UNIQ+ (UNIQ plus) | Graduate access | University of Oxford
Oxford skyline with the UNIQ plus logo
A view of the Oxford skyline. (Image credit: Elizabeth Nyikos / Graduate Photography Competition)

UNIQ+

UNIQ+ internships

UNIQ+ research internships are designed to introduce students from under-represented backgrounds to graduate study and offer everyone who takes part tangible benefits in terms of confidence, skills and experience that will enhance both their CV and any future postgraduate applications.

Due to the ongoing situation with COVID-19, internships will take place remotely in 2021. We hope to offer around 50 remote internships.

What is UNIQ+?

The remote internships will last six weeks from Monday 5 July to Friday 13 August. At the start of UNIQ+ you’ll receive an online induction, which will introduce you to the University, the programme and the other participants. This will be followed by a research project, conducted in small groups for which you will receive regular supervision from an academic members of staff, post-doctoral staff and current DPhil (PhD) students. Individual projects may also be available.

During the first week, you will be provided with training that will teach you skills relevant to your project. Training will depend on your project requirements. Over the course of your project you’ll have many opportunities to apply and develop your research skills and gain more experience of the University’s world-class research environment. During weeks two to six, you’ll be working on your project and you will be supervised by academic staff from our community of world-leading researchers. Further details about the projects on offer can be found in the Projects section of this page.

Depending on the situation in August 2021, we are hoping to conclude the programme with a mini conference in Oxford taking place on Thursday 12 and Friday 13 August. You and your team will write a report on your project and give a short presentation to other UNIQ+ participants at the conference. College accommodation will be provided (see our FAQ: What is a college?), and travel expenses paid. If it is not possible to hold the mini conference in Oxford, it will be delivered remotely.

During the six weeks of the internship, you will be expected to work full-time on the project. You will also be in daily contact with either a DPhil student, post-doctoral researcher or academic supervisor who will support you throughout the programme.

We understand that you may have concerns about applying for a remote internship. If you meet the eligibility criteria, we would encourage you to apply. If you are offered a place on the programme, we will work with you to ensure you have the appropriate support. If need be, this may include help with equipment or workspace.

What does UNIQ+ offer?

Opportunities and benefits of UNIQ+ remote internships

UNIQ+ is a paid internship that will take place remotely. You will receive:

  • a stipend of £2,500 for the six-week programme (due to take place 5 July to 13 August) designed to offset any loss of the opportunity to take up paid employment during the summer; and
  • an application fee waiver for applying to a postgraduate course at Oxford (currently the application fee is £75 per application).

UNIQ+ is designed to:

  • enhance your research skills;
  • enhance your ability to make a competitive application to postgraduate courses;
  • introduce you to leading researchers and staff at the University of Oxford; and
  • offer you information about opportunities for postgraduate study and research careers.

An Oxford experience

UNIQ+ aims to make the real day-to-day experience of graduate study at Oxford more accessible and transparent to you. The University of Oxford is, above everything, a community of talented people passionate about teaching and research. Some of the buildings are centuries old but our community isn’t. UNIQ+ will introduce you to that community and give you the chance to experience some of what Oxford offers its students directly, for yourself.

UNIQ+ supporters

The UNIQ+ programme is supported by, and has been able to expand thanks to a generous donation by Sir Michael Moritz and Ms Harriet Heyman, who also fund the Crankstart Scholarship programme for prospective undergraduate students.

The programme is also supported by: 

  • Participating departments, faculties and institutes within the University of Oxford’s Humanities Division, Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division, Medical Sciences Division and Social Sciences Division;
  • Participating colleges;
  • BBSRC Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership;
  • EPA Cephalosporin Fund; and
  • EPSRC- and MRC-funded Sustainable Approaches to Biomedical Science (SABS) Centre for Doctoral Training.

UNIQ+ internship projects

During weeks two to six of your UNIQ+ internship, you’ll be working on your project and you will be supervised by academic staff from our community of world-leading researchers. Projects will usually involve working together with 2-4 other UNIQ+ students. Available projects are listed and you will be able to choose the three projects you are most interested in working on when you apply. Any entry requirements for the projects are also included – many projects are open to those studying undergraduate degrees in a broad range of subjects.

If you are successful, we will try to match your interests with available projects, but please note that we may not be able to meet your preferences.

Available projects include:

Humanities projects

Humanities project 1
Faculty of Music

Supervisor

Thomas Hodgson (Departmental Lecturer in Music in association with LMH)

Title

Music, Algorithms and Artificial Intelligence

Description

This project explores the intersection of music, creativity and artificial intelligence. ‘Music and AI’ brings together music students with different backgrounds and interests (musicologists, ethnomusicologists, composers, and performers) to learn new digital skills and produce a series of ‘hackathons’ in which new directions in creativity and innovation are explored, both practically and theoretically. The product of these hackathons will be a number of ‘responsive environment’ performances hosted by Oxford’s Music Faculty and Modern Art Oxford (details tbc). Participating students will develop basic skills in computer coding, data gathering, analytics and audio modelling. These skills – and the data developed during initial workshops – will then form the basis of a group project to examine how algorithms and AI are shaping new forms of musical creativity.

Entry requirements

Applicants should be studying for or have recently completed an undergraduate degree in music or related discipline and have an interest in digital music technologies. No prior technical expertise is required though applications are welcomed from students from a music technology/production background.

Humanities project 2
Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages

Supervisors

Henrike Laehnemann (Chair of Medieval German Literature and Linguistics) and Emma Huber (Taylor Institution Library)

Title

History of the Book and Digital Humanities

Description

This project will introduce humanities students to the digital research skills and methods necessary for reading books as cultural objects across different European languages. Students will develop their understanding of how digital technology is transforming the traditional scholarly activities of philology, editing and publishing, and gain insights into how the key research challenges are being addressed by linguists and the Taylor Institution Library. Introductory skills training will encompass core techniques in digitisation, transcription and encoding (TEI) together with principles of data modelling, analysis and visualisation. Students will then apply these skills by working on a collaborative group project based on the Treasures of the Taylorian.

Entry requirements

An undergraduate degree in a relevant humanities discipline (e.g. History, English, Modern Languages, Classics, Linguistics, Theology) and an interest in books as historical objects. No prior technical expertise is required though applications are welcomed from students with interest or experience in digital humanities research.

Social sciences projects

Social sciences project 1
Refugee Economies Programme (Department of International Development)

Supervisor

Alexander Betts (Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs)

Description

The Refugee Economies Programme does research on the economic lives of refugees and their impact on host communities, with a focus on East Africa. The programme undertakes inter-disciplinary mixed methods research and covers economics, political science, and anthropology. The work looks at refugees in cities and camps in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda, including through a longitudinal study of 16,000 refugees and proximate host community members. We explore themes such as refugee entrepreneurship, social cohesion, migration and mobility, the determinants of socio-economic outcomes (including physical and mental health), and the impact of market-based interventions (such as cash-based assistance). The Programme uses participatory research methods and runs a small research hub in Nairobi which trains and mentors refugee researchers. The research is mainly supported by the IKEA Foundation, and engages with business, governments, and NGOs.

The research internship would involve working on the Refugee Economies Dataset, especially on regression analysis or descriptive statistics, mainly using STATA. There is also scope to undertake some qualitative research to assist with ongoing work.

Training

Support for statistical research using STATA.

Entry requirements

An undergraduate degree in a relevant social science discipline (e.g. Economics, Political Science, Sociology, Anthropology) and an interest in refugees and international development. Some background in either quantitative research methods (use of STATA) would be highly desirable but not essential.

Social sciences project 2
Said Business School

Supervisor

Judith C Stroehle (Senior Research Fellow) and Colin Mayer (Peter Moores Professor of Management Studies)

Title

Oxford Rethinking Performance Initiative

Description

The Oxford Rethinking Performance Initiative is a research initiative at the Said Business School which was founded in 2020 and is funded as a consortium through multi-year partnerships with companies and investors. The objective of our project is to work together with our partners to create empirical evidence and conceptual clarity on the question of how business performance can and should be measured to reflect business’ impact on society and the environment. The project focusses on three interconnected research workstreams:

  1. Management and Decision-making (which measures help managers make better decisions?);
  2. Cost-based Accounting (how can traditional accounting methodologies help to facilitate social and environmental goals?); and
  3. Reporting & Stewardship (how can environmental and social performance be part of investor-company interactions?).

