Starting a PhD Journey

A Blog post by Nerges Azizi (PhD Law)

Diversity100 / ESRC UBEL studentship award holder

My name is Nerges Azizi and I recently started the MPhil in Law at Birkbeck, University of London. My research addresses ways of resisting the European border regime, with a particular focus on the role of strategic litigation. I chose this topic because of the experiences I have had working with refugees as a translator and interpreter. In the course of that work, the law again and again surfaced as an obstacle and an instrument of power designed to regulate their existence, behaviour and expectations. Despite the disciplinary and oppressive function of the law, the people who I was working with were forced to appeal to the law in order to receive protection. This provoked me to question whether there could be alternative uses of the law, ones less geared towards regulating and disciplining the lives of refugees, towards ones that hold states accountable. During my preliminary research, I came across strategic litigation, which describes the tactical use of legal tools to hold states accountable for their human rights obligations.

At present, I am sceptical about the prospects of this tool, however, I am looking forward to examine all the ambivalences and difficulties of engaging with the law. I am particularly interested in what the resort to legal means might be able to reveal about the ways in which the European border regime is constituted and contested. My geographical focus is the Mediterranean Sea, which presently has been transformed into a site of death and racial violence by European policy makers and border guards. I aim to place this sphere into a longer historical perspective, in which the sea was not partitioned into north and south, east and west – nor was it necessarily functioning as a border – rather, it might have worked as a space of encounter, connection or a bridge. At the same time, I will be attentive to the colonial, imperial and racial violence shaping the history of its human crossings. Tracing histories of the Mediterranean, as well as conceptually departing from the sea, hopefully allows me to imagine another function for it and opens the possibility of an alternative future. I am very excited to work on the project and look forward to the writing that will emerge from it.

When applying for the PhD, considering who my supervisors would be, and who else would be working at the department and at the school where I would be based, was of high importance to me. This is because I consider my environment to shape me intellectually; we learn from the people around us. A PhD is a long project and is potentially accompanied with some anxieties and self-doubt, therefore working with supervisors whose work I am familiar with and respect ensures that I can trust that my research will be guided in the right direction. Of course, having the financial stability of a scholarship is indispensable and crucial to be able to concentrate on researching and writing. This is particularly so for students of working class background and ethnic minorities. I would recommend everyone to apply to existing scholarship opportunities.

Diversity100 Studentships – applications open

Apply now for Autumn 2021 entry

Birkbeck is offering a number of fully funded Diversity100 PhD studentships which actively address under-representation at the highest level of research, and encourage Black and Minority Ethnic students to consider academic research in all disciplines. 

The call for Diversity100 PhD studentship applications is open until Monday 10 May. You can find further details about these studentship opportunities here including how to apply and about briefing sessions for prospective applicants where you can hear about the application process and what it is like to be a doctoral researcher at Birkbeck.

Debi Lewinson Roberts

In the video below we hear from Debi Lewinson Roberts who was awarded a Diversity100 PhD studentship and began her doctoral research in Autumn 2020. Debi speaks on the subject of bereavement, her family’s influence on her education and why she chose Birkbeck.

Starting my PhD during a Global Pandemic

A BGRS blog post by Swathi Kumar (PhD Biology, Cancer Biology, ISMB)

I’m now in my second year of the BBSRC LIDo PhD programme. The first year was composed of two 4-month rotation projects, the first of which was based at both Birkbeck and UCL and is now my full-time PhD project. Like many others, March 17th was my final pre-lockdown day working in the lab and I was one month in on my second rotation project based at Barts Cancer Institute. The rest of the summer was a blur with days spent teaching myself to use command-line interfaces to run bioinformatic tools in an attempt to produce any data whatsoever for my project that had then become wholly computational. I managed to complete a coding course covering MATLAB, R and Python which was a mandatory part of my first year and a useful skill to learn as a biologist. All that remained was to return back to my old lab and officially start my PhD.

My first day back in the lab was July 27th – 4 and a half months post-lockdown. I had fastidiously read all the ‘returning to work’ documentation and was prepared for Birkbeck to look quite different to how I remembered it. Sure enough, the corridors were filled with COVID-19 safety measures and a 2-metre rule had been implemented. Luckily, I was already trained in the microbiology techniques I would need for the first month of my PhD thanks to my rotation project last year. My PhD researches the pathogenesis of the Kaposi Sarcoma-associated Herpes Virus with a particular focus on a viral oncogene it produces called vFLIP. I am interested in cancer biology having done a master’s degree in it, and my interdisciplinary PhD combines structural biology and virology. Overall, the majority of my PhD is wet lab based.

Being supervised while adhering to social distancing rules vaguely resembles a Quickstep dance. The 2-metre rule was recently relaxed to 1-metre with masks on at all times, which made it significantly easier for my supervisor to teach me how to use structural biology equipment. Later this month I will be demonstrating these techniques to undergraduate summer camp students and supervising an undergraduate placement student – both firsts in my career. Apart from eating our lunches at desks spaced 2-metres apart, the daily work routine is becoming relatively normal. I do look forward to the day we can attend seminars and lectures in-person rather than online. However, I will say that the switch to online talks gave me the courage to try a new profession – teaching! Overall, I’m thankful that my transition from working at home to experimenting in the lab has been smooth. I hope my story encourages others who may have some anxiety about returning to work to not be afraid and to believe in themselves!

New PhD Studentships to boost diversity

5 Studentships for 2020/21 entry

Five new awards have been announced for Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) PhD students who start their studies at Birkbeck during 2020. The studentships will help address the under-representation of BAME students at PhD level in all disciplines.

