The vision of QUADRAT DTP is to give you the broad understanding, holistic outlook and systems-wide experience of the environmental sciences to position you as the next generation of scientific leaders in academia, industry and government. As such, multi-disciplinary training is central to the QUADRAT ethos, and embedded within our research and training structures. You will undertake a mixture of core and generic training, both practical and classroom based. These training opportunities will bring the cohort together to consider the broader relevance of your work and added value that can be gained from considering the wider sociological, economic and political contexts of your research.

Training is delivered through a mixture of providers, both internal and external. We aim to bring in expert external providers to ensure you receive the very best training we can offer in a range of specialist areas. Our key collaborators include Fast Track Impact, Dr Jamie Gallagher, The Mindset Method Ltd and The Chartered Management Institute.

Your induction aims to introduce you to your cohort and the wider QUADRAT DTP student body, and to set you up with the skills and knowledge you need to succeed. Your induction will include:

  • Welcome to your cohort
  • What is a PhD?
  • The first 3 months
  • Setting yourself up for success, including:
    • Funding
    • Training and development
    • Milestones
    • Wellbeing
  • Working with your Supervisor

The University of Aberdeen and Queen’s University Belfast have field skills at the heart of their academic offering – taking advantage of their unique geographical locations. A suite of bespoke interdisciplinary and QUADRAT research theme-specific field courses are integral to the QUADRAT training experience. These have been designed to broaden students’ skill base and build confidence outwith your direct discipline. Students will undertake two courses in year 1 (these run back-to-back), one in year 2 and writing retreats in year 3.

Field course 1: Cromarty, Scotland – mid-late March of Year 1

Our primary aim in the first part of this field course will be to develop a strong cohort that understands the benefits of good teamwork. Our second aim is to provide students with a broad overview of the issues to be considered when planning and executing field and other team-based projects. Finally, we aim to provide essential basic First Aid training and opportunities for students to identify training requirements of relevance to their specific projects and career goals.

Field course 2: Hillsborough & AFBI, Northern Ireland – mid-late March of Year 1

This course covers a broad range of topics including the following: experimental design, data collection techniques, working with drones, data analysis & processing; soils: sampling, molecular & nutrient analysis, faunal extraction techniques and identification of invertebrates from soils.

Field courses 3: Courmayeur, French Alps – early June of Year 2

A mixture of biological and geological practical training. This course combines these two disciplines to assess and analyse climate change on a broad scale.

Between University of Aberdeen and Queen’s University Belfast there are over fifty systems-wide integrated skills training courses available to you. The majority are delivered on-site but, where a student is located with a QUADRAT CASE partner, distance and blended learning approaches will be put in place.

Below are the courses we recommend you complete as a minimum requirement. All PhD’s are different, and you will be expected, with the support of your supervisory team, to identify any skills gaps and complete additional training specific to your PhD project where applicable.

  • YEAR 1: Research Ethics (*follow home institutional course)
  • YEAR 1: Research Integrity (*follow home institutional course)
  • YEAR 1: Research Data Management (*follow home institutional course)
  • YEAR 1: Digital footprint and social media
  • YEAR 2: Navigating peer review
  • YEAR 2: Engaging end users and stakeholders
  • YEAR 3: Academic publishing
  • YEAR 4: Teaching in Higher Education (optional accreditation)

University of Aberdeen courses.

Queen’s University Belfast courses.

QUADRAT delivers advanced skills training in experimental design, data measurement (field and lab), data management, and subsequently data analysis and visualisation through bespoke and residential annual advanced skills courses. These capitalise on both QUADRAT partner expertise in quantitative analysis and modelling and combined research infrastructures, field teaching facilities and ongoing research projects to provide hands-on, intensive training.

This is split in to two modules which include foundation elements associated with experimental design and data analysis using R and RStudio.

Module 1: Introduction to R – early December of Year 1

R is a free software environment for data manipulation, statistical analysis and data visualization. It is now the most widely used statistical software in academia, offering researchers unrivalled flexibility and power to perform data analyses ranging from the straightforward to the highly complex and bespoke. Although R has a large and helpful user community, both within the University of Aberdeen and worldwide, there is a relatively steep initial learning curve to navigate as R has a limited graphical user interface. This 3-day, hands-on course will provide you with the opportunity and support to start learning R at your own pace. By the end of this course, you will have sufficient confidence and familiarity with the basics of the R programming language for:

  • Manipulating and exploring different types of data
  • Importing and summarising your own data in R
  • Producing useful exploratory and publication quality graphics
  • Performing your own statistical analyses
  • Writing your own functions in R (optional)

This is a chance for you to learn a first (or new) programming language in a friendly and supportive environment to help you decide if R is the right tool for you.

A series of webinars in the below topics follow on from this course:

  • Introduction to R markdown
  • RStudio
  • Git and GitHub

Module 2: Introduction to statistical modelling using R  – early March of Year 2

This course will introduce you to analysing real data by fitting statistical models to help you answer your research questions. It aims to promote a structured approach to statistical data analysis to give you the confidence you need to get started with analysing your own data. Attending this course will provide you with the necessary theory and practical experience to identify plausible models for different types of data, evaluate the quality of the model fit and its limitations, and finally interpret the model outputs. During the course particular emphasis will be placed on developing workflows which underpin robust and reproducible research and this course will also provide a foundation for subsequent courses on more advanced methods. Broadly speaking the course will cover graphical data exploration, an introduction to linear modelling (regression and ANOVA type designs), model validation and interpretation.

