Contributing to the "evolving landscape of Irish graduate education," has been the introduction of structured PhD programmes throughout Ireland in recent years. As defined by the Irish Universities Quality Board, a structured PhD programme "maintains a research-based education" but is augmented with activities that develop "relevant specialist and generic skills" (1).
Funded by the Health Research Board of Ireland in 2007, the PhD Scholars Programme in Cancer Biology at University College Cork is an example of a structured PhD programme. Similar to Wellcome Trust PhD studentships in the UK, students entering the PhD Scholars Programme in Cancer Biology receive their PhD-training over four years, with the first year consisting of taught modules, emphasising specialist and generic skills, and laboratory rotations. The remaining three years are devoted to thesis research.
As a scientific field, cancer biology is inter-disciplinary; it encompasses experimental techniques and knowledge from many basic sciences and also includes clincial oncological sciences involving the prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment of human cancers. Therefore, training in cancer biology must be multi-faceted and is particularly well-suited to a structured PhD format.
Meeting guidelines established by The Cancer Biology Training Consortium in the United States (2), the PhD Scholars Programme in Cancer Biology includes:
- laboratory research
- basic science, translational and clincial aspects of cancer biology
- other research-related experiences, such as presentations, journal clubs, and seminars
This presentation will briefly highlight the training structures, procedures and quality assurance measures that have been incorporated into the PhD Scholars Programme in Cancer Biology. Observations and personal insights from the first cohort of students will also be presented.
- Irish Universities Quality Board, ¿Good Practice in the Organisation of PhD Programmes in Irish Higher Education,¿ 2nd ed. (2009).
- Torti, et al. (2008) ¿PhD Training in Cancer Biology,¿ Cancer Res 68: 9122-9124.