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Postgraduate School of Life Sciences


Funded Projects

Within the PSLS there are a number of opportunities to work on funded projects. Please see the Job Opportunities website for more details, or view the list along the right hand side of this page. 

Funded Programmes

The University and its Partner Institutions offer a number of programmes that are funded by the Research Councils or major charities, such as the Wellcome Trust, British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK etc. 

These programmes advertise studentships that are awarded specifically for the particular programme of study on a strictly competitive basis; candidates are normally interviewed in Cambridge for these awards. These programmes mean that successful candidates receive a combined offer of a place on the course and funding. 

The Programmes currently available in the PSLS are listed below:

BBSRC DTP PhD in Biological Sciences

Applications for the BBSRC DTP PhD studentships starting in October 2024 are now closed. 

Details concerning opportunities for study in October 2025 will be announced via the BBSRC DTP website.

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Cardiovascular Research 4-Year Cambridge-BHF PhD Programme

The goal of this 1+3 MRes + PhD programme in Cardiovascular Research is to train scientists in cross-disciplinary research related to cardiovascular disease, particularly those who can work effectively across traditional disciplines and lead collaborative research projects. The programme combines formal training in molecular and cellular biology, physiology of model organisms, human physiology, human genetics, genomics and population health sciences.

The programme brings together world-leading expertise, drawing on faculty at the University of Cambridge’s Schools of Medicine and Biological Sciences and several interdisciplinary institutes: the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Institute of Public Health, Institute of Metabolic Science, and Laboratory for Regenerative Medicine.

The programme provides a generous living allowance and full fees at the ‘home’ rate.

How to apply?

Applicants apply directly via the Postgraduate Applicant Portal.

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Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute MPhil and PhD in Medical Science

The PhD in Medical Science in CRUK CI is a research course in which each student studies in the research laboratory of their principal supervisor, with close interaction with their graduate and post-doctoral colleagues. Each student will be work on a specific project that will be aligned with and contribute to the overall objectives of the lab. Students are expected to take ownership of their projects and to drive them forward with assistance from other members of the Institute. Students are supported to submit their theses within 4 years of commencing study, and to prepare their research findings for publication in scientific journals.

About half of our PhD students receive studentships from Cancer Research UK. In addition, studentship funding is available from grants held by individual research groups and we also host students on the MB/PhD programme and clinical research training fellows. We welcome applications from students who have won competitive fellowships.

The CRUK also offers one funded place per year on the MPhil in Medical Science at CRUK CI. 

How to apply?

Projects will be advertised via the Department website and along the right hand side of this page.  

Applicants apply for the course directly via the Graduate Applicant Portal for the MPhil and the PhD

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CRUK Cambridge Centre MRes + PhD in Cancer Biology

Seven (5 +2 Black leaders studentships) CRUK Cambridge Centre MRes + PhD studentships are available for non-clinical applicants, to commence in October 2024. 

Find out more about the course 

Students will apply for one of the 7 studentships and, if successful, will start in October 2024. Two students of the seven are recruited through the Black Leaders In Cancer PhD Scholarship programme. 

How to apply?

Students apply directly via the Postgraduate Applicant Portal

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CRUK Cambridge Centre Clinical Research Fellowships

One of the main principles of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre is the open exchange of scientific knowledge and skills across the many disciplines involved in cancer science, creating a culture of continuous learning and development for all members. In keeping with this aim, the Centre also supports a broad programme of formal education and training designed to nurture the next generation of cancer researchers and clinicians.

We provide funding for Clinical Research Training Fellowships comprising of a 3-year PhD for candidates who have completed their medical training.

By being part of the CRUK Cambridge Centre, clinical students will also have the opportunity to attend a number of lecture series, workshops and meetings aimed at facilitating and strengthening collaborations between complementary disciplines and across different departments and institutes.

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EMBL-EBI International PhD Programme

Established in 1983, the EMBL International PhD Programme provides students with the best starting platform for a successful career in science. Characterised by first-class training, internationality, dedicated mentoring and early independence in research, it is among the world's most competitive PhD training schemes. All of EMBL's six sites participate in the programme.

