BBSRC LIDo – Teaching Week: February 2020

Current Birkbeck PhD students are invited by the BBSRC-funded LIDo PhD programme to attend events in their multi-disciplinary Teaching Week in February 2020. The sessions are open to all University of London PhD students regardless of their subject area.

This year the week consists of a series of separate day-long workshops on themes of Drug Discovery, Software Development in Biology & Medicine, The Psychology of Wellbeing, Insects in Agriculture and Ethics in Health Sciences .

PhD students should express their interest in attending each event by clicking here and completing a short form, full details of locations (London – UCL) and speaker biographies will follow in the new year.

Places are limited so please let us know as soon as you can.

Drug Discovery: Monday 17 February 2020

  • Translational Genomics in Drug Discovery
  • Data-driven drug discovery
  • AI and Drug Discovery
  • Data mining in Drug Discovery
  • Computer-Aided Drug Discovery

Software: Tuesday 18 February 2020

  • Development and implementation of intelligent patient monitoring systems
  • Information Management in Systems Biology
  • Software Solutions for Research Communication
  • Software Engineering for Research Computing
  • Problems of uncertainty in Sensor System Software 

Psychology: Wednesday 19 February 2020

  • The Impact of Social Identity on Mental Health Outcomes
  • Emotion Regulation and the Brain
  • Psychological wellbeing following atypical prenatal hormone environments
  • Big Data Psychology: measuring well-being in transactional data
  • Impact on brain anatomy of allele risk for mental disorders

Entomology: Thursday 20 February 2020

  • Applied Ecology: making fundamental research relevant to real-world problems
  • Understanding and mitigating arthropod vectors and vector-borne diseases as ecosystem disservices
  • The use of biocontrol as an alternative to pesticide
  • Impact of climate change on vector-borne diseases
  • The impacts of agrochemicals on bees

Ethics: Friday 21 February 2020

  • Ethical Issues in Reproductive Technologies
  • Vaccination Ethics
  • Ethics and Gene Editing
  • The Ethics of Antibiotic Resistance
  • Ethical considerations of emerging technologies

Highlighted CHASE Training Opportunities

The following events and opportunities are available via the AHRC funded CHASE Doctoral Training Programme. All of the opportunities below are open to all Arts and Humanities PhD students at Birkbeck, regardless of whether they are funded or self-funded.

Performing Theory Series – Nuclear Hallucinations

Thursday, 24 October 2019 | 17:00  20:00

Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross, SE14 6NW
MRB Screen 1

This event inaugurates a new academic year for those of us doing Screen related research, by hearing from practitioners about the relationship between their ideas and their images.

Fathima Nizaruddin will be here to screen and discuss her 2016 film,  Nuclear Hallucinations.

Discussion and reception to follow.

Find out more and register here

Translation x Creative Writing

Various dates from 28 October | 1400-1600 | University of East Anglia

This series of masterclasses is by translators of creative writing for creative writers and is designed to provide insight into these acts of translation that many if not all creative writers engage with. The sessions are small group and are led by the world’s leading translators – including two Booker Prize nominees and one Booker winner. Sessions will be craft focused. Session leaders include Jeremy Tiang, Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Duncan Large, Daniel Hahn and Marilyn Booth who will share their expertise and insights exclusively on the topic. Each masterclass will explore from a different perspective the relationship between translation and creative writing – which, although inextricably connected, are rarely considered together.

Find out more and register here

CHASE Latin for Medieval and Early Modernists 2019/20

4-8 November & 1-5 June 2020 | University of East Anglia

The CHASE Latin for Medievalists and Early Modernists course is a series of workshops and residential weeks designed to provide Latin tuition from beginner to intermediate levels, as well as facilitate the discussion and development of Latin methodologies and research practice. A grasp of Latin is essential to cutting-edge work in medieval and early modern studies but tuition is often hard to come by – we aim to provide CHASE scholars with the necessary skills to produce top-quality research and to form a network of Latin scholars throughout the academy.

Find out more and register here

FACT///.Mapping Feminists Coding Practices Symposium

Wednesday, 20 November 2019 | Sussex Humanities Lab, University of Sussex

‘Mapping Feminists Coding Practices’, a one-day symposium at the Sussex Humanities Lab, University of Sussex, is the first in a series of events that explore feminist coding practices and the historic context of feminism and technology. It explores some of the affordances and resistances of computational technology. Its aim is to develop a wider understanding of current practices and research which make positive interventions into and within computation, in its widest possible interpretation, from a feminist perspective. 

