In order to do a PhD in science you need funding (you can read about it here). I am funded by a branch of a UK research council, called the BBSRC. This branch is called EASTBIO, and they fund different projects at four East coast Scottish universities. If you want to do a PhD and have come across an EASTBIO project you are interested in, you might want to give this a read.
The project itself was advertised online on a site called Find A PhD. That’s a great place to look for PhD project you might be interested in. After meeting with the project supervisor, she agreed to put me forward for the project, and I submitted my application to EASTBIO.
When I was asked to an interview, I called and emailed to confirm the date, time, and interview format. It was a panel with representatives from each university, as well as EASTBIO representatives. I was asked to present a research project I had worked on and was asked fairly standard interview questions. The interview was pretty laid back, and I remember getting into a discussion about the importance of equality in science. Definitely, one of the better interview experiences I have had. Luckily, I did not have to wait too long after and I found out fairly soon after the interview that I had been successful, and I accepted the position.
In addition to giving you money to do the science, go to conferences, and pay rent, EASTBIO also provides several training opportunities. These include workshops and thematic group meetings. For each of these you accumulate training points that must add up to 180 points by 18 months of the PhD. The credit collecting starts early, and you start with a two-day Induction Event. At this event, you meet all your peers from the different universities, mostly from first year, but also some second years. It’s a great opportunity to meet people in the same place as you, and some students one step ahead. During this event, you are also split into one of four thematic groups with a mix of students from each of the four universities – during your first year, each thematic group meets four times a year, with each university hosting an event (more on that below). You also get points for attending workshops and the annual symposium. Both of these are great learning opportunities, and a good chance to meet up with your peers again. In addition, student representatives from most institutes are chosen.
The thematic group meetings are a fun way to catch up with your EASTBIO peers. They are organised by students for students. A general theme is arranged during the Induction, and then representatives of each thematic group at each university arrange the events. For example, I am in the Bioscience for Health thematic group, and we arranged our four meetings to be about general life in academic science – from research to publishing. Rooms and catering are arranged, and speaker are organised. This is fun and is a great way to practice for the symposium planning that second years are expected to participate in.
The annual EASTBIO symposium is an event organised by student representatives from each university. The symposium is a lot of fun to attend, with different speakers and presentations, as well as poster presentations given by returning PIPS students (more on that later). In my second year, I also enjoyed helping with the planning of the symposium, which will take place this week.
While I have not done my PIPS yet, EASTBIO students are expected to complete a 12-week placement. During the Induction Event, you are given a good presentation by the EASTBIO PIPS Coordinator. She will give you a lot of information on how to prepare for your PIPS. The important thing here is to be creative – you can do a PIPS in anything you want to do, as long as it is in line with the EASTBIO guidelines. The PIPS is an opportunity to learn skills outside of typical PhD work, and can help you develop transferrable skills.
Overall, I’m very lucky to be funded by EASTBIO: I get four full years of funding, a plethora of training opportunities, support from EASTBIO and my peers, and finally a great PhD. If you want any more advice, drop me a message.