JIF PhD Rotation Programme – annual report

JIF Rotation PhD Programme – Report for the Trustees of the John Innes Foundation
30th October 2023, Dr Jake Malone (Programme Director)

Twenty years on from its inception, the John Innes Foundation Rotation PhD Programme is
thriving. We have recruited over 100 students since the programme started in 2003 from over
30 countries, with alumni currently living in at least 22 countries. 59% of submiters to a recent
survey of alumni indicated careers within Science, Research and Development as first
destinations. The academic focus of the programme remains one of its key strengths – around a
quarter of alumni from the first five years of the programme now work as academic research
group leaders and another quarter work in biotechnology. Both of these figures are well in
advance of those seen for typical STEM PhD programmes. Our alumni are highly positive about
their experiences as Rotation PhD students and many of them are keen to retain ties with their
host institutes after graduation. The upcoming alumni presentations will highlight the diverse
career paths taken by recent alumni, with representatives speaking from academia and industry
alongside science policy and patent law. We intend to make the alumni event a regular feature
of the Rotation Programme calendar going forward.

In a return to the longstanding practice of having separate Y2 project proposal talks from the
annual retreat, the 2023 Rotation Programme retreat took place on the 16th of October. The
whole cohort spent the day on the Norfolk Broads, taking three small day boats from Wroxham
to the village of Horning, where we stopped for lunch. The weather was cold but thankfully the
rain held off for the whole day and the retreat was overall a great success. The students have
been asked to come up with ideas for next year’s retreat.

The JIF Student Prizes at the JIC/TSL Annual Science MeeAng were awarded to four students
(two Research Excellence awards and two Excellence in Science CommunicaAon), with JIC
director Graham Moore kindly awarding the prizes to successful students. JIF Rotation PhD
students achieved a clean sweep at this year’s awards. The Research Excellence prizes for 2023
were won by Anna Backhaus (JIC) and NeValy Cruz-Mireles (TSL), while Rose McNelly (JIC) and
Joshua Waites (JIC) were awarded prizes for Excellence in Science CommunicaAon. Two more
Rotation PhD students, Max Jordan and Emma Raven, gave annual student ASM talks
(Autoactive NLRs: a novel tool for increasing drug production? and Keeping channels of
communication open under stress, respectively).

At JIC and TSL we strive to ensure that all PhD students, including JIF Rotation students, are well
supported in the face of continuing uncertainty and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. Both JIC
and TSL are extremely grateful for the generous support for the Rotation PhD Programme given
by the John Innes FoundaAon (JIF). The additional JIF funding we have received over the past
two years has enabled us to increase the student sApends for Rotation students in line with
UKRI cost-of-living increases and to maintain student numbers on the programme in the face of
sustained financial pressures. Furthermore, we have recently aligned the terms and conditions
of the JIF Rotation program with those applying to other PhD programmes across the Norwich
Research Park with regard to key issues including sick pay and maternity leave. In response to
feedback from the JIC Student Voice, changes have been made to the student progress review
meetings to provide students with the opportunity to speak to their supervisory team without
their supervisor present (this can sometimes detect problems early). Changes have also been
made to the annual leave recording system to enable and encourage students to take regular

Student recruitment for October 2024 starters has recently started, with advertisements live on
the JIC, TSL and NBI webpages and an application deadline January 2024. Virtual interviews are
scheduled to occur in the first week of February 2024, with offers sent to successful students
shortly aferwards. We aim to recruit 5 students including up to two international students into
the 2024 cohort.

Work is currently underway to expand the scope of the Rotation PhD Programme to include
relevant labs in the Earlham InsAtute and, potentially, the Quadram Institute. These discussions
are ongoing and no decisions have been made at this stage. However, there is significant
interest in this idea from all parties if key issues concerning finance and student recruitment can
be addressed. Bringing additional institute partners into the programme has the potential to
substantially improve both the quality of our offering to incoming students, and its long-term
financial sustainability.