Find out more and register here

Fifty Years of Skinner’s “Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas”

Friday, 29 November – Saturday, 30 November 2019 | University of Sussex

This programme takes the opportunity of the fiftieth anniversary of one of the most influential article on intellectual-historical methods, Quentin Skinner’s “Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas” (1969), to introduce doctoral participants to the methodological commitments within the field, engaging them in cutting-edge critical reflection on method. Participants will gain a thorough foundation in the available methods in the history of ideas, engage in debates regarding method, and participate in the critical evaluation of such methodologies, considering possible alternatives. 

Find out more and register here

If you have any questions about the above training, please email enquiries@chase.ac.uk

Highlighted CHASE opportunities

The following events and opportunities are available via the AHRC funded CHASE Doctoral Training Programme. All of the opportunities below are open to all Arts and Humanities PhD students at Birkbeck, regardless of whether they are funded or self-funded.

+ 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century – Placement available

Applications for this placement are open to all arts and humanities PhD student at Birkbeck, regardless of whether they are funded by CHASE. The successful applicant will receive a stipend, fee reimbursement and the opportunity to claim expenses. The deadline for applications is 29 March.

Art at the Frontier of Film Theory: Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen

22 March – 25 May 2019

From 22 March to 24 May, Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image and the Essay Film Festival is hosting a unique programme of research events about the work of filmmakers and film theorists Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen. The programme comprises an exhibition at Birkbeck’s Peltz Gallery, a film season, a series of ‘In Conversation’ events and Gallery Workshops, a Curators’ Talk, and a student-led Symposium.

 CHASE training opportunities

Media Skills Training – 5 spaces available

19 March | 0900-1700 | Camden, London

This interactive workshop leads from identifying the elements of a good media story in academic research, through the challenges of dealing with the media and the competing pressures of academic and journalistic methods to final on-camera interviews and playback analysis. Run by Media Players International, this one-day workshops will help you understand what makes for good communication through the general media. It also directly address the issues of impact and media strategy required by the Research Excellence Framework.

Performing Theory: Speaking in Tongues

Friday 29 March | 1400-1700 | Birkbeck Cinema

This series of Master Classes aims to present a wide variety of approaches to the artistic production of ideas in audio-visual form.  We are inviting performance artists and moving image makers whose work (written, performed, filmed) manifests theoretical innovation.  The latter part of the 20th century produced body of Anglo-American writing and work that are recognised today as canonical as with Hollis Frampton, Maya Deren, Peter Gidal for example.  With this series we want to produce a sample of this kind of interplay between ideas and creating that are underway today.  In so doing, we hope to open the field of play between theory and works to create new conversations.

The inaugural session in the series is Speaking in Tongues: a lecture-performance by Christopher Harris. Throughout his career artist and filmmaker Christopher Harris has used film and video installations to re-stage and explore African American accounts of history. Using experimental film techniques, Harris brings disparate mediums into dialogue with one another, in order to present multiple perspectives highlighting experiences of the African diaspora.

BAME Creative Writing Masterclass Series – further session added: Sabrina Mahfouz

Wednesday 27 March | 1400-1600 | The Enterprise Centre, UEA, TEC 0.02

Sabrina Mahfouz has recently been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and is the recipient of the 2018 King’s Alumni Arts & Culture Award. She has been shortlisted for The Stage Award for Best Solo Performance, a Women in the Creative Industries Award, an Arts Foundation Award for Performance Poetry and has won a Sky Arts Academy Award for Poetry, a Westminster Prize for New Playwrights and a Fringe First Award. She also writes for children and her play Zeraffa Giraffa won a 2018 Off West End Award.

Sabrina is the editor of The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write, a 2017 Guardian Book of the Year and currently nominated for The People’s Book Prize. She is an essay contributor to the multi-award-winning The Good Immigrant and is currently writing a biopic of the legendary ‘Godfather of Grime’, rapper and producer Wiley, for Pulse Films.

CHASE Training Opportunities

CHASE brings together 9 leading institutions engaged in collaborative research activities including an AHRC doctoral training partnership, supporting discipline-based projects, specialising in interdisciplinary research, and research in emerging fields of study and creative practice.

It is central to the ethos at CHASE that serious disciplinary research is interdisciplinary. The following training opportunities are available to research students:

The Future of Arts Research

This programme of innovative skills training is geared toward those involved in practice research, generally, and arts research, specifically. The nature of the training is inherently interdisciplinary, devised and developed by researchers across Fine Art, Performance and Poetry. The training will be suitable and beneficial to researchers at any stage of their project’s development and, while specifically relevant to artist researchers, will be open to researchers in any field.

