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Postgraduate Study


Students are integrated into the research culture of the Unit by joining a research group.  Most research training is provided within the group and overseen by their research supervisor, they are also expected to attend the Unit’s programme of research seminars and other relevant courses and skills training offered by the Postgraduate School of Life Sciences.  

Students may choose to attend the MRC Integrated Toxicology Training Partnership (ITTP) week-long annual summer school.

One to one supervision

Each student is assigned a principal supervisor who has expertise in the student’s research area and is accessible to offer advice on all aspects of the PhD. The supervisor’s role at the Unit is to help students clarify their own ideas and guide their independent research efforts. PhD students are expected to have the capacity and enthusiasm for organising their own research and to work on their own initiative.

Students are also supported by an Advisor. Regular meetings ensure students receive timely advice and support throughout their PhD.

In addition, each student will have a project committee which includes their supervisor(s), Advisor and one other senior member of the academic staff of the University.  The purpose of the project committee is to:

  • Improve scientific discussion skills by providing an opportunity for students to talk about their work with people outside of their laboratory.
  • Improve the student’s writing ability.
  • Monitor the progress of the work.
  • Assess the student's compliance with course requirements and recommend whether the probation period has been completed successfully.

The regularity with which postgraduate students meet with their Supervisor varies throughout the year but meetings are likely to be more frequent to start with, during the planning stages, and during the writing-up phase. All students should have the opportunity to seek formal feedback from their Supervisors, and Supervisors should have the opportunity to give feedback.

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

Seminars & classes

The MRC Toxicology Unit runs a weekly seminar programme hosting external and internal speakers; students also have the opportunity to attend seminars hosted in other departments within the Postgraduate School of Life Sciences and the wider University of Cambridge. Visit Postgraduate School of Life Sciences | (  for more information.

Journal clubs

Each research team or research theme within the Unit operates a twice-monthly journal club.

Literature Reviews

A literature review is an essential part of the first-year report and final thesis.

Posters and Presentations

There will be the opportunity to present data as a poster or short talk both internally (via the Toxicology Unit seminar series) and in years three or four at a relevant national or international research conference.


In cases where a studentship award has an industrial partner (eg ICASE award), there will be the opportunity to undertake a placement in the industry. 


In addition to verbal feedback via regular one-on-one meetings, students can also expect to receive termly formal feedback reports via the online feedback and reporting system.


Thesis / Dissertation

The PhD is assessed via a PhD thesis and a subsequent viva. The thesis is not to exceed 60,000 words (80,000 by special permission) excluding tables, footnotes, bibliography, and appendices.


All PhD students are required to undergo formal assessment (by written report and viva) at the end of their first year ("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.

Committee meetings are held on an annual basis to review progress; this provides the research student with the opportunity to discuss their research findings and plans for completing the thesis.

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Key Information

4 years full-time

4-7 years part-time

Doctor of Philosophy

MRC Toxicology Unit

Course - related enquiries

Application - related enquiries

Course on Department Website

Dates and deadlines:

Applications open
Sept. 15, 2022
Application deadline
Oct. 4, 2023
Course Starts
Jan. 5, 2024

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

Michaelmas 2024

Applications open
Sept. 4, 2023
Application deadline
May 16, 2024
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2024

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

Applications open
Sept. 4, 2023
Application deadline
Oct. 2, 2024
Course Starts
Jan. 5, 2025

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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