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Postgraduate Study

Course closed:

Biological Sciences (Cell Science) by advanced study is no longer accepting new applications.

The MPhil in Biological Sciences provides students with an opportunity to undertake a period of study and research in Cell Science, one of the Faculty’s key research pathways.

Cells are the fundamental functional units of life, from single celled organisms, such as bacteria, protozoa and fungi, to multi-cellular eukaryotes. Yet we still cannot claim that we understand cells well enough. Each cell has its own structural and functional features, engaged in complex communication with its immediate milieu and capable of plasticity. It is the behaviour, function and fate of cells that ultimately govern organismal state, both in physiological and pathological settings. Knowing how cells work informs our understanding of how the growing number of human disease genes can cause pathology. In this exciting time of technological innovation, the field is evolving rapidly, allowing us to extract a plethora of fine-grained information and to look into the cellular world with a holistic, interdisciplinary perspective. 

This MPhil aims to convey a detailed understanding of a diverse range of biological processes, examined at the level of an intact cell as well as cell manipulations for biomedical applications. The topics covered include cellular organisation with in-depth insight into the structures and functions of key organelles, communication within and between cells, cell stress, cell fate (division, differentiation, regeneration and death) and cell therapy/regenerative therapeutics. As such the concepts and experimental approaches covered in this course are central to the full range of present-day life sciences. Although we will not focus on specific diseases, the workshops and discussions will often include relevant pathophysiological contexts to aid our understanding of disease mechanisms.

The course will draw upon the breadth and international strengths in cell science within the University of Cambridge and associated research institutes; notably the Departments of Biochemistry, Genetics, Pathology, Pharmacology, Physiology Development and Neuroscience, Plant Sciences, Zoology, the Gurdon Institute, the MRC Toxicology Unit, the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, the Sainsbury Laboratory and the Wellcome-MRC Stem Cell Institute.

The MPhil is offered by the Faculty of Biology as a full-time period of study and research and introduces students to research skills and specialist knowledge in Cell Science.

The MPhil course adopts interactive and discussion-based teaching, much of which is seminar-style where student participation and discussion are strongly encouraged. This is complemented with extensive lab-based training during a research project (up to 32 weeks + 6 weeks writing up time) with students integrated into one of the many participating research groups (selected after starting the MPhil, having been introduced to projects and groups). 

The main aims are to give students with relevant experience at first-degree level the opportunity:

  • to carry out focussed research in the discipline under close supervision; 
  • to acquire or develop skills and expertise relevant to their research interests; 
  • to be introduced to the skills of experimental design, project management and time management that are needed in research; 
  • to become familiar with the practicalities of laboratory research, including record keeping, data handling and professional laboratory practice; 
  • to learn analytical techniques needed to understand and contextualise their research; 
  • to become familiar with scientific writing and presentation skills.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, students will be able to demonstrate:

  • advanced knowledge and understanding of the biological and biomedical sciences relevant to the study of their specialisation; 
  • in-depth knowledge of an aspect of their specialisation; 
  • a broad understanding of modern research techniques and thorough knowledge of the literature, applicable to their research topic; 
  • knowledge of the theoretical approaches relevant to their specialisation and training in critical thinking in the area; 
  • expertise in research methods and analysis of research data; 
  • originality in the application of knowledge, together with the practical understanding of how research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the field. 


Students wishing to progress to the PhD after completing this MPhil course must apply via the University's online portal.  They will be required to pass the MPhil degree at a sufficient level to satisfy the Postgraduate Education Committee for the Faculty or Department they are applying to in order to demonstrate that they have the skills and ability to achieve the higher degree.

Open Days

The Postgraduate Virtual Open Day usually takes place at the end of October. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions to admissions staff and academics, explore the Colleges virtually, and to find out more about courses, the application process and funding opportunities. Visit the Postgraduate Open Day page for more details.

See further the Postgraduate Admissions Events pages for other events relating to Postgraduate study, including study fairs, visits and international events.

Key Information

11 months full-time

Study Mode : Taught

Master of Philosophy

Faculty of Biology

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Course on Department Website

Dates and deadlines:

Applications open
Sept. 4, 2023
Application deadline
April 24, 2024
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2024

Some courses can close early. See the Deadlines page for guidance on when to apply.

Course Funding Deadline
Jan. 4, 2024
Gates Cambridge US round only
Oct. 11, 2023

These deadlines apply to applications for courses starting in Michaelmas 2024, Lent 2025 and Easter 2025.

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