Newsletter – Autumn 2022

BBSRC WRDTP Newsletter Autumn 2022

Welcome to the first edition of the WRDTP Newsletter, a regular news update which will be released at the start of each semester! The aim of this newsletter is to keep you informed on upcoming events and opportunities, as well as to share with you the achievements of our students.

If you have any news items you wish to be included in future newsletters, please email them to a member of the Comms team!



Welcome to our new cohort of 2022 starters! We are so excited for you to be a part of the White Rose DTP, and look forward to seeing all that you accomplish.

Masterclasses 2022

DTP masterclasses were a brand new, exciting concept launched in 2021. Our 2022 masterclasses hosted at Leeds, York and Sheffield were a great way for students to delve into the latest developments in an area of research with top academics from each university. 

This year, talks were focussed in the areas of: Navigating the academic environment, genome engineering, super-resolution imaging, analysis of microbial omics data, single-cell RNAseq, and cryo electron microscopy. We hope that most students were able to attend at least one of the masterclasses that was relevant to their research, and that you were also able to get to know your DTP colleagues from across all years and universities!

We are looking forward to running our masterclasses again in 2023, and would love some suggestions as to which topic areas you wish to be covered! It would be great to cover the areas that you will find the most interesting and useful in order for everyone to get the most out of these sessions.

“Learning about how to work with raw RNAseq data in our Masterclass on microbial omics” – @GavinHThomas on Twitter

DTP Symposium, Dec 12th 2022 

Registration for our annual symposium is now open! Attendance is compulsory for all students, except for those on placements. Unlike the past two years, this year’s event will be held entirely in person! This means that no posters or talks will be accessible virtually and we encourage everyone to attend.

This year, the symposium will take place at The University of York on Monday 12th December, 09:00 – 18:00. 

  • 4th Year students must submit an abstract (deadline Monday 31st October)
  • 3rd year students will need to make a poster based on their research. Poster criteria and submission deadlines will be communicated nearer the time.

A note from your comms team

Are you interested in science communication and/or are wanting to fill that CV? We’re looking for new members to join the WRDTP comms team! No experience required and time commitment can be flexible. Whether it is writing one-off blog posts or becoming a permanent member of the team, it would be great to welcome some new faces and perspectives onto the team! If you are interested or would like more information, please contact a member of the comms team!

Student Achievements (Easter-Summer 2022)


Congratulations to Ezra Herman, a student in the Friman lab from York who has been awarded the Enrichment Placement Award from the The Alan Turing Institute! 

A huge well done also to Alex Holmes who won the Leeds Partnership Awards 2022


Below is a list of recent publications from some of our students: 

Other achievements

See what else our students have been up to!

  • University of York students Harry Pink and Ethan Redmond both presented their research at the ICAR conference in Belfast. Read about their experience here!
  • Leeds student Alex Holmes hosted a gameshow at Be Curious 2022. See here to read more! 

We understand that there are many more achievements worth celebrating that are not mentioned above, and we apologise to anybody not included! To avoid this in the future, it would be great if you could let us know what you have been up to, either via email or by tagging the WRDTP account (@BBSRCWhiteRose) on twitter.

York PhD Students Present Research at ICAR Conference in Belfast

Congratulations to 2nd and 3rd year York PhD students Ethan Redmond and Harry Pink, who presented findings from their latest research at the International Conference on Arabidopsis Research (ICAR) conference in Belfast.

The conference gathers up to 1000 plant scientists from around the world, whose primary research organism is the model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana.

Following his K.M. Scott Prize for research excellence during a recent event at the University of York, Ethan took his latest findings across the Irish Sea and explained how he his using RNA sequencing on a large Arabidopsis population to understand why genetically identical plants flower at different times.

Ethan presenting his work at the ICAR conference.

Harry, meanwhile, presented findings from his recent first-author publication where he identified genetic variation underpinning resistance in lettuce to two fungal pathogens which are becoming increasingly resistant to agricultural treatments, such as fungicides. The work does not stop there for Harry, as he now plans to identify which genes are the key players in controlling this disease resistance!

Harry presenting his work at the ICAR conference.

