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Information for graduate students

Introductory Information for Graduate Students  October 2016


Welcome to the Department of Biochemistry.  This document aims to give you some information explaining the arrangements for graduate training in the Department.

Department Postgraduate Committee (PGC)

The Department has a committee that is responsible for co-ordinating postgraduate affairs, including admissions, training, monitoring, transferable skills and welfare/personal development of postgraduate students in the Department.  The Committee includes student representatives.  The work of the committee is supported administratively by Mrs Christine Thulborn.

Membership of Postgraduate Training Committee, October 2016



Professor Sarah Lummis (Chair)

Professor Nick Gay (Admissions)

Christine Thulborn (Secretary)

Dr Jenny Barna

Dr Sandra Fulton

Dr Tony Jackson

Professor Peter Leadlay

Dr Rick Livesey

Professor Ben Luisi

Dr Daniel Nietlispach


Student Representatives



Mr Niclas (Jan) Frei


Mr Timo Kohler


Mr Georgios Sophocleous


Ms Yi Lei Tan



The student representatives are full members of the Committee and their role is to ensure that the views of graduate students can be presented and discussed.  If you have any questions or comments about the way that graduate affairs are run in the Department, please consult your representatives.

Biochemistry Graduate Students Committee

Membership of Committee: Mr Niclas (Jan) Frei, Mr Timo Kohler, Mr Georgios Sophocleous and Ms Yi Lei Tan

To help provide some social support to graduates within the department, the Biochemistry Graduate Students Committee was founded a few years ago.  The activity of this group varies from year to year and is run by student volunteers.  Among other roles, it helps to provide a point of contact with other graduates within the department, for exchanging expertise, getting advice and, of course, socialising.  Past events have included organising a Friday evening post-work happy hour as well as an annual BBQ.  The Committee also organises talks from internal and external scientists on various topics, including career histories and development in academic and industrial environments.  Please feel free to contact the Committee members if you have any questions or suggestions. 

Departmental Web Page

The Department has a web page with information specifically targeted at postgraduate students:  Many of the documents that you will be issued with also are available here. 

Graduate School

The Department of Biochemistry is part of the Graduate School of Life Sciences.  The Graduate School provides training courses, and various other services and information for graduate students.  The Graduate School web page contains a wealth of useful information on scientific, careers and social issues:

You will also be circulated with a monthly e-mail newsletter from the Graduate School highlighting upcoming events.

Time Management & Working Practices

A PhD involves hard work!  While there is a substantial component of departmentally organized activities within your PhD programme, you will be responsible for organizing the majority of your time.  For some people this can be an unusual and daunting experience after an undergraduate course where the majority of activities were timetabled and highly structured.  In addition, you will probably have many other competing interests and activities outside the Department.  However, for some of you, three years funding is all that is available and so you should aim to complete within, or shortly after, this timeframe.  It is therefore absolutely essential that you adopt effective and efficient working practices from the start.

Expectations of acceptable hours of work vary between labs and projects, and you should discuss this with your Supervisor, early on in your project.  As a very rough guide, the equivalent of a solid 5-day 9.00 am to 5.00 pm week, is the absolute minimally sufficient time to devote to your work (and this assumes that you work constantly, with only occasional breaks for lunch, seminars, etc.).  You will find that many of your colleagues are highly motivated by their research and routinely spend evenings and some weekends in the lab.  This kind of work pattern does not suit everyone, all the time, but you will need to settle rapidly into an effective work routine if you are to complete on time.  You should also take the initiative and, along with your Supervisor, regularly review your progress towards completion

All students should keep a record of their meetings with their Supervisor and Advisor.

Progress through your PhD

The outline programme for progression through your PhD is shown schematically below for the 3 year track, as well as those on the 4 year track.  If you are one of the small group of people starting later than October, note that you will participate in the various events at the same time of year as the other students, but you will have to give your 2nd year poster and 3rd year symposium presentations relatively earlier than the other students. 

