EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Molecular Analytical Science

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Chemistry


Analytical science is key to the success of any fundamental or applied science research programme, and underpins industrial progress and production in a wide range of areas in which the UK is traditionally strong but where it faces increasing challenges globally. Warwick has an extensive track record both in the highest quality student training through CDTs and in creative instrumental and theoretical analytical science, which forms the background to this proposal for a Molecular Analytical Science Centre (MASC). MASC will focus on developing and applying molecular analytical science methods to problems in 6 themes
1. Measurement, sensing, and extraction in complex matrices
2. Advanced quantitative analysis
3. Molecular structure and stability in complex systems
4. New techniques for Quality by Design in pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical, agri-science, personal care
5. Characterising and exploiting functional biomolecular assemblies
6. Analytical science for optimising and understanding dynamics in complex systems

Many reports can be quoted to support the national importance of high quality cross-discipline molecular analytical science training. For example:
* The "Health of disciplines: annual report 2008 to the UK research base funders' forum" reported a shortage in physical and analytical scientists as well as shortages in statistics/mathematics and biotechnology.
* The 2009 "International Review of UK Chemistry Research" stated that bioanalytical research in the UK is internationally recognised and well-placed to tackle society's greatest challenges, emphasising the continued importance of this area.
* A 2006 report for the RSC "Analytical and Measurement Sciences Platform Knowledge Transfer Plan - Survey Findings" noted that "not only are the analytical and measurement sciences extremely diverse and far-reaching in their nature but they are also a massive economic activity in [their] own right. ... analytical sector has £7bn turnover and employs 200,000 people".

A driver for this CDT proposal is that the need is not simply for training in existing techniques but also for developing new techniques that will allow us to solve currently open challenges (e.g. the difficulty of proving that a potential generic biopharmaceutical is indeed 'biosimilar'). The Warwick analytical science community embraces the challenge of technique development, as evidenced by a track record in novel instrument and theoretical method development and application.

The new CDT will benefit from the well-established cross-discipline cohort-based training culture, developed and refined over the 10-year life of the MOAC DTC and the long-running Warwick analytical science MSc programmes, and will be embedded in the research community created by the RCUK Science and Innovation funding that formed the virtual Warwick Centre for Analytical Science in 2008.

The MASC students will undertake a cross-discipline MSc programme in year 1, concluding with 2 mini research projects in different disciplines, including both theoretical and experimental research. In years 2-4 they will perform a multi-disciplinary, multi-sector analytical science PhD research project, at a world-leading level, complemented by transferable skills training. Each project will involve technique development and application, with integrated industrial involvement.

Students will enjoy the benefit of opportunities during both MSc and PhD to work in an industrial environment and also to experience an international laboratory to enhance their understanding of the scientific process in different contexts. The international secondments will either be to strategic partners of Warwick or to targeted collaborators of the supervisors.

Planned Impact

To achieve the next level of innovation in UK research and industry we need new experimental and theoretical analytical methodologies, and new ways of applying existing techniques. Achieving this requires Analytical Scientists who are able to think creatively, innovatively, critically, and practically, who can integrate methodologies across disciplines, and transfer skills to new areas. Analytical science in the UK has traditionally been seen as worthy but comparatively routine. Recent developments e.g. the movement of NMR from laboratory into clinic, the need for pure pharmaceutical products, and the challenge of properly identifying performance-enhancing drugs in athletes have contributed towards an improvement in the reputation of Analytical Science. These developments have also highlighted the need for further innovation and the necessity of cross-discipline collaboration. The impact of MASC can be summarized in terms of impact on different communities.

* Readily find employment
* The MASC centre will be ideal for summer schools and other training opportunities
* Secondments to industry and overseas laboratories will enhance their scientific horizons and employability as will regular careers evenings and conferences with external speakers
* The centre will create a focal point for communication and student-led initiatives, e.g. our recent Forum page for job advertisements and the annual Women in Science conference, enhancing opportunities

* Innovative research applied across disciplines to solve problems and undertake world-leading research
* High quality publications on new technologies and their application will have both immediate and indirect impact on academia and industry
* The Centre, located in Senate House in the middle of the Warwick campus, will become a hub for local, national and international cross-discipline collaborations and training
* Colleagues less experienced in research supervision or MSc training will be mentored by more experienced staff
* A supportive community and structure to develop academic leadership
* Activities of MASC, including the international and industrial secondments, will create new research opportunities

General support for the importance of analytical science to the economy is provided by WIPO (World Intellectual Property Office), where Measurement Sciences and Instrument Development are deemed important enough to have their own categories and are, internationally, an important source of economic wealth. However, the UK is filing significantly fewer patent applications than our competitors across all fields including Analytical Science and so we need to ensure our future productivity by increasing our skills and innovation level in Analytical Science and Measurement Science generally, including instrumentation development. Industry will particularly benefit from
* Targeted research done during secondments and in MSc and PhD projects
* Using the Centre for events aimed at early career researchers
* Recruitment of dynamic analytical scientists
* Operating at the frontiers of their areas in an increasingly globally competitive environment, allowing them to understand and innovate by providing different training opportunities
* Keeping up to date with the newest developments in Analytical Science
* A unique opportunity to collaborate with industrial 'competitors' facing similar challenges

* MASC students will interact with the general public in open days, science fairs, schools, through the internet etc. Students will develop their own Science Outreach project for their second year transferable skills
* Most of the impacts for industry will have subsequent impacts on the general public by enhancing health care, food supply, safety, personal products etc.
* Highly trained scientists operating in education and industry will benefit the UK


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