White Rose universities receive renewed funding from BBSRC

  • BBSRC funding of £10 million has been awarded to the White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership in Mechanistic Biology and its Strategic Applications
  • Investment part of government announcement on bioscience and Artificial Intelligence
  • Funding will support 150 PhD students over five years

Students look into microscopes

The White Rose universities of Sheffield, Leeds and York have received renewed funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC, a part of UK Research and Innovation).

As a partnership across the three universities, we have received around £10 million from the BBSRC for the Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) in Mechanistic Biology and its Strategic Applications.

The White Rose University Consortium DTP in Mechanistic Biology supports world-class molecular bioscience, as well as strategic research in the areas of food security, bioenergy and industrial biotechnology.

The investment was unveiled by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as part of an announcement focusing on skills in bioscience and Artificial Intelligence.

This significant investment will contribute to supporting around 150 four-year PhD studentships over five years of intakes across Sheffield, Leeds and York, starting in October 2020. During these PhD studentships, each student will also undertake a three-month Professional Internship for PhD Students placement to develop their skills further and to explore possible future career directions.

This White Rose BBSRC DTP programme will offer an exceptional range of research experiences to students, allowing them to contribute to a wide variety of world-class bioscience aligned with BBSRC’s strategic priorities. It will draw on the combined resources of the three universities and our other partners, including the Research Complex at Harwell, the Rosalind Franklin Institute, and FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, to offer a rich and varied training environment that will equip students for successful and productive careers.

Professor Alan Berry, Director of the White Rose BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership at the University of Leeds, said: “We are looking forward to training the next generation of biological scientists to produce fundamental advances that will underpin future health and prosperity.

“The combined universities have exceptionally strong and well-balanced research across the breadth of BBSRC-relevant research. This provides a superb environment for students to achieve their full potential.”

Aligned with BBSRC strategy, the White Rose DTP will train researchers undertaking projects in bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food, bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth, and advancing frontiers of bioscience discovery.

The UKRI-BBSRC DTP scheme is just one element of UKRI’s commitment to support future talent in research and innovation. UKRI as a whole supports around 15,000 doctoral students in UK universities, research institutes and businesses. As part of the National Productivity Investment Fund, a further 1,300 students were supported in industrially-relevant research topics, and in projects utilising artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data.

Additional information

BBSRC is part of UK Research and Innovation, a new body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. They aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. They work with their many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.


For further information please contact:

Catherine Liddle


White Rose BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership in Mechanistic Biology

Student Education Service | Doctoral College
Faculty of Biological Sciences

7.82 Irene Manton Building | University of Leeds | Leeds LS2 9JT
Tel +44 (0)113 343 6463 | Ext 36463
E-Mail: WRDTP@leeds.ac.uk

Website: https://www.whiterose-mechanisticbiology-dtp.ac.uk/

Twitter: @BBSRCWhiteRose

LinkedIn: White Rose BBSRC DTP

Dr Patricija van Oosten-Hawle – Staff Showcase


I always wanted to become a scientist, from observing microorganisms under the microscope to understanding molecular structures and how the cell works. This is why I studied Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Vienna, Austria before finishing my MSc degree work at the University of Bonn, Germany. This was followed by PhD studies at the VU University in Amsterdam in the laboratory of Prof. Saskia van der Vies and Dr. Marco Siderius, where I focussed on the interplay of the Hsp90 chaperone machinery in stress-responsive MAP kinase signalling pathways in yeast.

In the lab
Dr Patricija van Oosten-Hawle and her DTP student, Sarah Good


In 2008, I joined the lab of Prof. Rick Morimoto at Northwestern University, USA, who is famous for his work on molecular chaperones and who coined the term “Proteostasis”.

There, I gained more expertise in cellular stress response mechanisms and chaperones and how they can be used to protect cells from aggregation-prone and proteotoxic disease proteins. But this time I used a multicellular model organism, the nematode C. elegans: a wiggling worm that can be used to model human diseases and understand molecular processes from a whole-animal perspective!

Using C. elegans, I discovered transcellular chaperone signalling (TCS) – a novel concept in biology that allows tissues to communicate stress with each other and upregulate protective chaperone expression via inter-cellular signalling. These studies resulted in a 2013 publication in Cell.

With my own lab and team at the University of Leeds, Faculty of Biological Sciences, I continue to investigate how intercellular signalling mechanisms coordinate chaperone expression across tissues to protect against protein aggregation and proteotoxicity associated with amyloid diseases. We are still taking advantage of the genetic powerhouse system C. elegans to model these diseases, but now we combine it with the strengths of the Astbury Centre in biochemistry, structural biology and Cryo-EM.


