Doctoral Training Partnership or DTP – what are they?

By Chloé Cassaro

Full disclaimer: This post is about graduate studies, so please do not be distressed if DTP does not ring any bell for you.

After my undergraduate studies, and with one clear idea in mind (ie doing postgraduate studies to start a career in scientific research), I started looking into PhD (or DPhil) positions more than a year ago, and came across -many times- doctoral programmes, in opposition to direct-entry PhD. Since I am now doing a Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) in Interdisciplinary Biosciences – which is just a fancy way of saying bioscience research using interdisciplinary approaches – I can now explain a bit better what that is.

To put it simply, instead of going straight into a laboratory for a 3 to 4 years research theses, with occasional training opportunities, and, most of the time, without much prior experience in said lab, the DTP provides us with training and experiences. In the case of the Interdisciplinary Biosciences DTP, we started off in October with 3 months of intensive modules. Hence, I had 4 different modules, including programming, maths, and bioinformatics, during 2 to 3 weeks for every module, each organised slightly differently, with lectures and practicals all day. In addition, the DTP includes Career Development courses, helping us with necessary skills as graduates, such as using formatting software, safety training, or presentation/writing courses, and these take place for the entire length of the programme.

After the initial term of training, I am meant to start my first out of two rotations project in a lab I chose. At the beginning of the term, we had a “speed-meeting” with potential supervisors, who have submitted project proposals to the DTP. We can also choose to join a lab which has not submitted project, but in that case the proposal devised for the rotation needs to be approved before we can take up the project. The rotations each last 12 weeks and give us the rare chance to “sample the market” and get a real feel for the lab environment in which we might want to work. Finally, as part of the programme, I am meant to be doing a 3 months internship, which is supposed to be unrelated to my actual theses but can be in any other field. Some people do it in governmental bodies, looking at policies, others work in science media, schools, or conference organisations …

There are many benefits to these kinds of programmes. Firstly, because it is a programme as opposed to a direct-entry DPhil, I had the opportunity to meet a whole range of very interesting people who are part of my cohort of more than 50 persons. As part of the programme, and with the funding we have, the DTP allows us to organise a seminar series, a symposium, but also internship events.. The funding and the admin team also tend to encourage networking/social events within the DTP, so that is also quite nice. The many different modules, projects, and internships each provide us with invaluable experiences and skills that could not be gained any other way. In addition, the DTP is based in a doctoral training centre, which provides a lot of support, and collaborates with many partner institutions, that we can work with.

I feel very lucky to be part of such a renowned and amazing institution!