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”.

NEW DTP MANAGER

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 c.j.bunting@leeds.ac.uk

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

http://www.whiterose.ac.uk/projects/white-rose-dtp-biological-sciences/