July 05, 2015

MIBTP Student Symposium 2015

Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership (MIBTP) Student Symposium

University of Leicester, England. 16 April 2015symp1

The Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership (MIBTP) is a BBSRC-funded cross-institutional Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) between the universities of Leicester, Birmingham and Warwick. The Second MIBTP Student Symposium took place at the Rattray Lecture Theatre at the University of Leicester, with 100 people in attendance.

Organised, led and chaired by current PhD students (Steph Kancy and Esther Ogunniyi, University of Warwick; Grace Hodson and Leanna Smith, University of Leicester), the event provided invaluable opportunities for students to showcase their research to guest speakers, receive critical feedback on current research projects, and network with external speakers and fellow researches whilst maintaining a cohort identity across the multiple institutions.

Oral and poster presentations provided a fascinating mix of bioscience topics aligned with the BBSRC strategies, reflecting the diverse fields of Food Security, Bioenergy & Industrial Biotechnology and Molecules, Cells & Systems. Guest speaker Dr Miriam Gifford (Associate Professor, University of Warwick) set the scene by discussing cell identity and its role in plant plasticity, whereby her lab utilizes systems analysis techniques to understand the nitrogen fixing symbiosis of nodulation.

The remainder of the day consisted of student presentations; covering engaging topics such as CexE bacterial Type I secretion (Chris Icke, University of Birmingham) and studies on the GGDEF domain proteins from Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus (Richard Meek, University of Birmingham) with these oral presentations awarded Second and First Prize, respectively. Poster presentation sessions provided ample networking opportunities and further engaging scientific discussion; research presented by Lauren Jones (University of Leicester) and Jack Connolly (University of Birmingham) was awarded First and Second place Poster Prizes.

Finally, the innovative research of Professor David Twell (Professor of Plant Biology, University of Leicester) affirmed the importance of interdisciplinarity, prominent within the MIBTP programme. Utilizing a combination of molecular, genetic and genomic approaches, his lab seeks to further understand the tight control of gene expression and regulatory process in plant reproductive cell development, focusing on the role of transcription factors in male germline proliferation and sperm cell differentiation.
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On behalf of the Symposium Organizing Committee, I would like to thank guest speakers (Dr Gifford, Professor Twell), Dr Ezio Rosato (MIBTP co-director, for organizational oversight) and the generous contribution of the symposium sponsors - The Biochemical Society - for making it such a great success!


Leanna Smith


June 15, 2015

Cheltenham Science Festival:WHAT IF You let a MIBTP do a PIPS at a huge event for Warwick’s 50th?

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Out of all the tasks and responsibilities I have completed for this PIPS placement, writing up my experience and doing it justice is by far going to be the most challenging. I suppose I should start at the very beginning (a very good place to start, so I have heard). At the start, I had no idea what I wanted to do for a PIPS placement, in a slightly arrogant way I assumed, as a mature student, that I had a lot of work experience and I thought that experience of research was really the most important thing for me and that there wasn't anything at all other than hard core research and lab experience that I could benefit from… oh how wrong I was.

blog3b.pngI had always enjoyed the idea of working in outreach and public engagement, bridging the gap between what scientists in imposing lab coats and hazardous looking laboratories actually do and what the general public think they do. I approached my ‘soon-to-be’ PhD project supervisor, Miriam, for some advice and she put me in touch with Charlotte, a recent PhD graduate who worked heavily in outreach and had been hired to organise Warwick’s marquee at The Cheltenham Science Festival.

I met Charlotte a few days later to go through what she wanted me to help with and to get me started on a few tasks. It started off lightly, with some paper work and finding things like tablecloths, then as it got closer the work load increased to designing materials we needed (posters, lanyard inserts etc.) more paperwork and generally assisting Charlotte in all the prep work needed for Cheltenham to happen, and then as if out of nowhere, the day to go to Cheltenham arrived…

The enormity of what Warwick were trying to do hadn't really hit me until I got to Cheltenham and then it started to get real, this mythical marquee we had been obsessing over for the last 6 weeks was suddenly stood before us in a giant flappy blaze of white tarpaulin glory, we walked in to a blank canvas and got straight to work transforming the space into the versatile classroom/showroom/café it was needed to be!