Together with Sarah Good, a DTP student in the van Oosten-Hawle and Radford labs, we use C. elegans to investigate in vivo properties of different human amyloid disease proteins in a multicellular setting.

Prizes and Awards

In 2019, I was awarded the Ferrucio Ritossa Early Career Award by the Cell Stress & Chaperones Society International (CSSI) for my work on transcellular chaperone signalling (van Oosten-Hawle et al., Cell 2013; O’Brien et al., Cell Reports 2018).

Useful Links

DTP student, Sarah Good’s research: Understanding and Controlling Protein Aggregation and Disease: Molecular Mechanisms in vitro and in vivo

Shauni McGregor – International Poster Prize

Shauni McGregor is a plant biologist based at the University of Sheffield. Her PhD, which she began as part of the 2017 cohort, is entitled The Mechanics of Stomatal Function and focuses on plant gas exchange and water use, specifically in grasses and cereals.

Recently, Shauni has gained recognition at an international level. At the Society of Experimental Biology’s Annual Meeting in Seville, Spain, Shauni received an award for the best poster in the Stomatal and Photosynthetic Regulation of Water Use Efficiency session. Generously sponsored by ADC Scientific, the award was judged not only on the poster itself but also on a two-minute ‘flash talk’ delivered during the session to a sizeable audience.

Alongside her PhD, Shauni is a keen science communicator, delivering events to a wide range and audiences throughout Sheffield. This includes a recent event focusing on plant science and food security, which Shauni organised in conjunction with the British Science Association and Sheffield Food Festival.

You can learn more about Shauni’s work or get in touch via her twitter page @shauni_mcgregor



Lewis White – Student Rep

Being a DTP Student Rep can provide much fun and valuable skills development.  Read Lewis White’s journey here:

Lewis began his PhD in 2016.  Supported by his supervisor, Dr Kanchon Dasmahapatra of The University of York, Lewis is researching: Life in extreme environments: adaptation and evolution of African soda lake fishes. 

He volunteered to take on the role of a Student Representative for the White Rose BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) in his first year and enjoyed the role so much that he plans to continue the role into his fourth and final year, from October 2019.  His contribution to the work of the DTP has proved invaluable.  In particular, planning and running an annual Symposium for just under 300 PhD students across the partnership is a huge responsibility that has been capably handled by Lewis, leading the current team of Student Reps (five reps in total).  This has had the advantage of ensuring the Symposium is student-friendly, whilst retaining the highest academic standards.  The detailed project planning has been exemplary, with the added benefit of allowing the DTP Co-ordinator to have an oversight and freeing up her time for other DTP tasks.  The student feedback on DTP training courses presented to the Management Board has positively influenced the development of the training programme for the new academic year.  Lewis’s leadership skills, teamwork, communication skills, commitment and his enthusiastic approach are much appreciated by the DTP Management Board.

Lewis describes his experience as a Student Rep and the skills he has gained in his own words:

“I started my PhD at the University of York in 2016 and chose to study here for three main reasons; the university, the programme and the project. The research excellence and the scientific community at the university and the diverse training the DTP offered very much appealed to me. Most important was the project; I study life in extreme environments, tying together molecular, genetic and developmental biology techniques to answer questions in evolution and the limits of adaptation, whilst attempting to produce an animal model for life in extreme environmental conditions. 

“Having moved to York to start my PhD, the position of Student Rep was very attractive. I believed it would help me to meet people from across my cohort, as well as allowing me to be involved in the organisation of my programme throughout my time here. Leading meetings with my fellow DTP students in York and relaying their feedback to the management board was a great way for me to actively engage in the running of the DTP whilst hopefully promoting positive changes for current and future students. Through this process I have become a much better communicator to different audiences and have expanded my network, which has already been useful for my current research and potentially for my future career.

Lewis (left) and fellow Student Reps working hard on the 2019 Symposium

“One of my first acts as Student Rep was the suggestion that the annual Symposia be student led. In 2017 I led a group of student volunteers from across the DTP in organising the Symposium. Myself and my team selected speakers, designed the programme for the day and did everything required to make the day a success. Due to the positive feedback received, the annual symposium has remained student led and I have been lucky enough to aid others in organising in subsequent years.

