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CASE studentships – Collaborative/Industrial placements

As part of our commitment to UK industry all Industrial CASE research students must spend part of their time with the partner company. BBSRC now stipulates a placement period of a minimum of 3 months, and up to a maximum of 18 months. The required placement period can be accrued through a number of shorter placements, if appropriate.

CASE studentships (formerly known as 'Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering') are collaborative training grants that provide students with a first-rate challenging research training experience, allowing top quality bioscience graduates to undertake research, leading to a PhD, within the context of a mutually beneficial research collaboration between academic and partner organisations. In addition to experience of an industrial research environment, the student should receive business-related training, for example, in project-management, business strategy, and/or finance.

CASE studentships are awarded in three ways:

Case conversion: To encourage collaboration with potential industrial or commercial partners, DTPs retain the flexibility to convert their DTP studentships to CASE studentships where appropriate. To be counted as a CASE award, the studentship should meet the terms and conditions for such awards as given in guidance documents (see Downloads). Please note, it is a mandatory requirement that the student completes a placement of three months minimum (and no longer than 18 months) in the partner organisation. In this event, the mandatory PIPS requirements for these CASE-converted DTP studentships is removed.

Note: BBSRC Training Grant FAQs and BBSRC Guide to Studentship Eligibility documents are no longer available.

Please refer to the UK Research and Innovation: Grant terms and conditions for the relevant information.

Case study: Jennifer Postles

Jennifer Postles graduated in Biology from The University of Sheffield and undertook a CASE Studentship PhD at Rothamsted Research’s Plant Biology and Crop Science Department in Harpenden, UK. Her work with industry was with The Jordans & Ryvita Company, makers of well-known rye crisp bread snacks and breakfast cereals.

Jennifer Postles is looking at how acrylamide forms in rye products.
Jennifer Postles investigated how acrylamide forms in rye products.

How did you work with your industrial partner?

Jordans-Ryvita is interested in identifying rye varieties and growing conditions that can produce grain which will form low amounts of acrylamide when baked. It is therefore important that any experiments I did were with commercially used varieties and relevant to their manufacturing process.

What part of the acrylamide problem did you investigate?

I looked at different ways we might be able to reduce the formation of acrylamide in rye products. This involves looking at the precursors of acrylamide, free asparagine and reducing sugars, and identifying factors that can affect their accumulation in rye grain. These factors can be genetic, so may vary between different rye varieties that are used to make crisp breads, or they may be environmental.

What did you find?

I used a field trial to compare the acrylamide-forming potential of five varieties and found naturally occurring differences; some varieties accumulated lower levels of free asparagine than others. The highest amount of free asparagine in the trial had almost 50% more than the variety with the lowest asparagine concentration. Free asparagine is the major precursor of acrylamide in rye, so these varieties may be preferable for use in baking in order to reduce acrylamide formation in rye crisp bread.

What were the major obstacles?

There has been a lot of extra work involved characterising the genes of interest. Because rye is a less economically important crop than other cereals such as wheat and barley, it isn’t so well studied. Comparatively little is known about the genetics of rye, so a lot of work is done based on information from the wheat genome, which can be transferred across to rye due to their close evolutionary relationship.

Any final thoughts?

It was an interesting collaboration for me because I could see how my work could be transferred to a real-world application. And I visited the Ryvita factory in Poole where the crisp breads are made. It was huge, and noisy, and they let me take some samples home. I really like the little cream cheese and chive ones, so I took a few packets of those with me!