Access keys

Skip to content Accessibility Home News, events and publications Site map Search Privacy policy Help Contact us Terms of use

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: Ben Wagstaff

“My CASE partner was fantastic the whole way through my PhD… I presented to people ranging from local anglers to farmers right through to professors. I don't think I would have had the same opportunities to share my research with such a wide audience had I just done a standard PhD. They also put me in touch with a range of local stakeholders that had interest in the project who also helped immensely.”

Ben Wagstaff

Ben Wagstaff – iCASE PhD with John Innes Centre

Ben Wagstaff studied the microalga Prymnesium parvum in the Norfolk Broads on his iCASE PhD Studentship supported by the Environment Agency. He discovered a new species of virus that infects the alga, and developed new detection and treatment methods to manage algal blooms and prevent harm to waterways.

Why did you choose a BBSRC CASE PhD?

I chose a BBSRC iCASE PhD studentship as I thought it would give me a good opportunity to carry out a mixture of fundamental science discovery but also more applied science. Seeing some of the fundamental science findings during my PhD research translate into real use cases was extremely satisfying.

What was the focus of your PhD research?

The focus of my PhD research was to learn more about the toxic, bloom-forming microalga, Prymnesium parvum. This microalga causes harmful algal blooms globally, frequently resulting in the death of thousands of fish. It is a particular issue on the Norfolk Broads which is what sparked our interest in this project. The learning throughout my project ranged from in depth scientific discovery (glycobiology of P. parvum, mechanisms of toxin production and release) to how we can best mitigate or manage blooms of this organism on the Norfolk Broads.

What were the key outcomes and impacts?

During my PhD I discovered a new species of virus that infects P. parvum - we discovered this virus in the Norfolk Broads where blooms of this alga frequently occur so we immediately thought that this virus is likely to have an impact on toxic-bloom formation. With the help of environmental scientists at the University of East Anglia we then set up very sensitive qPCR assays that were used to monitor abundance of both the alga and its virus in the Norfolk Broads over a 2 year period. This gave us huge, ecologically relevant, insight into the seasonal fluctuations in population of the alga, and were able to see how these correlated to cases of viral infection. Alongside this new detection methodology, we established that low doses of hydrogen peroxide may be effective at managing blooms of the alga when they occur. We were able to then take these findings to field trials on the Norfolk Broads when we gained permission from government agencies to dose the waters with hydrogen peroxide. During these trials we saw that hydrogen peroxide at the concentrations we recommended was extremely effective at killing the alga, without any side effects to fish or macro invertebrates. The new knowledge on viral infection of the alga, the detection methodology, and the hydrogen peroxide treatment strategy have now been adopted by the Environment Agency and Broads Authority to combat blooms of this organism in the future.

What was the highlight of your PhD?

The highlight of my PhD had to have been looking at electron microscope images of the virus I discovered for the first time. Up until the point of discovery, viral infection of the alga was all a hypothesis (and considered by many a far-fetched one!), so seeing hundreds of uniform viral particles infecting the alga was a huge breakthrough and relief!

Do you feel your CASE Studentship give any benefits over other courses of study?

The CASE studentship gave me the opportunity to present to a wide range of audiences which I wouldn't have had the chance to do otherwise. Because of my industrial partner (The Environment Agency), I presented to people ranging from local anglers to farmers right through to professors. I don't think I would have had the same opportunities to share my research with such a wide audience had I just done a standard PhD.

How did you find working with your CASE partner?

My CASE partner was fantastic the whole way through my PhD. They kept me up to date on any activity related to fish kills or optimal bloom conditions so that I could get to the Norfolk Broads and take samples as soon as possible. They also put me in touch with a range of local stakeholders that had interest in the project (Broads Authority, Natural England, Norfolk Wildlife Trust) who also helped immensely with the project.

What have you been working on since your PhD?

Since finishing my PhD I have taken a Postdoc position up at the University of Dundee where I am working on carbohydrate active enzymes involved in Streptococcus virulence. This project is a lot more of the fundamental science than directly applied research, but will hopefully translate to something more applied in the future!

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to stay in academia and hope to one day start my own research group focused on biotechnological useful enzymes from giant viruses like the one I discovered during my PhD.