In working closely with industry partners and other key stakeholders, the project seeks to create frameworks and measurement methodologies that are useful on a practical level, as well as to create a theoretical and conceptual foundation for a broader and more multidisciplinary research agenda into corporate performance. Ultimately, ORP seeks to empower businesses in enacting their corporate purpose, enabling sustainable and long-term focussed business behaviour to thrive for the benefit of the economy, investors, planet and society.

Training

Fundamentals of qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Entry requirements

An interest in business and sustainable development.

Social sciences project 3
Said Business School

Supervisor

Martin Schmalz (Associate Professor of Finance)

Title

Common Ownership of U.S. Corporations

Description

We scrape and parse data from the SEC to construct the first complete and comprehensive dataset of ownership of U.S. corporations.

Training

Fundamentals of qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Entry requirements

Essential: Strong Python skills and experience of PERL.

Desirable: Prior work on the topic area.

Social sciences project 4
FAME, Said Business School

Supervisor

Renee Adams (Professor of Finance)

Title

Pandemic Governance

Description

According to the Edge Health pressure index, the ability of NHS trusts to meet coronavirus demand varied widely. To isolate dimensions of NHS leadership associated with better responses to the pandemic, we are conducting a detailed analysis of NHS Trust boards. We collected the public board meeting packages of 146 NHS trusts from January to April 2020, including the agendas and all documents discussed at the board. We complement this data with trust board member biographies and NHS administrative data. Our analysis will apply natural language processing techniques to board meeting papers to extract information about boardroom communication about the pandemic. We will use board member biographies to characterize NHS directors’ skill sets.

Our analysis will proceed in two stages. First, we will use regression analyses to examine how boardroom communication and decision-making is related to hospital performance. Then we will use regression analyses to isolate the board and director characteristics that are associated with more effective communication and decision-making. Since COVID-19 has been an unprecedented shock, our dependent variables are unlikely to be endogenous. Nevertheless, we will carefully examine potential threats to causal identification. Preliminary analysis suggests that the number of times COVID-19 is mentioned in board meetings is negatively related to the Edge Health pressure index. This suggests that transparent communication is key to NHS Trust effectiveness. We expect our analysis to provide important insights into how health service governance can be improved. This is essential for ensuring that health services can effectively deliver the services the public expects. Our analysis of boardroom communication will also have implications outside the healthcare sector.

Training

Fundamentals of qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Entry requirements

Desirable: Programming skills, experience of writing research reports and a background in economics.

Social sciences project 5
School of Geography and the Environment

Supervisor

Heather Viles (Professor of Biogeomorphology and Heritage Conservation)

Title

Linking cultural and natural heritage conservation for successful policy implementation

Description

The Oxford Resilient Buildings and Landscapes Laboratory is a small, vibrant and diverse group of scientists and scholars working on a range of projects on heritage around the world. Our research focuses on three themes: how heritage is affected by changes in climate and culture, developing methods to diagnose and monitor change in heritage, and linking conservation of cultural heritage with nature conservation. Many of our projects focus on built heritage, but we also engage with museum collections and archaeological heritage. This internship will focus on supporting Heather Viles’s current work on the third of these themes, with possibilities to also contribute to OxRBL’s ongoing work on the other themes.

The research internship will involve producing and analysing a geodatabase of examples of Nature-based Solutions (or NbS which involve working with nature to address societal challenges, providing benefits for both human well-being and biodiversity) and their application to heritage sites. The database will support advocacy work that Heather Viles is doing for the Climate Heritage Network in preparation for COP26 (UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties to be held in Glasgow, 1- 12 November 2021). The goal of the advocacy work is to show climate policy-makers how important culture and cultural heritage are to successful implementation of policies such as NbS, and in turn to explain to heritage organisations what they can gain from being involved in NbS schemes.

Training

Training will be provided in desk-based research skills, including qualitative data analysis using NVivo, quantitative data analysis, and the production of a geo-referenced database (using GIS software).

Entry requirements

We welcome applicants with any good undergraduate degree, an interest in climate change and heritage, and a willingness to learn and work as part of a diverse, interdisciplinary team.

Medical sciences projects

General prerequisites for applicants

You will need to be studying/have studied an undergraduate degree in a sciences discipline. Any entry requirements for specific projects are provided.

Previous experience of programming/bioinformatics is not required as training will be provided in week 1 to provide you with skills that will be required for your research project. This could include general computational training, and bioinformatics training including programming and data analysis skills. Depending on your project requirements, you might also receive software development and programming training in R, Python and/or MATLAB.

Medical sciences project 1
Department of Psychiatry 

Supervisor

Anya Topiwala (Wellcome Trust CRCD Fellow; Consultant Psychiatrist)

Title

Analysing big data to investigate relationships between alcohol intake and brain health outcomes

Description

You will learn some programming and statistics skills and apply these to real-world data.

Medical sciences project 2
Nuffield Department of Women’s Health

Supervisor

Fadil Hannan (Director of the Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation Oxford Centre for the Endocrinology of Human Lactation)

Title:

Mammary gland cell communication during lactation

Description

The aim is to characterise local signalling factors mediating cell-to-cell communication in the lactating mammary gland. This project will involve analysis of bulk RNA sequencing datasets obtained from the mammary gland during pregnancy and lactation.

Medical sciences project 3
Oxford Vaccine Group (Department of Paediatrics Clinical Vaccine Research and Immunisation Education)

Supervisor

Irina Chelysheva (Medical Bioinformatician)

Title

T-cell receptor repertoire analysis from bulk RNA-seq data

Description

Two different vaccines against Salmonella Typhi have been studied within human clinical trial involving the vaccination and subsequent challenge with Salmonella Typhi. Bulk RNA-sequencing have been performed on the whole blood samples collected from the participants of the trial at various time points. The aim of this project is to analyse the clonal expansion and T-cell receptor repertoire shaping in participants following the vaccination and challenge using RNA-sequencing data.

Medical sciences project 4 
Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences

Supervisor

Holly Bridge (Professor of Neuroscience)

Projects could include

  • Comparing virtual reality visual performance with computer-based tests of blindsight function in patients with hemianopia
  • Linking fMRI activation to visual stimulation with blindsight performance in patients with hemianopia
  • Changes in resting state functional connectivity in the visual system due to inherited retinal disease

Medical sciences project 5
Department of Experimental Psychology

Supervisor

Manuel Spitschan (University Research Lecturer, Sir Henry Wellcome Fellow, Biomedical Sciences Junior Research Fellow)

Title

Actigraphy and light measurement data sets

Description

This project will look at large-scale data sets to understand the relationship of light exposure, circadian rhythms, sleep and mental health.

Medical sciences project 6
Nuffield Department of Primary Health Care

Supervisor

Diana Withrow (Medical Statistician/Epidemiologist)

Description

Gynaecological malignancies share symptoms with less severe diagnoses and this non-specific presentation may lead to diagnostic delays. While the diagnostic interval has been characterized for more common cancer types (e.g., ovarian, cervix), it is unknown whether women with more rare tumours (e.g., vulval) experience diagnostic delay and if so, what consequences might occur as a result. In this project, the student will use primary care data to explore the diagnostic pathway of vulval cancer in the UK.

Medical sciences project 7
Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences

Supervisor

Paula Dhiman (Postdoctoral Researcher in Meta Research)

Title

UK EQUATOR Centre

Description

The UK EQUATOR Centre within the Centre for Statistics in Medicine is a team of statisticians and meta-researchers involved with many research studies looking at how medical research is done, how well it is reported in the published literature, and how it can be done better. They conduct many of methodological research studies, including systematic reviews and surveys. One example is the evaluation of the use of artificial intelligence in cancer. We also work with other researchers and clinicians in designing and conducting their studies.

We invite a UNIQ+ student to work with us on our ongoing research studies to gain experience and insight into all steps of doing and evaluating medical research studies; from working with us to formulate research questions, design medical research studies, learn and improve how to code using specialised statistical analysis software, analyse data and help disseminate research through contributing to writing a research article. Which studies students are involved with will depend on their interests, but are most likely to include systematic reviews, methodological reviews, or prediction modelling.

