Jean E O'Donoghue, Fumi Kitagawa, Jamie Fleck, Colin J Campbell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract / Description of output

The changing nature of the doctoral training landscape is widely recognised. One aspect is the increasing number of doctoral graduates, without increased numbers of academic positions, and thus a broadening of the career destinations of these graduates. This reflects to some extent the recognition of the wide range of roles that doctoral graduates can have in stimulating economic prosperity and increasing social impact in our knowledge economy. Therefore, there are new pressures on doctoral students themselves, and doctoral training programmes in general, to improve the employability of students to meet the needs of a postdoctoral career outside of academia.
This paper presents the case of the OPTIMA CDT, the Centre for Doctoral Training in Optical Medical Imaging. This CDT has a distinctive model of an integrated PhD study programme as a response to some of these new pressures and expectations from doctoral training.
OPTIMA was set up as one of the CDTs funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Medical Research Council (MRC) in 2014. The objective of the OPTIMA CDT is to train the next generation of entrepreneurial scientists in healthcare innovation. The CDT is hosted by the Universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde and accepts 12 PhD students a year from a broad range of disciplines. These students conduct interdisciplinary research into developing and applying new optical imaging modalities to real-world clinical problems. In addition, the PhD students undergo a training programme in healthcare Innovation and Entrepreneurship delivered by the University of Edinburgh Business School and the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship at University of Strathclyde.
This integrated study programme endeavours to create a unique training experience for the OPTIMA PhD students. These scientists have, in general, no formal business studies education but are keen to learn about the commercial environment and how to embed innovation and opportunity identification in their scientific careers.
To evaluate the student experience so far in three different cohorts, we conducted semi-structured interviews to assess the students' perception of their own change in outlook, and how their experience differs from their peers. We discuss findings from the student interviews as well as reflections from the last three years.
We have found that the student experience is, overall, a positive one with students feeling more rounded and in control of their own careers. Compared to their peers in more traditional PhD study programmes, the OPTIMA students identify themselves as a different type of doctoral students with professional interests outside of academia as well as in academic research.
This early evaluation and reflection allows us to capture some of the additional benefits of embedding an integrated study programme as part of the doctoral training experience. We believe that we can advocate the embedding of innovation and entrepreneurship training for early career researchers in scientific fields and share our practice and experience with other centres and graduate schools.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUK Council for Graduate Education
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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