Defra: Environment & Public Health Secondment Opportunities

Are you interested in opportunities in the area of Environment and Public Health? If so, Defra are offering three different internship roles that you should consider applying for!

Please note that these each have different experience requirements (some postgrad qualifications, some postdoc, some postdoc preferred but PGRs considered).

The closing date for applications is the 1st of July.

To apply for any of these opportunities please fill in the form that can be found here.

Please direct any queries to:

Role 1:  Environment- Health Partnerships

Defra’s involvement in the Environmental Monitoring for Health Protection (EMHP) programme has demonstrated benefits from close collaboration with health colleagues across government for the purpose of delivering innovative and large-scale environmental monitoring. We are keen to realise some of the wider benefits to the department from this environment-health partnership. An important step is to ensure there is a central view of existing connections and engagements between Defra Group and DHSC and its agencies. With this in mind, the Environment & Public Health team in the Chief Scientific Advisor’s Office wish to map Defra’s engagement with health to understanding existing activity and relationships and identify opportunities for better coordination and join up across the environment and health interface in government.

This is an exciting opportunity to gain a broad understanding of Defra’s health-related scientific and policy work and to establish a strong network across Defra Group, DHSC, UKHSA and other government organisations.

Specialism: A post doctorate qualification (or equivalent experience) or experienced current PhD student. Understanding of the environment-public health interface would be beneficial, experience with systems thinking and analysis methods would be useful.

Location: Any- some UK travel may be required, especially to Weymouth, Exeter and London.

Time commitment: 3-6 months

Contact for more information: Josh Bunce

Role 2: Future Wastewater Monitoring Capability Development

The CSAO’s Environment & Public Health team lead on the realisation of benefits to Defra from the partnered delivery of wastewater monitoring as part of the national Covid-19 response. A component of this work involves ensuring policy and central teams remain informed of post-Covid-19 developments and that our activity in CSAO aligns with policy and strategic priorities, particularly as the Public Inquiry commences. Practically, this may involve providing rapid briefings and query responses but also supporting on cross-government coordination and communications related to knowledge sharing and future wastewater monitoring capability development.

This is a unique opportunity to contribute to realising a lasting legacy from investment made during the last two years which has yielded substantial scientific development and collaboration across government.  You will gain a firm understanding of central policy work in Defra and a government perspective on the use of science in decision-making, as well as having the opportunity to establish a large network across government.

Specialism: A post doctorate qualification (or equivalent experience). An experienced current PhD student would be considered. Understanding of environmental or public health policy would be useful. 

Location: London (other locations can be considered)

Time commitment: minimum three months, preferred six months

Contact for more information: Josh Bunce

Role 3 New Environmental Monitoring Capability Within Defra

Environment and Public Health is a new area of interest for Defra’s Chief Scientific Advisor’s Office (CSAO). Through the experience of delivering wastewater monitoring as part of the national Covid-19 response through the Environmental Monitoring for Health protection (EMHP) programme, we have developed new capabilities across Defra in environmental molecular monitoring, (including large scale qPCR analysis, genomic sequencing, bioinformatics and statistics) and have strengthened our relationship with health colleagues in government. We are now seeking to realise wider benefits from these developments ensuring there is lasting legacy from the investment made during Covid-19.

This placement will be to support the design and, potentially, build phase of a new environmental monitoring capability within Defra Group that builds on the expertise developed through the delivery of the EMHP programme.

The main activities for the placement will be to:
Provide expert advice to ensure that the design of the capability is scientifically robust
Take a lead on elements of the design process
Provide advice and progress updates to Defra’s Chief Scientific Advisor and other senior stakeholders
Engage with stakeholders from across Defra group and other Government departments and agencies, including UKHSA.

This is an exciting role in a newly emerging and fast-paced area that will provide opportunities to engage directly with senior stakeholders, to work on a high-profile government science project and to directly influence the direction of Defra’s work in environmental monitoring for public health purposes.

Specialism: A postgraduate qualification (or equivalent experience) in one of the follows areas: public health, epidemiology, environmental molecular-microbiology, environmental science.