We currently run studentships funded for 3, 3.5 or 4 years.  In an ideal world, we would like students to submit their PhD theses at the end of the third year (if funded for a 3 year studentship).  However this is very demanding and most students find that they need additional time to complete their experimental work and write the thesis.  Students funded for 3.5 or 4 years have the financial safety net of continuity of funding into that 4th year.  However, this does not mean that they can work in the lab for 4 years.  There are two very important points to note on this. 

First, there is no automatic entitlement to a prolonged extension of laboratory time beyond three years if you are on 3 year funding. We may require a supporting statement from your Supervisor, and you will need to make the case that the extension is really deserved (and certainly not, for example, due to lack of application in the preceding years).  In the departmental regulations agreed in 2007, all 3-year students were expected to have left the lab within 3 months of the end of their 3rd year.  An extension to this time in the lab is possible for these students but only for up to another 3 months and generally requires a written application to the PGC (with Supervisor support) usually toward the end of the 3rd year.  It is expected that after 6 months extension in total, all students (3 and 4 year-funded students) should be out of the lab and we ask their Supervisors to confirm this.  Under exceptional circumstances (usually connected with medically documented cases of illness) a further short extension to lab work may be allowed beyond the end of March after the 3rd year.  A request for such an extension requires a written application (and may involve an interview with a panel) to ascertain the reasons for the need for the extension and the likelihood of a successful outcome if it should be permitted.  So, apart from such rare events, it is expected that ALL students (on 3 or 4 year funding) will be out of the lab after 3 years 6 months, thereby leaving up to a maximum of 6 months for compilation and submission of the thesis.  

Second, all students MUST submit within 4 years, irrespective of whether they have had extended time in the lab and irrespective of whether they are on 3, 3.5 or 4 year funding programmes – and irrespective of the source of funding.  Funding bodies (such as BBSRC and MRC) audit the 4 year submission rate of ALL our students.  Failure to meet required submission rates will jeopardize our future allocation of studentships.  So, it is very important to understand that if you are funded on a 4 year studentship you cannot work in the lab for that time but you must organise your time to ensure that you submit the thesis well within the 4 years allowed. The 4 year funding allowance should be viewed more as a financial safety net and not an encouragement to consume all of that time doing experimental work.  Furthermore, our experience is that students who plan a thesis submission very late i.e. in the last week of September of the 4th year, often have last minute problems in thesis completion that could take them over the absolute deadline.  Do NOT gear your plans towards submitting in late September.  It is far better to plan to cover all possible contingencies and work to a projected submission date as early as possible.  The earlier you submit, the earlier you will have a PhD and the earlier you will have career options that flow from that.  It is also very important to note that, under current regulation, funding from the research council studentships terminates on submission of the thesis, irrespective of when you submit.

While the majority of your time will be spent within your research group, there are many other activities in which you are expected to participate.  We aim to provide an all-round training in research, including the public dissemination of research data.  The white boxes in the diagram represent activities that all students are required to attend and participate in.

The BBSRC-DTP studentship scheme

From October 2012 the Cambridge Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) system started.  This was initially a 4-year MRes, PhD programme, but the MRes examination component has now been terminated.  In the DTP scheme, students apply to the Cambridge DTP and not to a particular Supervisor. The DTP students spend the first year doing two lab rotations and taking some classes. During the first year they choose one lab for their PhD project. They also have to spend a mandatory 3 months of the 4 years in an external placement (the ‘PIPS” scheme) unconnected with their project.  Members of the Department of Biochemistry take part in the BBSRC-DTP system.  For further information on the Cambridge BBSRC-DTP scheme, see:

The MRC-DTP studentship scheme

The MRC also introduced a DTP scheme in the past couple of years. This has a different format from that of the BBSRC. MRC-DTP students are funded for 3.5 years. So far, MRC-DTP students do not have to undertake a mandatory external PIPS training placement, or undertake an MRes, or undertake lab rotations.  For further information on the Cambridge MRC-DTP scheme, see:

