All LIDo students start at the beginning of the academic year with 3-weeks of induction events.
These weeks contain a variety of information sharing and cohort building activities to introduce students to the programme, help them make informed decisions for the year and begin the bonding process for the cohort.
Students who have joined the programme on the DTP route will spend a day at each of the consortium partners to hear presentations from the supervisors offering projects, meet current LIDo students based at that institution and take tours of key facilities and buildings. After these partner roadshow events, DTP students will select their first rotation.
Other information sessions include 'Preparing for your PIPS' and launch events for each of the teaching elements.
Additional activities during induction focus on cohort building including a full day team-building and an opportunity to meet and mingle with students from the other years of the programme. LIDo has over 200 active students and a large body of alumni, so there are lots of people to build your network with.
We start our programme of well-being activities with the very first workshops on our 'Pathway to Completion' as we look at the common stressors that PhD students might experience and some excellent techniques to manage and mitigate them.
The induction period culminates with our grand annual iCASE Showcase, where iCASE students from years 2-4 of the programme will present their work and the whole programme comes together to welcome our new cohort and celebrate the outstanding science that is occurring in our collaborative partnerships with industry.
In the first year, each DTP student undertakes two 4-month rotation projects (October-February, February-June), experiencing two different LIDo consortium partners.
All rotation projects represent a clearly defined and significant fraction of the work proposed for an entire PhD project. As a result, a rotation project is an authentic sample of the work expected for the PhD. Consequently, our students can reassure themselves of the scientific merit of the project, the quality of the research environment, available resources, the strengths of the supervisory team and their own capacity to pursue the investigation.
At the end of each rotation, DTP students produce a 5000-word report and present their work via poster or oral presentation to their supervisors and peers at a mini-symposium. These presentation days also serve as a popular inter-cohort social event.
The majority of our DTP students select a PhD project associated with one of their two rotation projects, although this is not a requirement, they then join their chosen lab directly after the end of their 2nd rotation.
Students who have joined the programme via the iCASE route do not take rotations and begin work on their chosen project immediately after induction as finished.
Friday afternoons in the first year are dedicated to the SysMIC course, a high quality eLearning program that delivers training in fundamental and advanced mathematical, computational and statistical techniques for interdisciplinary and systems biology researchers.
SysMIC is a high-quality eLearning programme that delivers training in these enduringly vulnerable yet critical skills for interdisciplinary and systems bioscience research. Since many of the course developers are part of LIDo, a faster paced and enriched version of the course (SysMIC+plus) has been developed for our students. Our weekly face-to-face sessions allow for demonstration, collective study, interaction and discussion with the creators of the course and additional contributing experts drawn more widely from across the LIDo partnership.
Over eight months, all students will take the Basic Skills module, and most also opt to take the Advanced topics and applications module. A third optional module, based on project work investigating a specific biological problem, can be tailored to specifically support a student’s PhD research. LIDo students develop good levels of immediately usable skills in three widely used programming languages; Matlab, R and Python.
In addition to SysMIC training students will choose between two further training courses.
Option one is entitled Principles of Biology (PoB), a course created specifically for incoming DTP students to provide a broad overview of biological systems from the perspective of the general rules and principles that can guide researchers when addressing the extraordinary complexity of diverse, natural systems. PoB considers these rules and the ways in which experimentation, physical chemical and engineering approaches, computational analysis and modelling can be combined to form an integrated understanding of the way biology “works”. In essence, PoB is a series of interactive lecture and tutorial workshops where students participate actively in the discussions.
Option two is entitled The Bio-Industry and explores the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries via a learning and teaching focus on the selected literature: an industry expert speaker will also attend each session to discuss their views on particular aspects of these industries. The masterclasses feature topics such as industry history and trends, structure and business models, alliance/collaboration and risk, regulation and ethics, public perception and communications. Networking with the guest speakers, and tips on accessing industrial careers are also a feature of this course module.
Each year a week of cross research council remit teaching cushions the two rotations providing students not only the opportunity to hear from academic, industry, government and not-for-profit speakers on a range of topics in the boundaries of BBSRC remit, but also affording the occasion to network with students on our sister DTP programmes as the invitation to attend is shared widely across the UKRI postgraduate research community.
In years 2 and 3 of the programme students are dedicated to their research.
All students have an annual review with a member of the management committee to evaluate progress and manage any issues that arise. There is also a suite of employability events and wellbeing training sessions. It is common that DTP students will undertake their PIPS placement in years 2 or 3 and iCASE students will spend time away on placement with their industry partner.
In the 4th year of the programme all students are enrolled on the LIDo Pathway to Completion. This is a dedicated programme of events and management contact designed to smooth the development into the write-up phase of a PhD and promote painless thesis submission. The highlight of this process is a 3-day residential facilitated writing retreat.
Pathway to Completion culminates in a celebratory Submitters’ Dinner for the cohort – an important milestone in the transition to our Alumni Programme.
The extraordinary LIDo teaching and research-intensive environment sit within a framework of robust and established cohort building activities, culminating each year in an academic retreat for the students. This popular residential event is designed and planned by the students, for the students.
The retreat allows students to present talks on their research, enjoy additional skills training, discuss career information and share updates on cutting-edge research and technical developments.
Cohort building is integrated into a regular pattern of popular and innovative activities that combine training, outreach, and networking. For example, students work in teams to do a “makeover” of each other’s slides during the presentation workshop, serve as ambassadors on interview days, mentor BSc students in our summer placement scheme, join in advocacy and debate workshops, share technical tips in scientific interest groups, as well as organise and participate in the annual student-led residential retreat. By allowing students to network within and between cohorts, LIDo mobilises our large student body as an additional layer of peer support for both scientific and wellbeing issues. Our students look out for each other and senior students serve as a source of advice.
The BBSRC mandate that all students funded in this programme take part in the Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS) scheme. This involves a three-month work experience placement that can be undertaken with any organisation in the public or privates sectors in the UK or abroad according to student interest and a suitable agreement with the host. The only stipulation is that the work must be in an area demonstrably unrelated to the student's research project. The timing of the internships has a degree of flexibility, taking place during the second or third year of the PhD, (months 18 to 36). This is considered to be the most beneficial time.
The aims of the Internship Programme are to provide a funded opportunity for students to: develop new skill-sets; gain work experience in the non-academic research sector; assess the non-research career environments in the public or private sectors, evaluate a wider range of career options; and, understand how the skills gained during the PhD can be utilised in other sectors. UCL Careers and programme administrative staff support all LIDo programme students in arranging their PIPS placement.
At the start of the second year, each student uses a questionnaire about their internship interests, to structure an appointment with a specialist PhD Careers Consultant. The meeting also covers future careers aspirations and sourcing PIPs independently or through our network of existing and prospective hosts. Once a host is engaged then the student can access training recruitment processes and interview techniques. The process is repeated until a placement is secured. The combined expertise of UCL Careers, its dedicated Placement team and the LIDo Employability Officer has proved to be invaluable in helping the students join even the most competitive internship programmes (Google, WHO).
BBSRC PIPS at Royal Institution of Great Britain
LIDo students who join the programme via our iCASE route of entry apply directly to a named project that has before academic and industry supervisors.
These students don't undertake rotations at the start of their PhD and instead begin directly on the research of that project. Although embedded primarily in their academic lab, the student will spend 3-18 months at their industry partner. All costs of the placement are met by the industry partner, and some also pay a stipend top-up to the student.
iCASE students present their research to the whole programme annually at a grand industrial showcase event each October.