“Now entering my 4th year as Student Rep, I think that I have made some positive changes to the DTP as well as gaining much experience outside of my research during my PhD. I believe that during my time as Student Rep there has been continuing involvement from the student cohort and increased amount of feedback on training and events. This has been very useful in streamlining training and improving it for future years. I have been active in my role as Student Rep and hope that my continued presence in the position has encouraged other students to talk to me freely of their concerns.

“I have really enjoyed learning about how the DTP is managed and know that I have picked up many skills in group management, facilitating discussions amongst groups of people and event organisation. Being a Student Rep has been a very good parallel to my academic studies and taught me many skills that would be useful in both academic and non-academic career paths.”

Lewis and the other Student Reps do an excellent job in representing student views and in supporting the work of the DTP.

We will have a couple of vacancies for Student Reps in January 2019. 

If you think you would be interested, please contact the DTP Co-ordinator for a no-obligation chat:

Email: c.m.liddle@leeds.ac.uk  Or, if you know the Student Reps yourself, feel free to contact them directly.

Enterprising Year 2s!

Check out the pics of our Year 2s putting enterprise learning into action – creating translational pathways from product idea to market – and presenting innovative solutions!

Planning the transitional route to market

The course was delivered by Nessa Carey of Carey International Impact Training on 3rd and 4th October 2019.


We had great feedback.  Here’s what one of our students had to say:

“I just wanted to say how impressed I was with the enterprise event over the last couple days. I really really enjoyed it and it exceeded my expectations.”

Spaceship solutions

More student comments:

“Highly interactive and engaging.”

“It left me excited about business and science and the translatability between the two.”

“I learnt a lot of things I didn’t know before.”

And finally:

“I feel everything I have learnt, despite being directed at industry/business will be relatable to my academic work.”

“I can see how I can use these skills in the future.”

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).

What are i-CASE studentships?

i-CASE studentships (formerly known as ‘Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering’) are collaborative training grants (from the BBSRC) that provide students with a first-rate, challenging research training experience, allowing top quality bioscience graduates to undertake research, leading to a PhD, within the context of a mutually beneficial research collaboration between academic and partner organisations. In addition to experience of an industrial research environment, the student should receive business-related training, for example, in project-management, business strategy, and/or finance.

CASE studentships are awarded as part of the BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs).

NOTE: As part of the DTP3 funding round, the White Rose BBSRC DTP has applied for further CASE studentships to start in October 2020, as we value these high-quality industrial collaborations.  At the time of writing, we do not yet know how many CASE studentships we will have available.  (The BBSRC DTP3 funding decision, including CASE studentships, is expected early to mid-October 2019).  We are calling for project proposals in anticipation so that CASE studentships will fit into the normal student recruitment and selection process, as in previous years.

How to apply

This stage of the competition is for CASE project proposals from academic staff.  Successful projects will then be advertised for student applications as part of the normal recruitement cycle.

Please read the Guidance Notes carefully before completing the forms.

Download CASE Guidance Notes HERE

Download CASE Form A HERE

Download CASE Form B HERE

Submit completed Forms A and B to Catherine Liddle, DTP via email: c.m.liddle@leeds.ac.uk

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

in vivo skills funding call 2019

Deadline: applications must be received by midnight Friday 28th June 2019.

Who can apply?

This call for applications is to the primary supervisors of 2018 entry White Rose BBSRC DTP students, as well as those who have students starting in 2019.

These awards can only be used for projects in whole, living protected animals.  Other species, such as insects, are not eligible for use of these funds.

Projects should train the student in the use of advanced integrative in vivo skills.

You may only apply once.

In scope:

Research skills training where a major component of the work involves developing and applying sophisticated physiological, immunological, pharmacological, behavioural observation or experimentation in whole, living protected animals (as defined in the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986) in order to understand normal and abnormal biological / psychological mechanisms. Research projects must provide significant hands-on in vivo skills training, including (but not limited to): surgical and pre-clinical skills, complex experiments, novel imaging technologies and/or other innovative techniques.

Out of scope:

Research training which is predominantly focused on the generation of transgenic lines; model systems lacking clear novelty; or the use of animals primarily as sources of DNA, cells, tissues or biological fluids, are not included in the priority area.

Further details from the BBSRC are available HERE

How much? 

This is the final round for DTP2 and our remaining budget is only £20k in total.  We are therefore only accepting bids for £5k each.  We will make 4 awards @ £5k each.

How to apply? 

Deadline: applications must be received by midnight Friday 28th June 2019.

Send completed applications via email to Catherine Liddle, DTP Co-ordinator: c.m.liddle@leeds.ac.uk