Postgraduate study

Cell Biology

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding available

Programme website: Cell Biology

The Institute of Cell Biology (ICB), including the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology, hosts 34 laboratories carrying out world-class research into fundamental mechanisms relating to cellular function. A significant proportion of our research involves systems biology approaches and mathematical modelling.

Our research groups comprise one of the largest communities of cell biology researchers in the UK. Many of our staff are Fellows of the Royal Society and acknowledged leaders in their field.

Most PhD students who train at the ICB continue with their academic career or join research in the industry, often becoming independent group leaders.

Diversity of interests

We offer a wide scope of projects covering different areas of cell biology, including:

  • the synthesis, processing, localisation and degradation of RNA
  • epigenetic control of gene expression, chromosome function and genome stability
  • mechanisms of cell growth and duplication
  • the rules that govern cellular architecture
  • biotechnology
  • synthetic biology
  • microbial regulation

A variety of courses in microscopy, bioinformatics and proteomics are available to all our PhD students.

Our students learn through a hands-on, laboratory-based project as well as guided reading, one-to-one supervision, group seminars and workshops. Students are assigned a supervisor and a thesis committee but are also encouraged to develop independent lines of enquiry. A programme of transferable skills courses facilitates broader professional development.

The ICB provides an exceptional working environment. The Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology is home to the Central Optical Instrumentation Laboratory (COIL), while image analysis at the boundary of biology and physics is provided through the nearby Collaborative Optical Spectroscopy Micromanipulation & Imaging Centre (COSMIC).

The ICB is proud of its cutting-edge proteomics facility and automated drug-screening platforms that facilitate discovery of new molecules that impact on cellular functions.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in a relevant subject. You should have some research experience and be able to demonstrate that you have a good understanding of the field you propose to study.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

All applicants must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of their English language ability:

  • an undergraduate or masters degree, that was taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country as defined by UK Visas and Immigration

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 6.0 in each component
  • TOEFL-iBT: total 92 with at least 20 in each section
  • PTE(A): total 61 with at least 56 in each of the Communicative Skills scores
  • CAE and CPE: total 176 with at least 169 in each paper
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components

Degrees taught and assessed in English must be no more than two and a half years old at the beginning of your degree programme. Language tests must be no more than two years old at the beginning of your degree programme.

Find out more about our language requirements:

Academic Technology Approval Scheme

If you are not an EU, EEA or Swiss national, you may need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme clearance certificate in order to study this programme.

For detailed information on fee status, policies and payment see:

Most laboratories require a bench fee of up to £2,000 per year. This cost may be covered in Research Council studentships.

  • Postgraduate Programme Administrator
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 7366
  • Email: gradbiol@ed.ac.uk
  • Graduate School of Biological Sciences
  • Mary Bruck Building
  • Colin Maclaurin Road
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3DW

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. We may consider late applications if we have places available, but you should contact the relevant Admissions Office for advice first.

You must submit two references with your application.

To discuss your PhD proposal, you should identify potential supervisors from the School of Biological Sciences.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Postgraduate Programme Administrator
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 7366
  • Email: gradbiol@ed.ac.uk
  • Graduate School of Biological Sciences
  • Mary Bruck Building
  • Colin Maclaurin Road
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3DW