Location: Any – although occasional travel may be required to London, Weymouth and Exeter

Time Commitment: Minimum of 3-4 months, but could extend to March 23

Contact for more information: Robin Cutler

Leeds PhD Student Stars in Be Curious 2022 Show

White Rose DTP PhD student, Alex Holmes, developed and hosted an interactive gameshow at this year’s Be Curious Festival in Leeds! We spoke to the superstar science communicator about the festival, how she came to be involved, and what she loves most about public engagement and making science accessible.

[Alex Holmes (right) hosting her interactive gameshow at the Be Curious festival, with her fellow PhD student co-host]

The Be Curious festival is an annual research event held at the University of Leeds, which aims to engage local people with research happening within the University and show how this work is making a difference to the lives of the public. White Rose DTP PhD student Alex Holmes, a keen science communicator with over 2000 Twitter followers engaging with her posts on all things science, played a key role in this year’s festival.

“In previous years I’ve led stalls at festivals around protein structure and biology”, says Alex, “but this year seemed like the perfect opportunity to do a science show I developed called Big and Small”. In the show, Alex, who studies membrane protein structure and function as part of her PhD project, went head-to-head against a fellow PhD student in an attempt to convince the audience that proteins (a.k.a. small things) are better than the planet Jupiter (a.k.a. big things).

“I’m a pretty strong believer that science communication covers almost every conversation we have about science”

Something Alex loves about effective science communication is “seeing that lightbulb go off in the person you’re talking to”. However, working with proteins and structural biology meant she needed to get creative to ensure more and more people in the audience would have these lightbulb moments: “most people think of food when you say ‘protein’, so it can be a bit of a struggle if you’re not prepared to go ‘yes, but also…’”.

A top-tip Alex has for her fellow PhD students looking to communicate their own research in an accessible way is to remove nouns from your research topic title. For example, ‘understanding the structure and mechanism of membrane-integral pyrophosphatases and a mechanosensitive ion channel using biophysical and biochemical techniques‘ is pretty impenetrable, even if you’re in the field! Rewriting this title without the nouns and jargon leaves something more accessible, such as ‘understanding how the tools cells use to do their jobs look and work using computer- and lab-based experiments‘. Something Alex also recommends is using analogies to explain scientific topics, such as: “proteins are tools cells use; blood vessels are the motorways of the body; vesicles are like lunch boxes, and cells are like houses”.

“Most people think of food when you say ‘protein’, so it can be a bit of a struggle if you’re not prepared to go ‘yes, but also…’”

Although Alex has had great success in the fields of science communication and public engagement, hosting shows at Be Curious Festivals, Pint of Science events and even at the Royal Institute, she doesn’t plan to pursue a career solely in these specialities after she completes her PhD. Instead, she plans to take up a career in Higher Education teaching, but is keen to carry her science communication skills with her down this path: “I’m a pretty strong believer that science communication covers almost every conversation we have about science. Teaching has elements of science communication, from lecturing, practical demonstrations, thinking up activities and creative ways of explaining topics, as well as evaluating how well you’ve achieved those things”.

BBSRC White Rose DTP PhD Students Organize Pint of Science Event in York

A group of BBSRC White Rose DTP students from the University of York have teamed up to organize this year’s Pint of Science event in York – bringing cutting-edge research to a boozer near you. We spoke to event co-ordinator, and 3rd Year PhD student, Conor Scott to learn more about the event and what he hopes it will achieve.

Read moreBBSRC White Rose DTP PhD Students Organize Pint of Science Event in York

North-East Postgraduate Conference (NEPG) Free to Register and Present!

Hello all!

An exciting opportunity is available to all White Rose students interested in medical, bioscience and related STEM fields. The North-East Postgraduate Conference (NEPG), hosted online, is a free to attend conference in which you can present, listen to some keynote speakers, and take part in workshops. The event runs this year from 11th to 12th November 2021 with the theme being Empower, Connect, Innovate.

If you are interested in gaining some useful conference skills or would just like to network feel free to register at submit an abstract submission by the 3rd September 2021 at (

Good luck if you submit!

UKRI Artificial Intelligence Survey!

Hello all,

The UKRI is looking for input as to how artificial intelligence (AI) can be used in biosciences to help them identify future hurdles associated with AI roll out.

The survey is currently live with it closing on 22nd September 2021 more information along with how to complete the survey is in the link below. So if you want to help direct how AI is used in biosciences in the future fill in the survey!