Medical sciences project 8
Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics

Supervisor

Alexandra Martin-Geary (Postdoctoral Bioinformatician)

Title

Using computational methods to investigate the links between PAX6 gene variants and their role in splicing

Description

We aim to give you a good introduction to some of the main methods used to identify and interpret potentially disease causing genetic variation. During your time with us you will learn some programming and how to use a selection of the major tools used in computational rare disease analysis. You will also get to experience what life is like in a lab environment where the ethos is built around kindness and a shared drive to shed light on the underlying causes of rare human disease (https://www.whiffinlab.org).

Medical sciences project 9
Department of Paediatrics

Supervisor

Yulia Lomonosova (Postdoctoral Research Scientist)

Description

The project will be carried out in the Prof. Matthew Wood laboratory, Department of Paediatrics, a world class pioneer of antisense oligonucleotides (ASO) therapy for neuromuscular disorders such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and spinal muscle atrophy (SMA). DMD is caused by mutations in the DMD gene, which encodes sarcolemmal protein dystrophin. Dystrophin, a very large scaffolding protein, associated with other proteins forms the dystrophin-associated glycoprotein complex (DAGC). Disruption of the sarcolemma is a key event that precedes many of the downstream molecular and cellular pathologies occurring not only in DMD but also in sarcoglycano-, dysferlino-, and dystroglycanopathies. Since macromolecular assembling involves membrane proteins serving vital biological roles and are prime drug targets in a variety of diseases, characterization of the sarcolemma in affected muscle has the potential to identify novel drivers of disease and putative therapeutic targets.

We aim, for the first time, to utilise state-of-the-art high resolution quantitative proteomics, to profile the protein content of the disrupted sarcolemma including combination with newly designed ASO-based compounds. We will provide extensive and profound bioinformatic analysis of protein complexes of the sarcolemma revealing the most disrupted ones. Validation of the most valuable targets in terms of therapeutics will be carried out as well. In summary, the research will assure not only novel targets for therapy for a broad range of neuromuscular disorders but also elucidate both function of the DAGC proteins and upstream of biological processes in skeletal muscle.

Medical sciences project 10
Oxford Vaccine Group (Department of Paediatrics Clinical Vaccine Research and Immunisation Education)

Supervisor

Daniel O'Connor (Postdoctoral Researcher)

Title

Elucidating the genetic determinants of vaccine responses: bridging the gap from genome-wide association to mechanistic insight

Description

Using methods such as fine-mapping, SNP enrichment and colocalization approaches, polygenic risk scores (PRS), Mendelian randomisation and transcriptome-wide association studies to explore the genetic determinants of vaccines responses.

Medical sciences project 11
Nuffield Department of Medicine

Supervisor

Frank von Delft (Professor of Structural Chemical Biology)/Ruben Sanchez-Garcia 

Description

The project consists in the implementation and/or evaluation of different metrics for the evaluation of enumerated compounds in the context of virtual screenings for drug development. The final goal of the project would be to integrate those metrics in Fragalysis.

Entry requirements

Familiarity with UNIX systems.

Medical sciences project 12
Sir William Dunn School of Pathology/Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP 

Supervisor

Jordan Raff (César Milstein Professor of Molecular Cancer Biology)

Title

Image Analysis to understand organelle assembly

Description

Cells are the basic building blocks of life. The inside of a cell is crowded with many different organelles—little “machines” that perform specific functions within the cell. For example, cells typically contain hundreds of mitochondria that produce energy. When cells grow and divide (which they do a lot—20-30 billion cells divide every day in a typical human) they must double the amount of each organelle prior to cell division—so that the two cells formed after division inherit the right amount of each organelle. We do not understand how cells “know” how to make the right amount of each organelle before they divide. Centrioles are tiny organelles that help organise cells. Disrupting their function can lead to human diseases such as cancer and obesity. Centrioles are a great system for studying how cells make the right amount of an organelle because cells are born with just two centrioles (called mothers) and before the cell divides each mother gives birth to precisely one daughter (that grows off the side of each mother). In this project we will be analysing images of growing centrioles to see if we can figure out how they grow to the right size.

Entry requirements

An interest in Biology, imaging or computing.

Medical sciences project 13
Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology

Supervisor

Han Lim (Research Fellow)

Title

Deep learning in 3-D medical image alignment

Description

Our lab has developed a deep learning method capable of aligning any two volumes which have arbitrary starting orientations. This method, D-net, implemented in Python, was developed to align pre-clinical (small animal models) CT scans of pre- and post- contrasted cartilage, where the orientation of the data is not as uniform as in clinical scans. This project aims to further explore possibility to use this method in longitudinal setup (potentially beyond small animal models), therefore requires investigation on different position representations (e. g. rotation representations) and more complex transformation representations (e. g. affine, and deformable) to accommodate significant changes of tissue over time. The project therefore aims to: (1) Investigate different rotation representation in accuracy of results, (2) Explore new applications using different transformation models such as affine registration for inter-subject alignment of CT volumes (e. g. to build statistic shape model) and (3) Investigate  different settings of mutual non-local block used in D-Net.

Entry requirements

Coding (preferably Python, with tensorflow) and Maths (linear algebra and multivariate calculus). 

Medical sciences project 14
Nuffield Department of Population Health

Supervisor

Christiana Kartsonaki (Senior Statistician at CTSU)

Description

Several projects are possible broadly related to cancer epidemiology.

Mathematical, physical and life sciences projects

General prerequisites for applicants

You will need to be studying/have studied an undergraduate degree in a sciences discipline. Any entry requirements for specific projects are provided.

Training will be provided in week 1 to provide you with skills that will be required for your research project. This could include general computational training, and bioinformatics training including programming and data analysis skills. Depending on your project requirements, you might also receive software development and programming training in R, Python and/or MATLAB.

Mathematical, physical and life sciences project 1
Mathematical Institute

Supervisor

Benjamin Fehrman (Research Fellow)

Title

Randomized algorithms in machine learning

Description

Machine learning has found diverse applications in artificial intelligence technologies, such as the development of voice and image recognition to automated vehicles. Such techniques provide a systematic way of isolating patterns in high-dimensional data sets through the training of artificial neural networks. However, due to the sheer size and scope of modern data, it is often infeasible to train the network with respect to the entire data set at once. Instead we optimize at each step over random samples of the data, which leads to randomized algorithms in machine learning. The most common of these is stochastic gradient descent

The purpose of this project will be to provide a twofold introduction to randomized algorithms in machine learning. First, we will develop the probabilistic background necessary for the analysis of randomized algorithms in machine learning. We will begin by analysing stochastic gradient in simple, convex settings, and we will show optimal rates for its convergence. For instance, following the paper: https://arxiv.org/abs/1803.08600. We will discuss the loss landscape in deep learning: https://arxiv.org/abs/1712.04741. And finally, we will cover algorithms that are designed to treat the degeneracies in the loss landscape. For instance, https://arxiv.org/abs/1904.01517. This mathematical analysis will be the primary focus of the project.

Secondary, based on the text Deep Learning with Python by Francois Chollet, we will gain experience implementing real machine learning algorithms. We will learn how to compute over and optimize artificial neural networks, which will give a better appreciation for the mathematical difficulties inherent to machine learning. Indeed, there remains no complete theoretical explanation for the extraordinary success of machine learning techniques in practice.

Mathematical, physical and life Sciences project 2
Mathematical Institute

Supervisor

Kyle Pratt (Postdoctoral Researcher)

Title

Investigating the size of Riemann zeta function

Description

The Riemann zeta function is of fundamental importance in number theory, but there is much still unknown about the zeta function and its properties. This project proposes to investigate the size of zeta function in the "critical strip," the region in the complex plane where the behaviour of the zeta function is most important and least understood. These investigations will be both theoretical and computational. We will aim to prove new bounds towards the size of the zeta function and perform numerical computations to check agreement (or disagreement!) with some conjectures.

Entry requirements

Desirable: Some experience with computer programming.

Mathematical, physical and life sciences project 3
Mathematical Institute

Supervisor

Mehdi Yazdi (Research Fellow)

Title

Special Algebraic Integers in Dynamics

Description

The project aims to study special algebraic integers that naturally arise in dynamics, sometimes as rate of expansion or entropy of systems. The starting point here is the Perron-Frobenius theorem, which implies that the largest eigenvalue of a positive integral matrix is a Perron algebraic integer. The students become familiar with the Perron-Frobenius theorem as well as Lind's converse to the integer Perron-Frobenius theorem. Then we study expansion constants of self-similar sets through the work of Thurston, Kenyon, et al. With this perspective, Lind's theorem classifies expansion constants of 1-dimensional self-similar tilings. The students can try to build new examples of self-similar tilings and the associated expansion constants.

