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Dr Liam Cox

Dr Liam Cox

Dr Liam Cox
University of Birmingham
Who is your scientific inspiration and why?

Gilbert Stork, a synthetic chemist and real pioneer of modern organic synthesis who was still publishing in his 90s! A wonderfully creative scientist, he incorporated real artistry into his synthesis designs.

In three words or phrases how would you describe your supervision style?

I encourage my students to take ownership of their projects from the outset and to try things even if I don’t think they will work – I love to be proved wrong!

I support my students’ development both as research scientists but also as individuals – a PhD provides a unique opportunity to find out about oneself.

I encourage my students to approach their work with a critical eye with an attention to detail; as scientists, we should always be asking questions; it’s learning which ones to ask that’s key.

In one or two sentences please describe your strategies regarding the following.
Provision of training:

I encourage my students to identify their training needs and work with them to provide a framework that develops their skills and addresses any development needs. In-lab training in experimental techniques is typically given by senior members of the group which I complement with training in associated theory. I try to maintain an open-door policy with my group so they can see me at any time. I meet with all members of my team individually once a week to discuss their latest results and plans for the following week. Once a month, we take a longer-term viewpoint to ensure we both maintain a clear picture of the wider project objectives.

Progression monitoring and management:

Whilst I enjoy hearing about latest results at any time, especially if they are for key experiments, our weekly one-on-one meetings provide an opportunity for us to discuss results in detail. In these meetings, I like to see raw data and your lab books as this provides an important opportunity for me to check that you are designing your experiments and interpreting data correctly. And if you aren’t, then I can use these meetings to provide the necessary training in core research skills. I use our formal monthly meetings to discuss more general progress and to check we are working to a work schedule with clear milestones that we agree together; these need to be ambitious but realistic.


When I’m working on campus, I like to have an open-door policy for my group and am happy for members to meet me at any time. If I need time to myself, I will communicate this, usually by email. Off campus, I typically communicate by email and Zoom.

How often do your PhD students see you in a timetabled group meeting?

Once a week and fortnightly over the Summer.

In year 1 of PhD study, how often do your PhD students have a scheduled >30 minute 1:1 meeting with you?

At least once per week.

In year 2 of PhD study, how often do your PhD students have a scheduled >30 minute 1:1 meeting with you?

At least once per week.

In year 3 of PhD study, how often do your PhD students have a scheduled >30 minute 1:1 meeting with you?

At least once per week.

What form do your 1:1 meetings with PhD students take?

A mixture of face to face (preferred) or via video chat or telephone.

Open door policy?

Yes, I am usually contactable for an instant response 3 or 4 days per week.

My expectation of PhD student working patterns?

For health and safety reasons, experimental work in my lab requires being present on site during the core hours of between 8 am and 6 pm (or a subset if working part time).

Notice for feedback (e.g. on reports, manuscript drafts, thesis chapters)?

I typically request notice of at least 1 week to provide feedback on written work of up to 5000 words.