Programme Details

Programme Details

Students will develop a deep comprehension of scientific logic, understanding and methodology through core and bespoke training modules across disciplines; essential statistical and computational methods will become second nature to them.


Training courses

Emphasis will be placed on timely skill development with the majority of core skill training during the first year of study. Core learning modules will cover four key areas: best research practice, technical skills, presentation skills and personal and professional development. Bespoke training will be tailored to individual need and delivered at a time that is appropriate to the individual.

In their first year students will undertake introductory core learning modules and three mini-projects aligned with the projects on offer. The core learning modules will include technique workshops and training in critical thinking via interactive tutorial-style courses led by programme supervisor.

Further training continues concurrently with PhD study.


PhD Project

Full time research for the PhD begins in early February of the first year and will be conducted in a research group that hosted one of the mini-projects. Students will be 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
Single-molecule microscopy to interrogate binding of the Cas9 enzyme in different chromatin contexts Robin Allshire, Meriem El Karoui
Rest and reactivation in a major fungal pathogen: quantitative analysis of gene regulation in growth-state transitions Elizabeth Bayne, Edward Wallace
Using cryo-EM to quantify the binding of MeCP2 to chromatin Adrian Bird, Marcus Wilson
Genetics, molecular biology and mathematical modelling to understand how mammalian cells deal with gene dosage in S-phase Sara Buonomo, Ramon Grima
Single molecule measurement of localised pluripotency transcription factor interactions in embryonic stem cells Ian Chambers, Dimitrios Papadopoulos
Building a temporal proteomics map of the developing C. elegans nervous system Dhanya Cheerambathur, Tony Ly

Using CRISPR genetics, synthetic biology and physical modelling to understand mitotic chromatin compaction

William Earnshaw, Nick Gilbert

Unravelling and modelling mechanisms that control noise in gene expression using RNA-binding proteins in S. cerevisiae Sander Granneman, Peter Swain
Structure-driven dissection and inhibition of mitotic regulators in the fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans Kevin Hardwick, JP Arulanandam
State of the art sequencing and analytical approaches to unravel centromere organisation Patrick Heun, Chris Ponting
Decoding mechanical tension at centromeres during chromosome segregation Adele Marston, Andrew Goryachev
Towards a molecular understanding of piRNA-instructed transposon methylation Donal O’Carroll, Atlanta Cook
Shaping the meiotic spindle by phase separation Hiro Ohkura, Cait MacPhee
Visualizing protein function and malfunction in live cells: Application of super-resolution fluorescence microscopy to biologically and bio-medically important processes Lynne Regan, Mathew Horrocks
Deciphering the SPOTs complex; understanding the cellular regulation of sphingolipid metabolism Susan Rosser, Dominic Campopiano
3D modeling of changes in genome architecture in development and disease Eric Schirmer, Davide Marenduzzo
Cotranscriptional features that determine RNA fate David Tollervey, Guido Sanguinetti
A degron-nanobody fusion platform to decode kinase–regulated cellular  pathways Malcolm Walkinshaw, Alison Hulme
Defining and predicting the molecular basis for male infertility Julie Welburn, Joseph Marsh



Funding includes a generous student stipend for four years at Wellcome stipend rates. Tuition fees and funding for research costs, travel and training are also provided. After submitting their thesis, students will also have the opportunity to access PhD Programme funding to support training or work experience that will aid transition to the next stage of their career.


Entrance Requirements

BSc or equivalent with first or upper second class honours in a relevant subject.   Applications are encouraged from individuals from a wide range of backgrounds who have studied a variety of subjects including Biochemistry, Biomedical Science, Cell Biology, Chemistry, Computational Data Sciences, Engineering, Genetics, Mathematics, Molecular Biology and Physics.

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 procedure

Prospective students should submit:

For more detail on the application procedure go to the How to Apply page

The recruitment committee will base its decision on the application documents and interviews. Travel to interview from within the EU will be reimbursed.

There is one intake of six students each year with a formal start date of 1 October.

Application deadline: Wednesday 11 December 2019, 12 noon


Interview day: Thursday 16 January 2020