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Flexible Supplement Fund

The King’s College London MRC Flexible Supplement Fund is available to all students at King’s College London who are funded by the MRC. This scheme has been established using block funding by the MRC and can help fund a wide range of research and training activities.

Eligibility

All current MRC-funded students at King’s College London are eligible to apply for the Flexible Supplement Fund. These include: –

  • Core MRC DTP students
  • MRC Unit, Institute, Centre of Partnership students
  • MRC Industrial CASE students
  • MRC Clinical Research Training Fellows

How to Apply

News & Events

King’s College London MRC-funded students may apply to one or more of the funding areas below by completing a MRC Flexible Supplement Application Form and submitting to mrc-dtp@kcl.ac.uk (multiple requests can be made on one application form). The next Flexible Supplement Application round will open on Monday 4th March 2019 and close Tuesday 12th April 2019. Application deadlines will be advertised in advance; consult the FAQ’s below for future openings. We may ask for additional information after receiving an application and require all successful applicants to provide a brief report acknowledging MRC support.

All applicants are strongly encouraged to read the FAQ (below) ‘What makes a good application to the Flexible Supplement Fund’ before starting their application.

Areas of Funding

Training

Area of Funding Description
Internships and Placements Application to be made prior to applying for an internship or placement; 3-month placement, suspension of studies in principle required.
High cost training Applications in areas of strategic need (in line with MRC strategic priorities), such as bioinformatics, interdisciplinary skills and imaging. These could include (but does not exclusively cover):

– advanced in vivo training
– imaging training
– skills priority training
– bioinformatics training
– modelling training
– clinical training

Exceptional training opportunities Such as:

– overseas fieldwork
– internships/placements
– laboratory visits/training
– training in new advanced research skills
– industrial collaborations

In vivo strategic skills* To support research training in advanced integrative mammalian biology.
Industry Training Opportunities to provide training in partnership working with industry or at theinterdisciplinary interface, which could include (but does not exclusively cover):

– internships/placements
– collaborative training
– travel/logistical support for cohort building activities in this area
– attracting individuals from another discipline into MRC studentships

Outreach To enable participation in outreach activities, such as public engagement.
PhD to postdoctoral transition fund For outstanding candidates to increase competitiveness in
applying to positions within and beyond academia, following thesis submission, which could include (but does not exclusively cover):- travel to potential laboratories for visits
– internships/placements

 

* For an in vivo strategic skills award to be granted, verification of the appropriate Home Office project and personal licenses, and a detailed justification for the proposed study, including power calculations will be required.

*Please note that the Flexible Supplement cannot be used to :

1. Provide funding for more studentships – the funds may not be used to award additional studentships but must be used to better support existing students.
2. Extend existing studentships to delay submission of thesis (unless there has been a substantial training period or time out of programme).
3. Provide funding for standard experimental costs such as consumables or equipment.

View our Flexible Supplement Fund Recent Awardees  to see examples of successful applications.

Frequently Asked Questions

This is a supplement targeted to the entire DTP and all MRC-funded students registered at the DTP University, which would include:

Core DTP students
• MRC industrial CASE students
• National Productivity Investment Fund studentships
• MRC Unit, Institute, Centre or Partnership students
• MRC Clinical Research Training Fellows

Students are encouraged to submit application which fully explain how a funding request will support their PhD.

The Flexible Supplement Review Panel have recently shared the following feedback:

  • An application is not assessed on the supervisor’s supporting statement and so students must provide a good statement to be funded. If the student justification is not satisfactory, the request will not be funded.
  • All request justification should be a minimum of 300 words and a maximum of 500 words.
  • The Flexible Supplement Fund will not will not fund equipment/ experiments for projects or other elements of the project which should clearly be covered by the student’s consumables budget.
  • The members of the Flexible Supplement Panel are non-experts, therefore applicants need to clearly detail what their PhD project is about and how the request will benefit/advance their training and PhD. Applicants are advised to detail how the request is relevant to their PhD.
  • The maximum number of training courses a student can apply to is two. Applicants applying for more than two training courses within one application need to provide a timeline of their PhD over the next 12 months and to evidence why it is imperative to complete additional training courses in line with the 12-month timeline.

