Can you describe your journey from school to where you are now?
Read more about my experiences
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I was ready to leave home and begin university life – so for me the transition was relatively easy. I went from studying Biology, Chemistry and Maths at A-level to Biochemistry as a degree, so this was a fairly natural progression. I met many of my closest friends at university, and even my (now) wife! I thoroughly enjoyed my undergraduate studies, and gained many useful skills during my placement at GSK working in the Exploratory Cell Biology department (ask me separately about this if you are interested). I am very excited about what the next steps in my research career hold here in Birmingham!
Was there a big transition from undergraduate to postgraduate study?
The main two differences for me are independence and assumed knowledge. Going from college (or equivalent) to university takes a big step towards independent learning, but at postgraduate level you are expected to use your initiative and be far more independent than at university. Whilst support is there when you need it, it is assumed that you are capable to seeking out your own help and getting on with the job. As a graduate, it is also assumed you have basic to intermediate knowledge in your area, and if you don’t, that you will find it out for yourself. That said, there are plenty of people around to ask questions to when you don’t – you’re not expected to know it all!
How have you funded your postgraduate studies?
I have been incredibly fortunate to be funded by the Welcome Trust which gives me plenty of money to cover my rent, bills and money to spare – but not all funded PhD positions are like this, and many Masters causes don’t come with funding. Many funding groups typically give around £14,000 per year for PhD places, and Masters courses can now be covered by the government as a student loan. However, if you are passionate about your course and know that is what you want to do, you will be able to find a way of funding it – there are small pots of money available from various groups if you are keen (and a tad fortunate)!
What piece of advice would you give to anyone considering postgraduate study in your field?
Scientific research has many different areas, and it can be hard to know what to apply for. My advice would be to start looking early at what is out there using something like findaphd.com. If you see something you like, send an email to the person in charge of that course/lab just showing and interest and inquiring: two things this does is makes your name stand out at interview (if you end up applying), and may also open up other opportunities – the course I am on I only knew about because I emailed the person who happened to be organising it about their lab and they suggested it may suit me more! Get your CV out there!
Why did you choose the University of Birmingham?
For me, scientific research is at its best when it is human-centric, that is to say, trying to cure disease in humans rather than in animals or in cell lines. Birmingham now has great links with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and the Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility which really stood out for me as a growing hub for medical research. Much of the research here (if not all) has a human disease focus, and whilst this may employ many of the standard approaches (such as cell lines and models), it is a centre for innovative research. Birmingham also has an incredible cultural diversity, making it a great place to live and experience all that different cultures have to offer!
Hi, I am from India and I want to pursue a PhD in Immunology, hence, I want to know what are the current projects (funded) that are recruiting students?
UPDATE 21/08/17 Hi, further to my reply below, I have been informed that the Darwin Trust scholarship is exclusively for non-UK students who want to work on microbiology (including infection immunology). The scheme is apparently super-competitive, but if you are interested, it opens (via FindaPhD) in September. Thanks Michael
Hi, you can find some options on the findaphd.com website. I have narrowed the search down to Immunology related courses at the University of Birmingham for you (https://www.findaphd.com/search/phd.aspx?DID=3&SAID=12&IID=282)
There is also a funding database (http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/postgraduate/funding/index.aspx) which you may find helpful. I will email a couple of people at the university on your behalf to see if anyone else knows of funded PhD opportunities which may be of interest. Just to help, could you let me know what your current highest level of education you currently obtain is (such as undergraduate/postgraduate qualifications) or attach a CV and email me at email@example.com.
The current course I am on have completed their application process for October 2017 entry, however will be accepting applications for next year from November (to start October 2018, with interviews usually beginning January). The link for this is http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/mds-graduate-school/scholarships/wellcome.aspx, which may be of interest and is fully funded by the Wellcome Trust - it is stated as open to UK/EU students but "funding may be available for outstanding candidates from other parts of the world: if this applies to you, please contact us in the first instance to discuss this further".
Hopefully you find this helpful,
Hi Michael, I have looked at the Immunology and Immunotherapy PhD/MSc by research. Firstly, is this an integrated course similar to what you did? Secondly, when you were applying for funding was it when you applied to the course in the beginning or was it after you completed your Masters? Lastly, would you encourage to do a Masters before your PhD? Thank you.
Thanks for reaching out, could you email me on firstname.lastname@example.org so I know you can see my reply?
I will enquire regarding your question. The course I actually am on can be found here (https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/mds-graduate-school/scholarships/wellcome.aspx) and applications are open now - this is an integrated course (explained on the website) and the funding covers both the MRes and PhD which you make one application for the entire 4-years.
Regarding doing a Masters before a PhD, it depends on your personal position. The advantages are that you are in a better place to prove you are capable of doing a PhD, and gives you more experience to personally assess if this is what you want to be doing before you commit to a 3-year project. Having said that, an integrated MRes and PhD programme doesn't necessarily want you to have a Masters, but you probably need some way of showing your lab experience (such as a placement year in my case) - however one person on my course didn't have this, they were just in the top 3 of their year at uni!
Feel free to ask for further clarification and I will respond once I know the details regarding the MSc/PhD in immunology and immunotherapy.