Summer School 2023

Holly Giles from our 2022 cohort shares her reflections on her first FoodBioSystems DTP Summer School

Each year DTP students gather to network, share ongoing research and develop transferrable skills. This year we were hosted for five days in June by Cranfield University and the week did not disappoint with sessions focusing on transferrable skills, project-specific training, presentations and networking. Attending summer school helps us step outside of our research and see how the PhD can develop us as individuals.


The training options addressed students’ personal development goals or provided project-specific training. This included:

  • a 3-day introduction to statistics, providing a background to statistical tests and the use of R-studio to perform complex statistical analysis
  • a 3-day machine learning course teaching students how to set-up computer models and to interpret results
  • innovation for commercialisation sessions
  • how to maximise the use of social media for career development and research collaborations
  • how to work in diverse teams whilst ensuring inclusivity
  • career planning
  • thinking about our own research in context of whole food system

The sessions address any skill deficits students have identified or perhaps highlight future avenues of development.

First year students undertook training on the food biosystem and life cycle analysis, learning how our projects fit into the wider food system. This is important to anticipate how any planned intervention may affect current food cycles and consumers. We were also taught how to make our elevator pitch, summarising our research and career goals in 3 minutes or less. Being able to do this at the start of our projects will increase the quality of our research and our ability to explain our work to others.

It was great to take part in such a range of activities to understand how our work fits into a wider food system. The immersive food systems game was a great opportunity to see how our research will impact other people in communities across the world and give new perspectives on my own research project – Chloe M, Brunel University

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at summer school because it helped me understand where my project fits into the larger food biosystem. I learned how different topics that seemed unrelated are actually interconnected. This expanded my understanding of how vast and important the food biosystems are, and how crucial it is to establish links across different sectors – Fabian, Cranfield University

There were several points in the excellent training sessions that raised issues I hadn’t thought of before – Susan, University of Reading


One of the highlights of Summer School is that every student gets an opportunity to present their research. Being able to present your work in a friendly setting builds confidence and prepares you for speaking at external conferences  at a later date. It is also a great opportunity to receive feedback on your work, get suggestions of other methods you could use in the future and hear alternative interpretations of your results.

This year included two mini conference days with first year students presenting a poster summarising their research plans, and second years giving an oral presentation – the breadth of presentations highlights the broad scope of the FoodBioSystems DTP with talks ranging from agriculture and farming methods to dietary interventions and clinical trials. Third year students were invited to chair presentation sessions and judge the posters, allowing them to pass on words of advice for the newer students!

It is always a pleasure to discuss and hear about all the exciting research that takes place across the DTP – Chloe C, University of Reading

It was brilliant to meet other students in person and hear how their research is going – Susan, University of Reading

It was great to meet other students from different universities on the DTP and discuss such a varied array of projects. The classes were great to understand how our individual research projects fit within the wider food system – Sinead, Queens University

This year’s FBS Summer School was a great week of training and networking! I really enjoyed the opportunity to view poster and oral presentations from the current first and second year students, sharing our ideas, and even parking collaborations! – Hannah, University of Surrey


As well as training and opportunities for personal development, one of the main aims of Summer School is to increase the sense of community between PhD students. Networking activities across the week included a board game evening (featuring a board game designed by one of our own PhD students!), a dinner at Chicheley Hall,  a trip to Bletchley Park and a lunch time barbecue on the last day.

The day trip to Bletchley park was amazing to see some local attractions and get to network in an informal manner – Sinead, Queens University

Summer school was a great opportunity to network with students based at partner universities – Chloe C, University of Reading

A great opportunity to network with other PhDs and to understand how our individual projects fit within the wider food system – Brandon, University of Surrey

Summer School at Cranfield University was a great success and we are already looking forward to the 2024 Summer School at the University of Reading!