ICB CDT Guidelines


 The Institute of Chemical Biology (ICB) has been awarded an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Chemical Biology: Innovation for the Life Sciences and is inviting proposals for 4-year PhD studentships.  Studentships awarded through this ICB CDT annual call will start in October 2019.

 The aim of the CDT is to train a new generation of PhD graduates (>80 over 5 years through an MRes + 3 Year PhD programme) in the art of multidisciplinary Chemical Biology research, giving them the opportunity to develop the next generation of molecular tools and technologies for making, measuring, modelling and manipulating molecular interactions in biological systems. The expanded remit of the CDT now also embraces multi-scale modelling (e.g. graph theory) and experimental approaches (micro-physiological environments) for studying molecular interactions and biological systems. Students on the programme will apply these advances to tackle key biological/biomedical problems and clinical/industrial challenges.

 In addition, students will dovetail the development of these molecular tools and technologies with industry 4.0 platforms (e.g. automation, additive manufacturing / 3D printing, AI, machine learning, augmented reality, cloud computing, big data and analytics and Internet of Things) with a view to supporting the industrialization of the life sciences. In order to support this vision, students will benefit from bespoke training that will enable them to work seamless across the physical-life sciences and human-machine interfaces. This is a skill set which is in great demand from industry and addresses the future needs of employers in the pharmaceutical, biomedical, healthcare, personal care, biotech, agri-science and SME sectors.

 In addition, students will be armed with an in-depth understanding of product development pipelines across a variety of sectors, acquired through first-hand experience of multi-disciplinary translational research and early stage commercialisation. This will enable them to become leaders of technology innovation and translation in the medical, pharma, life science, personal care and agri-science industries. 

Background to the ICB CDT

 Chemical Biology is critical to supporting the development and translation of the next generation of molecular tools and technologies for making, measuring, modelling and manipulating molecular interactions in biological systems across multiple length scales. These include protein-nucleic acid, lipid-drug, lipid-nucleic acid and protein-protein interactions. Despite their increasing importance as targets for intervention in biological systems, their exploitation is hampered by many factors which are being tackled by the ICB community. These include large contact surface areas, the absence of readily identifiable binding pockets, low concentrations of particular binding partners, the multi-component nature of these interactions, the multiple time and length-scales over which they occur and a limited understanding of how these interactions combine to generate higher order functions. The development of novel molecular tools and technologies with enhanced quantitative capabilities that can address these bottlenecks is vital to providing the quantity, quality and type of data needed for predictive modelling and downstream commercial and medical exploitation of these spatially dispersed multipoint interactions. They also have the potential to generate IP with significant potential for commercial exploitation, in their own right (through commercialisation in the instrumentation sector). From enabling biological and biomedical research by unlocking the molecular mechanisms of disease, through to stimulating the design of improved agrochemicals and increasing our understanding of the link between diet and the microbiome, chemical biology is pivotal in reducing the spiraling cost of product development and healthcare.

 In parallel, with the arrival of the 4th industrial revolution the life sciences are embarking on a transformative journey which is blurring the lines between disciplines and between man and machine. Developments in robotics are driving the integrated control of lab hardware enabling R&D workflow automation. Rapid prototyping is reducing technology innovation cycles.  Big data offers unprecedented opportunities for AI and machine learning. AI is stimulating developments that can underpin smarter high-throughput approaches for data handling with the promise of offering creative insight. Coupled with the rise of machine learning it is now possible to promote knowledge driven systems design from discovery data.

 Dovetailing these approaches with new molecular tools and technologies will lead to game-changing rapid design-test cycles that speed up product development.

Scientific Vision

The Scientific Vision of the ICB CDT encompasses four aims:

1. Develop and validate novel tools and technologies for the study of molecular interactions and their applications to strategic biological/biomedical problems and industry priority areas that cannot be undertaken with the current state-of the art. This will connect physical/mathematical sciences innovation push with life-science pull. The expanded remit of the CDT now also embraces multi-scale modelling (e.g. graph theory) and experimental approaches (micro-physiological environments) for studying molecular interactions and biological systems.

2. Dovetail these technologies with industry 4.0 approaches to maximise insights from molecular interaction studies.

3. Translate research advances for exploitation in industrial/medical applications.

4. Extend the capabilities of previous CDT-technologies, so that these can be translated to end users in different sectors.

The Studentship

 The studentships comprise a 1-year MRes in Chemical Biology and Bioentrepreneurship, followed by a 3-year PhD.

 The MRes course involves taught elements from October to January in: basic Chemical Biology, Data Science and Measurement Science , Hackspace education (giving students experience of rapid prototyping (additive manufacturing, electronics, robotics, laser cutting, microfluidics, microcontrollers), software engineering/modelling (Python/Machine Learning, Matlab, Fusion 360, biological “toy models”) and biohacking (protein engineering, proteomics, metabolomic assays) and a Micro-MBA, This is followed by a research project that runs from January to September. The research project continues in the PhD. During the PhD students benefit from additional transferable skills training including Science Communication with the BBC, a Human Experience Course, International Science Policy and the choice between the EVOLVE (workplace-based learning programme) and DISRUPT (tech accelerator programme).

 The studentship will cover tuition fees and stipend for a total of 4 years. In addition, there is a consumable allowance of £3,500 per annum and a total of £1,500 towards travel and £2000 for the EVOLVE program per studentship.

Supervisor Eligibility

 Supervisor Eligibility

Supervisors must fulfill the usual College criteria for eligibility to act as a PhD supervisor. At least two supervisors on the application must hold an academic position at Imperial College that is tenured over the complete period of the studentship. This does not mean that IC supervisors who do not hold a position for the full four year period cannot apply. However, in such circumstances a third supervisor (from Imperial College) who could continue the student supervision (if the original supervisor’s tenure was not extended) would have to be added.

 Expertise The supervisors should provide different skill sets, and the most usual division will be to have one “medical/biological/agri science/personal care” and one “physical/ engineering/ mathematics/industry 4.0” supervisor. These definitions are not meant to be restrictive, nor are they necessarily defined by departmental affiliations. What is important is exposure of the student to multiple disciplines, wherever these are located.
 External Supervisors The primary supervisor must be Imperial based. Non-Imperial supervisors may be included but at least two supervisors on the application must hold an academic position at Imperial College, as it is vital that the student has a multidisciplinary lab experience. The inclusion of external supervisors should be discussed with the CDT director/ deputy directors before submission of the application form. Please contact them early in the process. 
 Student registration For reporting and auditing purposes of the CDT award, all students will be registered in Chemistry, regardless of the departmental affiliation of the supervisors. If there are no Chemistry supervisors, a formal supervisor from Chemistry (either the director or one of the deputy directors of the ICB CDT) will be added at 1% for administrative purposes. 
 Cap on number of applications A maximum of 2 applications per supervisor is allowed for a given studentship call.
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