LIDo applications are open from 10th October 2023 until 10th January 2024. The application requires a CV and an application form including a series of questions regarding your experience and a personal statement. It can be very useful to have someone look over each part of your application. This may be your tutor or supervisor, a current PhD candidate that you know or even a family member who can check the clarity of your application.
LIDo offers funded (tuition fees + stipend for living costs) PhD studentships within a wide range of scientific fields, including biological, biomedical, veterinary, physical, computational, engineering, and mathematical disciplines. Funding for the PhD programme is provided by the BBSRC and the LIDo partner institutions. LIDo offers around 50 studentships each year, and up to 30% of the places are available to international students at full overseas tuition fee rates*. It is a 4-year programme, with opportunities to follow one of two routes:
1) Doctoral training programme (DTP), on which two 4-month project rotations are taken in the first year before choosing your final PhD project. The rotations can be selected at the start of the programme from a portfolio of at least 200 projects. The vast majority of students choose from predefined projects, but there is also an opportunity to work with a potential supervisor to submit a project proposal for the LIDo portfolio in the Spring before the start of the course. The DTP route includes a 3-month professional internship (PIPS) not connected to your project.
2) iCASE, in which you apply to and begin directly on a specific project. This project will be in collaboration with an industry partner, with whom you will conduct a 3- to 18-month project-related placement during your PhD.
Both DTP and iCASE projects are offered from eight of London’s world-class universities and specialist institutions: Birkbeck, King’s College London, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of Greenwich, Queen Mary, Royal Holloway, Royal Veterinary College and University College London. Both DTP and iCASE routes require you to complete the SysMIC course, which delivers training in basic and advanced mathematical, computational, and statistical techniques for interdisciplinary life-science research.
* LIDo cannot currently cover additional costs incurred by international students, such as visa applications or the cost of relocation.
List one or two most relevant research projects on the form. It is fine if you only have one research experience. Research experience can be from your degree, a job or other work experience. The project details should include your research aims and hypothesis with some context - was it addressing an outstanding question, was it improving current knowledge/techniques etc. Provide details of the techniques you used and what they were used for. Also provide details of whether you were working alone or as part of a team and what your specific intellectual and practical contributions were. Practical research work can be wet (i.e., laboratory or field-based) or dry (i.e. computational or theoretical). If you don’t have practical experience, perhaps you have conducted a literature review or data analysis to address a specific question. Provide details of how you went about deciding on the topic of review or the aim of your analysis, and how you conducted your research.
Describe your key findings and the implications of the research mentioned in the Research Experience section. If you weren’t able to achieve your research aims, what were the limitations of the study and how could you address this in future work if you continued working on it? If it was a literature review, did you identify gaps in the literature where further research is required? What were your personal outcomes – did you gain confidence with a particular technique or another skill that will be useful for doing a PhD? What did you learn about the research process and your ability to do research? Provide details if you presented your findings somewhere or if they will contribute to a publication.
This should provide some examples of working outside of your primary discipline. For biologists this may be mathematical or computing skills acquired in high school or undergraduate modules. For physical scientists this may be high school or undergraduate biology or medical options, work experience etc. Interdisciplinary science can also be collaborations with other scientists across different fields to work towards a common goal. Do you have examples of where you have collaborated or built a network of connections across different research fields? If you don’t have this experience, think about how you would address your scientific interests in an interdisciplinary manner and give examples. How would you apply your experience in an interdisciplinary manner? If you have examples of applying skills or knowledge from one field to another, include them.
We are interested in why you are applying for the LIDo programme, why you believe you are a strong candidate and that the programme represents a good fit for you. Demonstrate your interest in research and the LIDo programme itself. Think about the unique aspects of the LIDo programme that interest you – the PIPS professional internship, being part of a large interdisciplinary cohort, the 1st year taught modules, etc. What else did you get out of your experience that hasn’t yet been mentioned? Other than your qualifications, what qualities do you think a PhD candidate needs? Independence, curiosity, resilience, communication, problem solving, time management etc. Give examples of your experience that demonstrate these qualities. What research ideas are you excited to explore and what techniques will you use to do this? This is particularly relevant if you are applying to a specific iCASE project. How will your current experience and skill set assist you with this? Don’t be too general – try to express specific interests that fall within the BBSRC remit. You may also wish to mention any personal challenges you have faced during your professional or academic experience, and how you have overcome or adapted to this.
