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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.


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 round of applications open on Monday 1st October 2018 and close on Wednesday 31st October 2018. 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


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 1st October.

Download the MRC Flexible Supplement Application Form, complete and submit to mrc-dtp@kcl.ac.uk by Wednesday 31st October 2018. for consideration. An academic panel will review all applications in the week commencing 19th November 2018.

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

‘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.’

‘A unique set of research skills not often available to PhD students.’

‘These funds contributed towards me attending an extensive 3-day course using Mplus Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) for cross-sectional data and purchasing a copy of the Mplus Student Software. Since attending the course, I have used Mplus extensively for data analysis with both cross-sectional and longitudinal data, and the results of this work have recently been submitted for publication.

The MRC Flexible Student Award also provided me with the funds to attend the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule 2nd edition (ADOS-2) training and purchase an ADOS-2 Hand-scored Kit. This was an extensive training course, which equipped me with the necessary skills to perform diagnostic assessments both during and beyond my PhD.  I am very grateful for having the opportunity to attend a variety of training courses, which have enabled me to acquire a unique set of research skills not often available to PhD students.’

‘I have increased my professional network and opened avenues for future collaborations.’

‘The MRC flexible supplement award funding allowed 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).

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.’

‘This funding has significantly benefited both my PhD and my personal development, helping me to expand my analytical repertoire’

‘I attended a two day training course on “High dimensional data analysis for mass and flow-cytometry” run by the BRC flow-cytometry facility at Guy’s. The course was designed for mass and fluorescent cytometry users, statisticians and bioinformaticians with an interest in data analysis methods for high-dimensionality mass cytometry experiments. The course aimed to provide participants with a full understanding of high dimensionality data analysis concepts and a knowledge of the current ‘R Software’ based tools, including hands on experience in using these. The course was both engaging and practical, emphasising the relevance of the concepts and techniques for clinical applications.

I would strongly recommend this course to other MRC DTP students who are involved in mass cytometry or multi-colour flow cytometry with a large number of fluorochromes. This MRC flexible supplement funding opportunity has significantly benefitted both my PhD and my personal development, helping me to expand my analytical repertoire.

I went on to apply analysis techniques learnt on this course in my PhD project, where they informed the design and analysis of a multi-colour flow-cytometry study to phenotype populations of tumour infiltrating macrophages in a spontaneous mouse model of breast cancer. Additionally, I applied concepts learnt on the course to a collaborative project in the Arnold lab, which analysed publically available single-cell RNA-seq data, the results of which are included in a publication from the Arnold lab. (Muliaditan, Opzoomer, Caron . . . Arnold, Clinical Cancer Research, Accepted Dec 2017).’

‘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.’

‘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.

“Following the course, I feel confident in independently analyzing my own data”

In October 2017, I was awarded to attend the FSL course run by the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging (Oxford University). The course took place in Adelaide, Australia on 17-21st November 2017 and the funds awarded to me by the MRC have allowed me to cover the course fees, as well as travel and accommodation costs.

My PhD project is focused on the effect of maternal depression on foetal and neonatal brain development. Given that my educational background is in Psychology and my research experience is in Electroencephalography, it was essential for my PhD that I developed a solid understanding of MRI theory, as well as skills necessary to analyze MRI data in the first few months of my PhD journey.

Attending the FSL course has allowed me to learn how to use the software package to independently analyse functional, structural and diffusion MRI brain imaging data. The course was very intensive and it included theoretical aspects, as well as practical sessions where we got to analyze MRI data and to have our questions answered by a team of experts. Furthermore, one of the course organizers is an expert in foetal and neonatal brain imaging analysis and thus attending the course has been a great networking experience as well. Following the course, I feel confident in independently analyzing my own data using resources provided by the course organisers and I am very grateful to have had this experience.

“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.

“I will now be able to handle and analyse the large datasets which accompany the iPS lines that I will be investigating”

I used the flexible supplement to attend the 2-day bioinformatics training course ‘Introduction to solving biological problems with R’ at the University of Cambridge. It covered the fundamentals of the programming language, including how to manipulate tabular data, create plots and perform statistical analyses. These skills were applied to biologically relevant
data in practical exercises, which helped to identify how I could apply what I have learnt to my own data. I found the teaching to be of a very high standard and there was additional individual support available when required.

