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MRC 4-Year Studentship: 'The Physical Biology of Stem Cells'


All PhD places for October 2019 entry have now been filled. Application for 2020 entry will open this October.


The Medical Research Council kindly provides the funding for this specialised 4-Year (1+3) PhD Programme, focusing on 'The Physical Biology of Stem Cells'. Applications are considered once each year (application open Nov - Feb) 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. Up to two studentships are available. These studentships come with a stipend at the standard RCUK rate.


Physical Biology of Stem Cells

Image reproduced by kind permission of Professor David Rowitch

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 course runs in parallel to the Wellcome 4 Year (MRes + PhD) 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

To apply for the MRC Physical Biology of Stem Cells studentships, please see

For enquiries: Graduate Administrator, Mrs Jo Jack: email:, or telephone: +44 (0)1223 760288.



For a list of participating supervisors on this PhD Programme, please click here.



Physical Sciences

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 Göttgens

  • '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'