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Postgraduate Study

I would recommend the ITTP PhD program to prospective students interested in pursuing research in toxicology, translational biology, and drug development, who are unsure of whether to apply for academic programs or industrial placements/graduate scientist roles. During my PhD I split my time between working at one of our partner companies and in Professor Anne Willis’ team at the MRC Toxicology Unit, with the majority of work done at the latter. This allowed me to gain experience in both industrial and academic research, and has been useful for making informed career choices as a result. The Unit benefits from several high quality research facilities and has productive collaborations with other academic groups and industry in the UK. The skills and experience of staff at the MRC Toxicology Unit were invaluable during my PhD and I would recommend prospective students to study there, regardless of PhD program/funding arrangements.

Tom Mulroney PhD student 2016 - 2020 (April 2021)

I started my PhD at the MRC Toxicology Unit in 2019 and am currently in my second year. The aim of my project is to investigate the role of p53 in maintaining epigenetic silencing of heterochromatin to prevent genomic instability and unscheduled R-Loop formation.

Working in the Toxicology Unit has allowed me to utilize the latest molecular biology techniques throughout my project so far; including the likes of sequencing techniques such as DRIPc-Seq, to sequence R-loops in my samples. I have also been able to rely on the variety of expertise present within the unit, in particular the imaging, proteomics and bioinformatics facilities which have been incredibly helpful in expanding the scope of my research. My supervisor and wider lab group have always been supportive and encouraging and I feel lucky to be working alongside such great colleagues every day.

Outside of working in the lab it has also been a pleasure to be involved with the PhD and Post-Doc Forum (PPF). The PPF run events and talks for all the PhD students and Post Doctorates withing the unit, which has been a great way to meet more members of the unit, make friends, get valuable feedback on my project and practice public speaking in a relaxed environment. The broader weekly unit-wide seminars have also opened my eyes to the diverse areas of research taking place both within the unit and across the many faculties in Cambridge, and in general are a great bonus of studying at the MRC Toxicology Unit.

I have also been encouraged by my supervisor to attend scientific conferences to broaden my subject knowledge and have the opportunity to practice networking. A major benefit of studying with the Unit is its connections to The University of Cambridge skills training programs which all PhD students are encouraged to engage in. This gives you access to a huge variety of courses to develop both scientific and personal skills. I have personally attended many free courses on computer languages and bioinformatics, as well as courses on leadership, presentation skills and productivity. Combined I feel that a PhD within the Toxicology Unit provides its students with all the skills, both lab based and otherwise, to succeed within the scientific community and grow as a researcher.

Emma Hands 2nd Year PhD Student (April 2021)

I am a third year student based in the Anne Willis group and co-supervised by Kathryn Lilley from the Cambridge Centre of Proteomics (CCP). My work aims to gain further insight into the role of tRNA molecules upon toxic insult of the cell, specifically probing their impact on the translational status of the cell. I chose this project due to its interdisciplinary nature: it has required both the development and implementation of novel systems-wide approaches as well as targeted biological assays. Despite being a challenging thesis, I have had the luxury of constant access to excellent support staff and facilities, ultimately allowing me to develop my skills and interests in a bespoke manner.

The atmosphere at the Unit has always been relaxed and friendly. There are weekly seminars showcasing the research being done internally and externally and plenty of opportunities to discuss potential collaborations or even just some advice on a certain technique or method. Furthermore, the post-doc/PhD community is a vibrant one, with people from all over the world. We get together quite frequently for internal events, both research-focused and just simply social. All this to say, despite being a sizeable Unit with a large scope of research, it’s very easy to get acquainted with your peers!

Finally, being based in Cambridge gives PhD students at the Unit access to the active student life in the town. Personally, I have enjoyed being on the University Basketball team as well as being very involved with teaching undergraduates, both by conducting supervisions as well as leading summer research projects, but the options are endless!

Overall, my experience so far has been as challenging as it has rewarding. My enthusiasm for science has grown since joining and I do feel well equipped for a career in research.

Mie Monti 3rd year PhD Student (April 2021)

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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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