Another award for a White Rose student!

MonoGram logo taken from the site

Cara Wheeldon of The University of Leeds has won the 2021 Monogram Early Career Excellence Award (MECEA)! Her work on barley, pea, and Arabidopsis plant sensing genes could potentially increase our growing understanding of how plant roots interact with each other and their environment. Identifying and understanding these genetic functions could potentially improve crop health and productivity. Obviously both Cara Wheeldon and the potential of her research greatly impressed the Monogram and Rank Prize Fund’s. As part of the DTP she has done us proud and we hope to continue to see her and others succeed!

Cara Wheeldon White Rose profile photo

Cara’s Profile:

White Rose’s Mycrobio Team Wins at YES20 Competition

YES20 Competitions Header

Some good news from the DTP! the team Mycrobio funded by the White Rose DTP won the prize for “Best IP strategy” sponsored by Potter Clarkson at the YES20 competition. After a long delay due to COVID the competition finally took place on April 23rd, with the team submitting an IP strategy to use microbiome sequencing to create bespoke skincare products with the aim of restoring and maintaining a healthy skin microbiome.

The team consisted of a group of students comprising all our partner institutions including the Universities of Sheffield, York, and Leeds. This group has been a great example of the benefits of inter cohort participation!

Mycrobio YES20 submission cover photo

And without further adieu the particpating members were

  • Alice Seleiro “Team Leader” (Sheffield)
  • Orlagh Anderson (York)
  • Laurence De Lussy-Kubisa (Sheffield)
  • Maia Harvey (Leeds)
  • Jack Wright (Leeds)

Great job to all those above and hopefully we can do some more articles on you all again soon!

Your New News Editor!

Hello All!

@Derek Bell image BBSRC White Rose

You will have to excuse my excessive use of exclamation marks as it is difficult to make this sort of news interesting to read!

My name is Derek Bell and I have taken over the responsibility of curating the news section of the BBSRC White Rose Website. I will be updating the news website as and when I receive relevant information from Catherine Liddle (DTP Co-ordinator) and also the student reps. Though important to note is that Catherine will still be sending vital/time sensitive information to all students via email.

I’m merely a PhD student like the rest of you so if there is radio silence it may be I am swamped with work, but I’ll try my best to keep you all appraised of up to date news.

All the best and good luck to you!

Your news editor,

Derek Bell

DTP Symposium 2021 – Save the Date

BBSRC White Rose Logo

The dates for the 2021 Symposium are:

Mon 13th December 2021

Tue 14th December 2021

The current plan for the symposium (assuming some loosening in COVID restrictions) is to hold a hybrid symposium with some content being on-line and the rest of the event being in person.

Image from the 2019 BBSRC White Rose Symposium

The student reps and Catherine are working on the logistics of the event, and will take into account any changes in the COVID restrictions that may arise in the time up until the date. so more information may be slow in coming.

For now please make note of the event! as you may be expected to attend in person!

White Rose Mechanistic Biology 2020 Symposium

White Rose Mechanistic Biology DTP 2020 Symposium.

White Rose BBSRC Student Symposium 20202020 banner

Whilst the global pandemic interrupted many things last year, our fantastic BBSRC student representatives ensured that the 2020 White Rose Mechanistic Biology DTP Symposium was not one of them! In fact, the organisers adapted quickly to the current times and worked tirelessly to implement the symposium virtually, using a seamless combination of Zoom and Slack communication platforms. Through research talks, flash presentations and posters, this all-day event was primarily designed to celebrate the work of our current 3rd and 4th year students, covering a diverse range of research topics from enzymatic synthesis of protein conjugates to soil chemistry and structure. The 2020 symposium also gave students the opportunity to share their PIPS experiences, whilst taking the time to hear from keynote speakers on important topics such as mental health and life after a PhD. If you somehow missed the event and want to know more about the symposium, our student’s incredible research, the interesting PIPS talks and our keynote speakers then please read on!

Read moreWhite Rose Mechanistic Biology 2020 Symposium

i-CASE 2020 entry competition

The competition for entry for i-CASE projects within the White Rose BBSRC DTP is now open.

Academic staff can apply for a CASE project to fit into the recruitment cycle for student entry in October 2020.

