Doctoral Training Centre

Doctoral Training Centre

Doctoral Training Centres (DTCs) (sometimes called Centres for Doctoral Training [1]) are centres for managing the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) PhD-funded degrees in the United Kingdom. Typical UK PhD students take three years to complete their doctoral research under the guidance of an academic supervisor or small supervisory team, and tend to be located within an existing research group. By contrast, each DTC involves a UK university (or a small number of universities) in delivering a four-year doctoral training programme to a significant number of PhD students organised into cohorts. Each Centre targets a specific area of research, and also emphasises transferable skills training.



Initially, DTCs were regarded as a strategic mechanism for increasing capacity in interdisciplinary research activities such as the life sciences interface [1] and complexity science [2], areas that were difficult to locate within a traditional University's departmental organisation. By 2009, the EPSRC had widened its focus, announcing funding for 50 new DTCs spanning its entire remit.[2][3] In 2011, following the lead of the EPSRC, the ESRC announced doctoral studentships will be exclusively allocated to a network of 21 accredited DTCs.[4]

The Economic and Social Research Council DTCs

Examples of EPSRC DTCs

The Chemical Biology Doctoral Training Centre at Imperial College London, directed by Professor Richard Templer, is run by the Chemical Biology Centre (CBC), a joint venture of Imperial College London, The Institute for Cancer Research and the London Research Institute of Cancer Research UK. In 2011, the CBC became the Institute of Chemical Biology but is still based at Imperial College London. Chemical biology is about the use of physical sciences (predominantly chemistry and physics) to understand problems in biological systems. This often focusses on molecular interactions in biology ranging from chemical genetics to drug discovery. Students at the centre learn how to harness existing techniques and develop new ones for the study of biochemically important processes in and around biological membranes. The MRes in the Chemical Biology of Health & Disease is the first part of the training course, consisting of a one-year interdisciplinary research project, taught courses in biochemistry and biomolecular techniques, specialist lectures in transferable skills and group discussion sessions. The second part consists of a 3-year PhD degree. Each student is jointly supervised by at least one biologist and at least one physical scientist.

The DTC in Neuroinformatics and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh, directed by Dr. James A. Bednar, focuses on training PhD students from the engineering and physical sciences to do research at the intersection between informatics (computer science and related fields) and neuroscience. Example projects include using computational models to understand how the brain processes information, building intelligent robots, developing novel methods of analysis for neuroscience data, and developing brain-inspired intelligent software systems. In the first year, students are trained in neuroscience alongside general MSc students in Neuroscience, as well as taking specialist courses in neuroinformatics and in computational neuroscience, including machine learning. After a summer project involving experimental neuroscience, leading to an MRes in Neuroinformatics, students propose 3-year interdisciplinary PhD projects involving Informatics and Neuroscience supervisors.

Another example, the Life Sciences Interface Doctoral Training Centre or LSI DTC is an interdisciplinary programme at the University of Oxford, directed by Professor David Gavaghan. It is jointly funded by the EPSRC and the Medical Research Council and aims to train students from both physical and mathematical backgrounds, as well as those from the life sciences, interested in the more theoretical aspects of their disciplines to interface with biological sciences. Its main application areas are Bioinformatics, Bionanotechnology, Medical Imaging, and Computational Biology.

Additionally, in 2009 the Centre for Doctoral Training in Healthcare Innovation, within the IBME, Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford, opened (dphil-in-healthcare-innovation). In December 2008 the Research Councils UK announced a £250 million new scheme to set up around 40 Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) as focal points for PhD training in the UK. Our Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) was one of the successful bids awarded under the RCUK Digital Economy Programme. Our CDT concerns healthcare innovation, and specifically training the next generation of biomedical engineering (BME) researchers who need to not only be well-equipped with knowledge of modern BME principles and techniques, but also well-versed in the principles and application of translational research skills. The Director of the CDT in Healthcare Innovation is Professor Alison Noble.

