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MRC Doctoral Training Partnership

Our MRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) provides a framework of postgraduate research training supporting the development and career progression of MRC funded PhD students.

The MRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) encourages the pairing of novel multidisciplinary PhD research with the next generation of leaders in health and biomedical provision. Through specialised 3.5-year training, the DTP equips early-career researchers across a range of disciplines to apply their expertise into unmet healthcare areas of UK and global importance.

We aim to deliver this through:

  • Prioritising PhD research that addresses key MRC priorities
  • Embedding ‘cross-cutting’ skills across the DTP to enhance trainee employability (informatics, in vivo, computation)
  • Hosting cohort activities to benefit all MRC PhD students and encourage interaction
  • Supporting PhD students to raise awareness of their research through external conferences, digital media and networking events
  • Fostering interdisciplinary research through the grouping of biological, computational, material, physical, chemical and social scientists.

Research opportunities span the Faculties of Medical and Human Sciences, Life Sciences and Engineering and Physical Sciences with existing studies in areas as diverse as neuroimmunity, circadian regulation and the effects of exercise on early psychosis. We have over 50 MRC students across our DTP community.

Training and support

Training within the DTP is led through our groupings of interdisciplinary supervisory teams, often comprising different research groups and settings. All of our research environments provide access to outstanding facilities, technical and experimental support and fellow early career researchers. Mentoring and guidance is encouraged across our DTP cohort, with final year students acting as peer mentors for our new intake each year.

Our Graduate Training Programme allows PhD students from our diverse research settings to come together and benefit from career-focused seminars in areas such as presentational skills, publications, public engagement and getting the most from research conferences. The Centre for Academic and Researcher Development represents early career researchers and supports their development. Opportunities to share research ideas and advice are therefore available on a national level as well as within Manchester.

MRC DTP students also have opportunity to attend specific training events tailored to areas of greatest importance to aspiring biomedical and health services researchers. 'Securing Fellowships' and 'Navigating the Postdoctoral Career Path' are two such events we hosted in early 2015.

There is an exciting opportunity to benefit from our 'Pathways to Impact' funding scheme at the end of the PhD, providing additional support to our MRC DTP cohort in bridging the transition into the next phase of their career. This could form NHS/industrial internships; policy placements or structured lab rotations depending on individual career ambitions.

Research themes

We offer PhD opportunities across a range of biomedical, clinical and health services areas with focus on three over-arching themes:

  • Early detection/diagnosis
  • Understanding mechanisms of disease
  • Therapeutic interventions

Training within each theme embeds 'cross-cutting' skills alongside those central to the research. Examples of cross-cutting skills often include:

Advanced in vivo sciences

Research skills training where a major component involves developing and applying sophisticated physiological, immunological, pharmacological, behavioural, observation or experimentation in whole, living non-human animals in order to understand normal and abnormal biological/psychological mechanisms. The research project should provide hands on in vivo skills training, including (but not limited to) surgical and pre-clinical skills, complex experiments, novel imaging technologies and/or other innovative techniques.

Interdisciplinary skills

At all interfaces including chemical/physical/engineering, social/economical and clinical, including for example imaging, health economics, antimicrobial resistance and translational medicine.

Quantitative skills

Mathematics, statistics, computation, developing digital excellence as applied to a variety of data sources (form 'omics' to health records).

Cohort activity

Our DTP students form a cohort of trainees, encouraging peer support, sharing of methods and techniques and opportunity to receive feedback and assessment from fellow students. Such support is invaluable throughout a PhD when it is not uncommon to occasionally wonder if you are on track or addressing your research question in the most appropriate way.

The MRC DTP offers training events across the cohort each year, aimed at various stages of the PhD ‘experience’ from induction right through to thesis planning and securing your first postdoctoral role. We also offer Graduate Societies to which DTP students can become members. Our Societies are led by students, offering both academic and social events to further support interaction and a sense of community.

An example of a recent event organised through the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences Graduate Society is our 2015 Postgraduate Research Showcase.

DTP students are encouraged to influence our training provision by consulting upon seminars and workshops that would be of greatest benefit to them.

Studentships and funding

Our 2016 round of funded PhD project opportunities are available to view at FindAPhd.com. The deadline for applications is 25 November 2015. Studentships provide:

  • Tuition fee support at the standard RCUK rate
  • Annual stipend at the standard RCUK rate (2014/15 rate £14,057)
  • Annual Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) covering project running costs/consumables and an allowance towards conference/workshop attendance, career development opportunities.

You should submit an expression of interest in your preferred project to the named supervisor listed in the project outline. Questions relating to academic suitability and/or seeking more information on the research should be directed to the named supervisor.

Following the November deadline, supervisory teams shortlist candidates for DTP panel interview. This shortlisting process will often involve initial interviews with members of the supervisory team before a recommended set of candidates is submitted to the MRC DTP panel. The DTP panel interview the shortlist of candidates across the various projects with the aim of appointing the most promising.

