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Research Degrees (PhD, MPhil, MD(RES))

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Applying for a Research Degree


Please refer to UCL's entry requirements pages to see if you have the necessary qualifications to apply to study for a research degree.  Please note for research degree study in our Division, it is not necesary to have completed an MSc first.  If English is not your first language then you must ensure you meet UCL's English languages requirements.

We like to ensure that our students are working in the most suitable research group and with the most suitable supervisor. So first of all, look at our list of research groups and research themes to decide in which group topic you have the most interest and expertise, and the investigator who subsequently you will nominate as your principal supervisor.

At this stage you must contact the investigator of your chosen topic directly and include a brief email stating your interest and/or expertise and a CV. You must be able to demonstrate that you have relevant experience and qualifications related to their area of research.  This initial contact and consultation is vital to discuss your suitability, available projects, how the project costs will be met, and how you intend to fund your studies.


You need to provide your prospective supervisor information on how you propose to fund your studies; if at this stage you do not have secured funding, please indicate where you are/will be seeking funding from.

It is essential you know exactly what costs are involved with studying a research degree.  The basic costs can be broken down into:

  • student fees
  • materials/research costs
  • living costs

There are different levels of student fees, and you should be aware of which level applies to you.  Materials and research costs should be discussed directly with your prospective supervisor to ascertain how much this would be, as costs vary from project to project.  Living in London can be expensive, and you should budget your living costs carefully, further advice is given on the UCL accomodation services webpages.  If you have been awarded a studentship, scholarship, bursary, or award, the awarding body should outline to you exactly what costs they will cover.  For further information on student fees, loans, scholarships, and financial support, see the UCL money webpages

While the Division offers a number of studentships during the year (see the 'Studentships' tab below), alternative sources of funding can be sought by prospective students within UCL (see 'Other Sources of Funding' tab below), or through external sources. Prospective students must be aware that their continued study at UCL is dependent on their ability to secure funding, whether by the award of scholarships (UCL or external), loans, government schemes or otherwise.


Once you have had discussions with your prospective supervisor and you are both happy that you should apply to study in their group, you will need to apply to UCL Admissions for a formal Letter of Offer to Study.  Please refer to the UCL Application & Entry pages for further guidance and to apply online.

Contact: if you have any general queries, that are not answered above or in the below information tabs, contact: Karen Rumsey, Divisional Research Administrator(send email); OR
after 20 June, 2014, please contact Isabel Lubeiro (email).

Studentships (Division and Faculty schemes)

Further sources of funding

In addition to the studentship opportunities provided by the Division and the School, the Graduate School pages offer further information on UCL schemes, and advice on external funding sources.

Essential Information for New & Current Students: 2013-2014 Session

Student Experience

Shimona Starling

MRC/UCL Centre for Medical Molecular Virology 'Bench to Bedside' studentship PhD student, started September 2011


I joined Dr. Clare Jolly’s research team in the Division of Infection and Immunity after two interesting and fruitful rotations: one in Dr. Mahdad Noursadeghi’s laboratory and another working with Dr. Ariberto Fassati. Our group is broadly interested in identifying cellular factors (and pathways) that regulate HIV-1 assembly in, and dissemination between, CD4 T cells - the main targets for HIV-1 infection in vivo. My work focuses on identifying determinants of HIV-1 cell-to-cell spread at virological synapses (VS). In particular, I wish to investigate:

Is there a functional role for microtubule organising centre polarisation to the VS?

Is there signalling at the VS which can contribute to efficient cell-to-cell spread of HIV-1?

Answering these questions will lead to a better understanding of viral pathogenesis and could potentially aid the search for new therapeutic interventions or vaccine design.

Alessio Lanna

MRC/UCL Centre for Medical Molecular Virology 'Bench to Bedside' studentship PhD student, started September 2011


Before joining Prof. Arne Akbar’s group for my PhD, I rotated in Dr. David Escor’s lab to learn the basis of recombinant DNA technology, and its application to lentivector engineering. After, I decided to combine these lessons with my previous background regarding molecular mechanisms at the basis of T cell senescence. The main core of my PhD aims at setting up a lentivector-based strategy, under Prof. Akbar and Dr. Escor’s supervision, to reverse T cell senescence and re-establish telomerase activity in highly differentiated T lymphocytes. Furthermore, I am investigating the molecular bases of IFN- alpha mediated modulation of telomerase activity in CD8+ and CD4+ T lymphocytes. The molecular tuning of telomerase activity by a variety of ways may be applied to face several modern molecular medicine’s challenges, including cancer immunotherapy, autoimmune diseases and chronic viral infections. Finally, the possibility to shape our CV in the most suitable way, ensured by the flexibility of the scheme, is one of the most attractive points of strength of this MRC-funded B2B PhD program.

Laura Pallett

MRC/UCL Centre for Medical Molecular Virology 'Bench to Bedside' studentship PhD student, started September 2010


Upon joining the Bench to Bedside programme I undertook two very enjoyable (and insightful) rotations in the Virology department (Prof. Emery and Dr.Milne) and the Immunology department (Prof. Stauss) at the Royal Free Hospital before settling into my PhD in Prof. Mala Maini’s group. Our group focuses on the immunopathogenesis of chronic hepatitis B infection; recently the group have demonstrated that in infected patients who are unable to control the virus the immune system is disabled by progressive CD8 T exhaustion. My research is to focus on two key areas described below:

1) Dissecting how the nutrient microenvironment at the site of HBV infection influences T cell exhaustion. In previous work it has been highlighted that the depletion of the amino acid L-arginine may play a potential role in impairing T cell receptor signalling and function, so I aim to investigate the L-arginine depletion further and to look at the role of other nutrients that may also be dysregulated.

