Programme Overview

Programme Overview

The EPSRC Systems Biology DTC provided a tailored training programme for graduates from mathematical, physical or biological sciences backgrounds who wanted to conduct research in the field of systems biology. The programme facilitated the development of leading-edge research in the techniques that underpin the work of groups across the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division.

Students undertook a four-year doctoral training programme. The first two terms were devoted to acquiring advanced theoretical and technical skills from the physical sciences, and background knowledge in the life sciences. Research and communication skills were trained through a combination of intensive lecture courses and project work. These courses were taught in intensive one and two week modular blocks with 12 modules in total. The final module (in research and communication skills) was taught throughout the year.


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All modules involved some aspect of formal assessment. This took a wide variety of forms depending on the module, but in most cases involved problem-based assessments. Assessment guidelines were developed to ensure that students were assessed on the progress relative to their background within any given module.

After completion of the modules, over Trinity term and the summer of the first year, students undertook two extended laboratory rotations of 11 weeks duration associated with one or two of the research themes. These were similar in scope to a master’s level project. Students were encouraged to undertake at least one of these projects in an experimental laboratory to provide an appreciation of the complexity and difficulty of modern experimental work.

On completion of the projects students started their substantive DPhil research project in systems biology within one of the application areas, with the students based in the research groups of their principal supervisor.

Throughout this period, the Centre continued to monitor closely the needs for continuing training and support, tailored to each student.