Wellcome Trust Doctoral Training Programme in Genomic Epidemiology and Public Health Genomics

Programme FAQs

Find the answers to questions asked by our applicants during our November 2021 Q&A sessions!

Application Questions

When should I choose a project?

When you submit the application, you will need to state your preferred projects. We encourage applicants to browse the projects we have available and to contact the supervisor(s) to talk about how you may be suited to the project(s) you are interested in. if you are not sure what projects you would like to apply for or if you have thought of a project that is not listed, we encourage you to contact the Theme Lead before you put your application in.

Can I apply for just one project?

There is scope for applicants to apply for up to three projects, but if there is only one project that you are interested in and want to be considered for, then you can just apply for just one. The number of projects that candidates have applied for is not taken into account when we are assessing the quality of candidates, although it is helpful to have a degree of flexibility when we are considering appointable candidates for the Programme in terms of the projects we can offer them. Please don’t feel that you should apply for projects you do not wish to be offered. Obviously it is important that candidates are interested in all the projects they apply for.

Do I need to write separate personal statements for each of the projects I want to apply for?

We only invite you to submit one personal statement but you can include a bit about each of the projects you are applying for within the personal statement.

In the application portal, there is no provision to select which projects I am interested in. Can I write about them in the personal statement instead?

Yes, please include the titles of the project(s) you wish to apply for within the applicant statement and this will allow you to tailor your statement to the areas you are most interested in.

The research proposal field is mandatory in the application portal. What do I need to enter instead?

As we do not require applicants to submit research proposals for our advertised projects or the 1+4 route, you can simply list your projects in order of preference instead.

Should I contact the supervisor of a project I’m interested in before I apply?

We do really encourage applicants to email the supervisor(s) of their preferred project(s) prior to submitting an application as they will be able to give you specific advice about the project and answer any questions you may have.

I am interested in theme 4, and have a background in Genetics but not social sciences. What would be the best option to apply for these projects?

We would recommend contacting the supervisor(s) of the Theme 4 project(s) you are interested in to get a sense of their expectations of academic background suitability. The current projects we are advertising do have a strong social science element so would be best suited to someone who already has the sociological concepts to apply to the projects. It may be that there is a suitable Master’s programme, but this would be best assessed on an individual basis, so certainly contacting the supervisor(s) in the first instance would be most advisable. 

Would it be possible to apply if the IELTS language requirement is not yet fulfilled?

Yes, please go ahead and submit your application even if you have not yet completed or received the results of your language test. You can then update your IELTS result on the admissions portal or by contacting the Admissions team at a later date.

Are successful applicants assisted with the VISA process?

The University and Admissions Team will be able to advise you on the VISA process. You can also find guidance via the Future Students Office. 

Can applicants use employer references as part of their application?

Yes, although it would be important to evidence academic track record alongside an employer reference. 

Do reference letters need to contain anything in particular?

References do need to refer to your academic ability and experiences you have had in your education, but we don’t require anything additional to normal academic references. Remember to ask your referees before putting their names down, and it always helps for them to know about the scheme you are applying to!

How is a candidate’s suitability for a given project evaluated?

Each project has its own particular focus and methodologies, so require different skills. We will be looking at candidates’ current skills or aptitude to develop the skills needed for the project. We will also be looking for candidates who really want to do the project and feel excited by it, and those who show potential to go on to be really strong after the PhD. Supervisors of projects are asked to give their thoughts on which candidates should be shortlisted and the Theme Leads will look at candidates across the Themes and the entire Programme.

What sort of experience are you looking for in a candidate?

A good degree in a relevant subject, and you don’t necessarily need a Master’s degree. It’s mostly about your strength as a candidate and your potential.

Is there flexibility around the projects to include a student's research interests?  

If you have a particular interest that aligns to an available project or to one of the Themes but there isn’t a specific project advertised, please do get in touch with either the supervisor or Theme Lead and talk about it first. While there is some flexibility for projects to move slightly with the student’s research interests, what is most important is ensuring that the project you are applying for is the one you want to do when you start the PhD. 

If I apply for more than one project, will I get interviewed for each one separately? 

We interview you as a potential candidate and within a single interview, we invite the supervisors of the projects applied for to sit on the panel and assess your suitability for their project.

