CDT Student Testimonials

  • Below are some testimonials from some of our existing lifETIME CDT students.


    Being the first person in my family to ever decide to go to university, I am particularly proud to now be a PhD student with the lifETIME CDT. So how did I end up here? Having always had a keen interest in science and animals, I decided to pursue a Bioveterinary Science undergraduate degree. It was both an exciting and nerve-wracking prospect. I didn’t have any family members to turn to for experienced advice or to hear their stories of why university was worth it. Thankfully, very quickly I fell in love with my degree and, with support from friends and family, after 3 years I proudly graduated.

    I spent the next 2 years working in the drug discovery industry as part of a graduate scheme. I really developed myself as a scientist and expanded my skills and confidence. Upon completing the graduate scheme and facing the choice of whether to stay in the role or apply for something new, I became motivated to apply for PhDs as I wanted a greater sense of independence and to fulfil my own personal research goals. Many of these specifically surrounded my interest in moving science away from its reliance on animal models, hence why I applied to the lifETIME CDT; this is a programme with a heavy focus on projects developing non-animal technologies.

    My first 6 months with the CDT have been thoroughly enjoyable; I am surrounded by likeminded, supportive colleagues from a variety of backgrounds. Our CDT has a focus on equality, diversity and inclusion which is clear to see when looking at the current cohorts of students; we are a mix of genders, ethnicities, scientific backgrounds, as well as personal backgrounds. The various training retreats have given us the opportunity to bond well as both a cohort, and an entire programme joined with earlier cohorts – all whilst exploring new cities and learning valuable skills! We have a strong support network with emphasis on making sure nobody feels lonely or excluded. I have found a sense of belonging in my PhD and cannot recommend the lifETIME CDT enough for anyone seeking a diverse, fun, and exciting PhD network.


    I have always had it in the back of my mind since my undergraduate studies to do a PhD this was simply because I enjoyed my bachelors experience, loved life sciences and studying. Though, I would never describe myself as an academic or having a crazy passion for a particular niche subject area, I did know that pursuing a PhD would help my career if I wanted to progress through research. However, I have always had this idea that PhDs were for particular people; what that criteria was exactly, I couldn’t say, but it did not include me.

    By the time I left university, I was very conscious about earning money and being independent and so was very focused on finding work. This meant that pursuing a PhD slipped further down the list of things to do or so I thought.

    I worked for six years, and each time the idea of taking steps towards a PhD came up I pushed it down and justified not doing so because “I couldn’t stop earning money”, “I’m not financially stable to do so” (what does that even mean these days?).  But at the same time, I was fast approaching the upper limits of what I could do in research without a master’s degree or PhD. I wanted to move on and progress in my career path and move to different institutes and labs. Unfortunately, a lot of the roles which I felt capable of fulfilling and wanted to apply to desired PhDs or least master’s degrees.

    As sit here writing this testimonial as a first year PhD student. I had a sudden realisation, that for me there was no “right” time to do a PhD, that a PhD is a career choice, not just a hobby for the few, and most of all it is possible to find funded PhD programmes that care for their students’ careers beyond the PhD.

    The lifETIME PhD programme is an expanding community that shapes and moulds well-rounded scientific researchers with a wholistic approach emphasising clinical and industrial application. Being part of this CDT for me, removes the sense of self within my work and helps me to focus more on the contributions to society and to individuals that can be made through our work and careers. The lifETIME CDT makes me feel welcomed, like I am in the right place, and this is my time.


    lifETIME PhD Student – NUI Galway

    I am currently carrying out a PhD on developing a multi-cellular 3D model of colorectal cancer. My interest in researching colorectal cancer started in my undergraduate degree where I was given the opportunity to carry out an internship at Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands. I also carried out my final year undergraduate project in NUI Galway in Dr. Aideen Ryans research lab which is the lab I am currently a part of. To further my knowledge in this area, I went on to carry out a masters degree in Immunology in Trinity College, Dublin which enhanced my interest in this field.

    So far being part of the lifETIME CDT has given me multiple opportunities. From the activities organised by the CDT, I have been given the chance to network with both academic and industrial leaders in a variety of different research fields including; biomaterials, immunology, chemistry and physics. One of the main things that drew me to the lifETIME CDT was the application of interdisciplinary skills throughout all of the projects. I am looking forward to developing interdisciplinary skills which will be useful throughout my project and future career. Due to the fact that many of the students in the CDT have come from different research fields means that I have a wide variety of knowledge and experience available to me should I require it for different aspects of my project.  I am really grateful to be part of this CDT and am looking forward to future collaborations throughout this project.