Our Flexible Supplement Review Panel have provided more useful Flexible Supplement Feedback on how to submit a good application. We recommend reading this information before starting an application.

To be eligible you must be currently funded by the MRC for studies leading to a PhD.  All MRC-funded students registered at King’s College London may apply to the scheme. Please contact the MRC DTP Team if you require further advice.

If you meet the eligibility criteria, there is no limit on the number of applications you can make to the fund, although applicants are reminded that they can apply for a maximum of £5,000 over the course of their PhD. Applications in more than one category can also be made simultaneously in one application form.

For the purposes of the Internship or Placement category, this scheme is intended to provide stipend support at your current rate of no more than 3 months in duration. For all other categories, the maximum level is £5,000, and awards up to 100% of this sum can be made. Applicants are reminded that they can apply for a maximum of £5,000 over the course of their PhD.

Each application will be considered by an academic panel. The panel will consider how an application aligns with the funding categories and how the opportunity will benefit to your PhD.

Please be reminded that the Flexible Supplement Panel are non-experts, applicants are strongly advised to summarise their PhD project as part of their application and to clearly explain how the funding request relates to the applicant’s training and research project.

This scheme is intended to provide stipend support at your current rate, for the purposes of Internships and Placements, of no more than 3 months in duration. Ideally this is best suited for students who are within writing-up status but prior to submission. Students who want to take an Internship or Placement within the first 36 months of their PhD studies, are advised to speak with their suprvisors prior to making an application. This fund will make awards on the assumption that the faculty supports this request and will extend/approve interruption of studies.

Support can be provided for training in new research skills and at the interdisciplinary boundary. Online learning may be an effective way for students to gain skills in maths and computing techniques that are relevant to model and analyse  biological systems.

Attendance of conferences within the student’s scientific field would not normally be considered an exceptional training opportunity and we would therefore not expect the DTP flexible funds to be used in this way. MRC studentship funding already includes some support for conference attendance (see our website for the current minimum stipend and allowance every student should be provided).

In certain circumstances, attendance at an interdisciplinary conference, removed from a student’s area of research, may be appropriate (as it may address training at the interdisciplinary interface). However, the DTP holder will need to balance impact of conference attendance against other opportunities (such as an internship/placement) when prioritising which requests to support.

Financial support for overseas trips would be considered an appropriate use of flexible supplement funds if this contributed to the development of the student, whether that be training/skills-related or creating data with novel techniques/equipment not available in the host centre or contributing to sample collection.

The flexible supplement should not be used to extend existing studentships to complete their thesis or bridge the time period between PhD and their next position. Awards under this heading should increase the competitiveness of outstanding candidates for the next stage of their career, whether that be an academic or non-academic postdoctoral position. This might include learning a new technique, becoming skilled on novel equipment, developing a new avenue of research beyond their PhD project, attending overseas laboratory visits or an internship/placement between thesis submission and viva. Time and funds associated primarily with preparing publications would not normally be considered appropriate for use of flexible supplement funds.

A studentship can be extended if extensive training of the PhD and/or an internship/placement not related to the PhD has occurred. Extensive training may be required at the start of a studentship (for example, background skills/knowledge required due to an interdisciplinary background) which would merit extension of the studentship. Internships/placements which would merit extension of the studentship would be expended when these are not directly related to the PhD. For internships/placements aimed at providing transitional support, these should occur post-thesis submission and therefore the studentship would not be required to extend.

The next Flexible Supplement Application round will open on Monday 4th March 2019.

Download the MRC Flexible Supplement Application Form, complete and submit to mrc-dtp@kcl.ac.uk by Tuesday 12th April 2019 for consideration. An academic panel will review all applications in the week commencing 29th April 2019.

The Flexible Supplement will open three application rounds in 2017 2018.

The first will open on Monday 1st October and close on Wednesday 31st October. An academic panel will review all applications to this round in the week commencing 19th November 2018.