Can I apply for a project even if I don’t have experience in some of the areas detailed in the project description?

Yes, we are not expecting candidates to know everything about the project(s) they apply for and many skills and knowledge areas can be developed as progress through the PhD.

Is there a possibility that a supervisor would consider an applicant for their project even if they did not select it on their application?

There may be a case where a candidate deemed suitable for the Programme is considered for a project that they didn’t apply for, but this is not commonplace. We encourage applicants to state up to three projects they are interested in to increase flexibility in the projects we may be able to offer.

Who carries out the shortlisting of candidates?

Supervisors of projects advertised do look at the applications for their projects and they submit rankings for their project. The final shortlisting is undertaken by the Theme Leads to ensure consistency across projects and Themes. 

In case of being short-listed, what kind of questions will be delivered to the applicant during the interview?

Candidates who are invited to interview will also be invited to a pre-interview information session, which will cover the interview process and give the opportunity for candidates to ask any questions they may have.

When will we be informed about the outcome of our applications?

Successfully shortlisted candidates will be sent an invitation to interview before Christmas, and the interviews will take place in January. We try to let all candidates know as soon as possible after the interviews have taken place whether or not they have been successful. 

Will candidates shortlisted for interview have an opportunity for an interview preparation session?

We will be inviting candidates to a briefing session prior to the interviews. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to interview via email, which will also contain details of the pre-interview information session.

Will interviews be held virtually?

Yes, for applicants wishing to start their PhD in September 2022, we will be conducting interviews virtually via Microsoft Teams. 

From the previous cohorts, are there any specific traits you think stand out the most among successful applicants?

Enthusiasm and evidence that the candidate has looked into what the project might involve is really important. We are looking at candidates as individuals and what they would bring to the cohort, to help promote a strong peer network. 

What are the main skills you are looking for in a candidate?

No matter which project candidates apply for, we look for those who are really motivated to do a PhD as they are very hard work! We would also be looking for people who are willing to be part of a cohesive group of students both within their cohorts and across all cohorts of the Programme. In terms of specific projects, each projects will be looking for specific skills and backgrounds from applicants so we encourage everyone to contact the supervisors of their preferred projects to discuss these prior to applying.

How much research experience are candidates expected to have?

Do bear in mind that a PhD can be thought of as a research apprenticeship so any research experience we would expect candidates to have prior to starting would be quite low. Candidates who have conducted research as part of undergraduate or Master’s dissertations can talk about this in their applications but we are really looking for people with potential rather than the finished project.

How many applications do you receive for each project?

It varies quite a lot and some projects attract more applications than others. 

What is the acceptance rate for this programme?

Around 1 in every 6 longlisted applicants are made an offer to the Programme.

Is this Programme only available for the 2022/23 academic year?

We have already welcomed two intakes of students who started in September 2020 and September 2021. The Programme will be available to applicants for the coming academic year (2022/23) and for a further two academic years (2023/24 and 2024/25). 

Does the University help with finding and organising accommodation?

Yes, the University does have accommodation available and applicants will have the option to find out more about what options are available to them once a formal offer has been made. Some of our students do opt to rent privately too and Leicester is one of the more reasonably-priced UK cities to live in.

Is there support for disabled students and those with specific learning difficulties?

We are very keen to be as inclusive as we possibly can, both with staff and students. Support can be provided from a number of areas, including the supervisor, department and University as a whole. Please do feel free to discuss any additional needs you may have when you approach supervisors of projects prior to applying, and you can also contact the Programme team at genomicsphd@le.ac.uk. We will of course do everything we can to accommodate the additional needs of our students. 

Funding Questions

Are international applicants eligible for funding and if so, how does it work?

If you are offered a studentship, the fees are paid at UK rates. In addition, we are also able to offer overseas fee waivers to two students from Low-and Middle-Income Countries. Suitable international candidates who have the ability to make up the difference between UK and overseas fees are eligible for a place on the Programme.

Why the 1+4 route does not include a stipend for the MSc year?

Due to the constraints on the funding we have been awarded, unfortunately we are unable to offer anything other than a UK-rates fee waiver for the MSc year. 

Can LMIC candidates apply for the 1+4 route?

