Cell and Developmental Biology MPhil/PhD

London, Bloomsbury

Graduate students work with internationally renowned mentors and are immersed in research at the cutting edge of basic and biomedical science. You will emerge well-trained and well-rounded with outstanding skills that are internationally recognised, poised to take up posts in leading groups around the world.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2022/23)
Overseas tuition fees (2022/23)
3 calendar years
5 calendar years
Programme starts
Research degrees may start at any time of the year, but typically start in September.
Applications accepted
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Entry requirements

A minimum of an upper second-class UK Bachelor’s degree in an appropriate subject or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard, or a recognised Master’s degree in an appropriate subject.

If your education has not been conducted in the English language, you will be expected to demonstrate evidence of an adequate level of English proficiency.

The English language level for this programme is: Good

UCL Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English courses are for international students who are aiming to study for a postgraduate degree at UCL. The courses will develop your academic English and academic skills required to succeed at postgraduate level. International Preparation Courses

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

If you are intending to apply for a time-limited visa to complete your UCL studies (e.g., Student visa, Skilled worker visa, PBS dependant visa etc.) you may be required to obtain ATAS clearance. This will be confirmed to you if you obtain an offer of a place.

Equivalent qualifications

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below. Please note that the equivalency will correspond to the broad UK degree classification stated on this page (e.g. upper second-class). Where a specific overall percentage is required in the UK qualification, the international equivalency will be higher than that stated below. Please contact Graduate Admissions should you require further advice.

About this degree

The world-leading research groups of the department (Professor John O'Keefe was awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize) study biological questions ranging from molecule to man. These are listed below and are remarkable in their breadth and depth, from fundamental aspects of cell biology through to behaviour, and from key questions in biology to understanding mechanisms of human disease.

Who this course is for

What this course will give you

The groups at UCL are world-leading, generating seminal contributions to their fields of study. Students working in the laboratories are welcomed into vibrant groups of enthusiasts, exposed to a wealth of expertise in an extraordinarily open and collaborative scientific community. Access to expert help in almost any conceivable area is available through the extensive network of scientists that makes up the UCL scientific community.

Within the departments there are regular laboratory meetings, project presentations, journal clubs, student-led symposia and other opportunities to hone presentation skills and training, extended through regular seminars from experts around the world and locally organised international symposia.

The foundation of your career

UCL is an internationally recognised and respected institution. A graduate degree from UCL opens up numerous national and international employment opportunities. Most of our graduate students pursue very successful careers in science and medicine. Two of our recent students have been awarded the Beddington Medal.


Many of our recent graduates have taken up postdoctoral positions, for example in the UK at UCL, Imperial College London and Manchester University; in Europe at San Raffaele Telethon Institute for Gene Therapy, Milan; and across the world at Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Boston and FundRx, New York.  Some have continued their studies, become an FY1 doctor, taken up positions in teaching or at a New York charitable trust; others have progressed to become principal investigators at UCL, Cambridge and New York.


UCL and its extended network of research institutes are located in the centre of London and surrounded by numerous other research institutions, including the Francis Crick Institute and the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour. Students are encouraged to meet and collaborate extensively with members of these institutions. Regular seminars and training courses encourage interaction across London, the UK and Europe. You'¿ll regularly attend international conferences, workshops and retreats, providing opportunities for networking with colleagues and potential future employers.

Teaching and learning

Research areas and structure

  • Affective disorders
  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Bioinformatics and computational biology
  • Biological clocks/sleep
  • Calcium signalling
  • Cancer cell biology
  • Cell migration
  • Cell signalling and signal transduction mechanisms
  • Early development (e.g. fertilisation, gastrulation, embryonic induction)
  • Evolution and development
  • Intracellular movements: endocytosis, exocytosis, RNA, protein, lipid and organelle traffic
  • Learning, memory and long-term change in the nervous system
  • Left-right asymmetry
  • Live cell imaging
  • Mitochondrial biology
  • Neural crest migration and differentiation
  • Neural development and neural cell biology
  • Neuroaesthetics
  • Neurodegenerative disease
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Pain
  • Regeneration and repair
  • Stem cell biology
  • Systems and synthetic biology.

