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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 and our PhD in Medical Science degree is awarded by the University of Cambridge Degree Committee for Clinical Medicine. In addition to the information provided below, please see University of Cambridge entry requirements for postgraduate study and if you have any queries please contact the MBU’s Postgraduate Manager, Penny Peck.




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 of £18,000 per year, payable for up to four years. 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 5 January 2023.

The formal rules about fees status can be found here.

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.

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 our 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. They also take a separate oral examination testing their knowledge of mitochondrial biology and medicine. 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, selected 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.


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.

How to apply

Applicants for postgraduate study at the MBU should check the University of Cambridge entry requirements for postgraduate study, and then submit their application via the University’s application portal. The MBU will not accept applications for postgraduate study via any other route. The portal opened on 15 September 2022 and there is no application fee for PhD applications submitted from that date.

University of Cambridge Postgraduate Open Days

The various Postgraduate Open Days of the University will run from 31 October until 13 November 2022.  They will provide opportunities for potential students to ask questions, to find out more about the application process, and to explore Cambridge virtually. The MBU Director of Studies, Professor Edmund Kunji, will be participating in a live session on Wednesday, 2 November. 

Also, listed below, are a number of virtual events scheduled between 31 August to 19 October.  Sign up via this link: Postgraduate Open Days.

  • 31 August, 5-6pm: Colleges
  • 21 September 5-6pm: Welcome to Postgraduate Funding
  • 28 September, 5-6pm: My Cambridge Experience - a panel of Black British, British Pakistani and British Bangladeshi students share their experience of Cambridge
  • 5 October, 5-6pm: Student Life and Support
  • 12 October, 5-6pm: An introduction to Cambridge – understanding Postgraduate at a collegiate University
  • 19 October, 5-6pm: Part-time postgraduate programmes at Cambridge: An essential part of a ‘balanced diet’ of lifelong learning?

Timetable for applying

Key dates in the MBU’s PhD student recruitment timetable for entry in October 2023 are:

15 September 2022

Applications open (University Portal)

12 October Gates US Scholarship applications close
17 October Shortlisting of candidates and interviews
2 November PG Admissions Virtual Open Day: MBU live session
9 December

Gates US Scholarships: outcome
Late January: offers
Acceptance within 72 hours

5 January 2023 General applications (UK, overseas [inc EU]) close
9-13 January Shortlisting of candidates and invitations for interview
Week of 16-20 January MBU interviews
Week of 23 January

UKRI/MRC studentships
UKRI International Scholarship (reserved depending on funding competitions)
Places to overseas applicants

3 March

Gates General Scholarships: outcome
Late March: offers
Acceptance within 72 hours

March Funding competitions: outcomes
8 June Deadline for departmental acceptances
July-September Monitoring of progress through admissions

MBU postgraduate recruitment procedures

Collation and circulation

Immediately after the 5 January closing date, all applications will be downloaded from the University’s application portal and circulated to potential supervisors. Open applications will be circulated to all supervisors.

Interview process

Interviews will be arranged as part of an MBU “Open Day”. The interview panel will consist of four group leaders, who will interview and rank all candidates. Ranked applicants’ papers will be considered by the Postgraduate Education Committee. Approval of offers will be communicated to the supervisor(s) and then the applicant, informally, by the supervisor.

About our students

Our PhD students come from all over the world. Between 2015 and 2022, we hosted 69 PhD students - 36 from the UK, 23 from the EU, and 10 from other 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. Our students have achieved ca. 200 authorships on MBU publications, and regularly participate in conferences by giving talks and presenting posters. They are snapped up by academia, biotech and industry – several now hold their own independent academic positions at universities across the world, and others hold senior leadership positions in the pharmaceutical industry. Of the 44 students who graduated over the past 7 years, 22 moved on to post-doctoral research positions, 12 took up industry research positions, and the rest 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.

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, including the MB/PhD Programme.