Programme Details

Training courses

In their first year students will undertake three mini-projects aligned with the projects on offer. They will receive training in critical thinking via interactive tutorial-style courses including Method and Logic, discipline-specific literature discussion led by programme supervisors and techniques workshops.

Further training in research skills and transferable skills continues concurrently with PhD study.


PhD Project

Full time research for the PhD begins in early April of the first year and will be conducted in a research group that hosted one of the mini-projects. Students are primarily embedded in research groups with a strong track record in dissecting cellular mechanisms ranging from anti-microbial resistance, stochastic heterogeneity, epigenetic and chromatin-based regulation, control of gene expression, non-coding RNA and RNA processing, chromosome structure and segregation, cell-cycle and cell growth regulation.

All PhD projects are collaborative between two supervisors who have complementary expertise:  one in cell mechanisms and one in quantitative skills. The definition of ‘quantitative skills’ is broad and includes Computational-Data Sciences, Mathematics, Biophysics, Structural Biology, Chemical Biology and Biomaterials. By integrating these different areas into collaborative cross-disciplinary projects we will break new ground in understanding cellular mechanisms pertinent to the biomedical arena.

Examples of potential project titles and supervisors
Project Title Supervisors
Fungal resistance: single cell analysis and modelling of stochastic gene silencing events in response to environmental insults Robin Allshire, Peter Swain (SynthSys) with Rosalind Allen (Physics) as part of the joint supervisory team
RNA interference in Cryptococcus neoformans

Liz Bayne, Sander Granneman

Structural Basis for the CENP-V Mediated Maintenance of Centromere Structure Bill Earnshaw, JP Arulanandam
Quantitative Understanding of the bacterial response to antibiotics in multiple growth conditions Meriem El Karoui, Rosalind Allen (School of Physics)
Investigating the role of centromeric RNA transcripts for centromere function and inheritance

Patrick Heun, Chris Ponting (IGMM, Human Genetics Unit)

An integrated mathematical and cell biological approach to understand tension sensing at the kinetochore Adele Marston, Andrew Goryachev
Investigating genome-proteome disequilibrium in polyploid human and drosophila cells Hiro Ohkura, Tony Ly
Structure and function of microtubule nucleation proteins Ken Sawin, Atlanta Cook
Role of promoter features in RNA fate determination David Tollervey, Guido Sanguinetti (School of Informatics)
From patient to molecular mechanism: understanding pathogenic mutations of the cytoskeleton Julie Welburn, Joseph Marsh (IGMM, MRC Human Genetics Unit)



A student stipend is provided for four years at the RCUK rate: £14,553 per annum at 2017/18 levels. Tuition fees (at the home/EU rate) are also provided.


Entrance Requirements

BSc or equivalent with first or upper second class honours in a relevant subject.   Applications are encouraged from students with a variety of backgrounds including Biomedical Science, Biophysics, Cell Biology, Chemistry, Computational Data Sciences, Mathematics and Physics.   Note that eligibility for this programme will normally be restricted to citizens of EU countries, as funding does not cover the much higher University fees for non-EU students.

Applicants should have a good knowledge of spoken and written English. Details about English language requirements can be found on the university website at

General information for international applicants to the University of Edinburgh can be found on the university website at

Application Forms

Application forms can be downloaded from the How to Apply page.

Application deadline and interview day

Application Deadline: Friday 5 January 2018, 12 noon

Interview day: Friday 2 February 2018 (to be confirmed)