White Rose universities launch new bioscience PhDs


A successful collaboration between the White Rose universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York has attracted £6 million to create a joint Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) in mechanistic biology.

The White Rose University Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership in Mechanistic Biology will support world-class molecular bioscience, as well as strategic research in the areas of food security, bioenergy and industrial biotechnology.

Announced today (January 24), the investment from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) will fund a total of 60 studentships, with each studentship receiving around £100,000 over four years.

The program will run for three years, with the first intake of students starting in October 2012. In recognition of the importance of biosciences research and student education, the White Rose University Consortium will also fund three additional PhD studentships a year, and individual universities will also provide one further studentship a year from their own budgets.

The combined additional support to this program from the universities will be 18 studentships - bringing the total to 78 new studentships. Academic leadership is joint across all three institutions, with the University of Leeds taking the administrative lead. Students can apply to any of the White Rose universities to take part in the program.

The White Rose University Consortium is one of 14 DTPs at 44 research organisations across the UK awarded a share of £67 million by the BBSRC following a competitive bidding process. The White Rose programme will be partnered by DEFRA research organisation the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), and the Research Complex at Harwell.

Professor David Westhead from the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds, who led the successful joint bid, said: "Having a shared postgraduate training programme in biological sciences across three universities has enormous benefits that haven't previously been available to students, such as accessing other universities' equipment and expertise.

This significant award recognises our commitment to broad-based scientific and professional development for our PhD students." Dr Julian White, Chief Executive of the White Rose University Consortium said: "This initiative will generate a cohort of highly trained, pro-active, adaptable and enthusiastic students able to apply their skills to national and global challenges".

Professor Simon Foster of The University of Sheffield's Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, said: "The award demonstrates the value of our excellent post-graduate training and will provide the framework for our future research potential." Professor Deborah Smith, Head of Biology at the University of York, said: "We are very pleased at York's success in this competition for postgraduate funding that will allow us to build on existing training programmes and enhance research collaborations with our partner institutions in Yorkshire."

Professor Robert Edwards, Fera Chief Scientist, said: "In addition to the three White Rose Universities, the Food and Environment Research Agency is a partner in the DTP as part of its interest in supporting work on Food Security. 

The inclusion of Fera will also represent an important forum within the consortium for training in translational agrifood research". Professor Simon Phillips, director of the Research Complex at Harwell (RCaH), said: "The RCaH is a multidisciplinary laboratory adjacent to the world-class central facilities at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, including the Diamond synchrotron, ISIS neutron source and Central Laser Facility.

This important DTP partnership with the White Rose universities will give postgraduate students access to training in the latest techniques in advanced biophysics by international experts using cutting edge equipment."

An innovative and integral element of the programme, built in to enhance the employability of the DTP students, is the requirement for them to undertake a three-month professional internship outside of the lab to widen their experience of the areas of work in which they can apply their PhD skills and training. Destinations for these internships will include policymaking, media, teaching and industry. 

Notes to editors

The DTPs represent a new, more strategic approach from BBSRC to deliver highly skilled scientists for the UK research base. Taken as a whole, the DTP programme will deliver scientists with the training to meet major social and economic challenges in food security, sustainable bioenergy and renewable materials and improving lifelong health and wellbeing, as well as supporting those undertaking research in core underpinning bioscience.

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