School of Biological and Chemical Sciences

Our PhD students

Student Support and Training

Our PhD students are supported by an advisory panel, including two Queen Mary supervisors, at least one of whom will have prior supervisory experience. The PhD advisory panel monitor our PhD students’ progression throughout their programme, offering their expertise and feedback to support successful completion of the programme, and also assisting in identifying students’ training requirements.

Training in specific research techniques is provided in the laboratory of the supervisor where other members of the team, and technical staff, are also available to offer their guidance. The School (together with Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry) also runs a programme of seminars on research techniques, intended specifically for research students.

To assist in developing their skills in areas such as time management, independent working, teamwork, preparing and presenting scientific data, our students participate in School events, for example by giving a research presentation. Aside from this, our students also have access to a number of researcher development courses and other training days organised by the Queen Mary Academic Development team and the Doctoral College.

Queen Mary offers a range of central support services to its students, including Advice and Counselling, Disability and Dyslexia, a Student Health Service and Careers advice.

Current PhD Students

The School of Biological and Chemical Sciences is home to over 160 PhD students and around 100 academics. Learn about the experience of some of our current PhD students across the fields of biological sciences, chemistry and psychology below:

Biological Sciences - Andrew Knapp

Andrew Knapp

I joined Queen Mary in April 2016 from the NERC London DTP. Before that I did an undergraduate degree with the Open University, a master's at Imperial and the Natural History Museum, and worked as a research assistant at the University of Sussex.

Queen Mary seemed to me to be an exciting place to study. There was lots of innovative research going on in the department, and they really pulled out all the stops to make potential students feel welcome and valued.

SBCS is a great place to study. It's not a huge department but it's very inclusive and there is always the opportunity to discuss your work with others. All students get a lot of support, and the lecturers' doors are always open if you need help or advice, not just from your own supervisors. The connections we have here mean that there are also great opportunities for collaboration with researchers not just in London, but all over the world. My research has taken me to Canada, the US, Poland and Mongolia, and I've been lucky enough to participate in the SBCS undergraduate field trip to Dinosaur Provincial Park in Canada. This field course is the only one of its kind anywhere in the UK and it's a unique experience is available to students.

My area of interest is evolutionary biology. I'm interested in processes such as mimicry and convergence, and for my PhD I'm studying the effects of sexual selection on macroevolution. This partly involves creating theoretical population models, and partly conducting advanced 3D morphometric studies on ceratopsian dinosaurs to examine evolutionary patterns over long timescales.

The best thing about studying at Queen Mary is the excellent atmosphere. Everybody is welcome here, and no one is left on their own.

Chemistry - Martina Cirulli

Martina Cirulli

I studied my undergraduate and master’s degree in Chemistry at University of Rome Tor Vergata before moving to London for my PhD. I joined Queen Mary in October 2015 and I am now approaching the end of my study here.

After getting my master’s degree I knew I wanted to explore more the research world and going for a PhD seems the natural continuation of my chemistry studies. London – and Queen Mary in particular – offered the additional opportunity to study in an international and research-focused institution.

My PhD experience at Queen Mary has been challenging and exciting. PhD students get to work in a highly motivational environment and the effort we put in our research projects usually pays off by having our work published in scientific journals or by going to international conferences to show our research. I attended the international coordination chemistry conference in Japan and it was been an amazing experience!

My research interests are currently focused on molecular magnetism. In particular, I work on systems called rotaxanes, which consist of two interlocked components, a ring and a dumbbell. Together with our collaborators in Southampton, we make rotaxanes that can bind many metals and we study their electrochemical and magnetic properties through electrochemistry and electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR).

The best thing about studying here is definitely the multicultural and vibrant environment. If at times doing a PhD can feel stressful and demanding, I know I can always find the support I need from supervisor and my colleagues here at Queen Mary. 

Psychology - Ioanna Zioga

Ioanna Zioga

I’m a 2nd year PhD student in the Department of Psychology at Queen Mary, studying the neural correlates of music learning and creativity. The difficulty I’ve always had in communicating with my father due to his significant hearing loss, channelled my curiosity towards sound and its perception since I was a child.

Prior to my arrival to the UK, I studied flute performance, and obtained a BA in Music Studies at the University of Athens which included courses on music psychology and cognitive science. My passion for the cognitive neuroscience of music led me then to achieve my MSc in Music, Mind, and Brain at the Department of Psychology in Goldsmiths, University of London. There, I discovered my true passion, which lies in understanding how the brain processes and creates music.

At Queen Mary, I have found a place to study exactly what I want. My PhD supervisor is Dr Caroline Di Bernardi Luft, one of the pioneers in my field of interest. Queen Mary provides me with the state-of-art tools I need to conduct my research. Working closely with my supervisor and collaborating with other departments has given me the opportunity to acquire advanced, specialized skills, as well as expand my knowledge.

My main research looks at investigating the neural signatures of learning and how they predict creativity. My research interests include: creative problem solving, learning, melodic expectation, electroencephalography (EEG), and brain stimulation. I aim to continue my research at a post-doc level and eventually pursue a career in academia.