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In the following few days this space had to be a diverse landscape, moulding itself to hold engaging and exciting school sessions in the morning, where academics from various departments would get show off their science and deliver some ‘wow factors’ to eager brains and the next generation of scientists. Later in the day it was home to a drop in session where members of the public come to talk to the people behind the science, cutting out the media middlemen. Finally in the afternoon the marquee played host to Warwick’s Ideas Café, an informal platform for academics to engage further with mature audiences to answer questions and encourage discussion.

It is probably well worth noting that this was the first time Warwick had been involved with the science festival, most universities had a stall or a small tent and everyday was a rough repeat throughout the week, Warwick’s mentality to the schedule can be summed up as ‘go big or go home’! Everyday we had different events on, not just one, sometimes we had three to five different sessions, each with their own set ups and equipment. Not only was this this a big event by Warwick’s standards, even Cheltenham Festivals were in awe of what we were trying to achieve and deliver.

blog5.pngDuring the week I was exposed to a huge range of platforms for engagement with the public and I got to be involved with some of the demonstrations during the drop in sessions. I was privileged enough to work along side some amazing people from all areas of the university from project organisers to Pro-Vice Chancellors and I also got to meet some of the people occupying the highest positions at the university. All in all, this was a network enthusiast’s dream! I got to hear about Frankenstein robots, see the crown jewels (replica), learn how to grow crystals, how to make a diamond, what we can use magnets for and supercool conductors.


The week was hitch-less and seamless, everything was organised to within an inch of its life and anything that popped up, unplanned, was quickly sorted as we were a strong team gaining more and more experience (in buckets) throughout the week. We were given access to the VIP lounge where were were able to catch our breath for five minutes as well as a bite to eat and all the teas and coffee you could drink. I played it cool sitting next to Lord Professor Robert Winston, renowned physicists Brian Cox and Marcus Chown, who no matter how hard I tweeted, would not visit our marquee!

blog6.pngWhen it came to Sunday, our final day at the festival, it was a mixture of emotions, myself and Charlotte had worked the entire festival from start to finish; from before doors open to well after doors close with very little sleep in-between. There was a sad, exhausted, satisfied atmosphere in the air knowing that we had done a good job and that everyone who visited our marquee or taken part in a demonstration had left happy that they had received the best treatment or service that could have.

blog7.pngSitting here now, writing this blog, there is so much I have had to skip over and miss out (what happens in Cheltenham, stays in Cheltenham), so my experience here on screen may not do justice to the phenomenal time I had in Cheltenham. If you are a current PhD student looking for PIPS inspiration then I recommend looking to work in public engagement at the University of Warwick. The team are amazing and the experience will open doors and put you in touch with people you wouldn't have any chance of meeting otherwise. If you are a prospective student who is still looking for a university to do your PhD I can not speak any more highly of the MIBTP and of the University of Warwick, the entire team were welcoming and respected me as part of the team and not just as an intern to fetch and carry.

In the haze of the aftermath, with the wrapping up and unpacking, through bleary tired eyes, one thing is certain, I have made memories to last a lifetime that I wouldn't have had if it wasn't for my internship through my PhD. Great things grow from small PIPS.


Matthew Teft - 2014 MIBTP student


April 14, 2015

new MIBTP blog

Welcome to the new MIBTP blog. Here we hope to show case the activities of PhD students on the Midlands Integrative Bioscience Training Partnership (MIBTP). MIBTP is a partnership between the Universities of Warwick, Birmingham and Leicester with an intake of over 50 students a year.

MIBTP students are an active bunch not just in their research projects but in outreach activities, professional internships and scientific competitions. This blog will enable us to highlight their achievements and keep you up to date with the MIBTP programme.


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