There are four skills workshops, each dedicated to a key element of practice research. The workshops are scheduled on the following two days:

Workshops 1 & 2:        Wednesday, 14 November 2018 @ 11.00 – 18.00

Workshops 3 & 4:        Wednesday, 27 February 2019 @ 11.00 – 18.00

All of the workshops will be held at Goldsmiths College.

Participants may sign up for individual workshops, or may choose to attend the entire series.

Details of the workshops and how to sign up are here

Peer Coaching taster session (collaborative with WRoCAH DTP)

25 January 2019 | 11:00 – 16:00
London Venue TBC

Would you benefit from being part of a supportive peer group of WRoCAH doctoral researchers for a whole academic year and beyond?
Peer coaching groups that meet regularly are known as ‘action learning sets’. Groups are intended to offer mutual support and coaching. For each meeting group members are invited bring their current challenges and the group works with them to coach them towards potential solutions.

Taking part in this workshop will give you the chance to work with a group of peers to develop your coaching skills to improve collaborative working, communication and professional relationships. The skills of coaching can be applied to help you get the best out of yourself and the best out of others. This can be in your research, in your teaching or in working with or supervising of others.

 

Find out more and register here

 

MARs Session: Radiological Deep Time (by Mountain of Art Research – Goldsmiths)

Various dates, please see below
MARs Research Hub, Seminar Space (Room 5), 43 Lewisham Way London SE14 6NP

This MARs Session will investigate theoretical ideas and artistic practices concerned with radiological deep time. From nuclear landscapes of mining, test sites, and waste storage sites. The session will focus on the problems of decolonising the nuclear, through feminist and forensic analysis, rethinking nuclear landscapes at home, and the mythologies of distant test and mining sites.

Research Student Prep Session Two – 2 Nov, 3-5pm
Research Student Prep Session Three – 23 Nov, 3-5pm
MAIN SESSION / Nuclear Culture Research Symposium: 30 Nov, 10.30am – 6pm & 1 Dec, 10.30am – 2.30pm

 

Find out more and register here

 

Early Modern Matters: Materiality and the Archive & Call for papers

11-12 May 2019
University of East Anglia

From the creation of almanacs, gazettes, and paperbooks – whose ephemeral life span led to their repurposing in manifold ways – to the circulation of sermon collections, commonplace books, and annotated printed volumes, the materiality of the early modern world is unavoidable. By studying archival material texts, not only as vessels for words, but as objects created and put to use in everyday life, we can shed light both on the ‘text’ itself – written, drawn, or otherwise – and on the culture in which it was embedded.

The ‘Early Modern Matters: Materiality and the Archive’ conference will bring together scholars of all whose research intersects with the material textual culture of the early modern period (c. 1500-1700). These disciplines include, but are not limited to: the history of the book, art history, literature, the history of medicine, the history of science, and the history of law. By drawing together these strands of early modern scholarship we hope to expand our understanding of how early modern people interacted with texts as physical objects.

Read full call for papers and register here

 

City Maps – few places left on the Tuesday 21 November session

Birkbeck, Bloomsbury campus

Researching screen media and global cities.

In this workshop, Johan Anderson from King’s College London will lead a workshop with Lawrence Webb (University of Sussex), building on themes introduced in their co-edited books Global Cinematic Cities: New Landscapes of Film and Media (2016) and The City in American Cinema: Film and Postindustrial Culture (forthcoming, 2019). This will comprise a film screening and a workshop at the Birkbeck Cinema. In the workshop session, Andersson and Webb will lead a discussion on the challenges of researching cinema/screen media and cities at a time when both have become destabilized as objects of study. Students will be encouraged to draw on their own PhD projects to consider a range of research methodologies and theoretical approaches to screen media and cities. Johan Andersson and Lawrence Webb will present on their own recent research projects and talk about the challenges of interdisciplinary research and publication. Topics will vary depending on the doctoral students participating, but are likely to include: film, media and the digital turn; gentrification; landscape theory; genre; queer studies; urban history; archival research; location shooting; and urban institutions. Doctoral students working on any urban/national context or historical period are welcome to attend.

Register for this or other City Map sessions

CHASE Training Opportunity | Doctoral and Early Career Researchers

How to collaborate: an introduction to working with external partners

Monday 19 November, 11.15am-3.30pm Barbican Centre, Silk St, London EC2Y 8DS

Led by Dr Keith M. Johnston, UEA Arts & Humanities Associate Dean for Innovation & Paul Roberts, University of Sussex Head of Business Engagement

Do you want to develop your research beyond the university, but not sure where to start? Do you think your research could help an existing company or sector? Working with organisations – be they commercial, arts funded, third sector, governmental – can be an incredibly rewarding experience, helping you translate your research and/or research skills to a different environment, with different demands and expectations. Working with non-HEIs is also becoming more important across the UK research landscape, with the KEF (Knowledge Exchange Framework) being mooted to start in spring 2019.