Research Technique Course - “Postgraduate Course in Biochemistry” - Michaelmas Term

This course was originally developed for our graduate student intake from October 2011.  It involves a series of lectures covering a variety of experimental techniques used in biochemistry and molecular biology. The aim is to familiarize you with a wide range of techniques extending well beyond those that you will immediately encounter in your own research project.  Lectures will be held in the Sanger Building Seminar Room. The current programme involves 19 lectures, 12 practicals and 3 workshops.  Students have to attend: all lectures, 3 practicals and all 3 workshops.  All PhD students attend the same programme, regardless of 3, 3.5 or 4 year funding.  A sign-up sheet will be provided to monitor attendance.  You will find a copy of the full programme in your induction pack.  It is possible that there may be some modifications to the course, but you will be informed of any changes.

First Year Research Seminars - Michaelmas & Lent Terms - Wednesday, 5.00 pm

These are held on Wednesdays at 5.00 pm during November to March each year and are organised by Dr Tony Jackson.  The audience is comprised of the first year graduate students and some members of the Postgraduate Committee.  Each week 2 (occasionally 3) students give a presentation of around 20 minutes duration about the project that they are about to embark upon.  The seminars are relatively informal - questions can be asked during the presentations as well as afterwards.  We try to foster an atmosphere in which there can be an interactive discussion and a question/answer session after each presentation.  Again, a sign-up sheet will be provided to monitor attendance.

First Year Assessment

During your first year you will not be fully registered for the PhD.  In order to transfer your registration fully to the PhD programme at the end of the first year, you must perform satisfactorily in the First Year Assessment (a formal examination).  This takes the form of a report/dissertation of about 5000 words.  We recognise that a report upon the first year of a three or four year research project principally entails an account of “work in progress” which, depending on the project, may not necessarily contain a lot of positive experimental results.  Nevertheless, it should be written and presented in formal scientific style.  The dissertation should be handed in during the second half of June (September for January starters, December for Easter starters).

The dissertation will be read by two assessors, one of whom will be your Advisor (see below).  Generally, within a month of handing in the dissertation, there will be an oral examination in which, in addition to assessing the abilities and aptitude of the student for continuing towards the goal of a PhD, a discussion of the ongoing viability of the project and its suitability to develop as a PhD project plays a part.  Comments on your progress and competence will be also solicited from your Supervisor (and GTP; see below) and held on file. After the examination, the assessors will submit copies of their written assessment to the Chair of the Postgraduate Committee and to your Supervisor.  Subject to satisfactory performance in the 1st year review your Supervisor will then be asked to effect your full registration for the PhD programme.  In some cases the student may be asked to re-write the dissertation and may be re-examined before the examiners are content that the student can continue into second year.  In the final analysis, if insufficient progress has been made and there are significant concerns that the student is not likely to be able to bring a PhD study to successful completion, then he/she may be asked to work towards an MPhil or CPGS (Certificate of Postgraduate Studies), or, in the worst-case scenario, terminate postgraduate study.  This is a rare event.

The Graduate Thesis Panel (GTP) Scheme

From October 2013, we introduced a Graduate Thesis Panel (GTP) system. This involves the student presenting up to two Powerpoint talks on his/her project to a review panel of three academics. In the first year, these presentations generally will be held towards the end of Michaelmas term and in Lent term.  The panel discusses student progress independently with the Supervisor, or via a written Supervisor report, prior to the student presentation.  After the presentation and a Q&A session with the student, the GTP gives feedback about student progress and the nature and direction of the project, with helpful suggestions.  The meetings with the GTP are also useful for the discussion of any issues relating to student-supervisor relationships or financial issues, where these may impact on student progress. The membership of the GTP will be student-driven and staff will be invited, by the student, to join the DTP of the student after he/she has consulted with his/her Supervisor for advice about the most appropriate members.  The main aim of the GTP is to provide enhanced mentorship and advice for postgraduate students to help them make progress in their project.  It is also a mechanism for providing further independent assessment of student progress, to supplement the views of the Supervisor.  More information on the nature and operation of the new GTP system will be provided in the introductory talk.  The student should meet his/her GTP twice in the first year and then once in each subsequent year.  

