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MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit


Interested in postgraduate studies at the MBU?

The MBU takes on talented students from around the world, as part of the University of Cambridge School of Clinical and Veterinary Sciences PhD programme. We also welcome applications from prospective MPhil students who would like to carry out their research projects at the MBU. In addition to the information provided below, please see see University of Cambridge entry requirements for postgraduate study and if you have any queries please contact the MBU’s Postgraduate Secretary, Penny Peck.



Choosing a supervisor

The first step in becoming a student at the MBU is to find a supervisor. To do this, look at the research profiles of the potential supervisors within the MBU (see Research Groups or alternatively look at the projects available on Once you have found a research topic that interests you, contact the supervisor to discuss potential projects. If you are unclear about which supervisor best matches your interests contact Penny Peck. Once your potential supervisor has agreed to support your application, your the next step is to contact Penny Peck and she will guide you through the application process. For more details see University of Cambridge entry requirements for postgraduate study.

Applications for research projects supervised by Patrick Chinnery and Jelle van den Ameele are administered by the Department of Clinical Neurosciences.

Timetable for applying

Most of our PhD students start their studies in October and we recommend that you apply by the preceeding December. For entry in October 2022, applications up to May 2022 are possible, although opportunities by then may be limited. In addition, PhD students can start their studies in January 2023, or April 2023 if October 2022 is not possible.


Each year, the Unit awards up to four UKRI/MRC PhD studentships on a competitive basis to eligible students. The studentship pays for Cambridge University and College fees, and each student receives a generous full stipend. Three of these studentships are available for UK/Irish citizens or UK permanent residents and one is available to EU/international students. The closing date for these is 6 January 2022, but earlier application is encouraged.

There are also a number of PhD studentships through the University of Cambridge available to EU/international students. You can apply for these during your application University of Cambridge Postgraduate Admissions: information for international students.

Many other studentships are available from other sources. The University's funding webpages hold information on various funding programmes, along with a link to the Student Funding Search. For USA citizens/ permanent residents, there is the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Programme.


Students who either are UK nationals or have established UK residency are eligible for the award of a full UKRI/MRC studentship. The formal rules for eligibility for "Home" status can be found here.

About our students

Our PhD students come from all over the world. During the past 7 years, we have hosted 69 PhD students - 36 from the UK, 23 from the EU, and 10 from countries including Brazil, China, Iran, India, Japan, Malaysia and the USA. Nearly all our PhD students complete within four years, with an average time to thesis submission of 3 years 9 months. Over the past seven years, our students have achieved ca. 200 authorships on MBU publications, and regularly participate in conferences by giving talks and presenting posters. Our students are snapped up by academia, biotech and industry – and several now hold their own independent academic positions at institutions including Harvard University and the University of Toronto, as well as leading positions in the pharmaceutical industry. Of the 44 that graduated during the past 7 years, 22 moved on to post-doctoral research positions, 12 took up industry research positions, and the others moved on to other careers such as patent law, clinical training, publishing, business development and secondary school teaching. If you would like to talk directly to our current PhD students about life in the MBU please contact the current president of the MBU Postgraduate Student Society, Robert Waddell.

The MBU PhD Programme

The MBU’s PhD programme is run by the Unit’s Postgraduate Education Committee (PGEC). Our primary focus is on learning by being embedded in a world-leading laboratory, closely supervised by one of the Unit’s group leaders. Every student also undertakes the Unit’s formal training programme. In the first year they attend our lecture course on mitochondrial biology and medicine, plus a number of training courses prescribed by the University. They present a short talk to the Unit at the start of the year, laying out their project plans. At the end of their first year each student submits a formal report on their work that is assessed in an oral examination by two of the Unit’s group leaders, and also takes a separate oral examination testing their knowledge of mitochondrial biology and medicine. If we are not satisfied, we either give them an opportunity to be reassessed or (rarely) we support them in submitting their work for an MPhil and transitioning to another career path. In their second year, we hold a joint student poster session with our partner institute in The Keith Peters Building (Cambridge Institute for Medical Research) and then each MBU student presents their poster to the Unit in a seminar format. Then, towards the end of their studies, each student presents their achievements in a formal research seminar. Throughout their studies our students are actively encouraged to take advantage of a broad range of training opportunities both within and outside the Unit and the wider University. For example, the University provides courses on scientific writing, good research practice, ethics and integrity, intellectual property rights, communication skills, project management and career planning. Our students are further encouraged to attend seminars, lectures and workshops that are relevant and interesting to them, from the huge range available in Cambridge, and we support them in attending both national and international conferences to present their work, form new contacts and connections, and broaden their knowledge. We fund every student to attend at last one international conference during their studentship, and encourage them to apply for additional funding from their Colleges, and elsewhere. Finally, all our students are members of the Unit’s Postgraduate Student Society. The Postgraduate Student Society plans and runs a regular series of events, including journal clubs and social events, and provides a forum through which issues of concern to students can be raised, and communicated and discussed with the Unit’s PGEC and Director.

School of Clinical Medicine - postgraduate study website

Information for prospective applicants to the Clinical School and its associated Departments can be found on the School's postgraduate study website, which also has a link to information on clinical academic training.