I thought I would give a brief shout-out for the NIH-OxCam program that I’m on, for any people considering graduate programs who are reading this blog. Applications are now open until January 2nd, and the official website and application information can be found here:
Just over a decade ago, as graduate students were first starting to make their way onto the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus, it was decided that the NIH would form what is now known as the Graduate Partnerships Program (GPP). It was decided that the NIH was not going to be degree-granting institution. However, they wished to provide funding for students to do research on campus and to work towards degrees at partnering Universities. One of the first partnerships was with Oxford and Cambridge.
Each graduate partnership at the NIH works differently, but the OxCam program, as it is known, gives American citizens the opportunity to study a biomedical –related field at either Oxford or Cambridge as well as at the NIH. (There is a similar program called the NIH-Wellcome program for non-US citizens.) While the NIH funds the degree, the university in England is in charge of the academic side of affairs, including examination and degree conferral. The goal is for students to evenly split their time between the two locations, working in collaborating labs and pulling together a cohesive project.
As with any course of graduate study the success of the project is dependent on many variables, the three main ones being mentorship from supervisors, tenacity of the student, and topic choice. The great thing about the program is that it does in many respects offer a middle-ground between British and American attitudes towards PhD projects. One of the main aspects of this is the fact that funding is given for five years, which is longer than the British timeframe, but shorter than the American time-frame. This seems to work out just right for the students in the program who generally seem to graduate after about 4.5 years.
The program is certainly not for everyone in that in addition to the normal criteria for a PhD candidate, you also need to add a good set of communications skills, self-motivation, and extra tenacity. But it can, and does, work out, and I would definitely encourage anyone interested to apply. And please do contact me if you have any questions.