Entry requirements

Essential: A good understanding of linear algebra, elementary number theory (algebraic integers, minimal polynomials), and basic topology. 

Desirable: Familiarity with dynamics and with number theory (numbers fields, their ring of integers, lattices).

Mathematical, physical and life Sciences project 4
Mathematical Institute

Supervisor

Aden Forrow (Research Fellow)

Title:

Robustness of misspecified equation learning

Description

Modern mathematical biology has an unprecedented opportunity to learn from huge quantities of data. From data, we seek to learn the underlying equations, often differential equations, that describe each system's behaviour. Traditionally, models would be derived by hand based on carefully considered biological principles. More recent approaches automate the equation learning process starting from an assumption of sparsity in the governing equations.

A key challenge for these tools is how to handle noisy data and model misspecification. In this project we'll investigate the performance of equation learning algorithms in cases where either the generative model or the noise does not match the assumptions underlying the algorithm. These robustness checks can then inform the design of more widely applicable tools. Students would begin by replicating published results before extending to new evaluations and having the opportunity to test their own ideas for equation learning algorithms.

Entry requirements

Multivariable calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra.

Mathematical, physical and life sciences project 5
Mathematical Institute

Primary supervisor

Matthew Moore (Affiliate Research; Darby Fellow in Applied Mathematics, Lincoln College)

Title

The effect of different evaporation laws on the 'coffee ring' effect

Description

A familiar sight to anyone who has ever spilled their tea or coffee onto a table, a 'coffee ring' is the circular deposit left behind when a liquid droplet containing a solute (e.g. coffee) evaporates from a surface. As the drop dries, its boundary remains pinned, so to conserve mass, a radial flow develops inside the drop, driving the solute to the boundary, forming the ring. This effect can be exploited in the laboratory and industry, for example using the radial flow to align molecules to aid DNA mapping or to produce particular designs in spray-coating and printing.

One of the factors we can control in these laboratory settings is the dominant evaporative law. The aim of this project is to investigate how different evaporation rates alter the dynamics of coffee-ring formation. We will begin by looking at the simplest case where solute advection dominates diffusion within the drop, but will then investigate the effect of bringing in a weak diffusion term in the model. How will the choice of evaporative law effect the height and width of the coffee ring? Can we suppress it entirely?

Entry requirements

Essential: Analysis and solution of ODEs and PDEs (e.g. method of characteristics, asymptotic analysis).

Desirable: Fluid dynamics (of particular help would be lubrication theory); numerical solution of DEs.

Mathematical, physical and life sciences project 6
Mathematical Institute

Supervisor

James Foster (Postdoctoral Researcher)

Title

Investigating numerical methods for stochastic simulation

Description

Stochastic differential equations (SDEs) are a natural extension of ordinary differential equations (ODEs) that can model systems evolving in continuous time with some degree of uncertainty. In particular, SDEs have been used for modelling financial derivatives, particle systems, population dynamics and for sampling from high-dimensional distributions.

Despite these widespread applications, SDEs are difficult to accurately simulate and many SDE algorithms are still based on Euler’s method. On the other hand, ODE solvers (which have been developed over 120 years) can achieve much higher rates of convergence. To bridge this gap, there have been several recent papers exploring ways to reduce SDEs to (random) ODEs.

In this project, the aim would be for students to:

  1. Learn about SDEs, ODEs and their numerical approximations;
  2. Implement numerical methods for a “real-world” SDE in their preferred programming language; and
  3. Investigate potential improvements to current state-of-the-art methodologies.

Due to the variety of SDEs in the literature, it should be straightforward to have multiple students involved with this project. Moreover, the research itself can be somewhat tailored to the students interests. For example, students with experience in machine learning or optimization could experiment with methods for “Stochastic Gradient Langevin Dynamics”.

Entry requirements

Essential: Familiarity with topics in mathematical analysis.

Desirable: Experience in probability theory and/or numerical analysis.

Mathematical, physical and life sciences project 7
Department of Statistics

Supervisor

Jotun Hein (Professor of Mathematics)

Title

Computational Biology - StatML 2020 Recombination in COVID-19 by KWARG   

Description

Reconstructing histories of homologous sequences that has evolved experiencing mutations and recombination is very useful in analysing viral genomes and genomic sequences. Minimizing a weighted sum of recombination events and mutations is not a statistical approach but simulations have shown it can infer crucial parts (such as the local trees in each position) well. This optimisation problem has a long history going back to at least Hudson and Kaplan (1985). It is a generalisation of the traditional parsimony problem that is known to be hard and until about 2004 there was no software that could give solutions to this problem for even small data sets. Song and Hein (2004) published methods that could do this for small but still interesting data sets. Lyngsø, Song and Hein (2006) published a radically different algorithm based on Branch and Bound that often could analyse considerably larger data sets and implemented in the program Beagle. However, large genomic data remained out of reach. Later a heuristic method - KWARG - was developed. KWARG gave up on guaranteed optimality and could analyse radically larger data sets. KWARG also includes gene conversion if defined as two simultaneous recombinations, which is important in real data analysis.

KWARG has during 2020 been developed into KKWARG that is easy to run and includes sequencing errors and multiple substitutions as basic events. Thus KKWARG is more certain that what it declares recombinations are real. KKWARG must be the best program presently for reconstructing minimal histories of sequences.

There are many open probabilistic questions relating to a few recombination and mutations whose answer would pave the way for a better understanding of the relationship between reconstructed and actually occurring recombination events.

It could be of interest to apply existing algorithms to COVID-19 sequences and map recombination events. Data sets will grown enormously in the months and there will computational challenges. Significance can assessed by simulation by applying KWARG. It is fully legitimate to take out subsets of COVID genomes if the full amount of data has grown out of hand.

There are many open questions in this: KKWARG might be accelerated, there are very different models that could be used for simulation and there are also more statistical methods for inferring recombination rates like Dialdestoro et al. (2016). Could we include gene conversion as basic event? Could we come up with probability arguments from the coalescent process with a given substitution process, that parallel/convergent events are very unlikely? The latter suggestion would be much faster than simulation.

Entry requirements

Maths/Physics/Computer Science. Experience of programming.

Mathematical, physical and life sciences project 8
Department of Statistics

Supervisor

Jotun Hein (Professor of Mathematics)

Title

Computational Biology - Calculating the likelihood of a set of PINs related by a phylogeny

Description

The experimental techniques that allowed detection of protein complexes were established in the late 90s and quickly produced large amount of protein interaction (PIN) data. PIN data is extremely interesting as they make statements about which protein groups work together in for instance multimers. However, the data is noisy and dependent on the experimental conditions and techniques used. Additionally, a true observation between two proteins is not easily translated into a functional statement. This has made the PINs the object of much study and modelling. PINs are also fascinating for modellers as they represent the ideal graph – labelled nodes and standard edges – to apply stochastic modelling to. There are stochastic models for graphs that described the probability of each graph and models have been developed describing the evolution of such graphs over time. Because of experimental noise and the difficulty of interpreting an interaction as functional, it is important to compare PINs from related species to see how conserved interactions are. Proper evolutionary models and phylogenetic methods additionally allow the inference of ancestral PINs.

A series of models have been proposed that allow PINs to evolve over time. The first duplication-reattachment model was proposed by Wagner (2001). Wiuf et al. (2006) calculated the likelihood of a single PIN under this model. A natural extension of this would be to calculate the likelihood of a set of PINs related by a phylogeny using MCMC. This is computationally hard demanding. It should be investigated on simulated data and real data sets. It will be an issue that PINs from different species should have their individual noise parameter.

Entry requirements

Maths/Physics/Computer Science. Experience of programming.

