Postgraduate study

Integrative Physiology (Biomedical Sciences - Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences)

Awards: PhD, MScR

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding available

The Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences (CDBS) carries out research at molecular, cellular, systems and behavioural levels to understand fundamental mechanisms and pathways relevant to brain and body function in health and disease.

CDBS investigators exploit rapid advances in the enabling technologies available from genomics, proteomics, imaging, informatics, and in-vivo analysis to understand the function of gene products at the cell, organ and whole-animal level. They exploit the most appropriate model organisms/systems to investigate the delicate balance between high biomedical relevance (for example human, mouse, rat) and high genetic power (such as C. elegans, drosophila or zebrafish).

Research focuses on understanding fundamental mechanisms and pathways relevant to human function in health and disease across the life course.

PhD degree

We normally have about 60 Integrative Physiology PhD students on programme at any given time.

Postgraduate students carry out their studies within a research group under the supervision of an academic staff member (their ‘primary’ supervisor). In addition, students are assigned a personal PhD thesis committee comprising their primary supervisor, one or more assistant supervisors and another academic staff member, who provide advice and mentoring, and monitor progress. Supervisors maintain the highest standards of research training with a strong research output in leading international journals.

In their first year, students have the opportunity of participating in relevant taught modules of a number of associated MSc courses. Students attend research seminars and can attend generic skills training programmes provided by the Institute of Academic Development. Postgraduates also have the opportunity to act as demonstrators for undergraduate teaching.

All students are encouraged to present their findings at national and international conferences and to publish their findings in international journals, in advance of submission of their PhD theses for examination.

MSc by Research

Our MSc by Research in Integrative Physiology is a full-time 1-year research project done under the supervision of a CDBS Researcher. This programme has no taught component and is therefore only suitable for highly motivated students with a clear idea of their research interests and goals, with significant theoretical or practical knowledge of a chosen field. An MSc by full-time research provides an excellent training in laboratory research and a strong grounding for further study at the level of PhD. Initial enquires should be made directly to Dr. Paul Skehel.

MSc students will work full-time on their research project with the additional option of taking selected transferable skills courses. Each student will have two supervisors. After 3 months study a short presentation and report of completed and proposed work will be made to the supervisors, at which point progression from Diploma to full Masters will be considered. Students that demonstrate sufficient progress and aptitude will progress for a further 9 months full-time research after which a Dissertation will be presented and assessed for the award of MSc.

If you're interested in applying for the MSc by Research, please review the Research Profiles and recent publications from members of the CDBS:

A preliminary email briefly outlining your research interests and identifying up to three potential supervisors from the CDBS should be sent directly to Dr Paul Skehel. If appropriate, students will then be invited to submit a short 400-word general outline for a potential MSc project with specific supervisors. Applicants progressing to this point will then be guided to make a formal application on this page. Please note that the MSc by Research has additional programme costs of £5,000.

Students have access to state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment for all aspects of modern molecular, cellular and systems biology to facilitate their research objectives. These are located both within the Central area campus and at the Little France campus. Extensive collaborations exist with the wider biomedical and clinical communities helping ensure you are supported in a world-class research environment.

Research is mainly funded by grants from the MRC, the BBSRC and industrial companies.

A UK 2:1 honours degree or its international equivalent.

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 (at least 6.0 in each module)
  • TOEFL-iBT: total 92 (at least 20 in each module)
  • PTE(A): total 61 (at least 56 in each of the "Communicative Skills" sections; the "Enabling Skills" sections are not considered)
  • CAE and CPE: total 176 (at least 169 in each module)
  • 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.

  • Edinburgh Medical School: Biomedical Sciences
  • University of Edinburgh
  • 1 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9JZ

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.

Before making your application, you must make contact with a potential supervisor to discuss your research proposal. Further information on making a research degree application can be found on the College website:

You will be formally interviewed (in person, by video-conferencing or Skype).

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

Further information

  • Edinburgh Medical School: Biomedical Sciences
  • University of Edinburgh
  • 1 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9JZ