DPhil in Ion Channels and Disease | University of Oxford
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Microscope in the laboratory
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DPhil in Ion Channels and Disease

About the course

The programme trains you in a range of multidisciplinary approaches and embraces all aspects of ion channel and membrane transport research from protein structure, genetics and cell physiology to animal behaviour and human disease.  The first year involves exposure to different techniques and two extended rotation-projects in different labs. This is followed by a three-year research project involving two different OXION groups.

In the first year, you will be introduced to a wide range of scientific disciplines and techniques involving two five-month laboratory rotations. During the first three months you will also attend a series of specialist lectures and demonstrations that will provide an introduction to a range of multidisciplinary skills in integrative physiology.

A unique aspect of the programme is the provision of extensive ‘hands-on’ practical experience in a wide range of experimental techniques. These include whole animal in vivo physiology, animal behaviour, immunohistochemistry, and electrophysiological recording techniques, as well as cutting-edge biochemical, biophysical, structural and computational methods for studying ion channels and membrane proteins. You will also be required to pass the PILB and PILC (formerly known as modules one to four) of the Home Office Personal Licence.

From the second to fourth years, you will focus on your doctoral research project. A key feature of the OXION programme is that this must be a multidisciplinary project that involves more than one research group. Such joint projects not only help you develop independence and a wider range of skills, but also facilitate important collaborations between groups. The primary supervisor will be drawn from a list of those working directly on ion channels or transporters but the choice of co-supervisor may depend on the nature of the project and techniques required. The final choice of both project and host research groups will be made by you in conjunction with the Organising Committee.

Your progress is monitored by the Programme Directors and you will be required to meet standard University milestones for progress involving formal monitoring via supervisor feedback forms submitted three times per year. 

Where appropriate, you will also have the opportunity to take additional graduate modules to equip yourself with new skills that might be required for your project, or to update your knowledge of major new developments in your own (or related) research field. Training will also be provided in other relevant transferable skills such as writing research papers, planning/writing a thesis and presentation skills.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course 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.

Applicants are advised to visit the course page on the centre's website for further information about supervisors associated with this course (see Further Information and Enquires).

Graduate destinations

Many graduates from this programme continue with academic postdoctoral research in prestigious laboratories worldwide and some now have independent research positions. Other graduates have entered the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry or have continued with their medical training.

Changes to this course and your supervision

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. In certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.

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, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Other courses you may wish to consider

Applicants are strongly advised to visit the Medical Sciences Graduate School website to help them identify the most suitable course and supervisors.

If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.

All graduate courses offered by the Medical Sciences Doctoral Training Centre

Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:

  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in a relevant biological science subject.

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

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

If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.

GRE General Test scores

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

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

  • Research or working experience in a relevant field may be an advantage.
  • Whilst not required, publications demonstrating previous research success in a relevant field is likely to advantage a candidate’s application.

English language requirement

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's standard level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. 

Detailed requirements - standard level

The minimum scores required to meet the University's standard level are:

IELTS Academic 7.0Minimum 6.5 per component
TOEFL iBT100

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced185Minimum 176 per component
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency185Minimum 176 per component

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. For more information about the English language test requirement, visit the Application Guide

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

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.  

Applications are reviewed by a panel of academics associated with the course. A shortlist of applicants is confirmed, based on assessment of their 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 approximately 3:1.

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to attend interviews in Oxford. The interview panel will include at least three academics. The interview will last approximately 30 minutes and will include a 10-minute presentation of work you have performed for a research project or dissertation, which may be accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation. This will be followed by 20 minutes of scientific and general questions.

Applicants from outside Europe are normally interviewed by Skype/phone, unless they are in Europe at the time of interview.

Applicants attending interview will usually also have the opportunity to meet current students on the course.

Supervision

Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. 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. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

Admissions panels and assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).

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

After an offer is made

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements: 

Financial Declaration

If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.

Disclosure of criminal convictions

In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

Some postgraduate research students in science, engineering and technology subjects will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate prior to applying for a Tier 4 visa. Further information can be found on our Tier 4 (General) Student visa page. For some courses, the requirement to apply for an ATAS certificate may depend on your research area.

Resources

You will have access to:

  • experimental facilities, as appropriate to your research
  • IT support from both the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics 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.

Funding

There are over 1,100 full or partial graduate scholarships available across the University. You will be automatically considered for over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline, with most scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. To help identify those scholarships where you will be required to submit an additional application, use the Fees, funding and scholarships search and visit individual college websites using the links provided on our college pages.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2020-21

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£7,970
Overseas£26,405

Course 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 course fees). 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.

Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.

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 course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) 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 course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2020-21 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,135 and £1,650 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. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2020-21, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

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 one page

The personal statement should be written in English and should focus on your interest in, and experience of this research field (rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations).

If you are accepted to the course, during your first year on-course you will develop your DPhil research proposal in consultation with your supervisors and the course directors. You should nevertheless make a clear effort to describe your interest in research questions related to the role of ion channels and membrane transport in health and disease in your personal statement.

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 of the programme, 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 and 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 Ion Channels and Disease'.

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. 

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.

Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.

Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and plan your time to submit your application well in advance.

Step 4: Our Application Guide will help you complete the form. It contains links to FAQs and further help.

Step 5: Submit your application as soon as possible (you can read more information about our deadlines).

Application GuideApply

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