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FULLY FUNDED PHD: What next? Student identities and career intentions in Life Sciences

   Department of Life Sciences

  , Dr Tiffany Chiu,  Friday, October 29, 2021  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

London United Kingdom Social Work

About the Project

We are looking for a talented and motivated student to conduct their PhD on STEM education research. This PhD project aims to explore student disciplinary identities in the STEM context, focusing on perceptions and educational experiences of university students in life sciences. The project intends to address concerns about students’ professional trajectories and career intentions, and how well the curriculum is designed to support the development of their professional identities.

Although the Secretary of State for Education noted: ‘making sure that the next generation has the scientific skills to meet the world’s needs – from developing green technologies to curing illnesses –couldn’t be more important’, there are wide variations in students’ experiences, well-being, skill development and graduate outcomes across STEM fields (HESA 2021). As the Wakeham (2016) Review of STEM degree provision and graduate employability noted, the biological (i.e. life) sciences jobs market is diverse. However, this diversity can mean that career opportunities and pathways are not always clear for students and graduates. Existing studies have also revealed that ‘forms of capitals, in particular social and cultural, are a crucial component in facilitating how successful graduates are able to negotiate access to the labour market and its opportunity structures’ (Tomlinson and Jackson, 2021: 886). This project explores to what extent the opportunities and resources are taken up by students and what factors might have manifested or inhibited the disciplinary and professional identity formation for underrepresented students.

The ultimate goal of this project is to contribute to a diverse and inclusive community in the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Imperial College London and beyond. Further, aims are to develop successful support interventions to enhance the professional trajectories and career intentions in all students from differentbackgrounds that can be rolled out across College to foster a strong and inclusive community.

The indicative research questions that the student can develop further:

  • Main research question: What is the role of the curriculum in supporting the professional trajectories and career intentions of life sciences students?
  • Sub-question: How do these intentions vary for underrepresented students?
  • Sub-question: How do these intentions vary across student socio-demographic characteristics?
  • Sub-question: How does a perceived hierarchy of STEM disciplines influence student perceptions of their future selves and professional identity?

For more details for the PhD project please visit:

The PhD student will develop the wide range of quantitative and qualitative research skills necessary to undertake this project. The researcher will gain significant experience of the relevant teaching and learning theories used in undergraduate life sciences degree programmes and wider student experience, particularly in developing and supporting a diverse and inclusive environment. This will be of great interest to the STEM community, the employers of life sciences graduates and academics at Imperial and other institutions.

This is a joint project of the Department of Life Sciences and the Centre for Higher Education Research and Scholarship (CHERS) at Imperial College London. The position is fully funded for 3.5 years, including a tax-free stipend of approximately £17,285 per year, fees, and resources for research needs. The student will be located in the South Kensington Campus of Imperial College London.

BSc (Hons) with at least 2:1 or equivalent in a relevant life sciences subject with a technical background plus demonstrate a strong interest in education. Teaching experience is desirable. Imperial College London English language requirements apply (where applicable). See for details.

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