- The BBSRC supports research in the following areas:
- plants and agriculture
- humans – including physiology, cell biology, genetics and genomics, relevant to understanding normal human function, but not focused on specific diseases or abnormal conditions
- animals – including diseases
- tools and technology underpinning biological research
These areas are funded on all scales, from molecules, cells and tissues to whole organisms, populations and landscapes (Remit, programmes and priorities – BBSRC – UKRI).
Think about how your research interests fit within the BBSRC remit and how they might contribute towards the BBSRC’s research portfolio and priorities: Our research portfolio and priorities – UKRI.
Your CV should be written specifically with the LIDo programme in mind. It can be divided into the sections below. You may use or refer to the CV template provided. Please note that LIDo operates a blind shortlisting stage. Your CV should therefore NOT contain the following: name, gender, age, ethnicity, sexuality, disability, marital status, or any photos.
- For each section, start with the most recent activity and work backward
- Use subheadings, bullet points, and short sentences to make information clear and concise
- Even if a particular experience was short, it can still be included to showcase relevant skills
- Try to include specific examples to demonstrate your skills
- The sections below are listed in order of how they should appear on your CV
- Your CV should be no more than 2 pages
- Personal summary
- Brief 2-3 sentence bio stating your current position, what you are interested in, and a summary of your most relevant experience
- You should put this first, before employment experience, unless you have a lot of relevant work experience in industry for example
- List relevant modules and all research projects for MSc and/or BSc, with grade percentages next to each one
- As your research project likely represents a substantial part of your practical experience, include more detail of this than other modules: state the research project title, overall aims, and scientific skills used
- Space for school qualifications can be kept to a minimum as your degree is more relevant
- Relevant experience
- Include in this section any relevant employment or work experience
- Research experience, scientific skills, experience with particular software
- Other roles with transferable skills – leadership, responsibility, communication, problem-solving, time management, teaching, etc. – try to include specific examples as evidence
- Include in this section any relevant employment or work experience
- Additional skills and achievements
- Publications, conference attendance and oral/poster presentations, etc.
- Additional courses or events
- Grants and awards
- Extra-curricular activities if they demonstrate relevant skills
- A CV normally includes referees or states ‘references available on request’, however, you will list your referees via the online application, so it is not needed on your CV for the LIDo application
Choosing the most appropriate referees will be important for your application as they reinforce your academic and professional experience, and ultimately provide an impression of your capacity to be a PhD candidate. Whoever you choose, you should approach them to communicate your desire to do a PhD and inform them of the application process to ensure they are willing and able to provide a reference. It is essential to discuss with them your objectives and motivation to do a PhD so that they are able to support your application appropriately. Sharing your application materials with them may assist this. Giving your referee plenty of notice will help them fit it into their schedule and ensure they have enough time to do you justice.
Your referees must be able to comment on your research and/or academic abilities, and why you would make an excellent PhD candidate. They will also be asked to provide evidence of your aptitude or potential for interdisciplinary research. You should think about these points when choosing your referee and discussing your application with them.
At least one of your referees should be from an academic setting, ideally a supervisor of a research project who worked closely with you to oversee your work. This may be the principal investigator or another senior researcher, such as a post-doc in the lab. A personal tutor or module leader who knows you well and can express your research goals, interests and abilities can also be a good choice. A previous employer may also provide a useful reference, where they can vouch for your skills and interest within an area related to your research goals.
LIDo operates a shared selection procedure for DTP and iCASE applicants. All shortlisted applicants are invited for a first interview where we attempt to assess suitability and preparedness for the LIDo programme. All applicants are scored and ranked. The highest-ranked applicants who have expressed an interest in the DTP route will receive DTP route offers. The applications of those expressing an interest in iCASE projects and who scored above a threshold (that may vary from year to year) will be passed to project supervisors who will then short-list for an iCASE project-specific interview. Even at this stage, there may be a lot of competition for some projects and, consequently, not all remaining iCASE applicants will be invited to interview. Conversely, applicants who have indicated an interest in more than one iCASE project may be invited to more than on iCASE interview. Each year a few applicants receive both DTP and iCASE route offers and it is up to the applicant which one to accept.
