skip to primary navigationskip to content

Four-Year (1+3) PhD Programme in Stem Cell Biology & Medicine

Application for Oct 2021 entry now open!


The Wellcome 4-Year (MRes + PhD) Programme in Stem Cell Biology & Medicine combines scientific excellence with a commitment to improving the working environment and transition support for trainees.

We commit to being part of an evolving community of practitioners who will develop and share practice to bring science and culture together, placing both firmly at the heart of what we do.

Generously funded by Wellcome , this MRes + PhD structure 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. The programme is suited to students who have not decided on a specific supervisor and/or do not have their own funding. 

From 2020 entry, the Programme now offers up to five Wellcome studentships per year.

Programme Design


Our objective is to use the opportunity provided by Wellcome and the Medical Research Council to provide a multi-faceted course that gives students a comprehensive preparation for their PhD research. There are four main components to the first year: 

Lab rotations

Each student will rotate in the laboratories of 3 different contributing supervisors. Rotations should be selected so that the student gains experience of at least two different stem cell systems. Students will be encouraged to choose at least one rotation each in basic and translational stem cell biology. Each rotation will last for 9 weeks, plus 3 weeks at the end for data analysis and writing up a project report. These rotations expose the students to different techniques, organisms, and areas of research in Stem Cell Biology in Cambridge, and allow them to make an informed decision at the end of the year about which laboratory they wish to join to carry out their main thesis research. 

Core Stem Cell Course

The purpose of the stem cell core course is to provide students with a critical understanding of the major topics in Stem Cell Biology. Each module will focus on a particular topic. Term 1 sessions review the current state of knowledge and the most important future directions in the field. Term 2 and 3 sessions will revolve around the discussion of 2-3 research papers which students are expected to read ahead of each session. All first-year students / clinical fellows students at the Stem Cell Institute have the opportunity to participate in this course. View an example Core Stem Cell Course schedule.

Skills courses

Throughout the year there will be a variety of skills based courses designed to give training in a variety of technical approaches or to develop specific skills. These will include: 

  • Flow Cytometry
  • Imaging and Microscopy
  • Bioinformatics
  • Statistics
  • Research Ethics
  • Core Skills Training Programme (CSTP, provided by the GSLS), which includes the following training components: Skills Analysis Survey, Time Management, Presentation and Performance and Academic Writing.

Research Project Proposal

Students are expected to choose a laboratory for their thesis research towards the end of their first year. They will write a PhD Research Proposal which will form part of the assessment for a Masters (MRes) Degree in Stem Cell Biology. Students will normally then commence a 3-Year PhD.


The PhD research project will occupy years 2-4, and will constitute the main research component of the course.

All students at the CSCI are expected to participate in the annual 'PhD Day Symposium', which will involve either presenting a talk or a poster (depending on which study year you are in). 

Students on the Four-Year Stem Cell Biology Programme will also take part in an annual 'Presentation Day' where you will present your current research to, and receive feedback from, the CSCI Postgraduate Student Committee.

Students at the CSCI will become members of the Postgraduate School of the Life Sciences, which organises and promotes many further training opportunities.


The Physical Biology of Stem Cells

Additional places funded by the MRC  are available for UK students with a background in Physics, Mathematics or Computational Sciences, wanting to apply their training to aspects of stem cell biology. To apply for this programme, please use the same application process as the Wellcome programme. For more details of the Physical Biology Programme, click here.


To apply: