The educational aims of a PhD in Biochemistry are to acquire and hone skills in experimental design, develop competence in technical skills and refine the ability to interpret scientific data in a logical and meaningful way. To enable such skill development students are expected to engage fully with the relevant scientific and technical literature and to expand and enrich their scientific knowledge through attending research seminars in Biochemistry and other departments. Another educational aim of the programme is to develop competence in the communication of science through oral and written skills. The PhD thesis describes and interprets fully the work done by the student throughout the research project. To be of acceptable PhD standard the research described in the thesis is expected to make a significant contribution to existing knowledge in the field of study.
At the beginning of their first year in the department students attend an in-house training course of lectures and practicals and after that they choose from the wide range of opportunities available. During the first year, students give a short oral presentation on their project to their peers. Near the end of their first year, students write a dissertation, which is assessed in an oral examination by two Examiners. They are only registered for the PhD after satisfactory performance in this first year.
In their second year, students present their research work progress in poster form in a departmental mini symposium. In the third year, students present their work in a talk to the whole Department. In all years they can take part in events and competitions organised within the Graduate School of Life Sciences and the University.
|One to one supervision||
Students are expected to have regular (usually weekly) informal meetings with their supervisor. Each research group also typically has a weekly group meeting(s) in which the student is expected to take part in presentations of research progress and in journal clubs. In some research groups all graduate students are also expected to produce a written monthly report for the Supervisor on research progress. In addition to the Supervisor, all students are assigned an 'Advisor'. This is a separate research group head, who is not directly involved in the student's research project, but who can provide independent monitoring of progress, provide general advice, and serve as a first port-of-call if any problems arise. All students also have a Graduate Thesis Panel (GTP) consisting of three principal investigators, but excluding the supervisor. The role of the GTP is to provide additional support and enhanced mentoring for the student (through formal feedback), assess the tractability of the project, and review the adequacy of supervision.
There are no assessed compulsory courses in the Biochemistry PhD programme. However, there are various expectations about practice and feedback throughout the course. There should be regular oral feedback and advice from the Supervisor about student performance and research direction. Students should expect oral feedback from the Supervisor and other group members on their group presentations. The student should receive informal comments on their proposed project and progress from their Advisor and he/she should also receive constructive oral and written feedback from their GTP after their presentations. There will be formal feedback from the first year assessment on the dissertation and oral examination that determines whether the student will progress into second year. In addition to these conduits for comments and advice, the Supervisor is expected to complete an assessment each term on student progress for the on-line Cambridge Graduate Supervision Reporting System (CGSRS). Students also receive oral and written feedback on their second year poster presentation. Generic feedback is given on third year oral presentations.
First Year Assessment. During the first year students will not be fully registered for the PhD. In order to transfer their registration fully to the PhD programme at the end of the first year, they must perform satisfactorily in the First Year Assessment (a formal examination). This takes the form of a report/dissertation of about 5000 words. We recognise that a report upon the first year of a three or four year research project principally entails an account of "work in progress" in which a lot of positive experimental results may not figure largely. Nevertheless, it should be written and presented in formal scientific style. The dissertation should be handed in during the second half of June (September for January starters, December for Easter starters).
Graduate Thesis Panel (GTP) system. This involves the student presenting up to two powerpoint talks on his/her project to a review panel of three academics, in the first year followed by one each in subsequent years. These presentations generally will be held towards the end of Michaelmas term and in Lent term. The panel receives comments on student progress independently from the Supervisor, prior to the student presentation. After the presentation and a Q&A session with the student, the GTP gives feedback about student progress and the nature and direction of the project, with helpful suggestions. The membership of the GTP will be student-driven and staff will be invited, by the student, to join the DTP of the student after he/she has consulted with his/her Supervisor for advice about the most appropriate members. The main aim of the GTP is to provide independent, enhanced mentorship and advice for postgraduate students to help them make progress in their project. It is also a mechanism for providing further independent assessment of student progress, to supplement the views of the Supervisor.
Weekly Group Meetings. Most research groups run their own weekly laboratory meetings and journal clubs. The student should get plenty of practice at talking about their own experimental work and analysing published papers at these meetings. Some groups also expect students to write reports on a regular basis (e.g. monthly) for their Supervisor as one component of the monitoring, mentorship programme..
The thesis should not exceed 60,000 words (80,000 by special permission) excluding bibliography, figures, appendices etc.. The thesis should be double-spaced or one-and-a-half spaced. Single or double-sided printing is allowed. All students have to defend their thesis by attending a viva voce examination conducted by an Internal Examiner and External Examiner. Although the thesis must be the work of the student, the Supervisor is allowed to give suggestions, critical advice and feedback on content and any draft version(s) of the thesis. Currently, the thesis must be submitted only in hard copy. However, the Department soon will be trialing the submission of both hard copy and an electronic copy.
Universities in the United Kingdom use a centralized system of undergraduate application: University and College Admissions Service (UCAS). It is used by both domestic and international students. Students have to register on the UCAS website before applying to the university. They will find all the necessary information about the application process on this website. Some graduate courses also require registration on this website, but in most cases students have to apply directly to the university. Some universities also accept undergraduate application through Common App (the information about it could be found on universities' websites).
Both undergraduate and graduate students may receive three types of responses from the university. The first one, “unconditional offer” means that you already reached all requirements and may be admitted to the university. The second one, “conditional offer” makes your admission possible if you fulfill some criteria – for example, have good grades on final exams. The third one, “unsuccessful application” means that you, unfortunately, could not be admitted to the university of you choice.
All universities require personal statement, which should include the reasons to study in the UK and the information about personal and professional goals of the student and a transcript, which includes grades received in high school or in the previous university.