Mathematical, physical and life sciences project 9
Department of Statistics

Supervisor

Garrett Morris (Associate Professor of Systems Approaches to Biomedicine, Deputy Director of Graduate Studies - Co-Director of the EPSRC & MRC Systems Approaches to Biomedical Science Centre for Doctoral Training and EPSRC & MRC Sustainable Approaches to Biomedical Science)

Title

Understanding SARS-CoV-2 Main Protease Inhibition Using Machine Learning

Description

COVID-19 has emerged as global pandemic affecting billions of people. While we have some vaccines already approved, we lack drugs that specifically target SARS-CoV-2. The main protease, Mpro (also known as the 3-chymotrypsin-like protease, or 3CLpro), is a perfect drug target: it is essential in the viral life cycle, helping newly replicated viruses to mature; and there is no similar target in humans. The main protease, as its name suggests, does most of the cutting of the viral polyprotein, cleaving at no less than 11 sites. Thanks to the work of collaborators at Diamond Light Source, Oxford, Bristol, and the COVID Moonshot project, we now have many structures of Mpro with inhibitors, and bioassay data about how potently they inhibit Mpro. You will work on developing novel machine learning models to predict the activity of new inhibitors, using this structural and activity data, thus helping to prioritize which compounds to make next, and accelerate anti-COVID drug discovery.

Entry requirements

Essential: Understanding how to program, especially C or Python.

Desirable: A degree in the areas of applied machine learning/AI, cheminformatics, chemistry/biochemistry, or drug discovery.

Mathematical, physical and life sciences project 10
Department of Engineering Science

Supervisor

James Kwan (Associate Professor of Engineering Science)

Title

Design an ultrasound emitting catheter to deliver drug-eluting microparticles to the peripheral artery

Description

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is the narrowing of blood vessels due to plaque build-up. This disease predominantly affects the ageing population, causing serious pain, reduced mobility, ulceration, and limb amputation. For many, angioplasty and stenting are applied with limited success in long-term arterial opening due to re-occlusion of the vessels. This has been recognized as the key bottleneck for the treatment of PAD. To prevent re-occlusion, drugs are added to either the stent or the balloon used in angioplasty but with little success. Thus, there remains a surprisingly growing population that present with restenosis leading to amputation. We have recently shown that intravascular shockwaves deliver and implant sound-responsive drug-loaded particles into the artery for the treatment of PAD. Once delivered, these particles reside in the artery, slowly and locally releasing sirolimus (a well-known anti-restenotic agent) at the lesion site. However, the shockwave catheter devices were off-the-shelf medical devices not intended to be used for this purpose, i.e., delivering drug-eluting microparticles. Therefore, this project aims to design a bespoke drug delivery catheter using ultrasound as opposed to shockwaves using modelling and simulations of acoustic wave propagation. The work conducted here will lead to the development of a prototype device.

Entry requirements

Essential: Engineering, physics, biomedical engineering degree.

Desirable: Some experience in acoustics.

Mathematical, physical and life sciences project 11
Department of Materials

Supervisor

James Marrow (Associate Head of Department of Materials and James Martin Professor of Energy Materials)

Title

Investigation of stress and strain partitioning in duplex stainless steel, using high resolution electron backscatter diffraction

Description

Duplex stainless steels are corrosion resistant structural alloys. They generally have excellent mechanical properties, but these can be degraded by thermal aging and in some environments (hydrogen embrittlement). Strain and stress partitioning between the dominant phases of duplex stainless steels (ferrite and austenite, which have different strength and strain hardening behaviour) are known to occur, and this affects the general relationship between strain and flow stress. However, no high-resolution studies have yet been done of the local interactions that may lead to local damage and affect the ductility and toughness. The data analysis will quantify the relationships between grain orientations, elastic strains and plastic strains (inferred dislocation densities), which have been measured by high resolution electron backscatter diffraction and secondary electron imaging while straining an age-hardened duplex stainless steel in tension (an in situ experiment) within an electron microscope. The aim is also to use image analysis to investigate the deformation of individual grains and relates this to the heterogeneous distribution of deformation.

Entry requirements

Essential: Materials, Engineering, Physics degree.

Desirable: Prior experience with use of data analysis tools such as Matlab/Python

Mathematical, physical and life sciences project 12
Department of Plant Sciences/Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP

Supervisor

Gail Preston (Programme Director, Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP)

Title

Genomic analysis of virulence mechanisms in the plant pathogen Pseudomonas syringae

Description

The plant pathogenic bacterium Pseudomonas syringae infects a wide range of plants and has been used as a model organism to understand the biology of plant disease. The genomes of numerous strains of P. syringae have been sequenced and molecular genetic studies have elucidated many aspects of this pathogen's interaction with its host plants. In our recent work we have been studying the interactions of P. syringae with two unusual plants that exhibit the ability to accumulate metal ions. One of these is the metal hyperaccumulating plant Noccaea caerulescens, which is capable of accumulating zinc, nickel and cadmium. A second is the crop plant Chenopodium quinoa (quinoa) a salt-tolerant and salt-accumulating plant that is of increasing importance for food security. We are particularly interested in understanding how the physiological adaptation of these plants to high metal or high salt environments has affected their interactions with plant pathogenic microorganisms. We have generated genome sequence data for a number of strains of P. syringae that are capable of infecting Noccaea or quinoa. The aim of this project will be to apply bioinformatics approaches to identify potential virulence genes in these strains and to investigate the attributes that allow these bacteria to infect these distinctive plants.

Mathematical, physical and life sciences project 13
Department of Plant Sciences/Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP

Supervisor

Jane Langdale (Research Fellow)

Title

Analysis of Gene Networks Regulating Photosynthetic Development

Description

Appropriate function of any biological process is achieved through tight control of the transcription of genes involved in a particular pathway. Understanding how enzymes, transcription factors or other proteins act together is fundamental to elucidate biological processes and to understand how they integrate in a whole organism context. Additionally, comparisons between species can highlight important differences acquired along the evolutionary trajectory. Photomorphogenesis is the developmental differentiation of plants in response to light exposure. This includes the differentiation of chloroplasts, accumulation of photosynthetic pigments and activation of photosynthetic enzymes. GOLDEN2-like (GLK) transcription factors are master regulators of photomorphogenesis. In C4 plants, where photosynthesis is spatially separated between two different cell types, transcripts of two GLK genes accumulate differentially in the two cell types, suggesting a sub-functionalisation that is not observed in C3 plants, where photosynthesis occurs in a single cell type. Other genes are involved in the transcriptional regulation of photosynthetic genes, however, how their function coordinates with GLK transcriptional activation of photomorphogenesis is not fully understood. The goal of this project is to build gene networks from C3 and C4 species to understand how genes involved in photomorphogenesis interact with each other.

Entry requirements

Molecular Biology

Mathematical, physical and life sciences project 14
Department of Materials

Supervisor

Angus Wilkinson (Joint Head of Department, Professor of Materials)

Title

Dwell Fatigue Failure in Titanium Aero-engines

Description

The high-profile failures of the Comet jetliners in the 1950s ensured that measures to understand and mitigate against future fatigue failures were essential to the aerospace industry. As materials are pushed to deliver greater performance their responses to cyclic loading remains critical to delivering structural integrity [1]. In some Ti alloys it is known that sustained hold periods at the peaks of applied load-unload cycles causes a marked (up to ten-fold) decrease in the fatigue lifetime [2]. This failure mode is complicated and poorly understood and was implicated in recent Air France Flight 66 incident (September 2017) in which the fan section at the front of one of four Engine Alliance GP7270 engines failed catastrophically [1]. Amazingly none of the 521 passengers and crew were injured. The Oxford Micromechanics Group have been working on the science underpinning cold dwell fatigue in Ti alloys [3]. This project will contribute to (i) analysis of synchrotron x-ray diffraction data (already collected) from Ti-6Al-4V alloy sample deformed in-situ in ‘stress relaxation’ experiments, (ii) simulating the deformation response using existing computational models to match observed experimental results and extract key mechanical properties parameters, (iii) use the simulations to explore various ‘what if’ scenarios linking microstructural features in the model to mechanical responses. Background and results to be pulled together into webpage(s)to be hosted on OMG website.

Entry requirements

Desirable: Some basic knowledge of deformation and microstructure as might be covered in undergraduate degrees in for example Materials Science, Engineering or Physics.

Mathematical, physical and life sciences project 15
Department of Plant Sciences/Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP

Supervisor

Robert Scotland (Professor of Systematic Botany)

Title

Systematic studies of Ipomoea

Description

Several species that are crop wild relatives of sweet potato need further study. This short project will provide basic training in how to infer and build phylogenetic trees using molecular sequence data to answer some basic questions about these species.

