Interest Groups

The White Rose Interest Groups are student-led groups that bring together students from all three universities that work and are interested in similar areas. There are monthly virtual meetings and three in-person meetings a year, one at each university, where members can informally discuss their research and work with their peers across the cohort.

The in-person meetings are combined with social events to give the opportunity for all interest groups to come together at the end of the day. Members of an interest group get the opportunity to help decide what masterclasses occur within the DTP and have a direct impact in the training that you receive.

We hope this helps to build a supportive and collaborative environment across the DTP, so encourage everyone to join at least one group! The groups are:

  • Plant and Soil Science
  • Microbiology
  • Structural Biology
  • Nucleic Acids
  • Microscopy and Imaging
  • Bioinformatics
  • Science Outreach

Fill out this form if you would like to join any of the groups, or get in contact with a DTP rep if you would like help to organise one yourself. If there is an additional group that you would like to see within the DTP, and you are happy to organise it, please do get in touch!

See below for a full description of each group.


Plant and Soil Science

The Plant and Soil Science interest group will span the breadth of relevant projects within the White Rose DTP. We envisage meeting once a month virtually, and every 3-4 months in person to informally discuss our research projects, troubleshoot experiments, share ideas and experiences around PIPs, as well as share our worries and aspirations regarding future careers.

About the Organisers

Sophie Groenhof is in the first year of her PhD at the University of Sheffield. She is investigating the structure-function relationship of a phosphatase with unique activity found in some soil bacteria. The project will aim to characterise the activity of the enzyme with the hope that it can improve plant phosphorus uptake by way of the bacteria acting as biofertilisers, and reduce our reliance on chemical phosphate fertilisers. 

Emily Magkourilou is currently in the second year of her PhD based at the University of Sheffield. She is looking at how plants interact with simultaneous and often competing symbionts, namely plant-parasitic nematodes and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. She is also interested in the concept of a common mycorrhizal network and how it can modulate the symbiosis between plants and other organisms, especially in terms of nutrient exchange and plant-plant defence-signalling.



The White Rose DTP Microbiology Interest group will provide a platform for White Rose DTP students with an interest in microbiology to come together and share their ideas and experiences. The interest group aims to promote networking and collaboration, as well as opportunities for professional development for microbiology enthusiasts within the White Rose DTP. It is organised by Matt Craske, University of York.

The interest group will provide a wide range of activities for its members, including:

  • A mailing list to keep members up to date with the latest achievements, news and events of the group.
  • A technical forum to discuss topics/techniques in microbiology and network with fellow students.
  • An online resource to learn about past microbiology graduates’ career choices.
  • Lectures from PIs within the field.
  • Opportunities for presenting work and ‘in-house’ poster sessions under an informal setting.


Structural Biology

Through the structural biology interest group we aim to create a stimulating and supportive environment for PhD students who use structural biology techniques in their research, and for those with a general interest in the subject area. We plan to organise:

  • Research talks, both by White Rose DTP members and external researchers.
  • Journal clubs, on a voluntary basis.
  • Troubleshooting/ ‘tips and tricks’ sessions, where members will be able to seek help from fellow structural biologists.
  • Masterclass sessions, which will aim to deliver tutorials in conventional structural biology softwares.
  • (If budget allows) Excursions to external facilities.

Our main priority is to create a friendly community which encourages peer-to-peer learning through the sessions mentioned above. If you’re interested in meeting some like-minded people, with the added benefit of improving your research, this group is the ideal way to do so! 

The structural biology interest group is organised by Sabina Musial and Abby Walklett (University of York).


Nucleic Acids

The Nucleic Acids interest group will meet once a month primarily to discuss the research happening within our interest group. We will also have external speakers, discuss relevant PIPs opportunities, and help to decide on White Rose masterclass and training events. There will be a Slack group for sharing interesting research papers,  conferences, webinars and seminars that may be of interest to the group. We hope this will give members an opportunity to discuss and present their research in an informal setting and get advice/troubleshooting ideas from their peers.

About the Organisers

Victoria Hill and Sophie Fountain are both in Tim Cragg’s lab in Sheffield studying DNA damage. Victoria is in her third year using molecular dynamics to look at DNA supercoiling and sequence dependence. Sophie is in her first year and uses smFRET to look at the flexibility of damaged DNA, and will later use magnetic tweezers to look at DNA-protein interactions.


Microscopy and Imaging

The microscopy and imaging interest group aims to bring together students who use a variety of microscopy and imaging techniques as part of their research. The meetings will be loosely themed, and we hope to organise a guest speaker for each meeting to get the conversation started. A large focus for this group is the sharing of ideas, both through discussing our own research and relevant publications as part of an informal journal club, with a chance for individual problem solving and troubleshooting as a group. These sessions will be designed to be a relaxed introduction to each other’s work and shared interests whilst still emulating a professional environment. Tea and cake will be provided at all in-person meetings!

About the Organisers

Emma White is in the third year of her PhD at the University of Sheffield. She uses confocal microscopy and 3D image analysis in combination with light microscopy to study wheat leaf tissue development.

Dylan Lewis is in the first year of his PhD at the University of Sheffield. He uses atomic force microscopy and single molecule force spectroscopy to study the nature of protein binding within the electron transport chain.



Bioinformatics underpins a vast amount of modern biology research. With our DTP interest group, we want to explore beyond typical analyses and rote techniques. We will combine research talks and journal clubs with more collaborative workshops. Our aim is to inspire PhD students to consider creative experimental design, data analysis, and data visualization methods.

About the Organisers

Ethan Redmond is a PhD student in the Ezer lab at the University of York. He studies how the plant circadian clock changes during ageing through systems biology techniques. He develops new statistical methods for high-dimensional biological datasets, with a focus on time series and functional data analysis (FDA).

Monika Gonka is a PhD student in David Kent’s Lab at the University of York. Monika studies the molecular mechanisms of haematopoietic stem cell (HSC) self-renewal and differentiation. She analyses single-cell multimodal data aiming to better characterise molecular networks of distinct HSC states.


Science Outreach

Science outreach refers to any activity that aims to make science more accessible, interesting and relevant to the general public, such as visiting local schools to talk about your research, participating in science outreach festivals, communicating science through social media, or even creating a piece of science-art to capture people’s attention and spark conversation. Aside from benefiting the public by demystifying science and building trust in scientific research, getting involved in outreach opportunities can be extremely fun and rewarding, providing the much-needed respite from research stresses with the added bonus of improving your communication skills and boosting your research impact – so I strongly encourage everyone to get involved in one way or another! This interest group will share science outreach opportunities, help members design effective outreach activities and foster outreach collaborations across the three universities.

The science outreach interest group is lead by Jodie Armand, a second year PhD student at the University of Sheffield.