  • Graphical data exploration
  • Linear modelling (theory & practical)

Each QUADRAT student has access to placements, internships or other relevant work experience, ranging from one to three months duration. These are based at a non-HEI partner and may be governmental or regulatory, research or commercial.

The internships give the opportunity for our students to develop a well-rounded skillset, gain valuable work-based experience and allow the application of the broad skills acquired and developed during their QUADRAT studentship. It also helps students to understand their research in a wider context, and consider new career ideas.

Full details are available here.

Both the University of Aberdeen and Queen’s University Belfast have an active science outreach programme operating at all levels and are engaged in local, national and international science dissemination events. QUADRAT students benefit from a range of platforms and support available on engaging the public with their research.

The Induction & Annual Science Meeting event includes Outreach & Public Engagement training delivered by Dr Jamie Gallagher. Full details available on Jamie’s website here.

The Graduate School at Queen’s University Belfast is a Chartered Management Institute (CMI) accrediting centre. This allows QUADRAT research students to complete a level 7 Certificate in Strategic Management and Leadership which helps give the authority and skills to translate research, external drivers and organisational strategy into transformative change. The qualification is designed to enhance and improve leadership and management skills in the postgraduate population preparing them for the workplace. It is an accredited award which recognises that the learner has undergone significant personal and professional development in strategic leadership at a postgraduate level.

To find out more visit the CMI website or the Queen’s Graduate school website.


CMI: Strategic Management Project– Year 1 & 3

Task 1 – January/February of Year 1

Task 2 – February/March of Year 3

Understand the key processes in successful project management from initiation to delivery. 4 days of training.

The aim of this unit is for leaders to undertake a strategic management project of their own choosing. To achieve this outcome leaders will develop a business case, propose research design to inform the project’s direction and recommend project management methods and tools to structure the delivery of the project. Leaders will report on project outcomes and reflect on the skills and behaviours which ultimately influence the success of the strategic management project (CMI Handbook, December 2019).

CMI: Strategic Leadership – February/March of Year 2

Understanding the relationship between strategic management and leadership that supports organisational values and direction. 5 days of training.

The aim of this unit is to equip leaders with an in depth understanding of strategic leadership within an organisational context. Leaders will explore the complexities of the role and the theoretical perspectives, approaches, behaviours and skills which can enhance their professional practice. The unit focuses on the leader’s ability to respond creatively to complex organisational challenges and understand how to set and deliver sustainable strategic goals (CMI Handbook, December 2019).

This equips students with innovation and translation skills. A blended learning course delivers background on setting up a company, how to seek funding and what key skills are required, supplemented by coaching encompassing enhanced knowledge of intellectual property, company governance controls, budgeting and financial planning, and sales and marketing.

I-SEE (Individualised self-assessment to enhance employability) – a bespoke online resource developed to help identify individuals’ strengths and training needs – allows identification of areas for employability skills enhancement. Tailored feedback and signposting to self-study opportunities as well as mock interviews promote skills development.

The course allows students to gain a genuine employability advantage.

Opportunities to engage with sector, policy and business leaders, careers and employability support and skills development is also provided through the respective Graduate Schools.

QUADRAT students belong to mentoring groups where members of older cohorts provide advice and support to new students. Students receive training to support peer-to-peer networking skills development.

The health and wellbeing of our students is of paramount importance to us. Both institutions provide a wide range of support mechanisms accessible to all students (more info available here), however, to supplement this we have teamed up with external provider Fast Track Impact to deliver two essential courses designed specifically for researchers.

Click to read more about each of these courses below:

We also now offer Building your Emotional Resilience training through the Graduate School at Queen’s University Belfast. Registration for this course is circulated via email.

These training courses are now offered annually and are to be incorporated into the Annual Science Meeting and Induction event:

For more information about our equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives, please visit our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Hub.

A major focus of the QUADRAT core and systems-wide integrated skills training are the cohort building and peer-to-peer activities that ensure students operate within a socially cohesive team that spans all sites, years and disciplines, and that our students have affiliation with the QUADRAT-DTP rather than just their individual institutes.

QUADRAT-DTP students also benefit from interaction with a diverse community of PhD students in both University of Aberdeen and Queen’s University Belfast, which includes the BBSRC EastBio DTP, NERC SUPER DTP, NERC CDT in Oil and Gas, Leverhulme CDT in Sustainable Production of Chemicals and Materials, the Aurora Universities Network, and research pooling initiatives such as Marine Alliance of Science and Technology Scotland (MASTS), Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society (SAGES), and Scottish Universities Life Science Alliance (SULSA).

Existing long-term research projects in Assynt, Kielder, Fair Isle, Strangford Lough, Mendarte (Canada), Mull, Islay, Eynhallow and Rathlin Island may also provide opportunities for skills development and experience.

Multidisciplinarity is central to QUADRAT and embedded within our research and training structures. QUADRAT partners have a proven track record of leading on high-profile multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinary research.

This combined expertise and experience ensures the QUADRAT training programme provides opportunities for students to be trained by internationally recognised research leaders in ecology, evolutionary biology, ecophysiology, palaeoecology, molecular biology, bioinformatics, genetics, biogeochemistry, computer science, environmental change, land-use, modelling, immunology, geomorphology, hydrology, sedimentology, stratigraphy, mathematics, engineering, geochemical cycling, geobiology, GIS, remote sensing, geophysics, petrophysics, structural geology, landscape evolution, social sciences and modelling.