The ability to communicate in good quality scientific English is an essential skill for any scientist. Therefore, it is compulsory for students to attend the Graduate School talk on scientific writing (see Core Skills Training Programme Moodle site for more details).  Furthermore, there are university courses that try to help students develop their communication skills.  Attendance at these courses is very strongly encouraged for all students, but particularly for some overseas students who may need some extra assistance with written English.

Second Year Posters

Towards the end of second year, students give a presentation in the form of a poster.  The posters are displayed for up to a week, with specific advertised times when students will attend their posters to present the data.  All members of the Department are encouraged to attend the posters.  The aim of the exercise is to provide a forum for students to improve their presentation and communication skills through a commonly used medium. The emphasis of the session is to use the posters to represent an up-to-date account of the individual's research project in a format accessible to the non-specialist.  In preparation for this session, students should attend the Graduate School course on poster presentations.  The poster should also be used as an opportunity for you and your Supervisor to review progress towards completion within 3-4 years.  It is expected that the posters will be reviewed by the Advisor and the Examiner from the first year review and some feedback will be given by one or both reviewers.  Furthermore, members of the student’s GTP may also review the poster and offer some verbal feedback.  In addition, anyone in the Department may view the posters and so comments may also be provided by other academic staff.  Please set the dates for the poster symposium in your diary immediately after you are informed about them.  Second year PhD students will also organise one meeting with their GTP members, preferably in the Lent term of their second year.  This gives some continuity with the two meetings held in first year and allows your GTP members to provide more mentorship and assess the progress you have made.   

Third Year Symposium

Third year students each give a short talk in a symposium that runs for 1 or 2 days.  In the past, the symposium has been held in late June/early July each year.  However, this date may move (and you will be informed about the date as soon as this is finally agreed).  From 2013/14 the format of the symposium changed to a short presentation system (in a “Cold Spring Harbor Meeting” style).  There is mandatory attendance by ALL graduate students (1st year to 4th year) at the 3rd year symposium – and for the duration of the whole symposium.  We also expect most of the staff of the department to attend this meeting.  This symposium will be open to all members of the Department (and indeed anyone external to the department). More details on the third year symposium system will be circulated later.  Once the final date is decided for 2016-2017, everyone will be informed and it will be essential to fix the date(s) in your diary as soon as you get that information.  All third year PhD students are expected to arrange one meeting with their GTP, preferably in Lent term - and before their third year talk.  So, by 2016-17 all PhD students will have had two GTP meetings in their first year and one in each of their second and third years.  This should provide useful mentorship with annual continuity that supplements advisory input from their Supervisors and Advisors.  Students submit their theses at different times in their 4th year.  However, 4th year students are encouraged to have a meeting with their GTP during that final year because the panel may be able to provide advice that will help the student in thesis compilation.


 The Graduate School of Life Sciences (GSLS) on behalf of the School of the Biological Sciences and the School of Clinical Medicine, has just launched a brand new Online Core Skills Training Programme for all new graduate students starting from Michaelmas 2016.  The GSLS views researcher development (RD) as an essential part of your research degree course and this programme has been designed as a starting point for your research development, aiming to:

  • Help you identify existing skills and skill gaps.
  • Gain training in key areas of personal effectiveness and communication.
  • Provide a foundation for further skills development in subsequent years.
  • Gain recognition of training upon completion of the CSTP.

The programme has four compulsory components:

  • A skills analysis survey to help you identify the skills that you want to develop.
  • Time management training, a key skill for being a researcher.
  • Presentation and performance training as it is just as important for scientists to be able to communicate their research to other people as well as being able to obtain results in the lab.
  • Scientific writing to aide you to be prepared for report writing that you will need in your first year.

