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Life as a D. Phil Student

The challenges of completing a D.Phil are unique.   You need to be organised, sometimes planning experiments months in advance, you need to keep up to date with the literature and the latest advances in transplantation research and you need to be flexible, working long hours or out of hours when necessary.  Despite these challenges the rewards are massive and nothing quite beats the moment when you realise an important experiment has been successful.

To help you get through your three years in the lab the support network provided by senior members and, importantly, your colleagues in the lab is first class.  Tuesday morning lab meetings, at which one member of the group presents an update on their work, constitute an important part of this support allowing you the insight of around 20-25 other lab members who are not permanently focussed on your project.  Journal Club on a Wednesday highlights a recently published article of interest to the group and provides you not only with an opportunity to keep up to date with key observations in the field but also with the important skills necessary for critical analyses of work from another group.  In addition, Departmental meetings which take place during university terms provide an insight into other areas of research in the department and, when it’s your turn to present, ideas for your project from people who may be thinking ‘outside of the square. Finally, all of the students in the lab convene on Friday afternoons to discuss basic aspects of immunology.  These discussions are tailored to increasing the fundamental immunologic knowledge base for upcoming vivas' and a future career in trasnplantation immunology. 

Beyond the more formal situations described, you can learn an immense amount from the people around you on a day to day basis.  The lab is a friendly environment to work in and informal chats in the lab, the office or over coffee about a topic that just springs into your mind can be as informative as an hour or more of reading!

As your project takes shape and the data begins to flow (fingers crossed) you are actively encouraged to attend international meetings, presenting your own work to audiences containing some of the leading names in the field of transplantation.  In the past few years graduate students have presented their work at the XX International Congress of The Transplantation Society in Vienna, Austria, the 9th Basic Sciences Symposium of The Transplantation Society in La Baule, France and the 3rd International Congress on Immunosuppression in San Diego, U.S.A.

There are numerous seminars and lectures taking place throughout the university with strong links to transplantation and immunology as a whole which you are kept informed about and provide a further source of information and learning.  In addition, as you would expect on a graduate course, there are many other opportunities to further your training.  The University runs computer courses to learn or brush up your Powerpoint, SPSS, Endnote or thesis writing skills.  There are also regular workshops and lectures advertised on topics ranging from ethics in science to critical analysis skills and beyond which you are encouraged to attend.

Members of TRIG have also got together for many recreational activities including a lab outing to the beach, attendance at major sporting events, lab meals and visits to the local public house!

To summarise, deciding to pursue your D.Phil in TRIG will provide you with a varied, challenging, exciting and ultimately rewarding experience and will be an important stepping stone in your future career whether that be in academia, industry, medicine or beyond.

Choosing a college

At the end of the day, which college you apply to makes very little difference to your time here.  Whilst some of the older and richer colleges may have the buildings and traditions that go with the ‘Oxford experience’, you may find that more recently established colleges have more modern rooms with better facilities.;

One consideration may be the number of years a college can provide you with accommodation, some may be able to accommodate you for the full three years whilst others only one.

Another consideration may be funding.  It is definitely worth checking out the various scholarships and bursaries available at different colleges to see if you are eligible to apply.

Some colleges accept predominantly or solely graduate students whilst others have graduate student annexes.  If you plan to live in college accommodation and integrate into college life this has the advantage of meaning you are always surrounded by people of a similar age and background to yourself rather than school leavers who have just left home for the first time.

For a link to the university list of colleges click here.

Alternative accommodation

If you are not planning to live in college accommodation, perhaps because you wish to live with a partner, there are other options available to you.  The university has a number of houses and flats available for rent.  Be aware however that demand for these is high and you should put your name on the waiting list as far in advance as possible.  For the university housing office click here.