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Graduate Admissions

The Department of Plant Sciences is an outstanding University Centre for research in plant and microbial sciences. It offers unrivalled research and training opportunities in the following areas of plant and microbial science:

  • Cell function & responses to the environment
  • Developmental biology & signalling
  • Genetics and epigenetics
  • Ecosystem function and conservation
  • Evolution and diversity
  • Microbiology & biotic interactions
  • Plant pathology and epidemiology
  • Systems and mathematical biology
  • Enhancing photosynthesis
  • Biotechnology and engineering

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is the University's principal research degree. A PhD in Plant Sciences takes three to four years of full-time study to complete and consists of research and courses as required under academic supervision.  Applicants should contact a potential supervisor before proceeding with their  PhD application. You can browse the personal/group pages of the Research Group Leaders to check details of their research.

The aim of PhD training is to develop both a deep theoretical and practical understanding through research into aspects of Plant Sciences, augmented by appropriate lecture courses delivered within the Department, or more generally across the Graduate School of Life Sciences.

The course provides training in a wide range of disciplines, which can include plant genetic engineering, plant development, plant molecular biology, plant biophysics, plant biochemistry, plant-microbe interactions, algal microbiology, plant ecology, crop biology, plant virology, plant epigenetics, epidemiology, plant taxonomy, plant physiology, eco-physiology and bioinformatics.

Having identified a research area of interest and contacted the appropriate supervisor, the first stage in developing an application should be to draft an appropriate research summary of the training to be undertaken.

PhD students must submit a thesis for examination within the maximum period of their study, although we encourage students and their supervisors to complete the thesis and submit within the normal period of support allowed by a particular programme (ranging from three to four years).

All graduate students attend induction and safety training courses in the Department.  

As well as undertaking their research, students will attend courses and lectures on some of the following: instrumentation, sequencing and database use, statistics, experimental design, analysing data, writing reports and a thesis, and how to give effective scientific presentations. Students are expected to take part in the Graduate School of Life Sciences' Researcher Development  Programme

Students receive termly reports on their work.

Learning Outcomes

The primary outcomes from successfully completing a PhD include expertise including:

  • specialist training in experimental or theoretical methods;
  • an ability to analyse relevant literature and apply to the development of innovative research;
  • capacity to develop and apply data abstraction and analytical procedures with an appropriate level of statistical validation;
  • independence in designing and conducting original research, and preparing that data in a format suitable for publication in peer-reviewed journals;
  • enhanced organisational skills, in terms of time management, good laboratory practices, safety and planning a specific programme of research.

The overall outcome should ensure that a PhD candidate is well-prepared to undertake additional independent research, whether as a continuation in their existing research field or applying their expertise and understanding in a new field. PhD candidates will also have a good grounding in the collation and organisation of research for reports or peer-reviewed papers, and so should be prepared either for a career in academia or more applied fields.

To assist in the delivery of these learning outcomes, assessment of an individual PhD candidate's progress is made via a standard series of review protocols  including the drafting of a project proposal after four weeks, delivery of a seminar, and preparation of a thesis plan and outline four months in advance of the due submission date.

As a PhD student, you must keep a separate training log, in which you will record all seminars and lectures attended and given, training undertaken, the highlights of your research work, and your notes of discussions with your supervisor(s). This log will be quite distinct from your laboratory notebook(s) which should contain all the details of your research work.

The PhD thesis has a word limit set at 60,000 words (80,000 by special permission), exclusive of tables, footnotes, bibliography, and appendices. 

The PhD provides specialist training in scientific methodology relevant to the project subject area and based on the expertise of the supervisor and research group. This training also enables students from other scientific areas to proceed in a career in plant sciences and other allied areas. General training is also available and includes courses and lectures in instrumentation, sequencing and database use, statistics, experimental design, analysing data, writing reports and a thesis, and how to give effective scientific presentations. 


Open Days

The University of Cambridge will be hosting its Cambridge Postgraduate Open Day on Friday 1 November 2019. Visit the Postgraduate Open Day page for more details.

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Key Information


3-4 years full-time

Doctor of Philosophy

Department of Plant Sciences

Enquiries

Course on Department Website

Dates and deadlines:

Applications open
Sept. 3, 2018
Application deadline
Oct. 4, 2019
Course Starts
Jan. 5, 2020

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

Applications open
Sept. 3, 2018
Application deadline
Jan. 14, 2020
Course Starts
April 11, 2020

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

Michaelmas 2020

Applications open
Sept. 2, 2019
Application deadline
June 30, 2020
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2020

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

Applications open
Sept. 2, 2019
Application deadline
Oct. 4, 2020
Course Starts
Jan. 5, 2021

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

Applications open
Sept. 2, 2019
Application deadline
Jan. 14, 2021
Course Starts
April 17, 2021

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

Graduate Funding Competition
Jan. 7, 2020
Gates Cambridge US round only
Oct. 9, 2019

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