As an important part of your postgraduate training and education, the Department of Biochemistry expects you to participate in this online programme.  You will be sent an enrolment invitation by the GSLS, and the course will then be available to you on your Moodle course list.  More detailed information about this programme is included in your induction pack.

Additional Notes for MPhil Students

Students pursuing a 1-year MPhil in Biological Sciences are generally grouped together with first year PhD students.  However, there are some differences in the arrangements. 

Advisors & GTP

An individual Advisor will be appointed for each MPhil student.  Students will be informed when they have been assigned to a specific Advisor.  MPhil students will also be expected to organise a GTP, but unlike PhD students, the time line for MPhil students during the ~10-11 months they are conducting research work and writing a thesis is very tight, so their GTP need only meet once in the year (preferably in late Michaelmas or early Lent term).

Lectures on Biochemistry Research Techniques

Given the time pressures on MPhil students to obtain experimental results, we do not expect them to attend the full course.  If, after discussion with their Supervisor, a more suitable set of lectures is identified, it is acceptable to substitute these.  Note, however, that MPhil students who then remain in the Department for their PhD, would subsequently be expected to attend the full research techniques course.  A detailed programme is included in your induction pack. 

Other Seminars and Lectures

Group Meetings

Most research groups run their own weekly laboratory meetings and journal clubs.  You should get plenty of practice at talking about your own experimental work and analysing published papers at these meetings.  Some groups also expect students to write reports on a regular basis (e.g. monthly) for their Supervisor.

Research Seminars

There are many opportunities in Cambridge to hear prominent visiting speakers talking about their research.  The Department has a series of seminars given by distinguished visiting speakers on Tuesday lunchtimes through the Michaelmas (autumn), Lent (winter) and Easter terms, although formats may be modified depending on whether external or internal speakers are involved.  There is a very strong departmental expectation that graduate students will attend all of the Departmental seminar series to broaden their scientific knowledge.  In addition to the departmental seminar programme, many of the neighbouring Departments (Gurdon Institute of Cancer Research & Developmental Biology, Stem Cell Institute, Pharmacology, Pathology, Anatomy, Genetics, Plant Sciences, Zoology, Physiology etc.) plus departments in the Medical school, Vet school, and physical sciences (such as Chemistry) also have seminars that may be of interest to you.  So, in addition to the Departmental series, you could attend many seminars in Cambridge – one of the reasons why it is an excellent place to be a scientist!  However, the number of seminars you attend outside the department has to be balanced with your other time demands.  Variations of the following excuses for not attending research seminars are sometimes heard: “I didn’t go because it wasn’t relevant to my work”.  Or “I don’t have the time”.  Neither of these is a legitimate reason.  If you only go to talks on subjects you already know about, you’ll never learn anything new.  Specialising on a research topic doesn’t mean you need to become narrow-minded.  You’re far more likely to bring new ideas to your own area of research if you’re aware of what is happening in other fields. One of the key parts of training to become a research scientist is learning the process of time management – a key transferable skill.  So, fitting your research work around the departmental seminar programme is just one example of that.

Training Courses

In addition to the Research Techniques Course run by this Department there are many other training courses available within the University (see Graduate School web page You should identify any courses or lectures that could be helpful to you.  You should discuss this with your Supervisor early in the first term.  Some of the courses may be more suitable for your second and third year (e.g. careers, thesis writing, the UK Gradschools), so continue to keep an eye open for useful courses.

Further information on graduate student training support advice and career development opportunities can be found at the Vitae website:

All students are advised to keep a record of the training courses they attend which are not part of the Core Skills Training Programme. 

