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Graduate Admissions

The mission of the MRC Toxicology Unit is to deliver field-changing mechanistic insights into toxicology and disease. This is achieved by pursuing an integrated scientific programme, using unbiased systems approaches to examine the effects of exposure to chemicals, radiation and external biological agents. Toxicology research in the Unit impacts on major areas of socioeconomic importance, namely drug development and diseases that result from exposure to both endogenous toxic agents and environmental hazards. 

Every year the MRC Toxicology Unit PhD Programme gives new students the opportunity to do cutting-edge research. At the Unit, we aim to train the scientific leaders of the future: we seek the best students, give them rewarding research projects and provide a supportive environment with access to world-class facilities and expertise.

Our newly refurbished building is expected to be located on Tennis Court Road, among other research institutes. It will provide a globally competitive research centre with state-of-the-art facilities for making the discoveries of the 21st century.

We have an active researchers’ forum, founded and run entirely by our postdoctoral researchers and students, which organises numerous lectures and events specifically for this cohort. 

The transfer of the Unit to the University is expected to take place in March 2018 (subject to formal ratification by MRC and University of Cambridge).

The Unit is currently located in Leicester and it is envisaged that the Unit will relocate to central Cambridge in spring 2020 once new facilities are completed, but this date is provisional only. Candidates will therefore be undertaking at least the first 18 months of their PhD at the Unit’s current premises in Leicester. There may also be a short period of disruption during the relocation.

Successful applicants will enjoy membership of a University of Cambridge College from commencement of their PhD in October 2018, but will initially have only limited access to College facilities due to the location of the Unit.

In addition to receiving outstanding research training pertinent to the topic of the PhD, students will attend excellent core skills lectures provided by the University of Leicester and subsequently the Graduate School of Life Sciences and the wider University of Cambridge. 

Students receive toxicology-specific training in the Unit and through the Integrated Toxicology Training Partnership (ITTP).  Within the Unit the students attend the weekly seminar series, which covers a range of topics pertinent to the basic science that underpins modern toxicology research. Students also participate in the programme that is administered by the Postdoctoral and Postgraduate Committee. This programme comprises research talks given by students and early career stage postdoctoral research fellows, workshops on broad topics (eg "how to manage your supervisor", practical grant/fellowship writing etc) and seminars from high-profile external speakers who discuss their research careers, in addition to their science.

Learning Outcomes

The Unit has developed strong links with several pharmaceutical companies (eg Astra Zeneca (AZ) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)). In addition, a wide range of research topics funded by external organisations including programme-level funding from the Wellcome Trust and CRUK and project funding from BBRSC and numerous charities, enhances the multidisciplinary and organisational experience of students in the Unit.

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Key Information

4 years full-time

Doctor of Philosophy

Department of Pharmacology


Course on Department Website

Dates and deadlines:

Michaelmas 2018

Applications open
Sept. 4, 2017
Application deadline
Jan. 31, 2018
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2018

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

Graduate Funding Competition
Dec. 6, 2017
Gates Cambridge US round only
Oct. 11, 2017

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