During the course of the first year, each student will select 3 rotation projects, one from each of the following supervisor groupings:
- Molecular Microbiology, Immunology and Biological Chemistry
- Gene Regulation and Signal Transduction
- Cell Development and Signalling
The goal is to expose students to three different research areas in the College of Life Sciences so that they can acquire practical and theoretical skills in different disciplines, ranging, for example, from structural biology to signal transduction to developmental biology.
Each grouping includes approximately 12 potential supervisors who run established and well-funded research groups. The selection of rotation supervisors is led by the student choice. To provide information relevant for making this decision, supervisors meet with students during informal Superseminars. Students are given a paper to read prior to the meeting and are asked to prepare a question to ask the presenter. This acts as a starting point for discussion that informs the selection of rotation project, and provides a unique insight into the research areas covered in the college.
The rotation project consists of three months of research in the selected laboratory. Upon completion of this, a week is set aside to write up a report in the format of a research article. This is reviewed first by the lab supervisor, then by the programme management committee. Students then present a seminar during a 1-day symposium and receive verbal feedback during individual meetings with the management committee. We have found that student participation in this process encouraged and normally contributes to a vibrant discussion. If any problems with written or oral presentations are identified, the University provides support courses. We believe the programme ensures students are well prepared and supported for the process of preparing a thesis and sitting a viva examination.
Following completion of three rotation projects, students select a lab to host their main research project to be carried out over the following three years.
It is important to note that the supervisors participating in the program vary from one year to the next. For example, the five supervisors selected by students for their main project do not offer rotations the following year. This is one reason why the Wellcome Trust 4 year programme is best suited to students interested in gaining research experience prior to making and informed selection. It is not suited to students who have already decided on a preferred supervisor at the time of application.