The second will open on Monday 4th March 2019 and close on Tuesday 12th April 2019. An academic panel will review all applications to this round in the week commencing 29th April 2019.

The third will open on Friday 24th May 2019 and close on Sunday 23th June 2019. An academic panel will review all applications to this round in the week commencing 15th July 2018.

Impact Statements

The Flexible Supplement can be utilised in a variety of ways. Below we have collected and categorised (more information on each category in ‘areas of funding’ above) impact statements from a sample of our awardees, demonstrating the variety in which these awards can take form.

Exceptional Training Opportunies

“These skills will enable me to facilitate the translation of basic science from the laboratory to the neurosurgical operating room”

The MRC DTP flexible fund allowed me to attend the London Neuro-monitoring and mapping course, which covered the electrophysiological techniques used to record brain function during neurosurgery. This has greatly enhanced my understanding of clinical electrophysiology, in both the practice aspects of these techniques and the challenges associated with them. This knowledge has been important in building the foundations of my PhD, for both collaborating with neurosurgery and analysing data collected during the operation. These skills will enable me to facilitate the translation of basic science from the laboratory to the neurosurgical operating room.

‘through the technical experience that I gained, I will be able to establish new techniques in my lab and answer complex questions of my PhD project.’

‘In September 2017, I participated in the Ion Channel Cajal Advanced Neuroscience Training Programme, hosted by the University of Bordeaux.  The duration of the course was 20 days and two projects were assigned to all participants. The students worked under the guidance of an academic or an industrial instructor. Upon the completion of each study, the results were presented to the participants and instructors. Participating in an intense ion channel training programme, was a great opportunity for me to be introduced to state-of-the-art electrophysiological techniques, by experts of the field.

During my first project assignment, I had the opportunity to be trained in automated single channel recordings on lipid bilayers. Through this project, I gained experience in biophysical studies and electrophysiological recordings of ion channels that are localized in artificial lipid bilayers, which resemble the cell membrane structure. The obtained knowledge will be applied in the electrophysiological experiments that will be initiated for my PhD thesis. My second project focused on the consequences of optogenetic manipulation of serotonergic neurons in the raphe magnus, on the spinal descending pathway. I was trained in mouse intracranial injections of Adeno-associated viral vectors, behavioural tests and in vivo electrophysiological recordings of spinal wide range neurons, while stimulating the raphe magnus neurons optogenetically. The experience in mice handling and in vivo electrophysiological recordings is of major importance to my PhD thesis because my future experiments will be based on animal behaviour and imaging of calcium signals in vivo in DRG neurons.

To conclude, I would like to thank the MRC for supporting my participation in such a rewarding training programme because through the technical experience that I gained, I will be able to establish new techniques in my lab and answer complex questions of my PhD project.’

Students and instructors following the project presentations, in the Bordeaux Neurocampus, September 2017.

“The impact of these courses has been tremendous.”

In the last funding round for the Flexible Supplement Fund I was funded to attend the Human Connectome Project course (Oxford, June 2018) and the European Summer School on Eye Movements (Bonn, September 2018). Additionally the allowance allowed me to stay a further week in Bonn to undertake analysis on my eye movement data under the guidance of my collaborator Professor Ulrich Ettinger.

The impact of these courses has been tremendous. The Human Connectome Project is a multifaceted, multimodal project. It was highly relevant both for those who use HCP data as well as conceptual understanding relevant to future projects. Crucial concepts in the field related to the HCP approach such as ‘myelin-mapping’, surface based parcellation and the greyordinate system and the need for acquiring high-resolution sub millimetre structural imaging and resting state data were covered on the course. Many of these concepts were directly relevant to my current analysis and further it is highly likely I will be working with HCP datasets in the future.

Similarly ESSEM was particularly eye-opening in terms of the techniques and potential of using eye-movement data. Of particular interest to me was specific workshops convened on psychiatric and neurological disorders, but the eye-movement field brings together multi-disciplinary researchers including medics, psychologists, economists and even marketeers. The further time I had to spend in Professer Ettinger’s laboratory allowed me to analyse and interpret my data in conjunction with an international expert. There are some very interesting findings from this body of work which will hopefully be making their way to press very soon.

