46m PhD boost as three Centres for Doctoral Training funded at Imperial

Imperial has received a huge boost for training PhD students today with the announcement of new funding for Centres for Doctoral Training.

The university is leading three multi-million pound Centres that will support hundreds of PhD students over eight years in areas including statistical machine learning, climate change and chemical biology. Imperial is also involved in five CDTs led by other universities.

"At Imperial, we support the researchers concentrating on some of the critical scientific challenges that face humanity." Professor Richard Craster Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences

In total, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has announced funding for sixty-five Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) that will train more than 4,000 doctoral students in key challenges including net zero, AI, defence and security, healthcare and quantum technologies.

At Imperial, around £22m of EPSRC funding is complimented by financial and in-kind support from business and civic partners, creating three CDTs with £46m of funding in total.

The Imperial-led CDTs are spearheaded by academics in the Departments of Chemistry and Mathematics.

Professor Richard Craster , Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences , said: "At Imperial, we support the researchers concentrating on some of the critical scientific challenges that face humanity. The new and renewed Centres for Doctoral Training will help us to do just that, working alongside our partners to train the next generation of scientific leaders."

EPSRC Mathematics for our Future Climate CDT

The £16m Mathematics For our Future Climate CDT will build a scientific community to address the grand mathematical challenges raised by the significant levels of uncertainty in our future climate. It aims to equip a new generation of mathematicians with key skills in mathematical modelling, scientific computing, statistics and data science to address the diverse problems and pressing challenges posed by climate change.

It will be led by Professor Dan Crisan , from the Department of Mathematics at Imperial, alongside the University of Reading and the University of Southampton, plus ocean, weather and climate services, and a wide range of industrial partners.

The programme will focus on four areas:

  • fundamental mathematical advances needed to understand and anticipate the climate crisis, and to quantify and mitigate the risks associated with extreme events and cascading impacts of a changing climate
  • methods needed to exploit large-scale computing and big data
  • solutions to tackle climate change, enhance sustainability, and ensure economic prosperity and fairness by optimizing the effectiveness of renewable energy and the trade-off between mitigation and adaptation actions
  • tools to enable transparent, accessible, scalable, user-relevant and user-friendly analysis of real-time data

Professor Crisan said: "The funding we received will enable us to prepare graduates with strong mathematics, physics and engineering backgrounds to apply their skills in mathematical modelling, scientific computing, statistics and machine learning to key climate-related problems in oceanic, atmospheric and engineering contexts.

"The MFC CDT will have a lasting effect on the capability to inform decisions and efforts related to climate change."

EPSRC Institute of Chemical Biology CDT

With its fourth renewal funding, the £26m Institute of Chemical Biology CDT has been recognised as a flagship PhD training centre, which has established Imperial as a world leader in chemical biology training and research.

It is led by Dr Laura Barter and co-investigators Professor Oscar Ces, Dr Nick Brooks, Professor Ed Tate, Dr Rudiger Woscholski and Professor Ramon Vilar, all from the Department of Chemistry at Imperial.

"We are really excited by the unprecedented scale of the CDT, with global as well as UK-wide reach." Dr Laura Barter Department of Chemistry

Chemical biology is the development and application of novel molecular tools and technologies to tackle challenges within the life sciences, with industrial or clinical benefit. The CDT aims to train graduates in ’Lab of the Future’ platforms such as AI, machine learning and robotics, which together will revolutionise the state of the art with respect to manipulating, measuring and modelling molecular interactions in biological systems.

The CDT has a new initiative - the first of its kind - fusing a 1 year MRes and 3 year PhD programme with a 1 year Post-Doctoral ELEVATE fellowship, offering graduates unparalleled in-work experience.

Dr Barter said: "This skillset will enable our graduates to transform understanding of molecular mechanisms of disease, stimulate novel agrochemical design and underpin structured product breakthroughs, whilst also enabling fundamental discovery in the life and medical sciences.

"We are really excited by the unprecedented scale of the CDT, with global as well as UK-wide reach. This has the potential to drive regional economic growth through the CDT’s new civic priority focus that together will support the expansion of the White City Innovation District through knowledge transfer, translation and talent-based growth."

The training programme brings together more than 165 academics, spanning 20 departments and centres at Imperial, and has been crafted in partnership with more than 100 industry representatives from global companies in therapeutics, agri-science, personal-care and bio/med-tech, along with new civic partners from local government, the NHS, tech accelerators and local developers.

EPSRC CDT in Statistics and Machine Learning ( StatML )

The renewed £14m CDT in Statistics and Machine Learning aims to create the next generation of leaders in statistics and machine learning, allowing them to innovate methodologies that underpin data science and AI, which will be instrumental in future-proofing the UK.

It is led by the Department of Mathematics’ Dr Sarah Filippi and Dr Ed Cohen , with support from Dr Ciara Pike-Burke and Dr Francesco Sanna Passino. The CDT is joint with the University of Oxford and is supported by numerous industrial and international partners.

Data science and AI are now part of our everyday lives, transforming all sectors of the economy. To future-proof the UK’s prosperity and security, it is essential to develop new methodology, specifically tailored to meet the big societal challenges of the future. The techniques underpinning such methods are founded in statistics and machine learning.

The programme will include the bespoke cohort-based Advanced Training program in Statistics and Machine Learning (StatML-AT), in partnership with industry This will equip students with the practical skills required to transform how data is used, along with training in the latest ideas in ethics, responsible innovation, sustainability and entrepreneurship.

Dr Filippi said: "With the recent disruptive advancements in AI, there has never been a more vital time to build resilience and invest in the training of doctoral students in advanced statistics and machine learning methods.

"Our students will be empowered with the advanced technical and practical skills required to provide real-world impact, solving critical global challenges and creating society-changing technologies. They will gain a deep appreciation of ethical and trustworthy solutions, reproducible research, and open science."

Other CDT involvement

Imperial academics are involved in five more CDTs:

EPSRC CDT in Aerosol Science - led by University of Bristol - Imperial collaborator is Dr Marc Stettler (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering)

EPSRC CDT in Developing National Capability for Materials 4.0 - led by University of Manchester - Imperial collaborator is Professor Aron Walsh (Department of Materials)

EPSRC CDT in Green Industrial Futures - led by Heriot Watt University - Imperial collaborators are Professor Paul Fennell (Department of Chemical Engineering) and Professor Anna Korre (Department of Earth Science and Engineering)

EPSRC CDT in Collaborative Computational Modelling at the Interface - led by University College London - Imperial collaborator is Professor Colin Cotter (Department of Mathematics)

EPSRC CDT in Cyber-Physical Systems for Medicine Development and Manufacturing - led by University of Strathclyde - Imperial collaborator is Professor Claire Adjiman (Department of Chemical Engineering)