The DTP interview
You will be asked about your research project(s), whether this was practical experience, a literature review, data analysis or some other experience. This is an opportunity to elaborate on the information you included in your application form. You should be able to discuss the following points:
- Your key aims, hypothesis and the rationale for the approach you took to address them
- Your main findings and the implications of these – do your findings answer an outstanding question, do they contribute to the improvement of current knowledge or the development of a new/improved technique, etc.?
- How can your outcomes be taken forward – will the data contribute to a publication or presentation? Will it inform further research?
- Any problems you faced during the project and how you addressed them or might have if you could do the project again – try to provide specific examples
- If there was an interdisciplinary aspect to your project – e.g. did you combine computing/maths with biology skills? If not, think about how you could apply an interdisciplinary approach to further your project or offer new insights into a future project
- What you learned about the research process and about your aptitude to research
Try to express what you were able to do independently if you gained confidence in a particular technique or research/analytical abilities. Give examples that demonstrate your ability to be proactive and drive your own project, as this will be essential for a PhD. Be clear about your desire to do a PhD as this will demonstrate motivation and enthusiasm to your interviewers. If you have limited practical experience, you can give other examples where you have demonstrated skills that will be useful for a PhD – independence, curiosity, resilience, communication, problem-solving, time management, etc.
If you have applied to an iCASE project, you may be invited for a further interview. This will be with the supervisor of the project and perhaps also the industry collaborator. The questions are likely to be more specific about your knowledge of the research area, the techniques, or the model that will be used in the project. It is very important to read the published papers of the lab you have applied to and try to understand the overall interests in the lab and how they approach these. Think about how your experience is relevant to their research and the specific skills you can offer them. Also, consider the incentive of the collaboration – why is the industrial partner interested in this research?
They will also likely ask you about the iCASE placement itself. Think about what benefits you will gain from working with the industrial partner and how this will assist you with your career pursuits after the PhD. If the placement requires you to relocate somewhere, they may ask you how you feel about this. Think about how this may also help your development, both professionally and personally, to demonstrate your enthusiasm.
At the end you will have an opportunity to ask your own questions to the panel. Use this opportunity to learn about the team you would be working in and the support you would have from the supervisor or other members of the team. It is important that you feel confident that you will have the guidance you need to be successful in your PhD. You can ask to meet members of the team or have their contact details if there are specific things you would like to discuss with them. You might also want to ask if there is a back-up plan if the proposed project doesn’t work.
Research experience that you gain as part of your degree can be enough to fulfill the criteria for LIDo application. However, if you don’t think you have enough experience or you want to get more experience before committing to a PhD, there are several ways in which you may be able to achieve this. Some suggestions are listed below:
- Contact labs that you are interested in and ask if you can do a summer studentship (these are funded by universities, doctoral training programmes, scientific societies, and charities), some work experience or shadowing
- You can usually find a directory of research groups on departmental pages of university websites
- Email the group leader or department head, expressing your interest in their specific field of research and the techniques they use, as well as your motivation to gain experience to pursue a PhD
- You can include a CV in your email
- You may need to send a lot of emails before you get a successful response, don’t be put off by this. You can also send a follow-up email if you don’t receive a response after a week or so
- Check if your university has any bursaries available to cover expenses for low or unpaid work experience
- Careers departments can be a good point of contact for this
- Apply for Research Technician/Assistant positions
- Working as a Research Technician/Assistant for a year or so can provide an excellent opportunity to get practical experience, make connections and learn more about the research environment
- Some positions only require a BSc, so this can be a good alternative for gaining experience in which you will be paid, without doing an MSc (or while doing an MSc part-time).
- Industry-based research roles will usually be widely advertised or recruited via agencies such as Reed or Indeed. University-based positions in UK universities are listed on jobs.ac.uk - other countries may have a similar centralised university jobs website or you can check directly on a particular university website