Finally I wish to record my appreciation to MRC and those administering the Flexible Supplement Fund for making these opportunities available to me as they have greatly contributed to my development in my field of study.

“The MRC Flexible Supplement funding has been most beneficial for the me to undertake such valuable training”

The MRC Flexible supplement fund provided me with a fantastic opportunity to conduct a weeklong exceptional training placement in the Spires-Jones lab at the University of Edinburgh. This lab is at the forefront of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) research, specifically synaptic dysfunction in neurodegenerative diseases that ties well into my PhD question investigating cysteine-string protein (CSP) alpha aggregation in Alzheimer’s disease. Their lab uses a novel tool known as array tomography (AT) to explore the changes that occur at the level of synapses in disease. This would offer a dynamic approach at understanding CSPalpha aggregation in AD.

During this placement, I learnt the techniques to process both healthy and disease post-mortem human tissue, embedding tissues within resin and then understanding the cutting process using a diamond knife. I obtained 70nm thick tissue sections, which enable the identification of protein structures and arrangements at the synaptic level. I then conducted immunohistochemical analysis where I was able to probe these tissues with my antibodies specific for proteins of interest including CSPalpha in association with synaptophysin (presynapse marker) and 6E10 (amyloid plaque marker, a characteristic AD pathology). This experience provided access to knowledge and tools to learn how best to optimise antibodies, trouble shooting, improving my manual dexterity working with small samples and learning how to take tile scan images and analysing data appropriately.

The MRC Flexible Supplement funding has been most beneficial for the me to undertake such valuable training, Without which, I would have firstly not been able to forge such great networks, the opportunity to work in a world-class laboratory within the neurodegenerative disease field and above all learn and develop my skills that I can now incorporate within my own experiments.

‘I would not be able to lead coordination of these efforts if it wasn’t for the training I received.’

‘I used the funding to take up a unique opportunity to visit Professor Catherine Lord and her team at the Centre for Autism and the Developing Brain in New York. The purpose of the visit was to spend two weeks being trained in two observational measures of autism that the team have developed; the Brief Observation of Social and Communication Change (BOSCC) and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS).

The BOSCC and ADOS are central to my PhD and as a result of receiving training of such a high quality, along with learning from the developing team’s insight, I have been allocated the role of lead BOSCC coder in the PACT-G study…I would not be able to lead coordination of these efforts if it wasn’t for the training I received.’

High Cost Training

“without this course I would not have been able to develop the confidence to strike out as a competent data scientist”

My award from the MRC Supplement Fund was used to pay the fees for the Next Generation Sequencing Bioinformatics Summer School in Berlin. The course was run by ECSeq, a team of former academic bioinformaticians who themselves have written many bioinformatic tools and packages. Attendance expanded what I taught myself previously. Following the course, I was able to take an innovative direction with my PhD project which resulted in a plan for two publications and a new collaboration. The course was 5 days and had 35 people in attendance so I was also able to develop my international professional network as there were seminars which provided opportunities to present/discuss our own research projects. Provided by the course organisers, was a large and detailed manual which covers a vast range of topics and contains practical exercises. In addition to this, we were given a memory stick which contains a range of sample data for use alongside the manual in the practical exercises and allows me to adapt my computer to be more amenable to programming. Essentially, without this course I would not have been able to develop the confidence to strike out as a competent data scientist in the field of next generation sequencing. The course not only increases the quality and impact of my PhD research but has given me the ability to share my new knowledge with my colleagues and contribute to my research group/institute as someone who is known to have these core skills.

“The supplement fund has already had a significant impact on my training and development”

The supplement fund has already had a significant impact on my training and development as it has allowed me to collaborate with another expert group in the US as well as receive surgical training. To my knowledge, our collaborators are the only research group to have this specific genetic mouse line and so it is paramount to have these mice derived and shipped as cautiously and precisely as possible.

