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Wellcome 4-Year (1+3) PhD Programme in Stem Cell Biology & Medicine

Application for October 2019 entry is now open!



Wellcome generously funds our highly competitive 4-Year (1+3) PhD Programme in Stem Cell Biology & Medicine. This programme 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. 

These studentships are considered once each year (application open October - January) and are relevant to prospective students who have not decided on a specific supervisor and/or do not have their own funding. Up to four studentships are available on this programme each year.


Course Outline

Year 1

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: 

1. Core Course

The purpose of the seminar course in year one is to provide students with a critical understanding of the major topics in Stem Cell Biology. Each module will focus on a particular topic. The term 1 sessions will review the current state of knowledge and the most important future directions in the field. The term 2 and 3 sessions will revolve around the discussion of 2-3 research papers provided by the session leaders. Students are required to read these papers ahead of each session, ready for discussion. All students at the Stem Cell Institute have the opportunity to participate in this course. 

View example discussion course schedule for 2017-18

2. Lab rotations

Each student will rotate in the laboratories of 3 different contributing supervisors. They will be expected to select their rotations so that they gain 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 3-4 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. 

3. 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 and Statistics
  • Research Ethics

4. Research Project Proposal

Students are expected to choose a laboratory for their thesis research towards the end of their first year. They will then 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.


Years 2 - 4

Research Project

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

Skills development

The research project will be accompanied by additional elements to help the development and application of core skills and knowledge. 

All students at the Stem Cell Institute (no take part in our annual 'PhD Day Symposium' which will involve either presenting a talk or a poster (depending on which study year you are in). All members of the Stem Cell Institute are invited to attend this.

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 Cambridge Stem Cell Institute PhD Management Committee.

Students at the Stem Cell Institute will become members of the Graduate School of the Life Sciences, which organises and promotes many further training opportunities.


To apply see