Training

Transferable Skills Courses

Our PhD cohort is traditionally particularly goal-oriented and it has been important for us to develop a PhD training programme that would engage the students fully whilst broadening their experiences and abilities as researchers. Transferable skills training is a natural area for us to concentrate on for a number of reasons. Firstly, as a virtual centre we have to work harder to form the students into a functional cohort and to give them the opportunity to network both with each other and with the wider community. Secondly, multidisciplinary research mandates a set of skills and experiences not usually available to undergraduates or PhD students and therefore requires us to support them in new and novel ways and finally, the added value of our CDT research network and research matrix is greatly assisted by the students’ shared experiences of transferable skills courses.

The ICB, in partnership with The University of Warwick’s Molecular Organisation and Assembly in Cells (MOAC) CDT, has taken a proactive position in designing and delivering a suite of three residential intensive transferable skills courses – a flagship course for each PhD year.

Bioethics Course

by Professor Marianne Talbot, Director of Studies in Philosophy, University of Oxford
This is a 1-day introductory course for MRes students on ‘Research Ethics’, which aims to introduce students to philosophical ethics, and to enable students to defend their own position on various ethical issues. Students have the opportunity to discuss topics such as “Do you think reproductive cloning is morally permissible?”; “Do you check food labels to exclude any with GM ingredients?”; “Would you worry if the government introduced compulsory depositing of DNA in the national DNA bank?”.

Teamwork Training Course (3 day Residential):

An intensive course in teamwork, personal development, information gathering and presentation. Underlying the skills training is a networking and relationship-building ethos whereby working relationships between the 1st year PhD students within our cohort, as well as the MOAC CDT, are fostered and encouraged. Bespoke course elements, specifically a business game centred on a biotechnology start-up company and a presentation exercise based on a research grant pitch ensure that the course maintains a level of subject-specific focus.

Science Communication Course (3 day Non-Residential)

In this intensive three day course, 2nd year PhD ICB students learn to deliver the latest scientific developments as they write, produce and star in their very own radio and television shows. Together with MOAC CDT students, they explore how the lab bench results get processed as they race down the production line from scientist, to the media and finally to the public, assessing why scientists should engage with the public and the difficulties and opportunities in dealing with the media. A highlight of the course is recording a 20 minute segment at the BBC’s Broadcasting House.
The course is led by Gareth Mitchell, an experienced science journalist and currently presenter of the BBC technology radio programme Click. He is also a lecturer in Science Communication at Imperial.

Career Planning Course (3 day Residential)

This is a new course that was held for the first time in spring 2012 (joint course with other Imperial CDTs). It proved to be enormously popular with all students and will therefore be run again. 2nd year PhD students from the ICB, TSM, Sheffield and Manchester CDTs discover, explore, and evaluate their skill set and motivation, and how this fits into potential career options.

Decision Making Course (3 day Residential)

This course is for the 3rd year PhD cohort form the ICB and MOAC CDTs. It usually takes place at Cumberland Lodge.

Transferable Skills Courses from the Graduate School

Imperial College has an outstanding set of transferable skills courses available through the Graduate School. The students can tailor this part of their training to fit their own plans and interests and the only guidance is informal and usually provided by the supervisors for this element of the training.

For available courses go to: http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/graduateschool/currentstudents/professionalskillsresearch/professionalskillscourses

 

What the students say about the ICB CDT Transferable Skills Courses in the Academic Year 2011/12


Science Communication Course (April 24th – 27th 2012)
“Three, two, one... and you’re live on air. There are no retakes or edits and every second counts. In this intensive three day course, we experienced the exhilaration, pressure and precision required to deliver the latest scientific developments as we wrote, produced and starred in our very own radio and television shows. Gone is the image of eccentric lone-working in ivory towers, the media wields the paintbrush in the portrayal of the scientist heroes who cure terminal diseases, or villains developing life-threatening vaccines, harming more lives than saving.
Together with students of The University of Warwick’s MOAC CDT, we explored how the lab bench results get processed as it races down the production line from scientist, to the media and finally to the public, assessing why scientists should engage with the public and the difficulties and opportunities in dealing with the media.
Personally, the highlight of the course was recording a 20 minute (to the second!) segment at the BBC’s Broadcasting House. This was definitely one of the most enjoyable and interesting courses I’ve attended so far.
The course is led by Gareth Mitchell, an experienced science journalist and currently presenter of the BBC technology radio programme Click. He is also a lecturer in Science Communication at Imperial College London.”

- MICHELLE CHEUNG

Teamwork Course (April 16th – 18th 2012)
“Research is increasingly a team-based effort, especially in interdisciplinary areas such as those covered by the ICB.  So on a rainy April day, the ICB's first year PhD students headed up to the Royal Society's Chicheley Hall for a three-day residential 'Teamwork in a Research Environment' course.  On arrival, we met the students from Warwick University's MOAC (Molecular Organisation and Assembly in Cells) CDT who would be our colleagues for the course, and after lunch and introductions the sun came out just in time for the first outdoor teamwork activity:  moving buckets of 'radioactive waste' using only ropes and wooden planks.
In fact, planks of wood were to feature in several exercises over the three days, and at times the relevance to science was difficult to see, especially as the large-group puzzle solving activity degenerated into noisy chaos and confusion.  However, when we retreated indoors to work on presenting our own research interests, and split into small groups to come up with new scientific ideas and develop business plans, the value of collaboration and combined knowledge started to become apparent.   By the end of the busy three days, even the more introverted participants were persuaded that teamwork isn't all bad.”

-SARAH BYRNE

Careers Course (May 28th – 30th 2012)
“This new Career Planning Course was, for me, the most useful, relevant and interesting course I’ve attended so far and I would highly recommend that it runs again next year.
Set in the idyllic retreat of Chicheley Hall, students from the Institute of Chemical Biology (Imperial), Theory and Simulation of Materials (Imperial) and Advanced Metallic Systems (Sheffield/Manchester) CDTs spent three days discovering, exploring, and evaluating their skill set and motivation, and how this fits into potential career options. I most enjoyed receiving and analysing specific, personalised feedback on my CV and also to play various roles in an interview situation to gain further insight into this process. Other activities included interrogating representatives from sectors including finance, academia, science policy and publishing as well as increasing awareness of our digital footprint.  The specificity of this course to CDT students, highlighting the unique skills and experiences we have acquired from being part of a CDT, was incredibly useful and motivating.”

- MICHELLE CHEUNG