Mathematical, physical and life sciences project 16
Department of Zoology

Supervisors

Stuart West (Professor of Evolutionary Biology)/ Laurence Belcher (Postdoctoral Researcher)

Title

Signatures of selection on cheating

Description

Many infecting pathogens rely on social traits to survive and thrive, including the production of extracellular molecules that help them scavenge for nutrients within their hosts. This is a form of cooperation – where individuals pay a cost to produce a trait that benefits the whole group. Such cooperation is however vulnerable to cheats, who don’t contribute to a social trait, but still reap the benefits from the cooperation of others. These cheats can outcompete cooperators and spread rapidly within a population. The potential for cheating raises the interesting possibility of using a ‘Trojan Horse’ approach in medicine. The basic idea is that you can introduce a cheat into an infection, and it might outcompete cooperators. The cheat can be engineered to contain traits that are clinically useful to us, like susceptibility to antibiotics, making the cheat a vehicle for manipulating infections and making them easier to treat. In order to know if such an approach is likely to work, we need to understand how cheating and resistance to cheating evolves. In this project you will learn the bioinformatics tools that allow us to analyse DNA sequence data, and the molecular genetics tools that allow us to detect the traces of natural selection that are left in genomes. The main aim is to assess how cheating evolves in pathogens, with the goal of informing research into the likely success of possible Trojan horse approaches in evolutionary medicine.

Entry requirements

Degree related to biology. No prior experience in any of the techniques is required.

Mathematical, physical and life sciences project 17
Department of Zoology

Supervisor

Kayla King (Professor of Evolutionary Ecology)

Title

Vector-borne agents: what are the consequences for the vector host?

Description

Vector-borne agents infect multiple host species and are thus exposed to complex and varied arenas of selection. Many plant and animal hosts infected by vector-borne agents suffer severe negative consequences. However, for the vector species the cost of infection is assumed to be much lower. Theory predicts that in order to maintain a mobile carrier, vector-borne agents will be selected for low virulence, or even beneficial phenotypes, in the vector host. Yet the extent to which this effect is observed across systems remains unknown. Using published data from a diverse range of systems, this project looks to quantify the overall effect of vector-borne agents on the fitness of the vector species via a meta-analysis. It will further explore the role of key traits of each player (the vector-borne agent, the vector & the diseased host) in mediating an effect.

Entry requirements

Biostatistics, proficient in R.

Mathematical, physical and life sciences project 18
Department of Zoology

Supervisors

Stuart West (Professor of Evolutionary Biology)/Asher Leeks (Graduate Student, West Group)

Title

Visualising defective interfering viruses

Description

All living things are parasitised by viruses, but viruses also have their own parasites. Defective interfering genomes are variants of a virus that have lost key genes, and spread by exploiting copies of those genes encoded by the wild-type virus. Defective interfering genomes can spread rapidly at the expense of the wild-type virus population, and so their presence could lead to less severe disease outcomes, and they could potentially be harnessed for use as antiviral therapeutics. We have recently discovered that defective interfering genomes are present in Covid-19, influenza, and other viral infections. In this project, you would join our efforts to describe and explore these defective interfering genomes, by writing computer software that extracts important information about them. The first goal would be to visualise how their genome sequences differ from the wild-type viral genome. After that, you could choose which aspects of defective interfering genomes to explore in more detail, depending on your own interests. Your work would contribute to our efforts to investigate defective interfering genomes in clinically important pathogens, and the goal would be to publish your work as a software package that other researchers could use.

Mathematical, physical and life sciences project 19
Department of Zoology

Supervisor

EJ Milner Gulland (Tasso Leventis Professor of Biodiversity)

Title

Quantifying and reducing the biodiversity impact of our food

Description

The biodiversity impact of food is a hot topic, and yet it's hard for individuals to know how their food choices impact on biodiversity - and where in the world. For example, a lot of attention is given to red meat and dairy because of its climate change impacts. Unfortunately (for many vegans and vegetarians!), when you look at biodiversity impacts, other foodstuffs also become very damaging - particularly chocolate, cakes, tea and coffee. This is because their constituents are grown in biodiversity-rich areas. Our team at Oxford has been quantifying the biodiversity impacts of food purchasing at an institutional level, and thinking about mitigation measures that can be taken, within a framework called the Mitigation and Conservation Hierarchy. In this project, you will take this thinking, and extend it so that it could be used by an individual who wants to reduce the biodiversity impact of their food choices. You will combine the biodiversity impact measure with estimates of the cost of switching to lower-impact alternatives, and put these together in a user-friendly way that would enable someone to see the biodiversity impact of a menu or shopping list - and see what (and how much) additional biodiversity remediation action they need to contribute to if they would like to reach a target such as "biodiversity neutrality" of their food. This work would feed into our longer-term aim of producing an app that would allow anyone to track and reduce their biodiversity impacts, and link to our ongoing work on this topic.

Mathematical, physical and life sciences project 20
Department of Zoology

Supervisor

Roberto Salguero-Gomez (Associate Professor in Ecology)

Title

The drivers of plant parasitism

Description

Parasites (organisms that extract resources from others, affecting their hosts negatively) are pervasive across the Tree of Life. The Plant Kingdom is no exception, with examples scattered across all of the biomes where plants can be found. Parasitic plants affect the productivity of their hosts, and are able to kill them in some cases. However, parasites can also bring positive effects to their habitats. In the case of mistletoes (plants that parasitise trees, taking their water and nutrients), positive contributions towards their ecosystem have been reported, including fruit availability for birds, and fertilisation of the soil around the host via the shedding of leaves, which have high nutrient concentration. This project will take advantage of already collected photographic and drone footage data of mistletoes around the city of Oxford to determine to examine the drivers of mistletoe presence/absence as well as size of their populations in host trees. Examples include proximity to water bodies (important to the birds that disperse mistletoe berries), host height (important for bird perching), bark type (important for the mistletoe seedling to penetrate the wood of the host), etc.

Entry requirements

Knowledge in biology, and understanding of quantitative methods and image analysis.

Mathematical, physical and life sciences project 21
Department of Zoology

Supervisor

Liam Shaw (Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow)

Title

Using published bacterial plasmids to investigate the spread of antimicrobial resistance genes

Description

Plasmids are extrachromosomal DNA structures. They play an important role in the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) genes by horizontal gene transfer between cells. However, there is still much to understand about how AMR genes move between different plasmid backgrounds. This project would use an existing database of >25,000 published bacterial plasmids (PLSDB) to investigate AMR gene patterns. One important agent of AMR gene movement is the insertion sequence IS26. This extremely active insertion sequence is frequently involved in the transfer of AMR genes. However, to date there is no comprehensive analysis of its role in different plasmid backgrounds. This project would focus on IS26 to try and comprehensively describe patterns of its linkage with AMR genes.

Aims:

  1. Describe patterns of AMR gene co-occurrence.
  2. Explore links between AMR gene presence and insertion sequences (ISs), in particular IS26.
  3. Analyse AMR gene and IS co-occurrence, controlling for factors such as the overall genetic similarity of plasmids, the phylogenetic relatedness of their host species, and niche overlap.

Entry requirements

Essential: An interest in bacterial genomics and coding.

Desirable: Some previous experience in statistics.

Mathematical, physical and life sciences project 22
Department of Zoology

Supervisors

Tim Baraclough (Professor of Evolutionary Biology)/ Dina Hatem Amin

Title

Genome Mining of Antibiotic Pathway Genes in Actinobacteria

Description

Actinobacteria are known for their prolific production of secondary metabolites, particularly in human antibiotics. Knowledge about the diversity, phylogeny, and distribution patterns of antibiotic pathway genes in Actinobacteria is crucial for drug development and targeting the most prolific producer strains. Genome mining for antibiotic pathway genes is a complementary approach to discovering novel pharmaceutical compounds from microbes. The most common antibiotic pathway genes in Actinobacteria are non-ribosomal peptide synthetases and peptide synthases. In this internship, we aim to teach students the power of bacterial genomics through mining several Actinobacteria genomes for antibiotic pathway genes. It also provides an entry point for individuals with a biology background to work on bioinformatics analysis of bacterial genome data and answer their research questions.

Entry requirements

Knowledge of basic genetics.

UNIQ+ Digital

UNIQ+ Digital is a flexible and fully online programme of events, mentoring and digital content, offered in two parts.