Undergraduate Lectures

Members of the University may attend any Undergraduate lecture in any subject, but some courses require permission of the lecturer involved.  All lectures are listed in a special issue of the Reporter in October.  The Reporter is the weekly University publication, available online at:

Details of the Part II and Part III lectures for Biochemistry students are given at:


You each have a Supervisor - the member of staff in whose laboratory you will carry out your research.  Your Supervisor will be the most important person for providing guidance and advice throughout the course of your project.  However, it is useful to have another member of department with whom you can discuss the progress of your project, or any problems you may be having in the Department.  For this purpose, currently all graduate students are allocated an “Advisor”.  The Advisor is a member of staff, who may have some expertise in the general field in which you are working, but who is not usually part of the same research group. 

The role of the Advisor is to allow independent monitoring and mentorship of your progress, to provide general advice, and to serve as a first port-of-call if you encounter some problems (see below).  We expect monitored meetings with Advisors for 1st year PhD students, preferably involving at least 2 meetings per year (in the Michaelmas term and Lent term).  Currently, it is up to you to arrange meetings with your Advisor.  A good time for a first official meeting is after ~4-6 weeks, when you should have a decent idea of the project that you are working on.  You should prepare a very short research proposal (based upon your discussions with your Supervisor) before your first meeting with your Advisor, and a brief progress report may be helpful prior to each subsequent meeting.  These reports do not need to be elaborate - a page should be sufficient to provide a basis for discussion.  Alternatively, a recent lab talk would suffice.  You can of course approach your Advisor at any time, should the need arise.  Your Advisor will usually also serve as one of the two assessors of your First Year Report (see below) and it is acceptable to have your Advisor as one of the members of your GTP.  

Holiday Entitlement

The following rules apply regarding holiday entitlement:

a)  Full-time graduate students can take short breaks for holidays (normally not more than 2-3 weeks at a time). The holiday is not transferable to another year and has to be agreed by the Supervisor on the understanding that it will not interfere with any (e.g. 1st year PhD) assessment procedures established in the Department or have deleterious impacts on the progress of your reearch project.  The Department also needs to be made aware of the start and finish dates of the holiday.

b)  Periods of holiday should not be used for absences which would be covered by procedures for intermission or working away from Cambridge.

PLEASE NOTE that full-time graduate students are expected to devote around 40 hours per week to their course of research for the full duration of the course.  (N.B. the academic year for graduate students runs from 1 October to 30 September, the vacations apply to undergraduate students only).


From time to time problems can arise between a student and his/her Supervisor.  It is always best to deal with these sooner, rather than later.  One way is to arrange a meeting with your Supervisor where you can air any such problems.  If this does not seem a suitable option there are various other people who may be able to help - including your Advisor, one or more members of your GTP, student reps, the Chair or other academic members of the PGC, and/or your college Graduate Tutor (as part of your College pastoral support system).  The university also provides various support systems involving personal counselling services and medical/psychiatric support. 

The key point is to deal with problems at the earliest opportunity before they become serious or degenerate into a crisis!

Opportunities for Teaching

You will have the opportunity to gain experience of teaching both in the Teaching Laboratory and in the undergraduate system of supervisions.  However, you should be aware that supervisions in Cambridge require a major time commitment, particularly if you are not familiar with the course, and so this time commitment may be inappropriate for you, if it is likely to have a significant impact on the progress of your research project.  Therefore, it is essential that you consult your Supervisor and get his/her advice and agreement before you agree to take on any teaching (demonstrating or supervisions). Training courses are available on teaching undergraduates:  

Laboratory Demonstrating  

The Department runs a number of undergraduate courses that have a practical component.  For most of the practicals the senior demonstrator (a member of academic staff) will need a number of assistant demonstrators.  Depending on the course, this may involve a commitment to demonstrating either for the duration of a single practical (1-2 weeks) or to one day a week for one or two terms.  One of the teaching laboratory technicians usually contacts all postdocs and graduate students in the Department to recruit demonstrators for the first year practicals.