The typical duration of a PhD thesis at EMBL is 3.5 to 4 years. EMBL predoctoral fellowships are initially awarded for 3.5 years, with the possibility of a half-year extension. The stipend is competitive by international standards and includes broad health care benefits and pension.

How to apply?

Projects are advertised on the Department website 

Application opens: August 2023

Application submission deadline: 09 October 2023, 23:59 CEST

Reference deadline: 11 October 2023, 23:59 CEST

Interview dates: To be confirmed

Written application results: Will be announced around mid-November 2023

Expected start date: Flexible, by October 2024 at the latest

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Herchel Smith Cambridge Harvard PhD Programme

Funded by a generous bequest from Dr Herchel Smith the University is pleased to offer a PhD studentship programme for prospective Harvard and Cambridge students. Cambridge presently recruits four PhD students annually (for a four-year period of study), while Harvard recruits six PhD students annually (for a two-year period of study).

The Herchel Smith Research Studentships are among the most prestigious studentships offered by the Universities. Students are selected at both institutions within the broad area of Life Sciences and regular meetings of students and Managers are incorporated into the scheme,.

At Cambridge the Herchel Smith Research Studentships provide:

  • Tuition Fees (fully or partially covered by a college)

  • Stipend at the Wellcome Trust rates for four years

  • Research Support grant (£5,000 a year)

  • Visa costs (for the overseas students)

Successful applicants may have the opportunity to apply to undertake a one- or two-month research project at Harvard University as part of their studies.

To view Terms and Conditions, please click here.

How to apply?

There is no separate form of application for Herchel Smith Studentships; all eligible applicants who apply through the Postgraduate Applicant Portal will be considered.

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MRC Biostatistics Unit

The MRC Biostatistics Unit at the University of Cambridge (MRC BSU) aims to advance understanding of the cause, natural history and treatment of disease, and to evaluate public health strategies, through the development of statistical methods and their application to the design, analysis and interpretation of biomedical studies.

The BSU is an internationally recognised research unit and part of the University of Cambridge, specialising in statistical modelling with application to medical, biological or public health sciences. Details of the work carried out in the Unit appear on our Research page.

The BSU provides an ideal place to commence a career in Biostatistics. Our thriving PhD programme is hugely successful and competition for places is high. The BSU’s relaxed yet enthusiastic, dedicated and stimulating environment provides students with the essential tools, both in research and transferrable skills, to set them on their way to a successful career as an independent researcher.

A BSU Studentship covers all fees at the University of Cambridge home/EU rate, a taxfree stipend or living allowance and a generous travel and training budget.

How to apply?

PhD opportunities will be advertised on the Unit’s website and applicants apply directly via the Postgraduate Applicant Portal.

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MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit 

The MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit (MRC CBU), at the University of Cambridge, is one of the largest and most enduring contributors to the understanding of human cognition and its disorders. The unit explores cognitive activities such as attention, emotion, language and memory. The research carried out spans the spectrum from basic to translational science including developing new treatments for depression, improving hearing through cochlear implants and helping children to overcome memory problems.

We host 20-30 graduate students at any time and applications are invited from prospective PhD students wishing to pursue research in areas covered by any of our research programmes. Our approaches include experimental cognitive psychology, neuropsychology, computational modelling and neuroimaging using MRI, MEG, and EEG.

The programme is funded by the MRC and students received a living stipend and full fees at the Home/EU rate.

How to apply?

Students apply directly via the Postgraduate Applicant Portal for the MPhil or the PhD.  

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MRC DTP and iCASE Programme

The Cambridge MRC DTP is offering 5 fully funded MRC Industry Partner (iCASE) PhD studentships commencing in October 2024. Please see the list for projects currently available. Further projects will be added once confirmed.

The industry partner specifies a research project that will be of importance to them, and provides a placement at their premises for the student of at least 3 months, together with an additional non-academic supervisor. Students will need to select from a list available projects, based either in the School of Clinical Medicine, or the School of Biological Science. 

