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York to help train next generation of environmental scientists

Posted on 5 November 2013

Two partnerships involving the University of York have received a share of £100m funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to train the next generation of environmental scientists.

They are among 15 Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) to receive funding to support 1,200 PhD students. This will mean at least 240 new environmental science PhD students will begin training every year for five years across the partnerships.

The successful DTPs announced by Science and Universities Minister David Willets include a consortium formed by the Universities of Sheffield, York and Liverpool and NERC’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and another formed by the Universities of Leeds and York.

Both the Sheffield-led DTP (Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment - ACCE) and the Leeds-led DTP (NERC Science @ Leeds and York – Site for PhD Training in Environmental Research - SPHERES) aim to develop confident and multi-skilled postgraduate students who can relate the science they undertake to business, policy, public needs and society.

The training delivered through the partnerships will have an emphasis on generic skills such as entrepreneurship and commercialisation of research and will aim to address the environmental science skills gaps identified in NERC’s skills review 2012.

Professor Jane Hill, from the University of York’s Department of Biology, said “We are delighted that York is part of the ACCE DTP. Students will focus on the biological component of the natural environment, with complementary training and support from private business, the public sector and NGOs, to ensure that ACCE students are equipped for careers in science-based industry, academia and beyond.”

The announcement by NERC of new investments in PhD training will help our mission to deliver highly skilled scientists who can make significant contributions to society and the economy

Professor Alastair Lewis

Professor Alastair Lewis, from York’s Department of Chemistry, said: “The announcement by NERC of new investments in PhD training will help our mission to deliver highly skilled scientists who can make significant contributions to society and the economy. Our atmospheric chemistry PhD students, for example, go on to have careers that improve public health, support international policy, and create new products and services in high value sectors such as sensors, high performance computing and fine chemicals.”

The 15 successful partnerships include collaborations between 38 UK higher education institutions and partner organisations, including businesses, policy-makers, and public and third-sector organisations, such as Unilever, Scottish Water and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

A minimum of 30 per cent of the students will work with and undertake research projects that are directly relevant to non-academic partners in a bid to help keep the UK at the forefront of research training and provide students with the training experience they need to enter a wide range of careers.

Science and Universities Minister David Willetts said: “This significant investment highlights the Government’s commitment to supporting postgraduate training and research in the environmental sciences. We’re dedicated to providing the next generation of environmental researchers with the necessary skills and training to succeed in academia and industry.

“The strong support for this programme from a number of international partners such as BP, Microsoft and Arup is enormously encouraging. Not only will this benefit students, UK research organisations, business, industry and the economy, it will keep us at the forefront of the global science race.”

Professor Duncan Wingham, Chief Executive of NERC, said: “If UK environmental sciences are going to continue to prosper, we need to make sure we get the best from our students. These DTPs position us to compete in an increasingly competitive global environment by training students in the best possible way to use environmental sciences to help meet the challenges and opportunities facing us today.

“We want to provide these students with the skillsets and experiences to equip them to become future scientific leaders, and sustain the flow of top talent and skilled people for UK research, business and government. Encouraging collaboration between academic institutions and partners across the environmental sciences sector when delivering training for every student will help achieve this. NERC DTPs will further scientific progress and support UK economic growth, job creation and prosperity.”

Notes to editors:

  • Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment - ACCE - includes York’s Departments of Biology, Environment, Archaeology and Chemistry, and addresses key research themes of York Environmental Sustainability Institute (YESI) on Global Change and Sustainable Environments. More information on YESI at www.york.ac.uk/yesi/

  • NERC Science @ Leeds and York – Site for PhD Training in Environmental Research – SPHERES – includes York’s Department of Chemistry. More information on the Department of Chemistry at the University of York at www.york.ac.uk/chemistry

  • More information about the 15 successful Doctoral Training Partnerships can be found at: www.nerc.ac.uk/press/releases/2013/83-dtp.asp

  • NERC is the largest funder of environmental science in the UK. It invests £330m in cutting-edge research, training and knowledge transfer in the environmental sciences. Our scientists study and monitor the whole planet, from pole to pole, and from the deep Earth and oceans to the edge of space.

    It addresses and responds to critical issues such as environmental hazards, resource security and environmental change. Through collaboration with other science disciplines, with UK business and with policy-makers, it makes sure its knowledge and skills support sustainable economic growth and public wellbeing – reducing risks to health, infrastructure, supply chains and our changing environment. www.nerc.ac.uk, @NERCscience

Contact details

Caron Lett
Press Officer

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