Wellcome Trust 4-Year PhD Programme - Structure
Studentship positions - Six students will be admitted per annum from September 2020 to 2025. Each year five of the studentships are funded by the Wellcome Trust and one by King’s College London. All six fully-funded students will be members of the Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine (CSCRM), King’s College London.
YEAR 1 - Master in Research, MRes
Responsible for overseeing the first year, the PhD programme OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE is comprised of Dr Francesca M Spagnoli (chair), Professor Steven Sacks, the programme manager, one of the 'Cell Therapy from Bench to Market' MSc course organisers, a member of the Doctoral Training Programme PhD Steering Committee, and one junior and one senior principal investigator drawn from the supervisor pool.
During the first year students undertake a Master Research (MRes) in Biomedical and Translational Science, which combines taught elements with three 12-week laboratory rotations.
Research - Students will undertake 12-week rotations in three laboratories, which they will select from a wide variety of projects offered by our pool of supervisors, covering topics ranging from basic questions in stem cell biology to designing cell therapies and gene correction strategies. A project choices booklet will be made available each year to candidates selected to interview. After each rotation, students will write a 2,500-word report, in the format of a scientific article, and give a 10-minute oral presentation to their cohort and members of the supervisor pool or PhD oversight committee. Each rotation will be scored based on the written and oral presentations and a report from the rotation supervisor.
Experimental & Transferable Skills - Scheduled throughout the year are experimental skills workshops focusing on essential skills for a life scientist. The compulsory elements provide: a theoretical and practical foundation for advanced therapies and regenerative medicine [Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine (SC&RM) 1 – latest developments and SC&RM2 – adult mouse stem cells practical]; training in experimental design and statistics; an introduction to research ethics and integrity; and workshops on equality, diversity and inclusion. Together these compulsory courses will support the students’ development as critical thinkers, equip them with high standards for the design and analysis of their work, and promote a healthy research culture. Students choose additional workshops from a wide range of options covering data analysis (e.g. “R programming and Statistics”) and wet lab technologies (e.g. “Light and Electron microscopy”, FACS). Each workshop is assessed by a short report or exam and also contributes towards the MRes degree classification.
Scientific Publishing - Students gain publishing experience by writing a review article together with a senior PI, on a topic that has been solicited or pitched to a journal by the students. This highly successful innovation has led to the publication of three reviews (Belokhvostova et al. 2018; Clarke et al. 2018; Cho et al. 2019). The process of writing and publishing the review develops many skills to aid subsequent thesis writing and preparing primary research articles.
Exposure to Career Options - Students will participate in approximately eight weekly MASTER CLASSES to gain perspectives on diverse aspects of a research, policy and careers. Confirmed speakers include staff from Innovate UK, research charities and a firm of patent lawyers. Each class will comprise a presentation followed by a round-table discussion for first year programme students.
Thesis proposal - After all three rotations have been completed, the students will select a thesis project and, with input from the supervisor, prepare a research proposal of up to 10,000 words, including a literature review and milestones for the first year. The oversight committee will examine students on their proposals to not only provide assessment, but to also ensure their proposal is well-considered before they commit to three years of investigation.
MRes qualification - It is anticipated that students will be awarded MRes with pass, merit or distinction based on the marks they receive for their rotation reports, thesis proposal and other first year activities.
YEARS 2-4, Thesis Research and Writing
Students will carry out full time research in the host laboratory as described in their thesis proposal, supported and monitored by their thesis committees. Each THESIS COMMITTEE will be comprised of the primary and second supervisors, a member of the oversight committee, and two other King’s faculty members who can continue to contribute guidance on the project. Students in year 2 will initially be registered as MPhil students, but will transfer to PhD status following an upgrade viva at 9 months. The thesis committee will meet the student at 3 months, 9 months (upgrade) and every 6 months thereafter.
Scientific discussion forums - In addition to attending the host lab’s group meetings, journal clubs and retreats, students will attend CSCRM EVENTS including regular international seminar series, CSCRM journal club the fortnightly ‘Stem Cells @ Lunch’ seminars. Wellcome PhD students also have the oppourtunity to interview the Stem Cells @ Lunch speakers, listen to the podcasts here.
Cohort activities - Students will function as a cohort with many opportunities for interaction throughout the course. All students will participate in an annual ‘PhD Day’, an opportunity for students in years 2-4 to present their work and for everyone to discuss ways to improve the programme. ‘PhD Day’ will culminate in a lecture by an international speaker, chosen with input from the students. Afterwards there will be a reception and dinner exclusively for the speaker and students. Throughout the course students will have a dedicated office in the CSCRM, where they can meet and work.
Continued Career Support
Internship - Each student will have the opportunity to undertake an internship (ranging from a few days to three months) during years 2-4. Internships are designed to enhance lab skills; provide exposure to different working environments (including the commercial sector); foster collaborations and stimulate interdisciplinary research. Students can also develop skills in science communication and obtain training in underpinning technologies, such as engineering and cell manufacturing. King’s will cover the costs of travel and accommodation incurred by students undertaking internships outside London. Students will be encouraged to present their work at national and international conferences, and will be able to access travel awards for this purpose.
Evening Career Talks - There will be a series of evening careers events that are open to all King’s PhD students. In addition to covering non-research career options, speakers will include scientists at different stages in successful research careers – ranging from new postdocs to career development fellows and Wellcome Trust senior investigators – to discuss life as a researcher, and offer advice on topics such as postdoctoral opportunities abroad.
Future Employment Planning - At the end of year 3 students will have detailed discussions with their supervisors and the oversight committee about their career options, and will be encouraged to talk to a careers consultant in the Researcher Development Unit. In addition, the contacts they have made through the masterclasses and internships should be very useful. With the training they have received, students will be highly employable in any career sector - especially the academic and burgeoning commercial sector of regenerative medicine.
Transition Fund - Each studentship includes funds to allow a tailored transition activity that helps Programme students embark on their chosen post-PhD career path with the assistance of the PhD Oversight Committee. For example, a short post-doc to complete a publication, training to acquire special skills or trial a career outside academia in areas, such as publishing, teaching, policy, business or industry.