Our LMIC fee waivers only apply to the 4-year route so candidates from LMICs who require this fee waiver to undertake the PhD would not be eligible to apply for the 1+4 route.

As an EU citizen, would I have to pay the international fee? How much is the difference between the UK fee and the international fee?

EU candidates are currently classed under international rates but we do suggest you contact us so that we can look at your individual circumstances.

Do successful applicants receive a travel and relocation allowance?

Unfortunately, there is no relocation allowance for students as there is an expectation that students should move to Leicester prior to starting. 

Do successful overseas applicants have their health surcharge costs/flight charges covered by the Programme?

The funding for the Programme is designed for students after they register with the University. Any costs covered prior to this would be at the discretion of the Wellcome Trust and we would need to discuss each individual case with them.

Is it possible to undertake the Master's in the 1+4 route as a part time student?

This would be possible, and would allow a student to support themselves during the MSc. However, the overall time commitment of study must be considered, as this will add an additional year to the overall duration. 

Do the supervisors offer research or teaching assistantships to international students to help them pay the difference between the UK and international fees?

As a general rule, we would be reluctant to have students undertaking a significant amount of paid work alongside the PhD. The University’s guidance states that PhD students can work up to 8 hours per week but we would want to ensure that all students are able to focus fully on their PhD. 

Can I undertake paid work alongside the PhD?

University regulations supported by the Wellcome Trust allow full time PhD students to undertake no more than 8 hours paid work per week. From the point of view of the Programme and the Wellcome Trust, we would expect students’ main priority to be the PhD. The stipends are very generous to allow students to be financially secure for the duration of the PhD. We can also consider part time PhDs for those who may need to continue to work or have caring responsibilities and we can discuss this at the time of offer.

Would there be funding support available for attending conferences?

There is a generous amount of funding available to support many different types of development opportunities, including attending conferences and specialist training.


Programme Questions

What subject areas do each of the Themes cover and is there any scope for wet lab work?

Theme 1 is around using genetic approaches to identify new drug targets or to understand the best way to utilise drugs that are already available. Most of the projects will involve analysis of genetic data sets with linked information either about drugs or about disease. In terms of the opportunity for lab work in Theme 1, it is possible that some projects may have an element of lab work, particularly if it involves generating new data or validating findings from data analysis, but the projects in this Theme will predominantly involve data analysis.
Theme 2 is concerned with underserved populations as the majority of genetic research to date has been conducted in European or European-derived populations. Most of our collaborations are with partners in Africa, but can also include Asian and Native American populations. 
Theme 3 is based around the fact that almost every aspect of a person can be predicted by their genetics, including their risk of disease and for use in forensic applications. 
Theme 4 is quite a contrast in some ways to the other three Themes because it covers a lot of different disciplines. We have a variety of ongoing and advertised projects, with potential to further expand into other disciplinary areas in the future. We currently have two students based in the School of Law, who look at their projects from ethical and legal perspectives. We also have a student who is supervised under the College of Life Sciences, but co-supervised in Media and Communication. The two projects currently advertised are both social science-based projects, with interdisciplinary supervision. 
If you have got a questions about exactly what sort of methods or whether there is any wet lab work in any particular project, please do contact the supervisor or Theme Lead directly.

How does the 1+4 route differ to the 4-year route?

The 1+4 route is exactly the same as the 4-year route except that there is an opportunity (and UK tuition fee waiver) to undertake a 1-year Master’s degree before beginning the PhD. Unfortunately we are not in a position to offer a stipend for the MSc year and can only waive the tuition fee at UK-rates.

What is the role of the Theme Leads?

The Theme Lead role is mainly administrative, for example, prioritising the best applicants within their Theme during the recruitment process. Theme Leads should be contacted by applicants who have more general questions about their applications, rather than about specific projects. Theme Leads may also be on the supervisory teams for some projects. Leads also form the management team, and have regular meetings with student representatives from each of the cohorts.

Is a Theme Lead always a second supervisor?

No, but Theme Leads do sometimes form part of the supervisory teams of projects, but this is certainly not always the case. It is a University regulation that a project has a secondary supervisor, but many of our projects also have a third supervisor. Postgraduate Tutors are based in individual departments that can help students deal with issues and queries, separate from the supervisory teams and the Theme Leads.

Roughly how long would a part time route take?