The supplement fund has enabled our collaborator in the US to go ahead to re-derive the genetic mouse line I need for my PhD project. This has taken some time as it involves re-deriving an animal colony using sperms which were previously frozen. Our collaborator has confirmed that the mice have recently been in quarantine which had placed a hold on all breeding taking place within their animal facility. Fortunately, the mice are now in the process of breeding and I have been informed that the next pair of age matched litters will be sent to the UK, as soon as they meet the age requirements for transportation. We are currently exchanging emails with details of the paperwork required for shipment.

Thus, the mice will soon arrive, and I will start working on them. I am currently being trained for the in vivo techniques that I will be involved in by Dr Dibesh Thapa. However, in the meantime, I have been able to obtain extra separate evidence for a role for RAMP1, in that it is upregulated in the hypertensive mice that I am currently working this. I will present this data at the December 2018 BPS meeting and it provides further importance to the need for me to use the RAMP1 transgenic mice.

“These courses have given me a strong foundation in a variety of disciplines and have already been of benefit to my PhD”

I am very grateful to have been awarded MRC Flexible Supplement Funding which I used to attend three training courses.

The first was the “focused ultrasound course on hands, wrists and feet in Rheumatology” at Canterbury Christchurch University. I learned the theory and practice of musculoskeletal ultrasound and had the opportunity to perform ultrasounds on patients with inflammatory arthritis.  Following the four days of hands-on training I am now in the process of completing 120 hours supervised scanning at Guy’s Hospital.  On completion of the course I will have a formal qualification in musculoskeletal ultrasound. This experience and qualification is invaluable for me to perform ultrasound-guided synovial tissue biopsies, a technique that will be necessary for me to collect patient samples for my PhD project. It will also be useful for my future career in Rheumatology.

The second course was the “mass cytometry training course” run by the NIHR BRC Flowcore.  This course gave me the technical knowledge and practical experience required to optimise a panel of metal-conjugated antibodies to phenotype mononuclear cells isolated from ultrasound-guided synovial tissue biopsies.

The third course was a two week Bioinformatics course at Cambridge University.  I was taught basic programming languages and how to analyse DNA sequencing data from initial quality control, to alignment, variant calling and network analysis. This knowledge has already been useful in analysing the T cell receptor sequencing data that I generated as part of my PhD project.

If I had not been awarded MRC Flexible Supplement Funding I would not have had the opportunity to attend these three varied and high quality training courses. These courses have given me a strong foundation in a variety of disciplines and have already been of benefit to my PhD.

‘Having this ADOS-2 training has allowed me to be highly independent and to test hypotheses that are integral to my PhD project’

‘Receiving the MRC Flexible Supplement Award has had a great impact on my PhD training. The £950 I was awarded covered the costs of an expensive 4-day training course for the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-2 (ADOS-2) assessment, which is a research tool used to measure the severity of autistic behaviours in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I have since used the skills gained in this course to quantify autistic behaviours in participants with ASD in my research studies. Having this ADOS-2 training has allowed me to be highly independent and to test hypotheses that are integral to my PhD project (e.g., one main hypothesis is that observable autistic behaviours in the ADOS-2 assessment will be greater when participants are fatigued). Having data collected from the ADOS-2 in my PhD studies will also permit me to submit my work to high impact journals, as the ADOS-2 assessment is deemed to be more reliable than self- and parent-reported measures, as it is standardised norms from large datasets. More broadly, this training will serve me well in achieving research goals beyond my PhD, as I hope to pursue a career as an autism researcher. Not all autism researchers get the opportunity to receive ADOS-2 training, given its expense, therefore I am very grateful to the MRC for funding this training, which will put me in a unique position in future research environments.’

“This funding allowed me to expand the limits of my research and it constitutes a valuable tool for the development of my career.”

My PhD project focuses on the manipulation of endocrine cells from the intestine epithelium to treat diabetes and obesity. For this purpose, I use intestinal organoids due to their reliability and accuracy in mimicking the intestinal cell populations. My focus is on understanding and ultimately controlling cell fate in the intestinal epithelium to generate more of specific hormone-producing cells that are essential for glucose homeostasis and food consumption.

