DPhil in Structural Biology | University of Oxford
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DPhil in Structural Biology

About the course

This graduate course provides training in structural biology and related biochemical, genetic and cell biological approaches to understand molecular and cellular function. You will spend the first year learning a range of structural biology techniques, usually undertaking two five-month projects in different laboratories and following taught courses.

Applicants are advised to visit the course webpage for further information about supervisors associated with this course.

The short research projects and training expose you to possible supervisors for your DPhil project and prepare you for your doctoral work. You can then make an informed choice of thesis research project and submit a research proposal for years two to four of the programme. Projects that develop collaborations between research groups are strongly encouraged.

The first year of the programme would typically include at least two research projects.

Training in key research techniques should include:

  • X-ray crystallography
  • NMR
  • electron microscopy
  • synchrotron radiation and integrative structural biology
  • high-resolution microscopy
  • computational biochemistry
  • bioinformatics and molecular simulations

You are required to write a report at the end of each rotation project. You will have the opportunity to discuss the report and your research project with one of the PIs associated with the programme.

You will be required to meet standard University milestones for progress and will be monitored formally via supervisor feedback forms submitted three times per year.

Graduate destinations

Most graduates from this programme continue in research in prestigious laboratories worldwide. Many are now world leading researchers and several are senior group leaders (including in industry) or hold established academic posts. Other destinations include consultancy and medicine.

Related courses

Changes to the course

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2017-18

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in a relevant biological sciences subject.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.

However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Substantial professional experience or a graduate qualification may be a substitute for a lower grade at undergraduate level.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.  

Applications are reviewed by a panel of academics associated with the programme. A shortlist of applicants is confirmed, based on assessment of achieved or predicted undergraduate degree grade, academic references, personal statement and CV. It is expected that the ratio of interviewed applicants to places will be 3:1.

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to attend interviews in Oxford. The interview panel will include at least three academics. You will be asked to give a presentation on a research project you may have carried out (around 10 minutes) and then to answer questions related to your project and about the general field of structural biology. You may also be asked to explain their motivation for applying for this course. 

There will be the opportunity to meet with current students and potential supervisors either before or after the interview.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to attend in person, but interviews with candidates from outside the EU are normally carried out using Skype.

Publications

Whilst not required, publications demonstrating previous research success in a relevant field are likely to advantage a candidate’s application.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Research or working experience in a relevant field may be an advantage.

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. 
  • Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.

Resources

You will have access to:

  • experimental facilities, as appropriate to your research
  • IT support from both your host department for your research and University IT Services
  • library services such as the Radcliffe Science Library and the Cairns Library

The provision of project-specific resources will be agreed with the relevant supervisor during the planning stages for the research project. There is the possibility to use facilities in Departments across the Division, and to access remote facilities at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Diamond Light Source and Harwell Science and Innovation Campus.

You will have access to the cafeteria/social areas in the host department for your research. Seminars and colloquia bring students together with academic and other research staff to hear about on-going research, and provide an opportunity for networking and socialising.

Funding

There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.

Full funding opportunities are available for all Medical Sciences Graduate School programmes, whatever your nationality. The Medical Sciences Graduate School website provides further details of these, as well as information about external funding opportunities.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
c. £4,250£3,021c. £7,271
Overseas£19,335£3,021£22,356

The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; for courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Tuition and college fees are payable each year for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay tuition and college fees).

Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.

For more information about tuition fees, college fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details on the impact of the result of the UK referendum on its membership of the European Union.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this programme that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs.  However, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Living costs

In addition to your tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2017-18 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between £1,002 and £1,471 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our Living costs page.

How to apply

You are welcome to contact potential supervisors associated with the course before you apply but this is not required.

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

CV/résumé

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
Up to 1,000 words

Your statement should be written in English and focus on your interest in, and experience of, this research field (rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations). You should give details of your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in. 

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • the ability to present a reasoned case in English
  • commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • preliminary knowledge of research techniques
  • capacity for sustained and intense work
  • reasoning ability
  • ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally academic

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

Your references should generally be academic, though professional references are acceptable if they are relevant to the course.

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, ability to work in a group.

When you complete your application, please give the following answers where requested.

About your course: Proposed field and title of research project

As you do not need to select a project before you apply, please enter 'DPhil in Structural Biology'.

About your course: Proposed supervisor name

Please leave this field blank.

Funding: Departmental studentship applications

Answer 'no' to the question of whether you are applying to a specific studentship.