This depends on how many hours per week is undertaken as a part time student as the total time taken for the PhD will be proportionally calculated. For example, if you work at 0.5FTE (i.e. 50% of the time), the duration of the PhD will double. Discussions about part time work can be discussed with the supervisors and Theme Leads.

Is there room for developing some skills prior to starting the actual PhD work for the 4 year route?

If a candidate is appointed to a project and wishes to do some preparatory reading prior to starting, this is reasonable. Four years in which to complete a PhD is a significant period of time so candidates are not expected to undertake work beforehand. 

What would the daily life of someone in this course look like? Will this be mainly working from home?

Everybody’s PhD is quite different in terms of how you go about conducting it. As most of our PhDs are computer based, you will have the option to work from home or in-person depending on the particular research group that you join. PhDs can look different for different students on the Programme across the four Themes, and this gives our students the chance to reflect together about what a PhD looks like within your research area. Throughout the Programme, you will have lots of training activities and this can be virtual or in-person. You will also be encouraged to interact with the activities within your department. Students are able to develop a very personalised plan to help them develop throughout the PhD. 
The pandemic has changed the way that most of the University is working, with widespread home-working. Under ‘normal’ conditions, most students follow a standard office routine and work typical office hours, i.e. 9am-5pm, which is very different to undergraduate study.

How often are students and supervisors expected to meet?

Supervisor/supervisee contact can very much be negotiated between both parties so that arrangements can be made to suit everyone. Formal requirement is one meeting per month with is recorded on our PGR monitoring system. There is also an expectation that research students are integrated within existing research groups in the department, so students may also see their supervisors in different and more informal settings, such as in research group meetings or seminars. 

Are all supervisors experienced?

We have a mix of experienced and emerging supervisors on our Programme and we do encourage supervisors with less experience to join our team. As every supervisory team consists of at least two supervisors, we ensure that emerging supervisors are paired with a more experienced supervisor to support them.

Will there be an opportunity and be expected to publish papers?

Publishing from your PhD work would be a very good idea and can be discussed with individual supervisors. Some PhD projects are suited to students publishing regularly throughout the PhD, while others encourage students to do this more towards the end, but there would be an expectation that students are producing work of a publishing standard at PhD level. There is lots of training on offer to build the skills for writing for publication. 

What is expected to be achieved in the first year and how is it evaluated?

After nine months, students have a probation review, which includes writing a report, giving a presentation and having an interview discussion. This will be evaluated by a panel of academics (not your supervisors) and will identify any potential issues. What students are expected to achieve may differ across different projects, but we expect students to have a good understanding of the aims of their project and to have covered the background knowledge. 

What sort of training opportunities are available to students on the Programme?

We have put together a training programme for students on this PhD Programme, which is undertaken in the first and second years of the PhD. This is designed to give people a good grounding in qualitative and quantitative research skills but also other skills such as effective communication and public engagement. Sometimes we offer training to just students on the Programme but other times, you may attend training with students on other courses. In terms of project-specific training, the Programme offers a very generous training fund, which can be used for training identified as necessary by students and their supervisors. This training can either be offered within and external to the University. We do ensure that students on our Programme receive a wide range of skills that don’t necessary directly relate to the project undertaken. For example, a student doing a quantitative-based project will still receive training on qualitative skills such as conducting interviews and focus groups. Training courses are also not the only way to develop skills, so we also encourage students to attend conferences, networking events and to spend time working at other institutions, where appropriate, all of which there is funding for.

What kind of career opportunities can this Programme offer its students?

Career opportunities are very broad and we are not focused on careers in an academic setting and the majority of people who do a PhD end up using their PhD in non-academic settings. We provide unique career coaching as part of our Programme, which gives students an opportunity to understand the different jobs that can be undertaken by PhD graduates and to network with people who are using their PhDs in a variety of ways. Students undertaking projects in Themes 1-3 may decide to go into industry and drug development. Academia is an option, as are a broad range of public sector or communication roles. Theme 4 students may find that they have an even broader scope of careers such as science communication or journalism. You can do more with a PhD than people often realise and we provide the scope and the time for our students to consider and explore their options throughout their PhD. Our Programme also offers each of our students generous funding after the PhD to transition into their desired career or explore options further. 

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