My model, being a 3D system, requires more precise and state-of-the art visualisation tools than 2D cell cultures. The flexible supplement allowed me to be immersed in the details of fluorescence microscopy and 3D imaging in the prestigious European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany. The seminars were comprehensive and provided me with information from the basics to advanced physics concepts. This allowed me to understand how to improve my image acquisition in the practical imaging workshops. The practical training, among other methods, included time-lapse imaging of live models, i.e. growth of zebrafish embryos as well as using techniques such as FRAP in epithelial cells.

Overall, this training opportunity has provided a good foundation for 3D image acquisition as well as fomenting the interest in 2D techniques that might be adaptable to 3D models. It has equipped me with the tools to properly explore my samples and obtain more accurate data from them.

This funding allowed me to expand the limits of my research and it constitutes a valuable tool for the development of my career.

Internships & Placements

“I believe that the internship built my confidence and has opened my eyes up to the variety of career options that may be available to me post-PhD”

The MRC Flexible Supplement provided funding for me to complete a 3-month policy internship at the Academy of Medical Sciences, which was a great learning experience and built up my transferable skills. The internship gave me the opportunity to gain a different perspective on research, and learn about the ways other organisations work to make sure that the research carried out in academia is translated into benefit for society – an understanding I believe to be important for any researcher. It also gave me the opportunity to gain experience of communicating information via different writing styles, for different audiences, as well as providing a platform to interact with individuals from a variety of organisations. During the internship, I was also lucky to have the chance to spend some time at the MRC and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).

I believe that the internship built my confidence and has opened my eyes up to the variety of career options that may be available to me post-PhD, and has helped me appreciate that the skills I am learning and acquiring during my PhD are applicable to a wide variety of careers.

“I have increased my professional network and opened avenues for future collaborations.”

The MRC flexible supplement award funding was used to cover my stipend payments for three months, allowing me to complete a placement at the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience, Brunel University.

During this placement, I was involved in the design, piloting and analysis of two EEG studies. I also worked on creating analysis pipelines and reviewing manuscripts from previous studies.

One of the reasons I applied for placement was to learn functional connectivity analysis, in order to analyse and publish data collected in my PhD study. After completing this placement, I am now confident in analysing this data. I also learnt additional analysis techniques such as event-related desynchronization analysis and time-frequency analysis.

In addition to these impacts on my training, this placement has helped develop my study design skills, analysis pipeline skills and team work skills. It also gave me an opportunity to apply my skills to a new field of study (i.e, sport and brain injury).

It was also fascinating to work in a multidisciplinary team during the research design process. The lab had a very open approach to study design, which allowed multiple members of the lab to contribute thoughts and ideas to the study. This approach, although more time-consuming at points, ultimately generated very high-quality research designs.

My contribution to the lab has resulted in me being including on the authorship of two peer-reviewed papers (in review). I have increased my professional network and opened avenues for future collaborations.

PhD to Postdoctoral Transition

“crucial in supporting me through a challenging peer-review process”

Parts of this funding have been used in support of completing two papers which are presently going through internal review process with my supervisors and collaborators. The funding was also crucial in supporting me through a challenging peer-review process for an article I have submitted in the previous month. This article, titled “Specificity of executive function and theory of mind performance in relation to attention-deficit/hyperactivity symptoms in autism spectrum disorders”, is now published in the journal Molecular Autism.

Some of the funding was also used for registration to the FSL neuroimaging data analysis course and a travel to Canada where the course was held this year. I was however unable to attend the training due to delays in my visa, despite allowing a month for processing. Upon negotiation with the FSL course organizer, I was allowed to transfer my registration to a course in 2018. While the reservation for the accommodation was returned, the flight ticket was unfortunately non-refundable. Using the remaining fund from this award and my own personal fund, I organized a visit to the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, District of Columbia, USA, to attend a free training on the neuroimaging software AFNI (Analysis of Functional Neuroimages) in October 2017. The software allows scripting thus more freedom in analysing imaging data. Attending the training allows me to develop my ability to program my own neuroimaging pipeline, which is a valuable skill to have for my current post-doctoral works in neuroimaging.