Research course

Biological Science (MRC Toxicology Unit)

University of Cambridge · MRC Toxicology Unit

Entry requirements

Applicants for this course should have achieved a UK Good II.i Honours Degree.

If your degree is not from the UK, please check International Qualifications to find the equivalent in your country.

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. The Unit's overall aims are to carry out pioneering research which leads to improved health and to train and mentor the next generation of toxicologists.

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 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 training within the Postgraduate 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 (e.g. "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.

The Unit has developed strong links with several companies (eg Astra Zeneca (AZ), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Unilever). 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 organizational experience of students in the Unit.

Please note: part-time study may not always be viable and will be considered on a case-by-case basis, so please discuss this option with your proposed supervisor before making an application for this mode of study.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

By the end of the postgraduate training, students will have gained postgraduate training in toxicology, specifically:

A comprehensive understanding of research techniques pertinent to cutting edge toxicology.

A thorough knowledge of toxicology literature relevant to their project.

A broad overview of the multiple applications of toxicology.

Experience of producing original research.

A practical understanding of how research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in their field.

Skills and other attributes

By the end of the programme, students will have:

Shown abilities in the critical evaluation of current research and research techniques and methodologies.

Analyse critically research literature and contemporary topics in the areas of their specialisation and present such analyses in written and oral formats.

Demonstrated some self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems and acted autonomously in the planning and implementation of research.

Demonstrate proficiency in experimental and data analysis techniques.

Demonstrate critical thinking and problem-solving approaches to experimental data.

Participate in scientific discourse by delivering and responding to constructive criticism of e.g. project abstracts, experimental design, research data and its interpretation.

Information for international students

Language Requirement

IELTS (Academic)

Element Score

Listening 7.0

Writing 7.0

Reading 6.5

Speaking 7.0

Total 7.0

TOEFL Internet Score

Element Score

Listening 25

Writing 25

Reading 25

Speaking 25

Total 100


Score: Grade A & B (overall score of 193, with no element lower than 185 plus a Language Centre assessment)


Score: Grade A, B, or C (with at least 200 with no element lower than 185).

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • PhD
    full time
    48 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
    part time
    48-84 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details