We receive a Flexible Training Award from the Medical Research Council which allows us to fund specialist training for individual students in the following areas:
- High cost training in MRC skills priority areas such as bioinformatics, mathematical modelling or in vivo imaging.
- Exceptional training opportunities, such as internships and placements, and training in new advanced research skills.
- Opportunities to provide training in partnership working with industry.
- Transitions from PhD to first career via one of our Career Transition Fellowships in Academia, Industry or Allied Careers.
Here are some of the ways in which our students have benefited from this funding, to develop their scientific and research skills, as well as gaining professional skills and knowledge to support their future careers:
My Science Policy UKRI Internship, funded by the Flexible Training Award, was with the Royal Society’s (RS) Genetic Technologies group, within the Wellbeing Policy team. This was a really exciting opportunity to learn about and contribute to a diverse range of activities, including planning the 3rd International Human Genome Editing Summit, contributing to a Science Policy Diversity Working Group, and doing some scoping and consultation work.
Overall, the placement gave me a much better understanding of how NGOs function and how they conduct policy work. I have developed my ability to quickly learn about new topics and have expanded this from a purely scientific understanding to consider regulation and potential social, political and ethical factors. I’ve been able to interact with many stakeholders, draft letters, website copy and meeting materials.
With a better understanding of careers outside of academia, I’m now confident that moving into a science-adjacent role is a good step for me. I also realised that although I am very comfortable working independently, it’s nice to be part of a team and be able to discuss your work with others! I’d definitely recommend a placement to any MRC DTP students that are thinking about moving out of academia.
I attended the MolSmi2022 Understanding Molecular Simulation Course in 2020. The course provided me with the theoretical understanding and practical foundation for using molecular simulations and associated methods. I gained an extensive knowledge of the theory behind molecular dynamics, how to write basic molecular dynamics programs (which involved learning the fundamentals of C programming language) and how to use these programs to gain insight into the properties and behaviours of a variety of systems.
I also learnt about the benefits and drawbacks of different methodologies and algorithms, where they should be applied, and key problems to be aware of.
The 'special topic' on the course this year was machine learning, which also provided me with ideas to improve my own machine learning models.
Since returning from the course I have begun to run my own simulations and, crucially, have an understanding of what is happening and how they work, so I'm now able develop and improve these simulations for my own project in order to extract meaningful results. This would not have been possible if I hadn't attended this course.
I had spent a number of months trying to obtain a lipid called undecaprenol from natural sources that I needed for the synthesis of a chemical probe essential for my research. This kind work is a specialty of the Cochrane lab in Queen's University Belfast, however despite scrupulous correspondence with them I was unsuccessful in all of my attempts.
The MRC's Flexible Training Award gave me the opportunity for a collaborative vist to Queen's University Belfast where I spent four weeks working alongside the Cochrane group. Through this experience I was able to carry out the work needed for the development of the chemical probe, while also learning the techniques necessary for the isolation and modification of natural products.
Overall, the training experience afforded by the Flexible Training Award provided me with the tools I needed to progress my PhD both tangibly; allowing me to obtain an elusive product, and educationally; by increasing my research capacity for future work.
The Flexible Training Award allowed me to undertake a Prince 2 Project Management Course. This was a fantastic opportunity to gain employability skills and qualifications beyond that normally provided during a life-science PhD.
The course provided me with the skills and understanding of the Prince2 principles, themes and procedures that need to be applied to run a successful project as a project manager, as well as the necessary Prince2 qualifications that are sought after by companies looking to employ project managers.
By conducting the Prince2 Project Management Course, I have been able to acquire the employer desired Prince2 certificates. This will increase my employability factor and aid my transition from PhD to employment as a clinical trial solutions project manager; a career that not only allows me to help improve global health, but also allows me to use the skills I have developed from my PhD with the MRC DTP.
I feel that this opportunity has provided me with the skills and qualifications needed to give me an edge when applying for life science project management positions post-PhD.
Filipe Fernandes Duarte
I completed a three-month internship at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) which was funded by the Flexible Training Award. During my time at the DHSC I worked in the Mental Health Directorate as part of the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA) reform team.
I had been interested in policy work for some time and so this was the perfect opportunity for me. I had the chance to be involved in many different tasks, including contributing to consultation processes and policy workshops, and undertaking research. The experience allowed me to build on my communication, learning, team, organisational, and strategic skills. This is something that will be crucial in my future career as this internship allowed me to acquire experience on how to apply these in a work setting. It also allowed me to gain confidence in my abilities to perform in a setting outside of academia, an experience that would otherwise be difficult to acquire.
Not only did I find my time at the DHSC invaluable to develop my skills, but it was also rewarding to work on a project that has the potential to change the lives of tens of thousands of people every year, along with a team of intelligent and driven professionals.
In 2019 I received funding to attend the 4th International Course on Antibiotics and Resistance at the Institute Pasteur in France. The course aimed to provide complete training in all aspects of antibiotic resistance research; modes of action, pharmacology, mechanisms of resistance and development of new drugs, amongst others. The goal was to train the next generation of scientists to best equip them to deal with the escalating antibiotic resistance crisis.
Attending this course was a fantastic experience; it provided me with a broad training in areas of antibiotic resistance research that I hadn't previously explored. It helped me to understand how my research fitted into this, and provided me with inspiration and ideas for future experiments.
The course was also a great networking opportunity; I had the chance to meet scientists and policy makers from a wide variety of areas and backgrounds, building up an invaluable set of contacts for potential future collaborations. There were also numerous opportunities to talk to the course faculty (made up of 40 internationally recognised scientists and physicians), this was very inspiring and was a great chance to meet scientists I might like to work for in the future.