To get the most out of UNIQ+ Digital, we recommend that you allow about 2-4 hours per week over the summer, and up to 1-2 hours per week from September to October. Your mentors will arrange times with you that work with your schedule. If you miss a live event or want to see it again, you’ll be able to watch it on catch-up at any time. You’ll need an internet-connected device to join events and to use our digital course content.

UNIQ+ Digital is a selective course and a great addition to your CV. You’ll be able to get involved with the University’s research community, find out more about whether a PhD or DPhil (our name for the PhD) is right for you, and get direct support in making postgraduate applications.

Please note that UNIQ+ Digital is not a paid opportunity. 

July to August

Over the summer, you’ll find out more about what postgraduate research study is like and meet our staff and student community, virtually.

After our digital welcome events, you’ll be matched with a DPhil student mentor and an academic staff mentor from your subject area. You’ll meet with your mentors over three sessions, two with your student mentor and one with your academic mentor, to find out what they do at Oxford and ask any questions you have.

UNIQ+ Digital will also offer interdisciplinary academic events, where you’ll be able to meet with our students, staff and other UNIQ+ Digital participants to discuss some of the most pressing global challenges and hear from our world-leading community of experts. You’ll also be invited to live events to hear from our community on the postgraduate research experience, from starting a DPhil as a first-generation student, to how to decide whether postgraduate research is the right career step for you.

September to October

From September, we’ll support you in applying for postgraduate study, whether at Oxford or elsewhere.

We’ll help you understand your course and funding options, and offer advice on approaching supervisors and writing your proposal or statement.

You’ll meet with your academic mentor again, and have two more meetings with your student mentor to talk over your options and any applications you’re considering. If it works better for all of you, mentoring sessions might be scheduled later on, up until November.

You’ll also be offered a mock interview with your student mentor, so you can get practice with and feedback on making the most of your experience and communicating your interests.

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible for UNIQ+, you will need to ensure that you meet the criteria listed below.

You don’t have to be studying at the University of Oxford to be eligible. You may apply to all three programmes (UNIQ+ internships, UNIQ+ Digital and Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarships) if you wish and you only need to submit one application. However, your application will only be considered for programmes where you meet the eligibility criteria.

Eligibility criteria for the Wellcome BVS Scholarships at Oxford can be found on the Wellcome BVS at Oxford programme page. 

To be eligible for UNIQ+ and UNIQ+ Digital you must:

  1. be ordinarily resident in the UK without any restrictions on how long you can stay. Your UK residence should not have been wholly or mainly for the purpose of receiving full-time education, eg you moved to the UK for educational purposes at the start of your course; and
  2. be currently undertaking or have completed an undergraduate degree at a UK or Irish university; and
  3. be in at least the second year of your course if you have not graduated yet; and
  4. meet at least one of the following criteria:
    • be in the first generation of your family to go to university;
    • have been in care for at least three months;
    • have been a young carer;
    • belong to an ethnic group under-represented at Oxford (Black or Mixed Black, Bangladeshi or Mixed Bangladeshi, and Pakistani or Mixed Pakistani);
    • are from a low-income background and in receipt of more than the minimum levels of support detailed from your regional funding body (find out how to check); or
    • come from a neighbourhood which is classed as ACORN 4 or 5 or POLAR (4) Quintile 1 or 2 (find out how to check) in the final calendar year of your secondary school education when you sat your exams, for example, A-Levels (this would normally be at age 18). 

Academic expectations: We are looking for proven and potential academic excellence. Applicants would usually be on track to achieve or have achieved a final undergraduate degree grade of a strong 2:1 or First, in a subject area related to the listed projects that you are interested in. If your transcript shows year on year grade progression towards the upper range of a 2:1 or above, then we’d encourage you to apply for the programme. 

If you have already graduated and/or are studying for a master's degree, you can apply to UNIQ+ as long as you meet the eligibility criteria above. Those applying for the remote internships need to be able to commit to working full time between 5 July and 13 August. If you're not able to join a full-time programme, we recommend that you consider the flexible, part-time UNIQ+ Digital programme.

Preference may be given to those without research experience who will most benefit from the programme.

If you are applying for a UNIQ+ internship, please be aware that some projects have specific entry requirements and/or other prerequisites. Please refer to the Projects section of this page for further details about UNIQ+ internship projects. When you select a project the section will expand to reveal more information, including any entry requirements or prerequisites that you should be aware of. Many projects are open to those studying undergraduate degrees in a broad range of subjects, while some may be restricted to particular subject areas.

Checking that you meet the eligibility criteria

The additional information below has been provided to help you check whether you meet the criteria concerning your income or neighbourhood as outlined above.

Assessing your financial eligibility

Applicants who received at least the following levels of support from their regional funding body during their degree are eligible for our graduate access programmes.

The minimum qualifying support levels for the different regions are set out below.

If you completed a part-time undergraduate degree during this period, please contact us by email (uniqplus@admin.ox.ac.uk) for information on eligibility thresholds.

England

Students who received funding in 2020-21:

  • Studying outside London, not living with parents: Student loan of at least £8,700
  • Studying in London, not living with parents: Student loan of at least £11,100
  • Living at home: Student loan of at least £7,290

If you completed your degree prior to 2021 and believe that you were in receipt of the maximum loan from Student Finance England, please contact us by email (uniqplus@admin.ox.ac.uk).

Scotland

Maintenance grant of at least £1,125.

Northern Ireland

Maintenance grant of at least £2,201.

Wales

Students who began their undergraduate course from 2018-19 minimum qualifying support levels:

  • Studying outside London, not living with parents: Maintenance grant of at least £6,900
  • Studying in London, not living with parents: Maintenance grant of at least £8,600
  • Living at home: Maintenance grant of at least £5,900

Students who began their course from 2012-13 to 2017-18 inclusive:

  • Grant of at least £3,347

Using ACORN and POLAR to assess eligibility

ACORN and POLAR (Participation of Local Areas) are ways of assessing the levels of socio-economic wealth or participation in higher education in different areas of the UK.

Those eligible may have lived in an area of low socio-economic status which is classed as either ACORN Category 4 or 5, or POLAR4 Quintile 1 or 2.

ACORN

You can check which ACORN category your home postcode comes under on the ACORN website. You will need to register with ACORN, which is free.

Once you have registered please search for the postcode of your home address in the final year of your secondary education (usually in the final year of your Sixth Form/FE college at age 18).

Your postcode search will return a summary page with with the ACORN Category. Your postcode will need to fall into Category 4 or 5 to be eligible.

POLAR4

You can check which POLAR4 quintile your home postcode comes under on the POLAR website. You do not need to register for POLAR.

Please search for the the postcode of your home address in the final year of your secondary education (usually in the final year of your Sixth Form/FE college at age 18).

Your postcode search will return a summary page with the POLAR quintiles (and other measures). Please check against the POLAR4 quintile which is the second column. Your postcode will need to fall into quintile 1 or 2 to be eligible.

How to apply

Applications for our 2021 programmes have now closed. If you have applied for a place in 2021, you can still login to our application form to review your previously submitted application.

We welcome applications from all talented individuals who would find continuing into postgraduate study a challenge for reasons other than academic ability.

As part of your application, you will be able to select which of the three graduate access programmes you would like to be considered for (UNIQ+ internships, UNIQ+ Digital and/or Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarships). You will need to ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria for each programme you have selected. You can find more details about the criteria in the Eligibility criteria section of each programme page. 

You may apply to all three programmes if you wish and you only need to submit one application. However, your application will only be considered for programmes where you meet the eligibility criteria.

Applications to the UNIQ+ internships
and/or Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarships (BVS) programmes

If you would like to be considered for a place on the UNIQ+ internships and/or Wellcome BVS programmes, you will need to tick the appropriate box on the application form.

Successful applications

If you apply to be considered for both programmes and are successful on both, we will match you to UNIQ+ internships or Wellcome BVS on the basis of:

  • your interests;
  • project/supervisor availability; and
  • closest match with the eligibility criteria.

This will enable us to maximise the number of places we can offer.

If your application to the UNIQ+ internships or Wellcome BVS is successful, you will also automatically be offered a place on UNIQ+ Digital even if you did not tick the box to be considered for UNIQ+ Digital on the application form.

Unsuccessful applications

If your application to the UNIQ+ internships or Wellcome BVS is unsuccessful, you will only be considered for a place on UNIQ+ Digital if you have ticked the box on the application form.

