Training the next generation of environmental scientists | University of Oxford

Training the next generation of environmental scientists

Oxford University is set to benefit from a £10 million investment in a new environmental science training programme, leading one of 15 Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) across the country.

Over the next five years, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) will fund 120 full studentships at Oxford University.

The Environmental Research Programme at Oxford will train students in a wide range of disciplines, from biodiversity to atmospheric physics. The new DTP programme will start with a broad interdisciplinary training spanning the departments of Earth Sciences, Zoology, Geography, Archaeology, Physics, and Plant Sciences.

The programme will draw on collaborations with many partner institutions, including the British Geological Survey, the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and the Met Office.

The course is holding an open day on Wednesday 27 November and will open for applications shortly.  Applications close on 24 January 2014. Graduates from any related discipline, from archaeology to mathematics, are invited to apply.

Professor David Pyle, Academic Director of the programme, said: 'This initiative represents a major shift in training in environmental research, presenting a tremendous opportunity for universities to engage with partners outside academia in the training and development of the next cohorts of graduate students in this broad area. This course will not only prepare graduates for the working world, but also to tackle the major environmental challenges that lie ahead.

'The broad scope of the NERC brief enabled us to come together to design the ideal course. We've included many of the things we wish we had learnt as PhD students, to develop the most comprehensive high-level training in environmental research that we can.'

In the first three months of the course, there will be a strong focus on developing collaborations, and working across disciplines.This will begin with a series of 'grand challenge' seminars that will extend students' abilities to combine their knowledge and apply it to real-world problems. Partners from NGOs and industry will bring their practical experience to keep the courses relevant and realistic.

Public engagement will also be an integral part of the training. Professor Pyle said: 'The vision is to partner up with public engagement groups including Oxford Sparks and Science Oxford to run events in which student groups will be asked to design outreach activities. Public engagement officers and school teachers will brief students in the morning, and students will present their ideas at the end of the day. Successful ideas will be taken forward and turned into real hands-on activities.'

Professor Duncan Wingham, chief executive of NERC, said: 'If UK environmental sciences are going to continue to prosper, we need to make sure we get the best from our students. These DTPs position us to compete in an increasingly competitive global environment by training students in the best possible way to use environmental sciences to help meet the challenges and opportunities facing us today.

'We want to provide these students with the skill sets and experiences to equip them to become future scientific leaders, and sustain the flow of top talent and skilled people for UK research, business and government.'

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said:'This significant investment highlights the government’s commitment to supporting postgraduate training and research in the environmental sciences. Not only will this initiative benefit students, UK research organisations, business, industry and the economy, it will keep us at the forefront of the global science race.'