Rotation PhD

The Rotation PhD programme is a prestigious four-year PhD programme that trains graduate students at the John Innes Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory.

Our four-year Rotation PhD offers you the chance to select three mini (10-week) projects in your first eight months, before narrowing your focus and choosing the topic and supervisor for your main research project.

The mini-projects allow you to gain broad technical and theoretical training prior to selecting your main research project across a wide range of scientific approaches including;

  • Plant science
  • Microbiology
  • Biological chemistry
  • Applied mathematics
  • Computational biology
  • Systems biology
  • Genetics
  • Genomics
  • Crop science
  • Cell biology
  • Molecular biology

During the rotation year, you will be mentored by the programme tutor, a senior academic and a rotation student from the previous year-group.

You will also learn your fellow rotation students through a fortnightly journal club and research presentations at the end of each mini-project.

Eligibility and funding

Our Rotation PhD is open to UK, EU and International applicants with a degree in any scientific subject of relevance to the scope of the programme.

The four-year studentship includes a generous stipend to cover living expenses, university tuition fees and research and training costs. As an example, the stipend is £18,285 during the current academic year.

This programme involves the John Innes Centre and our Norwich Research Park neighbours The Sainsbury Laboratory. You will be registered for your degree at the University of East Anglia.

Applicants should fulfil the entry requirements for PhD registration at the University of East Anglia and should have, or expect to obtain, a good Undergraduate Honours Degree (minimum of Upper Second Class or equivalent).

Applications for this programme should be made using the online application form on the University of East Anglia’s website.

Applications by email will not be considered.

For more information contact:

How the Rotation PhD programme works

Year one begins with a three-week period of intensive training and orientation. This is designed to introduce all the research programmes currently being pursued at the John Innes Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory.

There will also be the opportunity to attend departmental presentations, our Annual Science Meeting, a Rotation Students’ Retreat for all year groups, and a range of one-to-one meetings with supervisors of your choice.

Throughout, you will be guided by a faculty-mentor, a student-mentor from the previous year-group and a programme tutor who will help you to select your three rotation projects.

Once you are settled, you will begin the first of three 10-week mini-research projects. Each rotation will have different supervisors located in either of the two partner institutes.

After each rotation period, you will write a report and give a short oral presentation to the other rotation students, ensuring you quickly become familiar with a wide range of scientific approaches.

The objective of the first eight months is to gain broad technical and theoretical training prior to the selection of a main research project and supervisor. It also enables you to select the topic that interests you most for the main PhD project.

By June of the first year, you will have selected the supervisor that you wish to conduct the main PhD research project.

At this point, you’ll begin a fourth rotation period of 16 weeks. During this, you conduct exploratory experiments and write a research proposal for your PhD, creating a scientifically interesting but technically feasible research project.

Your future

Our previous Rotation students have an amazing publication record from their studies.

Just recently, these achievements include a number of published first-author papers in Science, Nature Communications, Plant Cell, Current Biology, Current Opinion in Biotechnology, and Journal of Visualized Experiments. Alongside these have been co-authored papers in PLoS Pathogens, Plant Physiology, Plant Biotechnology Journal, Biology Protocols, and BMC Plant Biology.

Several former Rotation students have gone on to lead their own research groups around the world, including two who have returned to the John Innes Centre to start their own research groups;

  • Yiliang Ding
  • Tung Le
  • Alexander Graf
  • Sebastian Marquardt
  • Linfeng Huang
  • Ulises Rosas
  • Frank Sainsbury

Others have taken their careers in other directions, such as medical writing, industrial project and product management, and science funding agency management. You can read some of their stories in our PhD blogs.

Our Rotation PhD is the longest running rotation programme in non-medical sciences in the UK with a proven track record in research training and academic excellence since 2003. Normally, up to five studentships will be available each year.

Programme Directors