Why we fund PhD students
Hearing research is woefully neglected and under-funded. We’re lobbying for more investment, and striving to increase the number of scientists working in hearing research in the UK.
By funding UK-based graduates to undertake a PhD in hearing research, we’re investing in tomorrow’s research leaders, who’ll drive forward our search to find treatments and cures for hearing loss and tinnitus. We need to attract high-calibre students into hearing research and make sure they’re trained in world-class laboratories. Only then can they go on to become leaders in their field, able to compete for national and international funding.
The PhD students we fund are some of the best, brightest, and most passionate there are. We award each student £75,000 (if they’re based outside London) and £79,500 (inside London) over a three-year period. This covers their living costs, pays their university fees – and contributes to the costs of their research project, including attending scientific conferences.
Our annual student day
Every year, we get our students out of their labs and bring them together from across the country. The event is a special opportunity for these talented new hearing researchers to meet each other, share their work, find out more about the work that we do as a charity, and to grasp how their research can make a huge difference to people. The day allows us to nurture and celebrate our students, and the exciting research they’re working on with our support.
This year, we wanted to promote the students’ development by providing them with opportunities and information that they are unlikely to get from their labs and universities.
Finding out more about Action on Hearing Loss
Dr Ralph Holme, our Executive Director of Research, kicked off the day by introducing the students to our Biomedical Research Team and the work that the whole organisation does to help people confronting deafness, tinnitus and hearing loss to live the life they choose. The students then had five minutes each to give a short presentation introducing themselves and their research and to ask questions, which gave everyone the opportunity to get to know each other.
Tanvir Ahmed, our Senior Campaigner, then gave a presentation to the students about the campaigning work that we do. His presentation was informative and thought-provoking – he talked about the issues and barriers that people with hearing loss, tinnitus and deafness face around the UK, and how we’re campaigning to change things. The students found this extremely interesting as they weren’t aware of this part of our work, and even found that some of the issues and campaigns, such as Subtitle It and Speak Easy, were relevant to them.
“Seeing what the charity does outside the lab was a refreshing change” - Adam Carlton, 1st year student, University of Sheffield.
As Tanvir is profoundly deaf and communicates using British Sign Language, seeing him sign and use an interpreter was also a new and illuminating experience for the majority of our students, reminding them first-hand of why they’re working in hearing research and of the people who could benefit from the outcomes of their projects.
“The day definitely reminded me about all the reasons why the research I’m carrying out is meaningful and important, because it’s easy to forget that sometimes when we’re so busy focusing on the science in our day-to-day lives. I’m looking forward to next year already!” - Faizah Mushtaq, 2nd year student, NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre.
Communicating research to the media
In the afternoon, Gorki Duhra, our Senior Public Relations Officer, conducted a workshop for the students on how to write for a non-scientific audience and how to communicate their research effectively to the media. The session was interactive and involved a word game that encouraged the students to use simpler language when talking about their work.
“The session was rather fun, and forced us to think in a drastically different way than we’re used to” – Adam Carlton, 1st year student, University of Sheffield.
After hearing from Gorki about how the media works and what journalists look for in a story, the students worked in groups to turn a complex scientific article into an attention-grabbing newspaper story. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the session, finding it both engaging and educational.
“I really enjoyed the research communication workshop, which was a fun way to practise presenting our research in a compelling and simple way to a lay audience.” - Mathilde Le Gal De Kerangal, 3rd year student, University College London
Meeting the students and finding out about their work
For the final session of the day, we invited our staff and some of our supporters to meet our students and find out more about their research. The students had prepared a poster about their work, which they used to explain their research projects and share their work. There was a great atmosphere, with people discussing hearing research and learning more about what we do and how it could make a difference to people.
We really enjoyed having some of our supporters come and meet our students to find out about their exciting research. And we’re really pleased to hear that they found it such an enjoyable and worthwhile afternoon too.
“It was a most enjoyable and encouraging afternoon. I was so inspired by these young and enthusiastic researchers and acknowledge that much of this good work would not be possible without the support of Action on Hearing Loss.” – Graham, Supporter
“We both enjoyed it immensely and are full of admiration for those terrific students and their great research projects. Everyone was SO articulate and they made their work comprehensible…” - The Waltons, Supporters
It was also great to see so many of our staff from across our organisation join us to find out more about the research we’re funding and meet the students that they so often only hear about. Our staff clearly valued this opportunity and gained a lot from it.
“I thought it was an interesting and inspiring afternoon. I read about the projects as part of my job. Being able to speak to the students in person really helped bring the research to life, and it was great to be able to ask them questions!” - Sophie Jones, Trust Fundraiser
“I found it extremely interesting. It gave those of us who are not involved in biomedical research an insight into this compelling world. It showed that our financial resources are being used meaningfully to bring about inspiring change. It was great to meet lovely, committed students who have dedicated their time to improve the lives of people with hearing loss, through science!” - Anushka Disanayake, Finance Business Partner
"This excites me...the potential that our biomedical work holds to transform the lives of literally millions of people, all over the world. It was great, therefore, to meet such visionary, bright and enthusiastic students engaged in cutting-edge, innovative research." - Nick Wright, Head of Organisation Development
Thank you to everyone who attended the day and made it such a success. We’re looking forward to seeing you and our PhD students again next year!
Find out more
You can find out more about the research we’re funding in our biomedical research (https://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/finding-cures/our-biomedical-research/) section.
If you’re interested in finding out more about our research, sign up to receive our Soundbite (https://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/finding-cures/our-biomedical-research/research-news/) e-newsletter. It’s a monthly email, filled with the latest news about hearing and tinnitus research, and hearing technology.