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Application for 2016 has now closed

**Please check back again mid-October/November for an update on availability of this programme for 2017**

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The Medical Research Council kindly provide the funding for this specialist 4-Year (1+3) PhD Programme, focusing on 'The Physical Biology of Stem Cells'. Applications are considered once each year (application open Oct - Jan) and the Programme is targeted specifically to applicants with a Physical Sciences, Mathematical or Computational Sciences background, who are interested in applying their training to aspects of stem cell biology.

Physical Biology of Stem Cells

Stem cells are defined by their dual capacity to self-renew and differentiate into somatic cells. Great inroads have been made towards understanding how stem cells generate tissue and sustain cell turnover in tissue. At this time most of the inroads have been made by studying the individual biochemistry of the stem cell; much less progress has been made in understanding their function across scales – from molecules to tissue – or how they interact with their physical environment.

In studying the physical biology of stem cells, the aim is to identify and characterise the importance of physical, chemical, mathematical, and engineering considerations in the function of stem cells. This could include mathematical modelling of homeostasis in tissues, engineering controlled environments to control stem cell function, imaging and biotechnology, using single molecule approaches to study molecular interactions, systems biology, or investigating the importance of the stem cell’s response to forces in its environment. The research generated by the MRC studentships should provide new foundations for biomedical discovery, biotechnological and biopharmaceutical exploitation, and clinical applications in regenerative medicine.

Course Outline

This programme provides students with an opportunity to spend time in three different labs during their first ‘rotation’ year, before deciding where to undertake their thesis work for years 2-4.

The couse runs in parallel to the Wellcome Trust 1+3 Programme, with the distinction that students recruited to the MRC Programme will be offered rotation projects in the areas of Physical Sciences/ Mathematical/Computational Sciences.


For details of the full course Programme, see


For a list of participating supervisors on this PhD Programme, please see

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Stem Cell Institute PIs work on joint projects with Physical Scientists outside of the SCI. Below are examples of some of these collaborative projects:

Ragnhildur Thóra Káradóttir

  • 'High resolution mechanical mapping of central nervous system tissue' - with Dr. Jochan Guck and Dr. Kristian Franze

  • 'Mechanical properties of white matter in health and disease' - with Dr. Jochan Guck and Dr. Kristian Franze
  • 'Role of mechanosensing ion channels in neuronal growth' - with Dr. Kristian Franze

Bertie Gottgens

  • 'The computational reconstruction and analysis of blood stem cell regulatory networks' - with Professor Jaap Heringa's group in Amsterdam.A paper related to this work has just been published:
  • Various collaborations with Dr. Jasmin Fisher from Microsoft Research including 'Executable modeling of blood cell development from pluripotent embryonic stem cells'
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