2) To consider a role for T cell senescence (as opposed to exhaustion) within the T cell population. Again preliminary data point towards a role for telomere-dependent and telomere-independent senescence (mediated by p38MAPK signalling) in highly differentiated T cells, that I will be following up on in the setting of chronic HBV.

I believe the strengths of the programme include not only the ability to experience different labs to see how they are run, the work carried out and a chance to determine whether this suits you, but also gives you the chance to acquire a diverse skill set, increase your own knowledge by attending taught courses and a great chance to translate basic research into the clinical environment.

Alastair Copland

MRC/UCL Centre for Medical Molecular Virology 'Bench to Bedside' studentship PhD student, started September 2009

alistair copland

My research examines how Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B (meningococcus) affects the cells of the immune system. Specifically, I am investigating how the bacterium can suppress the immunological function of human dendritic cells, which are crucial for generating a robust adaptive immune response. So far I have found that the bacteria can block the cellular signalling activity of potent immune stimulants (TLR agonists), possibly by interfering with a crucial molecular pathway. I have also found that the bacteria can actively polarise the T cell response which is generated by dendritic cells. Meningococcus is the leading cause of childhood meningitis and septicaemia in the UK. Basic scientific research is needed to fully elucidate how this pathogen interacts with the immune system, and thereby develop vaccines and treatments to combat clinical disease.

One of the biggest strengths of the [Bench to Bedside] PhD programme is the rotational element in the first year. It allows students to discover which immunological themes they find the most interesting on a first-hand basis. Moreover, it means students acquire a diverse set of scientific skills from various UCL groups to bring to their chosen projects.

Phil Dusart

2nd year MRC/UCL Centre for Medical Molecular Virology 'Bench to Bedside' studentship PhD student, started September 2009

I started my PhD at UCL in September of 2009, and did 3 rotations; 2 in HIV research at the (now defunct) Windeyer building, and one in microbiology at the Institute of Child Health. Despite initially looking for a virology project, I realised I had become far more interested in the bacterial disease that I was working on here. This, plus the friendly and relaxed atmosphere, won me over and I chose to join the team of Garth Dixon and Nigel Klein in studying Neisseria meningitidis.

I study the role of E-selectin in meningococcal sepsis, E-selectin is essential in the recruitment of neutrophils and other immune cells to a site of infection, and is over-expressed in the blood vessels of children with meningococcal septicaemia. This can lead to immune complex formation in blood vessels and systemic shock. By studying expression patterns of E-selectin on endothelial cells we hope to discover new relationships and pathways involved in both infected and healthy bodies.

Rhiannon Evans

UCL 'Grand Challenge' studentship PhD student, started September 2010


I applied to UCL for my PhD because I wanted to start my academic career in an environment that fosters the collaborative ethic that is so crucial in producing sound and compelling science. Little did I realise the true extent of this sentiment within the Division of Infection and Immunity. Within a few months of starting my PhD, I had fledgling collaborations brewing with stellar researchers across the department, the university and other institutions across London. This degree of collaborative potential can be traced to the high quality of driven and approachable principle investigators in the division, who recognise the value of shared experience and insight in cultivating PhD students with a broad skills base to tackle research questions, for both their thesis and beyond.

An essential platform for promoting discussion across the breadth of the division is the departmental seminar series. This comprises of both internal seminars where PhD students are given the chance to present their work, and external seminars from leading figures in the field from outside the university. A more informal chance for discussion comes around monthly with our Postgraduate Club, which provides the opportunity for us to socialise as a group over a lecture and a glass or two of wine!

I have found that the quality and range of facilities available has been a major asset for me in pursuing my area of study, and the excellent training I have received has helped me understand the principles behind the techniques and equipment I have been using. The graduate Skills Development Program has been an impressive source of a wide variety of training for skills specifically relevant to my PhD (e.g. statistical methods and the effective use of software such as Reference Manager and Microsoft Word) as well as broader skills related to personal development and career planning.

Finally, as someone entirely new to London, the UCL Student Union has been invaluable for meeting like-minded people at a diverse range of sports clubs and societies, as well as various Graduate-only events, such as breakfast club, theatre trips and Celidhs to name but a few! The warm and welcoming atmosphere of both the university and the department itself has been the difference in making my experience as a PhD student at UCL what it is.

Help Index


This list  below provides some key contacts within the Division, for a full list of staff please see the Divisional contacts page.

Useful Contacts

Postgraduate Tutor
study & research issues


(until 20.6.14)

Divisional Research Administrator
general & administrative

RF 020- 7794-

0500 ext 34064

Immunology, Flr 2, RF
Safety Officer
safety (Rayne)
413 (Rayne Building)
Safety Officer
safety (Cruciform)
Divisional Administrator
seminars, building access
i.lubeiro@ucl.ac.uk 52133
Deputy Postgraduate Tutor
study & research issues benedict.seddon@ucl.ac.uk
Immunology, Flr 2, RF
Finance Manager
fees, stipends, expenses, ordering

Page last modified on 11 jun 14 12:44 by Karen Rumsey