The deadline for applications is Monday 30th September 2019 (12 noon).

Read morei-CASE 2020 entry competition

New DTP Co-ordinator

Catherine Liddle, DTP Co-ordinatorWe are pleased to welcome our new White Rose BBSRC Co-ordinator, Catherine Liddle.  She is based at The University of Leeds and works across the partnership with Sheffield and York Universities.

She can be contacted via email:


New website launched

We are delighted to announce that we have a new-look website for our White Rose DTP in Mechanistic Biology. Please can our students take the time to review their project pages and send updated bios/project info to Catherine Liddle at We would welcome feedback and your suggestions, please also send this to Catherine Liddle.

Dragon’s Den Winning Teams

Our second year students worked together in cross-institutional teams to develop business ideas, which they presented to a panel of expert innovation and industry ‘Dragons’ at the Fera Training Day. There were moments of sheer brilliance, fun and a little bit of terror when faced with the Dragon’s questions. The Dragons were impressed with the students’ research into the commercial aspects of their business idea and it was difficult to choose a winner but after much discussion the Dragons were able to select the winning and runner-up teams.

Here are the teams receiving their prize from our External Advisory Board member Rose Maciewicz, VP Strategy Respiratory and Inflammation iMed at AstraZeneca:

2017 Dragons Den winning team:
Philip Kirk, Leeds
Sarah Flannery, Sheffield
Paul Bond, York
Oliver Prosser, Leeds
Matt Chadwick, Leeds

2017 Dragons Den runner up team:
Marcus Holt, Leeds
Jenny Hayes, York
Tom Burns, Sheffield
Oliver Herd, York
Sarah Good, Leeds

Prizes galore at our DTP Research Symposium in York

The White Rose BBSRC DTP Research Symposium was held at the University of York on 15th Dec 2017 and showcased the work of our third year and final year students. This was organised by a committee of our DTP students, led by York student Lewis White, and was a great success.

Rose thanking the excellent Student Organising Committee with chocolates . . .

We would like to congratulate all the students for their high quality presentations and posters, which were very well received by the symposium delegates. The winners of the presentation and poster competitions were very well deserved and had to fight off stiff competition from their fellow students.

Here are all the winners receiving their prize from our External Advisory Board member Rose Maciewicz, VP Strategy Respiratory and Inflammation iMed at AstraZeneca:

Best research talk:
Giovanna Pesante, York

Best PIPS talk:
Jordan Talbot, Sheffield

Best Poster teaser talk:
Joseph Ward, Leeds

Best 4th year Poster:
Caitlin McQueen, York

Best 3rd year Poster:
Emma Stewart, York

Job advice from Sarah Blackford

See Sarah’s post on the importance of your personal network when looking for a job:

More info

She regularly adds new posts here:

More info

All our third year DTP students have the opportunity to attend a career planning session with Sarah Blackford at the Fera Training Day on 20th Nov 2017.  Sarah is an academic career consultant with a background in bioscience research and scientific publishing. Qualified with a master’s degree in career education and guidance, Sarah has over 15 years’ experience of delivering  specialised career support to PhD students and early career researchers in the form of career development workshops and one-to-one coaching. Her workshops, which are based on her book, “Career planning for research bioscientists”, include career issues such as self-awareness, how to make informed career choices, the job market and finding opportunities outside of academia, networking and communication, CV writing and successful interview technique.  Sarah believes that effective personal career development lies at the heart of a successful and fulfilling career. 

DTP Newsletter – run by students for our students

Our DTP students have formed an editorial team to produce a DTP Newsletter as a way of improving the communication and networking between our three universities.  The Editor in Chief Caitlin McQueen says:

‘We hope that this newsletter will help build friendships throughout the three universities to achieve a real sense of support and involvement outside of the arranged sessions we attend during the year.

The really exciting part about this newsletter is that it is completely student run- this means that if you have something that you want to talk about, or a suggestion for a future section/recurring article, you have the ability to do so! I really think this newsletter has the potential to get us all helping each other in labs, sharing techniques and woes, but also to get everyone involved in our “other lives” not quite so freely shared with each other- so if you’re fundraising for charity, wanting some support for your band, or your sports team, please use this opportunity to get us all supporting you!

