Government backs training scheme for biological scientists
A consortium of Yorkshire universities, including the University of Sheffield, has been chosen to help spearhead the training of the next generation of biological scientists.
The universities of Sheffield, Leeds and York, working together under the auspices of the White Rose University Consortium, will host an £11 million Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) that will fund 164 PhD research projects over the next five years.
Research will span three main areas of strength for Yorkshire’s research community: agriculture and food security; world class underpinning bioscience; and industrial biotechnology and bioenergy.
The investment is part of £125 million funding for doctoral training announced by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) today (Friday 3 October).
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “The UK punches far beyond its weight in science and innovation globally, which is a credit to our talented scientists and first-class universities. This new funding will safeguard Britain’s status as a world leader in life sciences and agricultural technology.”
Professor Michelle Peckham, who led the bid at the University of Leeds, said: “This funding builds on the strategic partnership between the universities of Leeds, York and Sheffield in the biological sciences and confirms the region’s key role in training scientists in this vital area.”
The universities will immediately begin recruiting PhD students for the first year of the new DTP, which is an extension of an already successful doctoral training program at the White Rose universities. The full name of the new partnership will be the White Rose BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership in Mechanistic Biology and its Strategic Application.
Students will start their projects in October 2015. In addition to 110 BBSRC-funded studentships across the key themes, the three universities and the White Rose Consortium will provide 54 studentships.
Professor Peckham said: “Our students will be joining a really exciting collaboration. We really focus on building a community of researchers, with training days across the three universities, social events and opportunities to exchange ideas and expertise.”
The Government’s Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) and the Research Complex at Harwell (RCAH) are also partners in the program and will be involved in some of the research projects.
A distinctive feature of the White Rose Mechanistic Biology DTP will be a focus on giving students skills training beyond academic research. For instance, all students will take part in the Professional Internships for PhD Students (PIPS) scheme, which requires them to do at least three months’ work in an organisation not directly related to their research. Past PIPS partners include the British Antarctic Survey, the Alzheimer’s Society and Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Professor Simon Foster, of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, said: “The renewed funding of the White Rose DTP is excellent news as it provides the training for the next generation of life scientists. Young researchers underpin advances across all aspects of our science portfolio.”
Dr Julian White, Chief Executive of the White Rose University Consortium, said: “We need a new generation of bioscientists to tackle major challenges such as food security, reducing dependence on fossil fuels and improving healthcare. The research this partnership is making possible is likely to have a significant impact on all of our lives and will mean Yorkshire’s universities continue to be global leaders in biological science.”
Professor Ian Graham, Head of Biology at York, said: “This award recognises the world class postgraduate research and training that we carry out in partnership with our colleagues in Leeds and Sheffield.”