Deadline for expressions of interest: 25 November 2015

Deadline for supervisory teams to recommend candidates for DTP panel interview: 17 December 2015

DTP panel interviews: Across one of 7, 12 or 13 January 2016

DTP appointments confirmed: Week commencing 18 January 2016

PhD studentships start: October 2016

Eligibility criteria and applying

A full set of PhD project opportunities for the 2016 round of DTP studentships can be viewed from our FindAPhd site. To apply, you should initially submit an 'expression of interest' directly to the named supervisor within the project you are interested in. Expressions of interest should include:

  • Academic CV
  • Official academic transcripts
  • Contact details for two suitable referees
  • A personal statement (750 words maximum) outlining your suitability for the study, what you hope to achieve from the PhD and your research experience to date.

Whilst you can express interest in more than one project, you will not be shortlisted to interview for more than one, so should discuss the PhDs of greatest interest with each supervisory team first before reaching a final decision as to your preference. Questions relating to academic suitability or seeking more information on the research should be directed to the named supervisor.

The typical academic/professional background of candidates is provided in each project outline and will vary according to the nature of the research being proposed. However, minimum requirements for entry include:

Academic

Candidates must be UK/EU nationals, resident in the EU and holding (or due to obtain) qualifications in a relevant subject at the level of, or equivalent to, a good honours degree. This should be a first or upper second class honours degree. Qualifications (or a combination of qualifications and experience) which demonstrate equivalent ability and attainment can also be considered. For example, a less than sufficient first degree may be enhanced to meet the requirements by the acquisition of a Masters degree to enhance the first degree, e.g. from 2(ii) to 2(i). A related Masters degree is an advantage.

Residential

Candidates must be UK/EU nationals currently residing within the EU.

Shortlisting and interviews

Following the November deadline, supervisory teams shortlist candidates for DTP panel interview. This shortlisting process will often involve initial interviews with members of the supervisory team before a recommended set of candidates is submitted to the MRC DTP panel. The DTP panel interview the shortlist of candidates across the various projects with the aim of appointing the most promising.

Deadline for expressions of interest: 25 November 2015

Deadline for supervisory teams to recommend candidates for DTP panel interview: 17 December 2015

Shortlisted candidates notified regarding interview: w/c 21 December 2015

DTP panel interviews:  Across one of 7, 12, 13 January 2016

DTP appointments confirmed: week commencing 18 January 2016

PhD studentships start: October 2016

Next destinations and wider MRC opportunities

Our MRC DTP students progress beyond their PhDs into a variety of positions and areas. Typical destinations include academic fellowships (MRC, Wellcome Trust, NIHR), clinical training, industrial research, health services consultancy and policy, medical writing and teaching.

The MRC and DTP provide additional opportunities to gain experience in many of these sectors. Some of our DTP projects involve placements in industrial settings during the PhD, whilst the MRC operate a successful Policy Internship Placement with the Academy of Medical Sciences which is open each year for DTP students to apply to.

The annual Max Perutz Science Writing Award is a national MRC-led competition aiming to encourage and recognise outstanding written communication among MRC PhD students. The competition challenges entrants to write an 800-word article for the general public answering the question: 'Why does my research matter?'

In 2015 University of Manchester MRC DTP students secured both the first prize and commendations in the Max Perutz competition.

Examples of current DTP projects

  • The role of the AKR1C3 pathway in endometrial cancer and endometriosis
  • Investigation of a role for cancer stem-like cells (CSCs) in endocrine resistance in breast cancer
  • Understanding the development of diabetic neuropathy
  • Imaging immune cell biology; interactions between dendritic cells and T cells
  • Understanding the links between perceptions of sleep and suicidality in those who are depressed
  • Understanding how alterations in metabolism induced by iron toxicity/overload regulate inflammation
  • The role of web based information on help seeking of those worried about lung cancer prior to diagnosis
  • Neuroimmune education of monocyte function in disease
  • Dissecting how effector T cell responses are controlled in vivo within tissues during infection
  • Developing a new class of anti-amyloid experimental therapeutics in diabetes
  • Long-term effects of prenatal hypoxia on cardiomyocyte function
  • Engineered T-cell therapy of breast cancer
  • Understanding the mechanisms of atrial alternans in disease and its relationship to cellular remodelling
  • Heritability and family-based GWAS analyses to discover novel lipidomic biomarkers of cardiovascular disease
  • Circadian mechanisms regulating pulmonary fibrosis; new therapeutic opportunities
  • Exercise, clocks and depression
  • Role of periodontal disease in modulating inflammation and outcome after stroke
  • Bacteriophages of gram positive bacteria: gateways to infection control
  • Role of ABC transporters in hair follicle stem cell protection from chemotherapy-induced damage

Further information

Further details on MRC DTP studentship funding, eligibility and opportunities can be found on the MRC website.

Any questions relating to the University of Manchester MRC DTP can be directed to james.k.power@manchester.ac.uk.