These studentships allow postgraduate research students to receive high quality research training, with the additional benefit of working closely with an industrial partner. These collaborations will provide MRC iCASE students with unique technical and transferable skills, as well as an insight into how commercial science is conducted, and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Each iCASE studentship is fully funded, and includes an annual stipend for 4 years at the UKRI minimum rate, plus an additional stipend top-up per annum, University fees and research costs.

In addition to excellent research facilities, students will have access to a wide variety of training and researcher development activities, many of which are offered through the Postgraduate School of Life Sciences and the wider University, and access to the MRC flexible supplement, which can be used to fund a wide range of additional training activities, and opportunities.

Please see the How to Apply page for further details on how to fill out your application form. The final closing date for all applications will be 1st December 2023.

For general enquiries, please email

The Medical Research Council (MRC) and University of Cambridge actively support equality, diversity and inclusion, and we encourage applications from eligible applicants from all sections of society.

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MRC Epidemiology Unit

The MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge (MRC EU) studies the genetic, developmental and environmental factors that cause obesity, diabetes and related metabolic disorders. The outcomes from these studies are then used to develop strategies for the prevention of these diseases in the general population.

The MRC Epidemiology Unit is a research department in the School of Clinical Medicine at the University of Cambridge and investigates the causes and prevention of obesity and diabetes. The department also hosts the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), a UKCRC Centre of Excellence in Public Health Research. CEDAR studies the population-level determinants of dietary and physical activity behaviours, develops and evaluates public health interventions and is helping to shape public health practice and policy.

Our PhD students have the opportunity to contribute to cutting-edge research under the supervision of senior scientists supported by postdoctoral researchers and a large team of fieldworkers, data managers, statisticians, study coordinators, technical and administrative staff.

MRC Studentships (when available) offer Full Funding for applicants who are both UK nationals and UK residents, to cover the University Composition Fee and a stipend (see MRC student eligibility criteria). For other European Economic Area (EEA) applicants, MRC Studentships offer only Partial Funding, covering only the University Composition Fee. More information about financing your studies can be found here.

How to apply?

Applicants apply directly via the Postgraduate Applicant Portal for the PhD.

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MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

The MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) is a research institute dedicated to the understanding of important biological processes at the levels of atoms, molecules, cells and organisms. Our work covers a broad range of science, employing the diverse methods of physics, chemistry and biology to advance the knowledge needed to solve key problems in human health.

We believe that major challenges are best addressed in a multidisciplinary environment with long-term support and where detailed molecular studies are channelled into opportunities for medical benefits or major technical innovation. The LMB has four Research Divisions with distinct but well aligned research priorities:

  • Cell Biology: To discover the molecular mechanisms of fundamental cellular processes with potential medical significance
  • Neurobiology: To understand fundamental properties of nerve cells in health and disease through the elucidation of molecular mechanisms
  • Protein & Nucleic Acid Chemistry: To obtain insights into human biological diseases at the molecular and structural level
  • Structural Studies: To understand the mechanisms underlying fundamental biological processes

Our scientists tackle fundamental, often difficult, and long-term research problems. The LMB has made revolutionary contributions to science, such as pioneering X-ray crystallography to determine protein structures, the sequencing of DNA and the development of monoclonal antibodies. Eleven Nobel Prizes have been awarded for work carried out by LMB scientists: the most recent one – in 2017 to Richard Henderson, for developments in cryo-electron microscopy for the solution of the atomic structures of macromolecules.

About a fifth of the scientists at the LMB are graduate students, often driving the most creative areas of scientific research. We recruit 15-20 PhD students every year.

During the application process you will automatically be considered for the appropriate LMB funding:

  • Full MRC Studentships for UK and eligible EU graduates
  • Full International Scholarships for other graduates from the EU, the Commonwealth and world wide candidates
  • César Milstein Studentship for Argentinian Nationals

How to apply?

Students apply directly via the Postgraduate Applicant Portal. 

Here is a list of current projects and how to find out more about us

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MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit

Research at the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit (MRC MBU) is focussed on the biology of mitochondria and their dysfunction in an ever-increasing range of human diseases. The Unit combines studies exploring the molecular function of the mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation system, the mitochondrial proteome and genome, and how mitochondria interact with the cell through homeostatic, signalling and execution pathways. Combined with the wealth of clinical, genetic and biochemical data provided by mitochondrial medicine, and the use of model systems with perturbed mitochondrial physiology, the Unit aims to exploit its findings for the development of new therapies to treat human disease.

