EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Physical Sciences for Health (Sci-Phy-4-Health)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: School of Chemistry


We will train cohorts of graduates from different scientific backgrounds together in a unique interdisciplinary programme that combines physical sciences, computer sciences and biomedicine and breaks down the boundaries between these disciplines. They will apply this interdisciplinary training to develop underpinning new physical science research to address three key UK healthcare challenges:

- Rebuilding the ageing and diseased body
- Understanding cardiovascular disease
- Improving trauma and emergency medicine

The research programme will be underpinned by a multi-disciplinary taught programme and enhanced by transferable and project management skills training, as well as Knowledge Transfer and Public Engagement of Science activities.

The CDT builds on our four years experience of CDT training of physical scientists at the biomedical interface and harnesses the existing and dynamic research community of excellent physical scientists, distinguished for their ability to and commitment to research at the life science interface, together with a team of leading biomedical scientists and clinicians, with whom there are already established collaborations. This new CDT represents an evolution in our activities and new biomedical foci, while retaining the expertise, ethos and track record of promoting a change in culture at the Physical Science / Biomedicine interface, and of nurturing the next generation of researchers to develop the skills and experience required to explore new physical sciences for biology and healthcare, without the perceived cultural and language barriers.

The CDT addresses an identified need from our industrial partners for PhD scientists trained at the interface with biology and medicine, and able to communicate and research across these disciplines, such that they are flexible and innovative workers who can move between projects and indeed disciplines as company priorities evolve and change. This need is reflected in the involvement in and commitment to our bid from our industrial partners. They will co-fund students, offer placements and site-visits, deliver lectures as part of the training and monitor and advise on the training programme. The programme will also benefit from public sector involvement including the Diamond Light Source, local hospitals and Thinktank Science Museum.

Planned Impact

Discussion and consultation with our industrial partners, including major UK employers and SMEs, reveals a strong need for physical scientists trained at the interface with biology and medicine in order to maintain and increase UK competitiveness in biomedical technologies: an area of rapid growth with a global market already of more than $1 trillion. This same need is apparent in life science and healthcare industries with diverse business focuses, and these partner companies will be direct beneficiaries of our output of graduates trained in our CDT.

Our CDT will address this need by training across the disciplines and equipping the students with the research, career and communication skills needed to be the outstanding, flexible, innovative multidisciplinary researchers our partners require. Our graduates will be seeking to drive forward physical and computer science developments that forge healthcare advances and benefit society through enhanced health treatment and quality of life. They will be generating IP that benefits their employers and the UK economy. They will be excellent communicators able to inform and engage the public on the ethical issues of their work. And to support all these, they will have extensive networks of inter-personal contacts that will enhance and sustain their careers and impact. Thus the impact of our CDT training programme on UK industry and competitiveness will not just be during the CDT lifetime but far into the future.

Beyond our industrial partners and the UK economy, our students themselves will be beneficiaries because of the impact on their future careers and employment prospects. The interdisciplinary taught and research training and the career and communication skills trainings will give our students a unique and sought-after background and professional preparation. They will also benefit from the industrial input embedded in the training, the contacts with industrialists and public sector health researchers, and opportunities for site visits and placements in industry, public sector partners and overseas universities: All of these will provide contacts/platforms for the students to obtain positions (industrial or academic or public sector) on completion of their studies.

We will work in conjunction with our partner Thinktank, to communicate our results to the wider public. Our students will receive explicit training in public communication and put this into practice through a variety of Thinktank events. The ethos of wider communication we promote in our CDT will be embedded in those individual graduates throughout their subsequent careers, giving a sustained longer-term impact. Thinktank will benefit from the events that we hold in the museum and the displays we create with them, and the wider public will benefit not only through the events, but also in the longer term through the training of a generation of researchers who can discuss and engage the public on both the importance and ethical aspects that surround biomedical research and technology.

The research the students will undertake focuses on 3 key UK healthcare challenges: ageing, cardiovascular disease and emergency medicine. The state-of-the-art (2010) Queen Elizabeth acute hospital in Birmingham, one of Europe's largest hospitals and the regional centre for major trauma, is a partner in our programme and our supervisory team includes key on-site clinicians working in nationally important units on these topics. Their involvement, and those of our industry partners, provides a direct pathway to ensure developments can impact immediately on patients or be moved rapidly into clinical trials. Our training programme incorporates examples and requirements to move research from bench to bedside. Patentable outcomes will be exploited with UoB's Alta Innovations KT unit and brought to the attention of EPSRC and our partners. This impact will start during the CDT lifetime with potential to stretch far beyond.


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