is situated.

Besides architecture and urban planning, the sessions will touch upon themes of ethics and equality, cultural geography, environmental psychology and performativity, community practice and documentary film or photography.

The aim is for these sessions to be generative events, shaping new ways of working together and involving different perspectives and stakeholders in the nature of the public institution/space.

Read full programme here

Upcoming Birkbeck Wellcome ISSF Deadline (31 October)

Birkbeck has a Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF) which provides opportunities for PhD researchers whose work falls under the broad remit of the Wellcome Trust:

  • Biomedical research
  • Medical humanities
  • Medical social sciences

The next deadline for Birkbeck Wellcome Trust ISSF applications is 31 October.

Opportunities for Birkbeck PhD students could include the following:

  • If you are a PhD researcher completing your thesis can apply for funding to enable you to complete publications or develop public engagement or dissemination activities. The funding covers salary costs up to six months beyond the end of your formal period of study (on the starting point of the Researcher 1 pay scale).
  • If you are a current PhD researcher you can apply for funding of up to £5,000 to carry out public engagement or interdisciplinary activities for a period of up to three months. Please note: this period will represent a formal break in your studies, if your PhD funder allows it.

For further information about the ISSF awards and for details of how to apply please view the ISSF website.

A brief profile of the London NERC DTP with Professor Andy Carter

This brief profile of the London Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) DTP is the first in a series of brief profiles looking at Doctoral Training Programmes which offer funded PhD studentships at Birkbeck. Many thanks to Professor Andy Carter for answering the following questions.

How would you describe the London NERC DTP?

The London NERC DTP is a partnership of nine world-leading research organisations across London. The partnership, which includes Birkbeck, is focused on excellence in environmental science research training and delivery of a transformative inter-disciplinary experience for PhD students.

How would you describe your role within this London NERC DTP?

I am a member of the Management Board of the London NERC DTP and postgraduate tutor for the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Birkbeck.

What are the advantages for Birkbeck PhD students taking part in the London NERC DTP?

Unlike most other DTP’s for the first six months students receive core interdisciplinary training as a cohort covering the full spectrum of environmental science. This engenders a strong sense of community and support. Training is given at each of the partner institutions including the Natural History Museum, Kew, UCL, Kings, Queen Mary and the Institute of Zoology. Part of the training requires the student cohort to organise and lead a field trip to California and an annual conference with the DTP’s at Imperial College and Reading University to showcase student work.

Image by Rebecca Parrish

How is the programme structured?

Year 1

In the Autumn term of year 1 students undertake core multi-disciplinary skills training, then in the Spring term they continue with core training and PhD project development. As part of their training students have taken part in a 10-day California Field Training Course. Within the Summer Term students relocate to the institution where they will be carrying out their PhD research.

Year 2

Alongside PhD supervision bespoke training courses are provided to develop specific skills. During their second year students are considered for upgrade from MPhil to full PhD status.

Years 3-4

Students continue research as well as preparing their thesis for submission and viva in year 4.

Student training. Image by Sally Faulkner

What kinds of resources and facilities are available to students who are offered a place on the programme?

Aside from training, each student is allocated a research grant of between £6,000 to £8,000 to cover any expenses associated with their project.

How are PhD students supported during their postgraduate research and in preparing for their careers after the PhD?

Students are able to access a range of training and networking workshops, events and internships: to develop business and entrepreneurial skills, engage with industrial, commercial and policy end-users; and to develop specific skills in collecting, interpreting and commodifying environmental data. These opportunities include “Innovation Week’ a 5-day integrated programme of lectures and workshops at the Siemen’s Crystal building at the Royal Victoria Docks in East London, covering topics at the interface between environmental science, business, and science policy.

What background and experience would successful students be able to demonstrate?/ What do students need to do to apply?

Applicants must meet UK residency criteria and language requirements. Applicants are expected to have a 2:1 or higher in a relevant degree, or equivalent work experience.

How can students find out about potential London NERC DTP projects and supervisors at Birkbeck?

Potential applicants should visit the London NERC DTP website for further information about the programme and about how to apply. Applications for London NERC DTP studentships beginning in Autumn 2018 are expected to open in November 2017 with a deadline for applications expected to be in early January 2018. Potential student projects at Birkbeck will be made available on the Earth and Planetary Sciences website in November 2017 once applications for studentships open.

No Trespassing: The Risks and Rewards of Interdisciplinary Research

On Saturday 4 November there is an opportunity to take part in this workshop exploring the risks and rewards of interdisciplinary research.

The workshop will bring together postgraduate research students: to get practical advice on the importance of interdisciplinarity for some categories of research funding; to discuss their research in relation to different disciplines; and to have an opportunity to build new intellectual networks with postgraduate researchers from across the College.

This half-day workshop will primarily be taught by colleagues from across the School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy (SSHP), thus bringing together a range of disciplinary expertise and perspectives. Sessions will focus on:

  • how scholars working in different intellectual traditions formulate research questions
  • the importance of interdisciplinarity for research funding
  • and the challenges of collaborating across disciplines.

The workshop is primarily targeted at postgraduate researchers in SSHP and other Schools within the College.

Register to attend

You can register to attend here.