The college supervision system in Cambridge involves small group teaching to build upon and reinforce the material covered in the lecture courses.  Supervising also involves weekly setting and marking of written work and sometimes even college exams. Some graduate students feel that they have the required time management skills and commitment (and the agreement of their Supervisor) to take on supervision teaching without it having a deleterious impact on their research work.  This should not be taken lightly, as it can be very demanding indeed.  If you are a Cambridge graduate, this is probably slightly easier because you will be already familiar with the course material and the intensive nature of the Supervision system.  If you graduated elsewhere you probably need to attend the lectures to make sure you are familiar with all the material and so this a serious time commitment.  In any case, most of the undergraduate lectures are accompanied by handouts.  The courses that you are most likely to supervise are:

MVST1A Molecules in Medical Science (MIMS) (1st year medical and vet students)

NST1A Biology of Cells (1st year science students)

NST1B Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2nd year science students)

NST1B Cell and Developmental Biology (2nd year science students)

Finding a position as an undergraduate Supervisor tends to rely on knowing the right person who is looking for Supervisors.  College Directors of Studies (DOS) are responsible for finding Supervisors.  If you are lucky, your

Supervisor may be a DOS.  If not, you can use the following email addresses if you want to advertise your availability to supervise:

Directors of Studies in Biological Sciences:

Directors of Studies in Medical and Veterinary Sciences: (medical) (veterinary)

Travel funds - The Sanger Fund and The Perham Fund

Many of you will have some funds associated with your studentships to enable you to travel to scientific meetings and conferences.  For those who do not have these funds, the Department may be able to offer some financial support.  However, due to the very limited nature of the funds, only second or third year students are eligible to apply and only for a small contribution towards the overall costs of attending a meeting.  The deadline for applications will usually be the start of Easter term.  You can apply for financial assistance by completing the application form for Sanger and Perham Fund support explaining the purpose of your travel and the amount of assistance you are seeking.  Christine Thulborn will circulate an email to all eligible students in June/July each year.  It is extremely rare that the Department can fully fund travel to a meeting abroad and so you should also apply to other sources to support your travel e.g. your college, the Philosophical Society, or a professional society (see below).  Your chances of getting some funding from the Sanger and Perham Funds will be enhanced if you have shown some initiative in applying for other sources of funding too, such as a Learned Society (see below).

Membership of Societies

There are several professional societies that offer discounted membership to students.  These offer various benefits, often including the opportunity to apply for travel grants to support attendance at both domestic and international conferences.  There is sometimes a minimum qualifying period of membership before you are able to apply for these grants, but this depends very much on the rules of each learned society.  In general terms, it is very much in your interest to join your chosen societies as soon as possible in the first year of your PhD studies and you are very strongly encouraged to do this soon.  Your Supervisor can give you advice on this.

Biochemical Society:  

Benefits include:

• free registration at Biochemical Society meetings

• free or reduced registration fees at 13 other societies' meetings

• student travel grants (up to £100 after 1 years membership)

• 6 copies of The Biochemist each year

• careers conferences

• bursaries

Details of some related professional life sciences societies (e.g. cell biology, genetics, developmental biology, biophysics, microbiology, applied microbiology, plant pathology, antimicrobial chemotherapy etc.) can be found at the relevant page on the Society for Biology website, so please make sure you check these:  

Many of these learned societies offer similar benefits to students as those offered by the Biochemical Society.  Indeed, some societies can be even more generous to PhD students, especially in covering the costs involved in attending both domestic and international scientific meetings.  For example, some microbiology-related societies are extremely generous to graduate students and so you should sign up to any of the most relevant societies early in your first year, to get the biggest benefit from membership.

e.g. see:

The Cambridge Philosophical Society stages a number of lectures and meetings through the year and is also a source of small grants (e.g. for travel to meetings).  Information is usually available through the Colleges.  Note that many benefits of membership can only be obtained if you join very shortly after arriving in Cambridge!  It is therefore very strongly recommended that you join the Philosophical Society early in your first year.

Finally, your College will have funds to help you attend scientific meetings in the UK or overseas.  The nature and availability of funding varies from College to College, so see your College for information.


October 2016



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