    Paige (She/Her)

    lifETIME PhD Student – Aston University 

    Having always taken a keen interest in biology and stem cells, application for a PhD allowed me to explore this further and develop myself as a young professional, while making an active contribution to society. My research is looking to create a 3D model of the cortex for investigation of neurodegenerative diseases and their potential treatments. With an aging population diseases such as dementia are becoming increasingly common and therefore the focus of more intensive research.

    I am taking a tissue engineering approach to create my organ model using scaffolds, cells and a variety of other materials to recreate the complex architecture found within the human brain. The lifETIME CDT encourages this multidisciplinary approach to each project, to improve project outcomes and facilitate collaboration between professionals.

    As a young scientist I believe the lifETIME CDT has allowed me to engage and network with peers, lecturers and industry professionals from a variety of countries and research fields. Throughout my research such networking is supplemented with business skills training in the form of taught sessions and placement with an industry partner. These experiences set my PhD aside from others, by equipping me with multidisciplinary skills and a vast network of contacts across the UK!

    Elaine (She/Her)

    lifETIME PhD Student – University of Glasgow

    The lifETIME CDT provides the perfect programme to develop the skills required to become an independent research scientist, which is what drove me to pursue a PhD. Carrying out a project in cancer research, developing a 3D in vitro model to study tumour metastasis and dormancy, builds on my existing skills as a biologist as well as allowing me to explore areas of bioengineering. Working between the internationally renowned CRUK Beatson Institute for Cancer Research and the School of Engineering at the University of Glasgow allows me to learn from a wide range of experts and develop state-of-the-art techniques.

    I am also working in collaboration with the biotech company, BioGelX Ltd, who have developed a synthetic hydrogel as an alternative to animal-derived hydrogels. The CDT industry partners provide opportunities to network and gain insights into how academic research can be integrated and transferred to industry. The lifETIME CDT is the perfect programme for those looking to carry out an interdisciplinary PhD project, develop as a well-rounded independent researcher ready to continue their career in academia or industry, and for those looking to go through their PhD journey with the support of a cohort family.


    lifETIME PhD Student – University of Glasgow

    Hi, I’m Lauren – I am a first year PhD student with the lifETIME CDT. I am based in the Paul O’Gorman Leukaemia Research Centre and the CEMI at the University of Glasgow. The aim of my project is to develop a novel 3D model of the bone marrow, as a platform for testing drugs for the treatment of MLL-rearranged acute myeloid leukaemia. During my first year, I have been developing 2D co-culture systems, in order to investigate the effects of selected drugs on the AML cells in the presence of the protective bone marrow stromal layer. I aim to develop a 3D model using collagen hydrogels, and bone marrow stromal cells cultured as a spheroid within these gels.

    I was attracted to the lifETIME CDT as I saw it as an opportunity to do a truly unique PhD. The multi-disciplinary nature of the PhD helps you to develop skills in many areas, and being a part of a cohort means you have the support of other like-minded PhD students. Additionally, I was excited by the idea of researching biomaterials, as I feel these are a promising and interesting area of research.

    I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with the lifETIME CDT. The three weeks of rotational training in the partner universities was not only an excellent opportunity to learn more about current research in biomaterials, it was a great chance to bond with others in the cohort. The lifETIME CDT is a highly valuable PhD as it provides many opportunities for developing useful skills, networking, and progressing your knowledge.


    lifETIME PhD Student – Aston University

    Project: Scale up and in vitro testing of exosomes for regenerative medicine applications.

    My main motivation in applying for PhD’s, had been the independence and freedom I had experienced to design experiments, analyse data and apply results during my masters research project. Therefore, since commencing my project in; scale up and in vitro testing of exosomes, I have been able to practice all of these skills as well as effective time management and innovative thinking. Additionally, the novel field of research in which I am submerged offers many unknowns, with surplus possibilities and promise, making it a hot topic in science. The potential regenerative, immunomodulatory and anti-cancer applications within the field of extracellular vesicles is endless and thus drives me to get the best out of my laboratory work.

    Despite finding the core “PhD” work at Aston University stimulating, always keeping me on my toes, the lifETIME CDT brings a further exciting twist to work life. Unlike your average PhD, the CDT brings together a UK cohort of students, linked with industrial partners, from many locations. This provides us with supplementary interdisciplinary training in the fields of; Business, entrepreneurship, leadership, public outreach and marketing. As part of this students gain both expertise and physical training, improving our all-round abilities to become influencers and leaders in across scientific fields (physics, chemistry, engineering and biology). Connections made during the 4 year course between pockets of students and companies, allows students to network, build on project work, take advantage of additional facilities provided and accumulate a support system of friends and mentors who can offer stability to students. For me, this final point is the main, unique advantage to the CDT, it allow me to feel a part of a bigger cause and a family of individuals working to bring forwards medical discoveries, which for some people could be life changing.