Also at the University of Oxford, there is the Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre, which is directed by Professor Edith Sim. Students enrol on one of six distinctive D.Phil. programmes, including Genomic Medicine and Statistics; Structural Biology; Infection, Immunology and Translational Medicine; Chromosome and Developmental Biology, Neuroscience; Biomedical and Clinical Sciences. All progammes are fully funded by the Wellcome Trust and, excluding Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, are four-year programmes featuring laboratory rotations in the first year.

The MOAC (Molecular Organisation and Assembly in Cells) DTC at the University of Warwick, directed by Professor Alison Rodger, is housed in a specialist building adjacent to the Warwick Systems Biology Centre. Students are involved in diverse research areas such as gene networks, biophysical techniques, computational protein folding, fibrous proteins, and disordered proteins. MOAC closely collaborates with the Systems Biology and Complexity DTCs also at Warwick.

The Wind Energy DTC is based in a specially designed centre at the University of Strathclyde. The Director, Prof. Bill Leithead, has overseen the enrolment of a wide ranging group of researchers from backgrounds including engineering, mathematics and astro-physics. During the first year of the four-year program researchers gain a background in all areas relating to wind energy including aerodynamics, structural design, power systems and socio-economics. The Centre is committed to developing the new wave of highly skilled professionals needed to meet the energy challenge.

The Engineering Doctoral Training Centre in Urban Sustainability and Resilience is based at UCL and directed by Professor Marek Ziebart. Students work in conjunction with an industrial partner over four-years to complete their PhD qualification. In addition to completing the PhD thesis and gaining a doctorate, students also learn how to become effective problem solvers and take taught courses to enhance decision making, financial and business expertise from UCL and the London Business School. On completion, graduates enter careers in industry as middle or senior managers and are able to solve complex engineering problems relating to urban sustainability and resilience.

The Doctoral Training Centre for Physical Sciences of Imaging in the Biomedical Sciences (PSIBS) is based at the University of Birmingham and has been set to facilitate the training of high-quality engineering and physical sciences graduate students in a multi-disciplinary environment at the Life Sciences Interface. The focus of PSIBS research is on the development of the physical sciences of imaging and the computational analysis of image data to address key problems in the biological and biomedical sciences. The research training is inherently cross-disciplinary, as all the project work are supervised by researchers drawn from three different areas. The students work with physical scientists (chemists, engineers, physicists) with expertise in different imaging techniques and molecular probe design, with computer scientists with expertise in complex modelling and analysis of images and image-derived data, and with life scientists drawn from the Schools of Biosciences, Medicine and Dentistry.

The Security Science Doctoral Research Training Centre - known as UCL SECReT - is the national centre for PhD training in security and crime science based at University College London, the first centre of its kind in Europe. Directed by Professor Gloria Laycock, OBE, the Centre offers the most comprehensive integrated PhD programme for students wishing to pursue multidisciplinary security or crime-related research degrees. UCL SECReT recruits its doctoral students from a range of scientific backgrounds to pursue research in crime or security domains across the engineering and social sciences. UCL SECReT has already generated tremendous interest due to the highly impactful nature of its remit and has brought together partners from across public and private sectors including the Home Office, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, Met Police, NPIA, BT, NHS, Thales, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and Hewlett Packard.

The Cambridge Centre for Analysis (CCA) is a Centre for Doctoral Training which offers a PhD course in mathematical analysis at the University of Cambridge, directed by Professor James R. Norris and Professor Arieh Iserles. The course offers PhD training in all aspects of mathematical analysis: partial differential equations, harmonic analysis, stochastic analysis, computational analysis and mathematical modelling. The course emphasises the whole range of modern mathematical techniques, their interconnections and applications, with a focus on team-working, communication and community. The first year of the CCA PhD is devoted to three taught courses (in stochastic analysis, computational analysis and PDEs) and mini research projects. Students are encouraged to complement their learning with courses from Part III of the Cambridge Mathematical Tripos. Years two to four of the course focus on the PhD dissertation, typically supervised by a member of the Faculty of Mathematics, University of Cambridge or from industry.

EPSRC DTCs around Britain


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