In our first issue we will be talking to some PIPs survivors to get some advice and inspiration for potential placements, we will have some scientific features articles from the cohort and a feature on the recent second year visit to the Research Complex at Harwell in Oxford. We will also be saying goodbye to our first round of PhD students and will be catching up with a few to see what they have lined up post thesis submission’

You can read the first issue of the Newsletter here:

DTP Newsletter issue 1

The second issue of the Newsletter is currently in production.  Please look out for requests from the Editorial Team – all help gratefully received!

Research Symposium 2016

The second White Rose BBSRC DTP Research Symposium was held at the University of Leeds on 16th Dec 2016.  This research-focused event gave our final year students the opportunity to present their findings to over 160 DTP students and supervisors.  There was a great variety of research on display, with excellent talks and posters from students from Leeds, Sheffield and York.  


There was a prize for best oral presentation and best poster, many congratulations to our prize-winning students:

Best presentation:  Alex Evans, Leeds (supervised by Graham Askew and Ning Qin)

Best poster:  Bryony Cotterell, Sheffield (supervised by Simon Foster and Simon Foster)

Here are the winners receiving their prizes from the DTP Academic Lead, Prof Alan Berry:






New DTP Newsletter – Run by students for students

A new student-led DTP Newsletter will be launched shortly.  Please look out for invitations from the editorial team to submit your own news items. The Newsletter will contain useful information directly relevant to yourselves including scientific features, interviews, information about PIPS and future careers as well as news items from your fellow DTP students.

Prize winning DTP Students

The White Rose BBSRC DTP Research Symposium was held at the University of Leeds on 15th Dec 2015 and showcased the work of our final year students.

We would like to congratulate all the students for their high quality 3 min thesis presentations and posters.  The winners of the 3MT and poster competitions were very well deserved and had to fight off stiff competition from their fellow students.  Here are all the winners receiving their prize from Robert Hardwick, BBSRC:

Bob Schiffrin, University of Leeds. Symposium 3MT competition winning student.

Keir Bailey, University of York. Double Symposium 3MT and Poster competition winning student.

Nathan Garnham, University of Sheffield. Symposium Poster competition winning student.

Prize winning DTP students

The White Rose BBSRC DTP Research Symposium was held at the University of Leeds on 15th Dec 2015 and showcased the work of our final year students.

We would like to congratulate all the students for their high quality 3 min thesis presentations and posters.  The winners of the 3MT and poster competitions were very well deserved and had to fight off stiff competition from their fellow students.

Here are all the winners receiving their prize from Dr Robert Hardwick, Senior Innovation and Skills Manager at BBSRC:

Bob Schiffrin, University of Leeds. Symposium 3MT competition.








Keir Bailey, University of York. Symposium 3MT and Poster competition.

Nathan Garnham, University of York. Symposium Poster competition.


White Rose Brussels Office launched

The White Rose University Consortium is delighted to announce the launch of the White Rose Brussels Office. The office will work with key stakeholders on areas of research excellence supported by EU funding and which align with current EU research priorities. The office will also spot areas of strategic importance as well as strengthening name recognition of the three universities.

The launch events, attended by key members of the European Commission as well as international business and research agencies, have focussed on key areas of global research that Leeds, Sheffield and York excel in – sustainability, food security and health and wellbeing.

Speaking about the launch, Professor Koen Lamberts, the University of York’s Vice Chancellor and President, said:

“The Brussels Office will do a great job for the University of York – and its partners in Leeds and Sheffield – in positioning us for research funding and opportunities for our students in Europe. The office will work hard to promote the tremendous knowledge economy of Yorkshire.”

Professor Sir Keith Burnett CBE FRA, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, commented:

“The University of Sheffield’s world-class research has pioneered new approaches in areas such as advanced manufacturing, food sustainability and security, and integrated health and social care. Much of this is being achieved with our international partners, particularly in Europe.

“The White Rose University Consortium’s new Brussels office will support our long-term strategic goals to undertake internationally-leading scholarship which delivers genuine benefits to society, including improved health, economic growth and a deeper understanding of our world.”