Julian Swann, Pro-Vice Master of Research said:

“I am delighted that we have been able to fund these new research awards for BAME students. Birkbeck has a long history of widening access to higher education and compared with other institutions, we have a relatively high proportion of BAME students but representation at doctoral level is significantly lower than across our student population as a whole. I hope that these awards will help to address this and support more BAME students to lead research at the highest levels.”

Further information

Further information for candidates is available here.

The financial support will cover tuition fees and living expenses for UK-based BAME students for the duration of their course.

Successful candidates will need to have a strong academic background and/or exceptional research potential and to have been offered a place on a relevant doctoral programme.

Deadline for applications: Monday 11 May 2020

Confronting a masculine military ideal: the experiences of LGBTQ service personnel 1914–now

AHRC PhD Studentship in collaboration with Imperial War Museums (IWM) and Birkbeck

Applications are invited for an AHRC-funded PhD at Birkbeck: “Confronting a masculine military ideal: the experiences of LGBTQ service personnel 1914–now”. This is offered 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.

The Studentship

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.

Fifty years ago there was a watershed moment in British history. The 1967 Sexual Offences Act partially decriminalised same-sex acts between men in England and Wales. However, policy makers in the armed forces agreed that decriminalising such acts in the military would affect discipline and threaten the safety of low-ranking servicemen. As a result they remained punishable by military law, even though they ceased to be illegal for consenting civilian men over 21. For three decades the MOD stood by its decision – creating a climate of secrecy for queer service personnel and the impression of a rather straight military. Fear of dismissal and condemnation prevented most from sharing their experiences. Only recently, as the law and cultural climate have changed, have some have felt able to be franker. Their stories are nevertheless still often modulated by an entrenched culture of discretion and framed by current understandings of liberation and sexual identity. We anticipate that these testimonies – and the complexities of gathering and analysing them – will be at the heart of this project.

New British Army Recruitment Campaign Tells Recruits ‘It’s Okay To Be Gay’ – January 2018

The student will explore existing testimonies and conduct new interviews exploring experiences and perceptions of being LGBTQ in the forces. They will also engage with historical work and ongoing debate about sex, sexuality and gender in the military and draw on expertise offered by the IWM and its partners. Aside from a doctoral thesis and associated publications, it is anticipated that research will feed into a future IWM public programme season on sex and war.

In discussion with their supervisors, the student will be responsible for formulating their research questions and methodology and for defining the period of investigation. Potential areas include:
• Accepted and hidden same-sex and homosocial experiences in wartime;
• The impact of serving in the armed forces on individuals’ sense of identity;
• The differential experience and/or representation of homosexuality in the army, navy and airforce;
• Gender crossings and the experience of trans people in the military;
• A comparison of the experiences of queer men and women;
• Masculinity, femininity and queerness in the forces;
• Narratives and experiences of sanction, tolerance, degeneracy, ‘passing’ and prejudice;
• Military sites/cities and associated local queer networks
• The role and responsibility of museums and IWM as a space and forum for excavating LGBTQ narratives.

These, and/or other questions, will be explored through a range of archives, including at the IWM, The National Archives, the National Maritime Museum, the National Army Museum and Tate, as well as through interviews with current and former service personnel gathered as part of the project.

Subject to AHRC eligibility criteria, the scholarships cover tuition fees and a grant (stipend) towards living expenses. The national minimum doctoral stipend for 2018/19 has been set by Research Councils UK as £ 16,777 (inc. £2,000 London Weighting) plus £550 additional payment for Collaborative Doctoral Students. For more information visit: http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/skills/phdstudents/fundingandtraining.
Students are also eligible to draw additional funding from a Student Development Fund to support the cost of training, work placements, and other development opportunities that will benefit the student’s doctoral research and future career development.
In addition, the student is eligible to receive up to £1,000 a year from IWM and will be able to apply for internal funding from the University to support archival visits and the delivery of academic conference papers.

How to Apply

Applicants should have a good undergraduate degree in history or another relevant discipline, and will normally also hold a masters degree. They will need to satisfy AHRC eligibility requirements including Masters-level advanced research training or equivalent.
Applicants must be a resident of the UK or European Economic Area (EEA). In general, full studentships are available to students who are settled in the UK and have been ordinarily resident for a period of at least three years before the start of postgraduate studies. Fees-only awards are generally available to EU nationals resident in the EEA. International applicants are normally not eligible to apply for this studentship.
Applicants should submit via email a curriculum vitae (no more than 2 pages), a research proposal (of 500 – 1000 words)*, a sample of writing, a brief letter outlining their qualification for the studentship, transcripts of undergraduate and masters qualifications, and two academic references to Sian Green (sian.green@bbk.ac.uk) no later than 5pm on Sunday 8 July 2018 . Please note it is the responsibility of applicants to request references from their referees and ensure that they have been received by the Department of History by this deadline. All documents should be submitted in either a MS Word or PDF format. Please ensure the subject line of your email appears as ‘surname, first name – IWM/Birkbeck studentship.’

*for guidance on formulating a research proposal see: http://www.bbk.ac.uk/student-services/admissions/phd-applications

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

‘Waiting Times’ Wellcome Trust funded PhD Studentship available

‘Waiting Times’ Wellcome Trust funded PhD Studentship

The Department of Psychosocial Studies has announced a fully-funded three-year doctoral studentship to work on ‘Waiting Times’. The project will be supervised by Dr. Lisa Baraitser and will begin in Autumn 2018.

About this ‘Waiting Times’ project

‘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 (l.baraitser@bbk.ac.uk) prior to the deadline.

They should then send the completed Wellcome Studentship Application Form to l.baraitser@bbk.ac.uk 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

Further information about the Waiting Times project are available here.

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