Research course

Biological Science (MRC Toxicology Unit)

University of Cambridge · MRC Toxicology Unit

Entry requirements

Applicants for this course should have achieved a UK 2:1 honours degree.

Months of entry


Course content

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.

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 Unit is currently located in Leicester and will move to our newly refurbished building on Tennis Court Road, central Cambridge during 2020. Candidates will, therefore, be undertaking the early stage of their PhD at the Unit’ 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 the commencement of their PhD in October 2019, but will initially have only limited access to College facilities due to the location of the Unit.

The course introduces students to research skills and specialist knowledge. Its main aims are:

  • To give students with relevant experience the opportunity to carry out focussed research in the discipline under supervision; and
  • To give students the opportunity to acquire or develop skills and expertise relevant to their research interests

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.

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • PhD
    full time
    48 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details