For my PhD, I will be using human iPSC lines from the HipSci cell bank (www.hipsci.org) to determine how common genetic variation between healthy individuals can affect cellular differentiation and patterning into the three embryonic germ layers. There are approximately 500 cell lines to select from and the HipSci data resource contains comprehensive genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic data for each line. I will now be able to handle and analyse the large datasets which accompany the iPS lines that I will be investigating. I also feel more strongly equipped to work alongside the Bioinformaticians in my department to build computational tools for my research.

“The benefits of the training were too many to enumerate”

I attended the British Association of Psychopharmacology Certificate in Non-Clinical Psychopharmacology in March 2018. This was a four day course held in Cambridge; it consisted of a full programme of lectures (covering areas of The Molecular Biology of the Mind, Statistics and Experimental Design, Clinical Neuroscience, Pharmacokinetics, Preclinical Behavioural Psychopharmacology, Introduction to Human Preclinical and Translational Neuroimaging, Combining Neurobiology and Behaviour), dinners with eminent psychopharmacologists in the field and a group project on seeking viable targets in dementia as well as a visit to the preclinical laboratory in Cambridge.

The benefits of the training were too many to enumerate. This was a well thought out programme with beneficial insights for me personally in neuroscience, genetics, particularly the translational pathway and networking with both leaders and peers in the field. What I have taken away from the certificate is a deeper understanding of how pre-clinical research is organized. One thing particularly impressed on me was there is no ‘pre-clinical model of schizophrenia’ or ‘dementia’ as such, in fact there are models of the deficits seen in these disorders. As a translational psychiatrist this is particularly pertinent – when we try and place neuroimaging findings in context with reference to preclinical work we need to consider the applicability of the models we are discussing whether in mouse or macaque. I also appreciated see scientists explaining their body of work – I was particularly impressed by Professor Marcus Munafo, have since followed his work closely and am considering a new project along similar lines.

“this training opportunity has provided me with a good foundation for the analysis for my own data”

My PhD project focusses on the role of Zinc finger and BTB domain-containing (ZBTB) proteins in thymocyte development and lymphoma. Since this class of proteins acts as transcriptional regulators, my main aim is to determine their genomic binding sites and target genes and assess the relevance of epigenetic modifications and co-factor recruitment. I am using functional genomics approaches, such as RNA-seq and ChIP-seq, which entail processing and extensive analysis of next generation sequencing data using Unix-based software packages. The flexible supplement funding allowed me to attend a two day training course on RNA-seq and ChIP-seq data analysis organised by NextGenSeq Ltd. in December 2017. The workshop provided me with a general overview over NGS techniques, important aspects of sample preparation as well as a comparison of available sequencing platforms and their advantages and drawbacks. The practical training covered different aspects of data processing from quality control to usage of different downstream analysis tools and due to the small course size questions related to individual projects could be addressed. Overall, this training opportunity has provided me with a good foundation for the analysis for my own data, which I am about to embark on. It has equipped me with a better understanding of different analysis approaches and the underlying procedures, which will allow me to adjust established data processing pipelines to my own needs and carry out ChIP-seq and RNAseq data analysis from raw sequencing files up until visualization of results, which is essential for the progress of my project.

“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 am very grateful for having had the opportunity to further my knowledge”

The MRC Flexible Supplement Award allowed me to attend the 1-day course “Extracting biological information from gene lists” at Babraham Campus in Cambridge-UK.

The course looked at the various software packages, databases and statistical methods used in performing analysis on long lists of hits. As well as being a practical guide to performing data analysis, the course also looked at the types of artefacts and bias which can lead to false conclusions about functionality and looked at the appropriate ways to both run the analysis and present the results for publication.

During the first 2 years of my PhD I have collected biologic materials from patients affected by localised and generalised forms of pustular psoriasis and from healthy controls. I have then produced large-scale genetic data through Whole Exome Sequencing and RNAseq of purified neutrophils, and performed the data analysis The course has allowed me to get a more in-depth knowledge of how to deal with the very extensive data I have produced during my PhD and to make the most out of it all, by extracting biological insight from the list of candidate genes and differentially expressed genes generated. A more exhaustive analysis, achieved thanks to the knowledge gained attending the course, also helped us better understand the underlying mechanisms leading to autoinflammation. I am very grateful for having had the opportunity to further my knowledge on data analysis methods, and the unique skills gained should soon lead to a rewarding publication!

“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.