Sir Alan Langlands, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds, said:

“Ensuring we align our world-leading research with current EU priorities is vital. This office will not only raise the profile of the White Rose university consortium, but also enable us to demonstrate the exceptional breadth of our research, its real-world impact, and how we are investing in cutting-edge facilities to help tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges.”

New Programme Director for White Rose DTP

We are delighted to welcome Prof Alan Berry as the new Programme Director for the White Rose DTP.  Prof Berry brings a wealth of experience to the DTP in his roles as Director of the Graduate School and Programme Director of the Wellcome Trust PhD Programme  – ‘The Molecular Basis of Biological Mechanisms’.

Alan is looking forward to working with the DTP students and their supervisors across the universities of Leeds, York and Sheffield.

Alan’s research spans a wide range of interests in synthetic biology and its applications in generating novel proteins and enzymes using rational design and directed evolution.  Further details can be found here.

University of Leeds announces £17m Astbury BioStructure Laboratory

The new facility will provide the University’s internationally renowned Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology with instruments for Electron Microscopy and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance that are competitive with the very best in the world.

Professor Sheena Radford FRS, Director of the Astbury Centre, said: “The biomedical challenges we face today include complex disorders associated with ageing, cancer, lifestyle and drug resistance. To develop new therapies for these diseases, we need to understand biological structures at a molecular level and this investment will keep Leeds at the forefront of this science.”

The funding, approved by the Council of the University of Leeds, will pay for two powerful 300 kilovolt (kV) electron microscopes (EM) that will give researchers new insights into the structure of healthy and diseased cells, and how pathogens like viruses and bacteria attack them. The new microscopes will also allow researchers to solve the structures of individual molecules and the complexes they make in unprecedented detail.

The University will also fund a new, ultra-sensitive 950 megahertz (MHz) nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer which can reveal how biological structures move and interact in real time. This is essential to understand healthy cells and how they malfunction in disease. The new instrumentation will also provide researchers with insights into how to design new drug molecules to target complex health challenges such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and antimicrobial resistance.

The new equipment will be housed in fully refurbished facilities alongside existing 120kV and 200kV EMs, and 500, 600 and 750 MHz NMR machines.  The existing machines have been purchased and systematically upgraded over the years through a combination of Leeds and Wellcome Trust funding. Work to develop the new BioStructure Laboratory will start immediately.

Professor Radford said: “Structural methods have revolutionised our understanding of biology and our ability to modify it to treat disease, and will continue to do so. Such methods are at the very heart of our centre’s vision of understanding life in molecular detail. The true power of structural biology comes from the integration of electron microscopy and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy with X-ray crystallography and other biochemical and cell biological approaches.”

“Major investments have been made in X-ray crystallography across Europe, such as the UK’s Diamond Light Source, but greater investment in electron microscopy and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy is also required. Applied in combination, these structural methods provide unique insights into the structure and dynamics of even the most complex biological and biomedical systems. This latest investment in Leeds will ensure that we become one of the best resourced centres for instrumentation in structural biology in the world. We are immensely grateful to the University Council for backing the Astbury Centre in this way.”

Professor John Ladbury, Dean of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds and a recent recruit from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, said: “I am impressed by the University’s vision and commitment to growth. The new investments mean that we will be able to build on the existing scientific excellence in the Astbury Centre by making a number of new senior appointments to the BioStructure Laboratory, in addition to our biggest ever academic fellowship recruitment drive and schemes to increase PhD Student recruitment.”

The Centre has been well supported by funding agencies, other universities and industrial partners over the 16 years since it was formally constituted, and has a grant portfolio of £50 million. Current funders include the Wellcome Trust, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the European Research Council (ERC), British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Yorkshire Cancer Research, and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Professor Ladbury added: “This investment by the University acknowledges the longstanding support from our funders for the great science in the Astbury Centre and underlines our commitment to working closely with our funders and partners into the future”.


We are delighted to welcome Dr Clare Green, who has taken up the post of White Rose BBSRC DTP Manager.  The role involves development and management of the DTP to ensure the establishment of an intellectually-rigorous and world-leading collaborative research and training environment.  Clare is looking forward to working with the DTP students and their supervisors across the universities of Leeds, York and Sheffield.

