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Postgraduate Study

Course closed:

Stem Cell Biology is no longer accepting new applications.


There are four main components of the first year:

1. Core Course

The purpose of the critical discussion 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, presented by Group Leaders within the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute.

2. Lab rotations

Each student will rotate in the laboratories of three different contributing supervisors. They will be expected to select their rotations so that they gain experience of at least two different stem cell systems. Each rotation will last for nine weeks, plus three weeks at the end of each, for data analysis and write-up of a project report. 

3. Skills courses

Throughout the year there will be a variety of different skills-based courses designed to give training in a variety of technical approaches or to develop specific skills, including workshops on some of the core institute facilities.

4. Research Project Proposal

Students are expected to choose a laboratory for their thesis research towards the end of year one. They will then write a research proposal to form part of the assessment (viva) for a Master of Research in Biological Science (Stem Cell Biology). Students will normally then commence a 3-year PhD.

One to one supervision

Students can expect to have regular lab meetings with each rotation supervisor and with other group members, and termly meetings with the Programme Directors. The regularity with which postgraduate students meet with their Supervisor varies, but meetings are likely to be more frequent at the beginning of your studies, during the planning stages, and during the writing-up phase. All students should have the opportunity to seek formal feedback from their Supervisor, and Supervisors should have the opportunity to give such feedback.

The University of Cambridge publishes an annual Code of Practice which sets out the University’s expectations regarding supervision.


Seminars & classes

Approximately four hours per week, including weekly student-only sessions and institute-wide seminars.

All students on this programme will be members of the University’s Postgraduate School of Life Sciences (PSLS) who offer a wide variety of core skills and professional development training. Visit the Researcher Development page on the PSLS website for more information. 

Students are also encouraged to attend the various research seminars, talks and workshops held in the Jeffrey Cheah Biomedical Centre, on the Biomedical Research Campus and elsewhere within the University.

Small group teaching

Regular lab meetings within the research group.

Literature Reviews

Part of the core 'Discussion Course' in year one includes reading of nominated research papers on a weekly basis, in preparation for the weekly discussion course sessions.

Posters and Presentations

The Cambridge Stem Cell Institute holds an annual PhD Symposium, at which all Institute-wide PhD students are invited to take part in a poster presentation session, and final-year PhD students are expected to give a verbal presentation of their work.

Additionally, an annual one-day PhD retreat is held for students on the (MRes + PhD) Programme, in which each student is expected to present their current work and progress to their peers and to the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute Postgraduate Education Committee.

Students also have the opportunity to present posters in other annual departmental and institute-wide events, throughout the year.


In year one, students receive formal feedback via written rotation reports, at the annual (MRes + PhD) Programme retreat and from an external assessor via an MRes Viva at the end of year one.

Students will also present and discuss their work in at least one lab meeting per rotation. Additional verbal feedback will be provided frequently by the rotation project supervisor as part of the day-to-day supervision and in regular lab meetings.

For the PhD, students receive feedback regarding their progress in the form of online termly reports (Postgraduate Feedback and Reporting System (PFRS)) from their supervisor.


Thesis / Dissertation

A thesis is not required for the year-one MRes course.

However, if the student progresses to the full PhD they will be required to submit a PhD thesis of not more than 60,000 words (80,000 by special permission) excluding bibliography, figures, appendices etc. 

All PhD students have to defend their thesis by attending a viva voce examination conducted by two examiners.


For the MRes assessment itself, students shall submit a portfolio of research reports (of no more than 20,000 words in total, exclusive of tables, footnotes, bibliography and appendices). This will take the form of three rotation reports, one submitted each term. This portfolio will also be discussed at length between the student and internal and external assessors at an MRes viva held at the end of year one.

Although it will not form part of the assessment for award of the MRes degree, a PhD proposal shall be submitted in the third term of no more than 6,000 words (including figure legends, but excluding tables, footnotes, bibliography and appendices). This proposal, combined with a pass in the MRes degree, will form the basis of assessment of continuation to the PhD element of the course. It will also be discussed at length between the student and internal and external assessors at the MRes viva at the end of year one.

Practical assessment

Progress will be reviewed annually at the (MRes + PhD) Programme Presentation Day, where each student is expected to present their current research in front of their peers and the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute Postgraduate Education Committee.


At the end of their second year (the first year of the PhD programme), all PhD students are required to undergo formal assessment by written report and viva (the "First Year Assessment”). If successful, the student moves from being "probationary" to being registered for the PhD and can proceed with their thesis project.

Key Information

1+3 years full-time

Study Mode : Research

Doctor of Philosophy
Master of Research in the first instance

Wellcome - Medical Research Council Cambridge Stem Cell Institute

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Dates and deadlines:

Applications open
Sept. 4, 2023
Application deadline
Jan. 3, 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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