This session will offer expert advice and practical tips on identifying, approaching and working with organisations, and on the opportunities available for collaborative work. Topics to be covered will include:

• Why work with partners – what do they add?
•  What do partners want?
•  How do you get started – who makes the first move?
•  What timescales and demands are suitable for these projects?
•  What ethical / legal implications might there be?
•  What happens if it all goes wrong?
•  Will this help me get a job?

This session, part of the CHASE Encounters conference, is open to doctoral and early career researchers from CHASE member institutions.

Register here

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Call for Papers: Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region Second Biannual Postgraduate Conference

The School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics at SOAS University of London invites proposals for paper presentations at a forthcoming postgraduate conference, to be held at SOAS on the 1st and 2nd of May, 2019.

The conference is designed as a forum that brings together UK-based PhD students working on the MENA region from any perspective. MENA here is defined in the broadest possible terms and includes the countries of the Arab world, Israel, Turkey, Iran and the central Asian states. The School particularly welcomes proposals that
• adopt interdisciplinary approaches
• reflect critically on the process of conducting interdisciplinary research
• engage with a combination of textual, visual, aural and digital sources

However, the School welcomes any proposal that is pertinent to the study of MENA. Presentations will be recorded on video and uploaded to the web.
The conference will be the second on this theme organised and funded through the Consortium of the Humanities and the Arts South-East England (CHASE), the first having been hosted by the Middle East and North Africa Centre at Sussex (MENACS) of the University of Sussex in April 2017. Faculty members from across the CHASE group of universities will participate in the conference as panel chairs and commentators. This will ensure doctoral students receive critical feedback on their work from leading scholars who work on the MENA region from a variety of viewpoints.

Abstracts of 300 words with CHASE CONFERENCE in the subject bar should be sent to Marlé Hammond (mh93@soas.ac.uk) no later than 31 December 2018. Students from CHASE institutions (The Courtauld Institute of Art, Goldsmiths, Open University, University of East Anglia, University of Essex, University of Kent, University of Sussex, Birkbeck, and SOAS) may apply for reimbursement of travel and accommodation expenses through their institutions. See https://www.chase.ac.uk/hb-funding#apply

The conference organisers will be able to offer successful candidates from other UK institutions some funding for these costs. There is no registration fee.

AHRC-funded PhD studentship

AHRC-funded PhD studentship: Confronting a masculine military ideal: the experiences of LGBTQ service personnel 1914–now

This AHRC PhD Studentship is in Collaboration with Imperial War Museums (IWM) under the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership programme. The partner institutions are Birkbeck and the IWM.

The studentship will be supervised by Professor Matt Cook at Birkbeck and Rebecca Newell of IWM. This full-time studentship, which is funded for three years at standard AHRC rates, will begin on 1 October 2018.

Using material from across the IWM’s collection, including the sound collection, and with a particular focus on the museum’s private papers and oral history archives, this project will examine narratives of LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning) experience in the military for all or part of the period from 1914 to the present day.

Subject to AHRC eligibility criteria, the scholarships cover tuition fees and a grant (stipend) towards living expenses.

Deadline to apply: 8 July 2018

Brief profiles of two MRC-funded Doctoral Training Programme students

       

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.

This post is part of a series about Doctoral Training Programmes which offer funded PhD studentships at Birkbeck. Many thanks to Laura and Evgenia for taking part.

Evgenia Markova

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
Giant Unilamellar Vesicles, a common membrane model, as visualised through the incorporation of a fluorescent lipid into the mixture used for their formation.

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.

Laura Pokorny

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.

Chlamydial inclusions (green) and lamin A/C on the nucleus (red) of inclusions which are 48 hours post infection.

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.

ESRC-funded PhD studentship opportunities at Birkbeck

ESRC PhD studentships at Birkbeck

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.

  • Archaeology and heritage studies
  • Economic and social history
  • Economics
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Human geography
  • Law and criminology
  • Linguistics
  • Politics and international relations
  • Psychology
  • Psychosocial studies
  • Sociology

Please note: The deadline for preliminary applications to the UBEL DTP is 9 January 2018, but some Birkbeck departments have internal deadlines earlier than this.

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

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.