About the programme

Funding is available for five cohorts of seven top-calibre PhD students to work on some of the most pressing public health challenges

Each four-year studentship provides:

– A generous stipend at Wellcome rates –
– Tuition fees for 4 years –
– A research, training and travel fund to support cohort events, internships, courses, data collection, conferences and research travel –
– Transition funding to support next steps post-PhD (subject to application) –

Why we have developed this programme

Helping to tackle major chronic diseases

Chronic disease accounts for a large proportion of the burden of disease in the developed world. Much of this burden is due to powerful ‘upstream’ determinants (including poverty, poor housing, environmental pollution, exposure to crime, discrimination, inequitable economic growth), and because of this, health is unfairly distributed in society.

Upstream determinants have a complex interaction with ‘downstream’ behavioural factors (for example, smoking, alcohol consumption, poor diet and physical inactivity), which themselves have negative effects on health. Together, upstream and downstream factors form a complex system of interdependent influences, and cutting-edge Public Health Decision Science seeks to understand this system in order to identify interventions (and combinations of interventions) that can maximise health benefit while also reducing health inequity.

In a resource–constrained environment, there is an urgent need for a highly skilled workforce who can effectively interpret diverse evidence and data sources and who can undertake economic evaluation to support resource allocation decisions. Public Health Decision Science provides estimates of the long-term impact of public health policies for different population subgroups, including detailed analysis of costs and benefits.

Decision-makers in the UK and internationally require evidence on (a) which combinations of interventions would most effectively reduce chronic disease burden; (b) what trade-offs exist between the outcomes prioritised by different stakeholders; and (c) which resource allocations will deliver greatest return on investment. Development and synthesis of new scientific evidence is crucial to answering these challenging questions.

“Some of the main benefits of being on the Wellcome programme are the number of researchers and professors working in related fields who are willing to help and often serve as an invaluable resource, and the high calibre of your peers who are also working in related areas and who come to the programme with different prior knowledge.”

Rob Smith, Cohort 1

“Researchers in ScHARR are keen to share ideas and support early career researchers. The programme offers unique opportunities for research and helps you to develop your career in a very supportive environment. I would recommend the programme to anyone who is interested in building a strong career that brings together Public Health and Health Economics.”

Nicolas Silva, Cohort 2

Novel multidisciplinary working

Public Health Decision Science is an exciting cross-disciplinary area of research that draws on skills from across traditional departmental boundaries, including, for example:

  • mathematics
  • statistics
  • economics
  • psychology
  • sociology
  • health economics
  • systems engineering
  • business studies
  • politics
  • medicine
  • human geography

Our mission is to enable the highest calibre postgraduate researchers to build on their existing discipline-specific knowledge, and to complement this with training in another field.

To develop a true multidisciplinary cohort of scientists, we will support excellent health and related disciplines graduates in developing advanced quantitative analytical skills; and equip top mathematics, economics, systems engineering and related disciplines graduates with public health training and methodological expertise.

Individually tailored training

Our programme is structured to allow students to define their own learning trajectory, in discussion with their programme tutors.

The first year of the programme offers a unique training opportunity. Students attend a bespoke selection of 4 taught masters modules which complement their previous background and interests, engage in cohort-based research training activities, engage with senior scientists and meet public health leaders in monthly ‘meet a decision maker’ sessions.

Rotations through three ‘research attachments’ chosen from a list of options will allow students to develop experience of working in different topic areas and with different potential supervisors before making a final decision about the direction of their own PhD thesis work, and appropriate supervisory panel, in years two to four of the programme.

There is then the opportunity for scholarship holders to apply for transition funding for the immediate post-PhD period. Wellcome provides this funding to our Doctoral Training Programme to support students in their transition into the career of their choice.

Future careers in academia or decision making organisations

Our programme will prepare graduates to develop rewarding careers in academia or stakeholder organisations which will allow them to contribute to public health policy decisions to reduce the burden of disease in the UK and internationally.


We are building a vibrant, diverse community of graduates with:

  • in-depth public health subject knowledge,
  • advanced quantitative and modelling skills,
  • interdisciplinary and collaborative skills and broad networks within and beyond academia,
  • ethical approaches to research and leadership,
  • creativity in questioning established truths, and
  • the ability to adapt to fast-changing research and policy landscapes.

Contact us

To contact us, please email us at wellcomephds@sheffield.ac.uk.