About the course
The Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) programme is a four-year DPhil/PhD programme supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) that provides innovative training for graduates from a life science, physical science or computational and mathematical science background who wish to conduct leading-edge bioscience research.
This course is taking part in a pilot on the assessment procedure of graduate applications to address conscious and unconscious bias for entry in the 2021-22 academic year. Please carefully read the instructions concerning submission of your CV/résumé in the How to apply section page of this page, as well as the full details about this pilot.
Research areas within the programme include integrative animal and plant biology, mechanistic molecular and cellular biology, and bioscience for food, industry and health (including crop science, animal health and welfare, synthetic biology, industrial biotechnology and the development of innovative approaches for drug discovery and pharmaceutical production). The majority of research projects undertaken by DTP students involve “transformative technologies”, which include advanced imaging and data analysis techniques, the development and application of new and emerging methods and technologies, mathematical modelling, ‘omic and systems biology approaches, and innovative approaches to address the three Rs. The programme also provides training for graduates working on specific projects, including projects funded through BBSRC Industrial CASE studentship awards and Collaborative Training Partnership awards.
The programme is led by the University of Oxford in partnership with eight world-class research organisations – the Pirbright Institute, which provides the UK’s national capabilities for the study and control of viral diseases of livestock, Oxford Brookes University, and five research organisations at the Harwell Campus Oxford (Diamond Light Source, ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, STFC Central Laser Facility and the Research Complex at Harwell), which provide the UK’s national capabilities for synchrotron science, neutron science and laser science, and the new Rosalind Franklin Institute, which and supports the development of new methods for life science research in areas such as imaging, spectroscopy and structural biology. We are also partnered with the Novo Nordisk Research Centre Oxford, an innovative target discovery and translational research institute. The DTP’s training programme draws on expertise in all nine partner organisations and students will have the opportunity to visit different sites and learn about the facilities and expertise available across these organisations during the initial training phase.
You will undertake a four-year doctoral training programme. In your first term you are based at the Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) at the University of Oxford and undertake an individually-tailored training programme that includes training in research skills such as mathematics and statistics, programming, imaging and image analysis, bioinformatics, and modelling biological processes and systems. You can also access a wide variety of additional training provided across the partnership throughout your doctoral studies.
A distinctive feature of the DTP training programme is that you are required to undertake a 12-week internship or placement to gain experience of work in a professional environment and in transferable skills that will be beneficial in your future career. Areas that may be explored during internships include industrial research and development, science policy, teaching, science communication, publishing, entrepreneurship and project management.
You will have the ongoing support of the DTP throughout your studies, including an ongoing training programme in professional skills such as scientific writing, project management, CV writing and interview skills, teaching skills, public engagement and enterprise and entrepreneurship. You can also access specific training in advanced research skills that are relevant to your research interests through specialist training courses, industry-led study groups and practice-led training groups.
Course features for DTP students (not applicable to Industrial Studentships)
After the initial training phase, you will undertake two 12-week research projects in two different research groups within the partnership, which are tailored to meet the likely requirements of your main doctoral project. You are encouraged to use these rotation projects to further develop your interdisciplinary skills. Following on from the project rotations, you will undertake a three-year doctoral research project with an internationally leading research group and have access to world-class facilities and expertise.
Course features for Industrial and Partner Studentships
If you apply to the DTP’s Industrial Studentship programme you will have a primary academic supervisor in one of the nine DTP partner organisations and undertake research in collaboration with an industrial or non-academic partner organisation. You will undertake a placement (12 weeks minimum) with the industrial partner organisation instead of a 12-week internship to gain experience of work in a non-academic professional environment.
If you apply for a Partner Studentship, at least 50% of your research will be undertaken in close collaboration with a supervisor at one of the DTP’s non-University partner organisations (eg Diamond Light Source, Rosalind Franklin Institute, The Pirbright Institute), and you will be co-supervised by a University supervisor. If you undertake a partner studentship that does not involve an industrial partner you will undertake a 12-week internship in a non-academic setting. Partner Studentships may be advertised as specific projects with named supervisors or can be applied for by applying to the main DTP programme.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff.
In the first year of the course, DTP students and some Partner students will be supervised by the programme directors, who will also support students in choosing their doctoral research project. Supervision arrangements for years two to four will therefore be confirmed at the end of the first year when the doctoral project is chosen.
If you are recruited to an Industrial Studentship or to some Partner Studentships, your supervisor will be known from the outset of your studies and will work with you and the programme directors to design and develop your training programme.
Students on the Industrial Studentship programme will have a primary academic supervisor in one of the nine DTP partner organisations. All DTP students have both a primary supervisor and a co-supervisor with relevant expertise when in the research phase of their DPhil.
Typically, a student should expect to have meetings with their supervisor or a member of the supervisory team with a frequency of at least once every two weeks averaged across the year when in the research phase of their DPhil. The regularity of these meetings may be subject to variations according to the time of the year, and the stage the student is at in their research programme.
The programme has three milestones to assist you in your progress. You will be required to write a research proposal during the first year of your DPhil, in consultation with your supervisory team, which describes the background literature, aims and rationale for your project, along with a plan of work. This will be assessed by two researchers with relevant expertise to check the suitability and feasibility of the proposed project, along with your understanding of your project. This enables students to receive useful feedback on their proposed project at an early stage. The University has two formal milestones to measure your progress, the first being transfer of status, and the second is confirmation of status, which are typically undertaken in the second and third year of your degree respectively. The exact assessment format used will vary according to discipline and department, but each typically involves an assessment of your progress by two researchers with relevant expertise. The purpose of the transfer process is to review your project and your plans for future work, to check that you are making satisfactory progress in the development of your project, and to satisfy the assessors that your work is potentially of DPhil quality. The purpose of confirmation of status to provide an indication that if work on the thesis continues to develop satisfactorily, then consideration of submission of the thesis within four years would appear to be reasonable. It therefore provides a second stage of formal progress review. Both you and your supervisors will also be required to reflect and report on your progress at regular intervals using the University’s graduate supervision system (GSR).
The final assessment of your work will be based on submission of a written thesis, the exact requirements for which may vary by discipline and department, and through an oral (‘viva voce’) examination, which will be assessed by an internal and external examiner.
The majority of bioscience graduates from the University of Oxford go into a bioscience-related position after graduation. Many stay in academic research, others work in government, for charities and within the commercial sector.
An increasing number of students are exploring and taking up opportunities for entrepreneurship, supported by the highly entrepreneurial environment within the University and across Oxfordshire as a whole.
Changes to this course and your supervision
The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.
For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.