Applications to the UNIQ+ Digital programme

If you would like to be considered for a place on the UNIQ+ Digital programme (either on its own or as an unsuccessful UNIQ+ internships and/or Wellcome BVS applicant), you will need to tick the box to be considered for UNIQ+ Digital on the application form. Once your application has been submitted you will not have an opportunity to change your preference later (eg upon hearing that your UNIQ+ internships/Wellcome BVS application has been unsuccessful).

Completing the application form

To apply, you will need to complete our online application form. As part of the application process you will be required to provide information about your education, submit supporting documents, state your subject interests, provide a personal statement, and source two references.

The information below will help you to prepare the information you need before you start the form.

Your education

In addition to information about your undergraduate/postgraduate degree, the application form will ask you to provide the name and address of the school(s)/college(s) that you attended when you passed your GCSE(s) or equivalent (usually at age 16) and in your final calendar year of secondary education (usually Sixth Form/FE college at age 18). Don’t worry if the name has changed or the school has now closed – just include as much detail as you can. You will need to provide a postcode, which you can search for using an online service such as the Royal Mail’s Postcode Finder.

Supporting documents

CV

The application form will require you to upload several documents in support of your application. You will first be required to upload your CV in PDF format (or as a PNG/JPG).

When preparing your document, please save it with the following naming convention: SURNAME, Firstname, CV.

Transcript

You will also need to upload a copy of your University transcript(s) containing, if you have not completed your degree, the grades/marks you have received so far for your undergraduate (and, if applicable, postgraduate) degree(s).

Downloads/screenshots from student self-service online systems are fine, but must clearly show:

  • your name;
  • the name of the awarding institution;
  • details of your course; and
  • a breakdown of grades.

You will have the opportunity to add up to five files and we kindly request that you use the following naming convention: SURNAME, Firstname, type of document (eg Undergraduate Transcript/Postgraduate Transcript etc).

Student Finance summary

You will be required to upload a scanned copy of the most recent official letter/screenshot with your entitlement summary from Student Finance confirming the undergraduate financial support you receive/have received from the UK government.

This should detail any loan/grant in addition to the standard government loan that all UK resident students are eligible for.

Any screenshot must include:

  • your name;
  • the name of the issuing authority (ie, Student Finance England); and
  • the amount of funding received and confirmation of this.

A copy of an application for funding will not suffice. Please note, we do not require evidence of any loans received for master’s courses.

Your subject interests

Research projects offered as part of the UNIQ+ internships and Wellcome BVS at Oxford are listed in the Projects section of each programme page. The application form will ask you to outline your preferred field of study and areas of research and indicate which of the listed projects you would be interested in working on.

If you are successful, we will try to match your interests to available projects and supervisors. Please note that we will not always be able to meet your preferences for a project/supervisor, but we will try our best to do this wherever possible.

Your personal statement

The application form will ask you to provide a personal statement that is divided into two sections with up to 2,000 characters per section. We recommend that you draft this offline and double check the number of characters you have used before copying this into the application form.

The first section of you statement should explain why you are interested in the graduate access programme(s) you have chosen. Think about what interests you about the programme and the projects you have selected, what motivates you to study your subject now, how you have engaged more closely with your field over time, and what you would like to get out of the programme. 

The second section of your statement should explain why you are applying and why you believe your background and/or personal circumstances qualify you. Think about which eligibility criteria you meet and your reasons for applying for UNIQ+ that is designed to introduce students from under-represented backgrounds to graduate study. We encourage you to mention any extenuating circumstances or personal circumstances that you would like to bring to the attention of the academic assessors. For example, if you have been in care, if you are estranged from your family, if you have experienced homelessness, or experienced other situations that have had a significant impact on your education.  

As part of the application form, you will be asked if you have undertaken or are undertaking a sandwich year/intercalated year as part of your undergraduate degree. Please specify in your personal statement the type of placement and whether or not this involves/has involved a significant research component.

Write your statement in Word or Notepad, checking that each section is under the 2,000-character limit, then copy-paste your text into the form when you are happy with it. There isn’t one ideal structure or style for a personal statement - focus on what you want us to know about you and how this programme would fit into your academic development. Make sure that you have read the programme criteria and project descriptions carefully to see what the programme is looking for before you start.

References

The application form will ask you to provide information about your two referees. At least one should be a member of university academic staff (eg a tutor, advisor or professor) who can comment on your academic ability, the quality of your work, your potential for further study, and your suitability for the programme(s).

Before you submit your application, you will need to contact your referees and make sure that they are happy to write a reference for you by the deadline. Once you submit your application, your referees will be sent an automated email telling them how to submit their references. Please submit your application as early as possible to give your referees plenty of time and keep in contact with them to make sure that they have received the email notification. Where possible, please enter your referee’s institutional/professional email address. 

Referees will be asked to send their references to us by email to uniqplus@admin.ox.ac.uk by the deadline shown in the email they received when you registered them as referees.

If they would like more information about any of the graduate access programmes that you have applied for, you can provide them with a link to the relevant programme page(s) on this website.

Both the UNIQ+ and Wellcome BVS at Oxford programme pages provide referees with the same guidance about what to include in their reference. This information can be found in the Guidance for referees sections of each page. For convenience, you may wish to provide your referees with the following web address: http://www.graduate.ox.ac.uk/access/referee

After you apply

Assessment of your application

Selection for our graduate access programmes will be made on the basis of the following information collected in the application form:

  • financial circumstances;
  • socio-economic information;
  • any relevant contextual information supplied in your application form and personal statement;
  • your academic merit and potential to do research in the relevant field, as evidenced by your academic record and references; and
  • all other things being equal, applicants who identify as Black or Mixed Black, Bangladeshi or Mixed Bangladeshi, and Pakistani or Mixed Pakistani may also be given preference in the assessment process because these groups are under-represented in postgraduate education at the University of Oxford. The University is taking positive action under the Equality Act 2010 to tackle the underrepresentation of UK students from Black, Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds at Oxford and to encourage more students from these groups to apply for graduate study.

Notifying you of the outcome

We will let you know the outcome of your application by email, and we aim to contact all applicants at the beginning of May 2021.

Successful applications

If you have been successful, the email will confirm which of the following is being offered:

  • a UNIQ+ internship and a place on UNIQ+ Digital,
  • a Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarship at Oxford and a place on UNIQ+ Digital; or
  • a place on UNIQ+ Digital.

It will also include what you’ll need to do next and information on how to prepare for your research placement.

Unsuccessful applications

If you aren’t successful, you might be placed on a waiting list – if so, we will let you know when you can expect to hear whether you’ve got a place.

Guidance for referees

What is the reference for?

Oxford's graduate access programmes (UNIQ+ internships, UNIQ+ Digital and Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarships at Oxford) offer the chance to experience what postgraduate study is like at the University of Oxford. They are aimed at those from areas of low progression to postgraduate study. You can read more about these programmes in the previous sections of this page and the other Graduate access pages on this website.

What should I include in my reference?

Referees are kindly requested to submit a reference letter, to assist the University in making a full assessment of each application. Please read the guidance below, which provides a suggestion of what to include in your reference letter and instructions for sending your reference.  The guidance is the same for all three of our graduate access programmes, so you do not need to worry about which programme(s) the applicant has applied for.

We ask that referees comment on the academic ability and general suitability of the applicant for participation in a graduate access programme at Oxford, and any other information you may consider relevant. Please ensure that the applicant's name is clearly visible in your reference letter.

If possible, please include the following in your reference letter:

  • the name of the applicant, so that we can attach your reference to the correct application;
  • the duration and extent of your familiarity with the applicant;
  • the specific course the applicant is/was on;
  • their general aptitude and academic potential;
  • their academic achievements (including prizes, publications etc);
  • their relevant skills and experience (eg academic writing, work and/or research experience, laboratory skills, etc);
  • their suitability for participating in a graduate access programme at Oxford; and
  • their relevant personal characteristics (eg independence, innovation or determination).

How do I submit my reference?

If you have been registered as a referee, we will send you an email containing instructions on how to submit your reference. Please submit your reference by the deadline shown in our email

You will need to send your reference to us by email (uniqplus@admin.ox.ac.uk) as a PDF attachment. To be considered valid, you should send your reference from your professional/institutional email address. Where this is not possible (eg because you have retired), could you please explain the circumstances in your reference letter.

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