Previously Clare worked as an Innovation Manager at the University of Leeds in the Stratified Medicine Hub and Medical Technologies Knowledge and Innovation Centre (IKC).  The roles involved bringing businesses together with world-class experts and healthcare professionals to accelerate the commercial development of new healthcare products as well as supporting students and researchers to achieve greater impact and excellence in their research.

Clare previously gained over 14 years experience in both a global healthcare company and medical device SME, providing research and product development services in medical devices, biomaterials, tissue engineering and related health technologies.


£11 million training scheme for biological scientists

The universities of Leeds, York and Sheffield, working together under the auspices of the White Rose University Consortium, will host an £11 million Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) that will fund 164 PhD research projects over the next five years.

Research will span three main areas of strength for Yorkshire’s research community: agriculture and food security; world class underpinning bioscience; and industrial biotechnology and bioenergy.

The investment is part of £125 million funding for doctoral training announced by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) today (October 3).

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “The UK punches far beyond its weight in science and innovation globally, which is a credit to our talented scientists and first-class universities. This new funding will safeguard Britain’s status as a world leader in life sciences and agricultural technology.”

Our CEO Dr Julian White,  said: “We need a new generation of bioscientists to tackle major challenges such as food security, reducing dependence on fossil fuels and improving healthcare. The research this partnership is making possible is likely to have a significant impact on all of our lives and will mean Yorkshire’s universities continue to be global leaders in biological science.”

Professor Michelle Peckham, who led the bid at the University of Leeds, said: “This funding builds on the strategic partnership between the universities of Leeds, York and Sheffield in the biological sciences and confirms the region’s key role in training scientists in this vital area.”

The universities will immediately begin recruiting PhD students for the first year of the new DTP, which is an extension of an already successful doctoral training program at the White Rose Universities.

Students will start their projects in October 2015. In addition to 110 BBSRC-funded studentships across the key themes, the three universities and the White Rose Consortium will provide 54 studentships.

Professor Peckham said: “Our students will be joining a really exciting collaboration. We really focus on building a community of researchers, with training days across the three universities, social events and opportunities to exchange ideas and expertise.”

The Government’s Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) and the Research Complex at Harwell (RCAH) are also partners in the program and will be involved in some of the research projects.

A distinctive feature of the White Rose Mechanistic Biology DTP will be a focus on giving students skills training beyond academic research. For instance, all students will take part in the Professional Internships for PhD Students (PIPS) scheme, which requires them to do at least three months’ work in an organisation not directly related to their research. Past PIPS partners include the British Antarctic Survey, the Alzheimer’s Society and Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Professor Ian Graham, Head of Biology at York, said “This award recognises the world class postgraduate research and training that we carry out in partnership with our colleagues in Leeds and Sheffield.”
Professor Simon Foster, of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, said: “The renewed funding of the White Rose DTP is excellent news as it provides the training for the next generation of life scientists. Young researchers underpin advances across all aspects of our science portfolio.”
Further information

Contact Chris Bunting, Senior Press Officer, University of Leeds; phone: +44 113 343 2049 or email

Fera Sandpit Leads to Co-funded Studentships

At the beginning of the summer academics from the White Rose Universities met with Fera scientists for a Sandpit in the area of Detection and Diagnostics for applications in Agrifood and the Environment. The ultimate objective of this event was to identify 2 to 3 project ideas which could be subsequently developed into joint studentships for 2014.
Fera scientists overviewed some of the science challenges facing them in diagnostics and detection across the agrifood chain which was followed by open discussions as to how new links with White Rose academics could lead to solutions. A number of potential projects were identified including,
1. Endocrine disruption – Chemotoxicity of mixture
2. Endocrine disruption – Biosensors
3. Glyphosate binding proteins/Biosensors
4. Rapid field sensors
5. Conjugation free binding libraries for small molecules
6. Plant responses to the rhizosphere
7. Chemical communication
8. Microbial responses to plants and agricultural practice
9. Bioinformatics

We are pleased to announce that a call for studentships addressing these areas and within the remit of the White Rose BBSRC DTP has now been launched. Call guidance and an application form can be found at


Welcome To Our New Students

The DTP is delighted to welcome our first intake of new students.

We hope you will find studying in this collaborative environment both rewarding and enjoyable