LMCB - MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology


Rotation projects and thesis topics

During the initial rotation year, students carry out projects in three different laboratories. In the first month of the programme, students will hear presentations from over forty potential supervisors. Students are then encouraged to meet with group leaders and discuss rotation projects before beginning their first rotation in early October. In March, students also attend the British Society of Cell Biology conference. At the end of the year, students choose a thesis supervisor with which to complete their three-year PhD project.

Practical laboratory course

In the first weeks of the PhD Programme, students complete a short practical laboratory course. This course runs in parallel with presentations from potential supervisors and provides an introduction to life at the LMCB. Students work in pairs and are provided with the DNA sequence of a gene. They must identify the gene and the lab working on this gene within the LMCB. Once the correct lab is identified, each pair will complete a three-week research project aimed at introducing key cell biology techniques. At the end of the project a short report and presentation are prepared by the students.


Students attend tutorial courses on many cell biology topics in their first year. Tutorials are designed to encourage active student participation and discussion in an informal atmosphere to give a broad understanding of various areas of molecular cell biology as well as developmental biology, neurobiology, immunology and the cell biology of disease. They are led by active researchers from the LMCB and leading laboratories in the UK and Europe. Students are sent a reading list in advance and may be asked to prepare material to present. Tutorials are held twice a week throughout the first year and fall into the following categories:

  • Signalling
  • Transcription 
  • Neurobiology
  • Membrane trafficking
  • Growth control
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Immunology
  • Development
  • Disease 

The LMCB retreat

On alternating years, LMCB members and all PhD students go to a countryside conference centre where they present their work in poster format, listen to invited speakers, and participate in various sporting and social events. Students are also encouraged to arrange international conferences with research institutes from around Europe. These events give students the opportunity to attend conferences and present their work to an international audience in an informal setting. Previous conferences have taken our students to Barcelona, Sorrento and Paris.

Advice and supervision

In addition to guidance from their primary supervisor, each student will also be offered independent counsel from a committee of three Programme members. This committee is chosen after discussion with the student and their primary supervisor. The committee is there to provide the student with support and advice as their thesis work progresses. Students also give yearly seminars about their research at the LMCB internal seminar series.

LMCB/UCSF or Hokkaido exchange

The LMCB/UCSF or Hokkaido exchange provides the opportunity for two programme students at the end of their initial rotation year to spend 6-8 weeks in a lab from either the Cell Biology (Tetrad) programme at the University of California San Francisco or from Hokkaido University, Japan. This exchange gives students the chance to experience working in a different country and promotes  international collaboration and mobility. First year students are invited to contact labs of interest at UCSF or Hokkaido and submit a proposal for a research project to be undertaken between the third rotation and the start of their PhD project. Two students are selected for the exchange based on their proposals. 

The UCSF exchange was one of the aspects to attract me to the LMCB 4 year PhD and I would encourage all LMCB students to apply to the scheme! It was an incredible experience (and not only the project). (Natalie Kirkland, Mao Lab)