NIHR Exeter BRC Studentship - Precision medicine data science for type 2 diabetes

   College of Life and Environmental Sciences

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  Dr John Dennis, Dr B Sheilds  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Project description:

This fully-funded PhD studentship is a research-intensive programme providing training in cutting-edge data science and machine learning methods applied to large-scale clinical datasets. The student will conduct independent research as part of Exeter’s world-leading, multi-disciplinary, and highly collaborative clinical diabetes research group ( 

The research programme will focus on precision medicine in type 2 diabetes, a condition affecting >500m people worldwide and accounting for >10% of NHS expenditure. A precision medicine approach aims to improve type 2 diabetes care by tailoring treatment to an individual based on their clinical characteristics and genetics.

At University of Exeter, we lead the national MRC-funded MASTERMIND consortium for precision medicine in type 2 diabetes. We have recently developed the first type 2 diabetes treatment selection model (Dennis et al. 2022, Lancet Digital Health) and led the first ‘n-of-1’ trial of diabetes therapy (Shields et al. 2022, Nature Medicine).

Core project aims are:

1.      To develop new machine learning models to predict clinical outcomes (diabetes progression, cardiorenal disease) with type 2 diabetes medications, using routine clinical and pharmacogenetic biomarkers.

2.      To extent current methodology for precision medicine, dealing with major challenges including model validation, overfitting, confounding and missing data.

The student will be provided with training to work with datasets including NHS records (>1 million people with type 2 diabetes), clinical drug trials (>30,000), and UK Biobank (>20,000). They will have the opportunity to attend external training & conferences, and write results up for publication.     

The project would suit an exceptional person with a quantitative BSc/MSc/equivalent, interest in clinical research, and strong aptitude for programming & analysis.

Fees and funding

For eligible students, the studentship will cover Home tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £18,622 (in alignment with standard Research Council UK rate) for 3 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study, in addition to a Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG). The student would be based at the Research, Innovation, Learning and Development (RILD) building based at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital site in Exeter, near to the St Lukes Campus.

*Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee and no stipend. International applicants need to be aware that you will have to cover the cost of your student visa, healthcare surcharge and other costs of moving to the UK to do a PhD.

The conditions for eligibility of home fees status are complex and you will need to seek advice if you have moved to or from the UK (or Republic of Ireland) within the past 3 years or have applied for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.


The closing date for applications is midnight on Tuesday 2nd January 2024.

Interview panels will be held virtually in late January/ early February 2023 for a September 2024 start.

Contact details

If you would like to discuss the studentships further, please contact the primary supervisor as stated in the advert. If you have any queries surrounding the application process or the BRC more generally, please contact Dr Sophie Gould (NIHR Exeter BRC Training and Events Manager) at [Email Address Removed].

Entry requirements

Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate subject area.

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the required level as per our guidance at

How to apply

In the application process, you will be asked to upload several documents.

• CV – all aspects below must be included, if applicable.

 Contact details

 Education history

 Work history

 Work experience (voluntary and/ or paid)

 Professional development and skillset e.g. certification, courses, workshops, conference attendance/ presentations

 Publications and awards

• Letter of motivation (maximum 2 pages)

Please note that your application will be assessed on research ‘potential’ as opposed to research ‘experience’ to allow candidates who have not had the resources or opportunities to have internships or study for a master’s degree to be assessed on equal terms with those who have had these opportunities.

Please use the guiding questions/areas below to structure your letter of application.

 What it is about this particular research area that interests you (e.g. your interest/understanding of the research question, your skills/experience that fit with this project)?

 How will this PhD studentship help you achieve your future career goals?

 Examples of your achievements in research related activities (e.g. undergraduate, internships, masters or postgraduate work experience).

 Example of your achievements in non-research related activities (e.g. outside of academic study).

 Any additional relevant information to support your application. Including, any mitigation factors you wish to make the selection committee aware of for consideration during the assessment of your application e.g. career breaks due to parental leave or periods of illness, reduced time for career progression due to disability or caring responsibilities, or reduced opportunities to career support.

NIHR Exeter BRC recognises that you may be reluctant, or uncomfortable disclosing relevant information that is sensitive. However, you should bear in mind that that we are unable to take into account factors that you do not disclose. Please be assured that information provided by you is sensitive and will be treated confidentially and in line with General Data and Protection Regulations (GDPR).

• Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying).

• Names of two referees familiar with your academic work. You are not required to obtain references yourself. We will request references directly from your referees if you are shortlisted.

• If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English.

For further information please click here - Award details | Funding and scholarships for students | University of Exeter

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