The Mitochondrial Biology Unit has an active post-graduate programme for training students for the PhD or occasionally MPhil degrees. The programme aims to provide high quality training in both research and in transferable skills. The students are supervised and assessed by a research supervisor and a separate advisor, under the overall supervision of the Unit's postgraduate education committee consisting of three of the Unit's Faculty. 

Each year, the Unit awards up to four UKRI/MRC PhD studentships on a competitive basis to eligible students. The studentship pays for Cambridge University and College fees, and each student receives a generous full stipend of £18,000 per year, payable for up to four years. Three of these studentships are available for UK/Irish citizens or UK permanent residents and one is available to EU/international students.

How to apply?

Applicants apply directly via the Postgraduate Applicant Portal for the PhD.

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National Institutes of Health Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Programme 

US citizens only

The National Institutes of Health Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program is an accelerated, individualized doctoral training program for outstanding science students committed to biomedical research careers. The program is based on the British system, in which students perform doctoral research without required formal courses other than those students choose to take in relationship to their own interests. Students selected for admission to the program have already developed a passion for science through engagement in summer, job related, or undergraduate research programs. The program is available to US citizens available to US citizens or US permanent residents.  

Students will receive tuition and stipend support, based on NIH policy, for the duration of the program (approximately 4 yrs.)

How to apply?

Applicants apply to NIH first - How to Apply

Then apply to the University of Cambridge Postgraduate Applicant Portal.

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Wellcome 1+3 Programme in Stem Cell Biology & Medicine

Wellcome generously funds our highly competitive 4-Year MRes + PhD (1+3) PhD Programme in Stem Cell Biology & Medicine. The Cambridge Stem Cell Institute offers a unique environment for high-level research training in stem cell biology, with our research groups working across three key research themes: Stem Cell States, Stem Cells in Disease and Stem Cells & Therapeutics. The University of Cambridge is exceptional in the depth and diversity of its research in this field, and has a dynamic and interactive research community, ranked amongst the foremost in the world. Our Programme in Stem Cell Biology & Medicine enables students to take advantage of the strength and breadth of stem cell research available in Cambridge, plus the added benefits that the unique culture of College life and membership of the University of Cambridge provide.

This programme provides students with an opportunity to spend time in three different labs during their first 'rotation' year, before making a decision about where they would like to undertake their thesis work in years 2-4. 

These studentships are considered once each year and are relevant to prospective students who have not decided on a specific supervisor and/or do not have their own funding.

Up to five studentships are available on this programme each year. Funding includes a generous stipend, plus research costs and tuition fees at the home rate.

How to apply?

Applicants apply directly via the Postgraduate Applicant Portal.

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Wellcome Sanger Institute

The Wellcome Sanger Institute uses sequencing, informatics and analysis of genetic variation to further our understanding of gene function in health and disease, and to explore the diversity of complex organisms.

The Institute’s PhD programmes aim to provide training and research opportunities in the field of genomic science that reflect the unique nature of Sanger Institute science, with an emphasis on large-scale, high-throughput approaches and the development of a blend of wet-lab and computational skills. The Institute also aims to provide students with general research and transferable skills training in addition to training in their specific research area. Applicants will generally have a bioscience background, but applicants with a computational or mathematical background can also apply.

The Sanger 4-year PhD programme provides 12 funded PhD studentships per year and the Clinical PhD programme provides 2 funded clinical PhD fellowships per year. 

The Wellcome Sanger Institute occasionally takes on MPhil students providing they have their own funding. Before applying for the MPhil course, applicants must have the support of a faculty member at the Institute.

How to apply?

Sanger Institute 4-year PhD programme: Applications are submitted first via the Sanger Institute application process.

PhD Programme for Health Professionals: Applicants apply directly via the Postgraduate Applicant Portal.

MPhil students: Applicants apply directly via the Postgraduate Applicant Portal

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