Project Call 2014



Grand Challenge Studentships

Call for Proposals from PhD Supervisors

Inspired by UCL's Grand Challenges and the Impact Studentship Scheme, UCL School of Life and Medical Sciences initiated a PhD training programme designed to attract those researchers with the highest intellectual and scientific skills to the field of biomedical research.

The Programme is intended to attract outstanding students who are capable of benefiting from the extraordinary breadth and excellence of research at UCL and partner hospitals. We hope that it will contribute to developing cross cutting links in the context of UCL Partners, UCL’s Grand Challenges and the overall strategic direction of our university.

UCL School of Life and Medical Sciences Grand Challenge PhD Studentship Scheme is a Collaborative venture funded by the School of Life and Medical Sciences and the Biomedical Research Centres at UCLH, Great Ormond Street and Moorfields Hospitals open to researchers in ALL UCL Faculties and the linked BRC’s

The Grand Challenge Studentship scheme has awarded 60 PhD studentships in the past three years and will be looking to recruit another cohort this year, with funding provided by the UCL School of Life and Medical Sciences, the UCLH/UCL Comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre and the Specialist Biomedical Research Centres at Moorfields/UCL and Great Ormond Street Hospital/UCL.

The scheme will be seeking new proposals from pairs of supervisors. Key criteria in identifying supervisors are as follows:

  • The expectation is that one supervisor will have a well-established track record of supervising PhD students and that the other will be earlier in their career and may have less experience. This is not an absolute requirement;
  • Supervision partnerships that link across our structures are particularly encouraged. For example partnerships linking the BRC’s and crossing Faculties. This again is not an absolute requirement as there may be other ways of demonstrating added value through the supervision partnership;
  • At least one of each pair of supervisors must be based within the structures funding these studentships (ie. SLMS, UCLH/UCL-CBRC, GOSH/UCL-SBRC, Moorfields/UCL-SBRC). This is an absolute requirement. The other supervisor may be from the same funding structure but can be from another UCL Faculty (eg. Arts & Humanities, Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, Engineering, Laws, Mathematical & Physical Sciences, Social & Historical Sciences).

Proposals from Supervision Partnerships are now welcomed via this form with a closing date of 20 January 2014 at midnight.

Each 3-year Grand Challenge Studentship comes with a stipend of £18,000 pa, Home/EU fees paid and £5000 p.a. consumables funded through the School of Life and Medical Sciences and BRC’s. This leaves a balance of £8,000 pa to be secured by the supervision partnership as a requirement for accessing this funding scheme. This funding must be new research income which may come from an industrial partner, charity or discretionary fund but cannot be from existing UCL Faculty HEFCE funds or already awarded research funds (eg. not from existing MRC, WT, CRUK or other research funding sources).  Please note that funding for the full 3 years (£24,000) must be made available at the beginning of the studentship.

Once the Supervision Partnerships have been identified the studentships will be openly advertised and awarded to those individuals best able to demonstrate their intellectual promise (likely holding an excellent first degree in basic science, engineering, medicine or the behavioural and social sciences (psychology, sociology, biology etc) an evident capacity for critical thinking, and a desire to address fundamental questions in biomedical and life sciences relevant to human health and wellbeing.

The specific focus of these studentships can range from investigations into fundamental aspects of human health and disease or translational approaches to prevention and early disease detection, through to the development of novel therapies and interventions, addressing global health issues in the context of global politics and economics or the application of mathematical techniques to basic questions in biology and biomedicine. The intention is to encourage outstanding individuals to engage in innovative research across a broad canvas.

Students will be encouraged to establish links and collaborations that cut across traditional laboratory, departmental and discipline boundaries. One important aim is to create an ongoing community of outstanding researchers who remain linked through this scheme as they develop their careers and link in to UCL’s career progression opportunities. To assist this initiative, as well as access to UCL’s world-class laboratory, field or office research facilities, students will undertake a programme of regular interactive problem-solving and ‘blue-skies’ sessions in which free thinking and the development of radical solutions to complex problems are actively encouraged and rewarded.

David McAlpine is leading on this for the SLMS Executive Team and will be pleased to assist if you have questions about the scheme – emails to David McAlpine with subject ‘SLMS Grand Challenge Studentships'.


This form should be completed (one per Supervision Partnership, to be submitted by the Primary Supervisor with input from the Secondary Supervisor as required) saved and sent to Anna Hindley, SLMS ACO.

Last Updated 7 January 2014