MRC Prion Unit and Institute of Prion diseases


Programme structure

Our aim is to provide research experience in a variety of laboratories and experimental approaches in the first year to enable the student to gain knowledge and technical experience across all of these areas, prior to selection of a major project to be undertaken in the next 3 years.

Year 1

During the first year, students will undertake training courses to acquire important generic research skills and broaden their scientific knowledge and research experience.

All students are expected to take:

1. One IoN MSc module (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/ion/education)
2. Masters level course in Statistics
3. Bioinformatics
4. Programming

Students can also have access to training in:

1. Confocal microscopy
2. Electron microscopy
3. Super resolution microscopy
4. Flow cytometry
5. Deep genome sequencing
6. Mass spectrometry
7. Protein misfolding cyclic amplification

Seminars, conferences and courses

The Prion Unit holds weekly lab meetings where all staff and students regularly present their research. This enables a student to become familiar will all aspects of Unit research, from basic biology to clinical research, and a chance to communicate and discuss their research.

Students also attend Departmental Seminars, which cover a broad range of topics in neurodegenerative disease. Also available are Institute of Neurology seminar series as well as other seminar series hosted throughout UCL and other London universities. The MRC Laboratory of Molecular Cell Biology and Francis Crick Institute are located close by within walking distance. Attendance enables students to learn from cutting edge research in all aspects of science from all over the world and is positively encouraged.

Students can expect to attend at least one international conference as well as other relevant national conferences during their studies, enabling them to communicate their research to a wide audience and expand knowledge of their field. Students also have opportunities to take courses that may be provided by UCL or outside institutions, to enhance their research knowledge and experience.

UCL Doctoral School

All MRC students register with the UCL Doctoral School [http://www.grad.ucl.ac.uk] that runs a number of training courses for PhD students available throughout the year including:

1. Experimental design
2. Project planning
3. Interviewing skills
4. Report, thesis, paper and grant writing
5. Communication skills
6. Editing of papers and grant applications
7. Statistics
8. Bioinformatics
9. Programming
10. Career planning

Please see the UCL Doctoral School website for more information :


Years 2-4

Towards the end of the first year students will chose their PhD project. During the PhD, students will present their research frequently and keep up to date with the current literature. The Doctoral School provides an online log book for students to track their progress. Presentations and reports are prepared every 6 months, which forms a useful milestone to monitor student progress, as well as any problems that may arise and also future directions.

Presentations and reports are prepared every 6 months, which forms a useful milestone to monitor student progress, as well as any problems that may arise and also future directions.


Rotation Projects

Students will undertake three rotations within the laboratories of three Senior Unit Staff to carry out research projects in the first year. Towards the end of this year, the students will select a supervisor with whom to undertake a “conventional” three year PhD in years 2-4 of their studies. The rotations will broaden the students understanding of prion as well as other neurodegenerative diseases and most importantly enable them to make an informed choice of project and mentor.

Please see the list of Programme Leaders and rotation projects on offer.