Research environment

The Francis Crick Institute conducts cutting-edge biomedical research to improve our understanding of human health and disease. Its work is helping to understand why disease develops and to translate discoveries into new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, infections, and neurodegenerative diseases.

An independent organisation, the Crick’s founding partners are the Medical Research Council (MRC), Cancer Research UK, Wellcome, UCL (University College London), Imperial College London and King's College London.

At the heart of the Crick's philosophy is a commitment to carrying out the highest quality science, and providing the highest quality scientific training.

The Crick PhD programme, which is designed to attract the brightest scientific minds from around the world, presents a fabulous opportunity for highly motivated and exceptionally talented individuals to embark on their career in biomedical research. The Crick offers a stimulating and supportive training environment for students to carry our their PhD research project. Students are guided by their primary supervisor (a Crick research group leader) and their thesis committee, which comprises three academics

Although Crick PhD students spend most of their time within their research group working on their PhD project, the three-four year PhD programme contains other important training and networking activities too:

Induction week
The PhD programme starts with an induction week, to give the new students a head start in getting to know each other, their university, the Crick and the PhD programme. Interactive sessions cover various topics, including organising and recording your research, keeping on top of the literature, designing experiments and research integrity. Students are also introduced to the institute's Science Technology Platforms, through which they can access state-of-the-art equipment and expertise.

Student progression points
Throughout the PhD programme, there are a number of scheduled progression points to review academic progress. The progression points allow the student to discuss how their project is progressing and receive guidance on their research from their supervisory team – their primary supervisor and thesis committee.

Student talks
Students develop their skills in oral presentation by presenting their research to their research group and supervisory team in each year of their PhD. In addition, all students give a 10 minute talk to the student community about their research project 3 months into their PhD and in their second year, and give an internal seminar during their third year, and present a research seminar at the end of their PhD.

Student reports
In each year of their PhD, students submit written reports on their research, developing their writing skills before finally writing up their PhD thesis in their final year. Constructive feedback is provided on each report by their supervisory team. 

Skills training 
Throughout the PhD programme, students receive tailored training on presenting and writing about their research, including specialised IT software training and workshops on talking about science both to scientific and non-specialist audiences.

Seminars, workshops, lectures and conferences
The Crick hosts an extensive range of both internal and external seminars, workshops and lectures that students benefit from. Students have the opportunity to meet with visiting speakers to discuss their work. Students have access to funding to allow them to present their work at national and international conferences, providing valuable exposure to the wider scientific community, and an exciting and important learning experience.

Career development
Students are encouraged to plan ahead and think about what they would like to do next. To help with this, they have access to various internal and external careers talks and workshops and the opportunity to carry out short work placements. External speakers, working within and beyond academia, chat openly and informally about their own careers and offer advice to those interested in pursuing a similar career. 


Details of the accessibility of UCL buildings can be obtained from AccessAble accessable.co.uk. Further information can also be obtained from the UCL Student Support & Wellbeing team.

Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time Part-time
Tuition fees (2022/23) £5,690 £2,845
Tuition fees (2022/23) £27,750 £13,930

Route code RRDBISSCDB01

The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Where the programme is offered on a flexible/modular basis, fees are charged pro-rata to the appropriate full-time Master's fee taken in an academic session. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Students website: ucl.ac.uk/students/fees.

Additional costs

Your research degree may be subject to an Additional Fee Element (AFE).  The AFE (also known as bench fees) is an additional cost, incurred by yourself or your sponsor.  It is levied to cover the costs related to consumables, equipment and materials etc which are not included in the tuition fee.  As each research project is unique in nature, the AFE is calculated on a student by student basis and is determined by your academic supervisor.

For more information on additional costs for prospective students please go to our estimated cost of essential expenditure at Accommodation and living costs.

Funding your studies

Across the School of Life and Medical Sciences there is a wealth of graduate programmes that will bring students into the department. You may approach academic staff individually as there is a variety of intradepartmental options or opportunities to write grant applications for PhD funding.

You may also apply for any of the other programmes listed on our department's website which are suitable for your skills and interests. These include four-year programmes where the first year is spent taking taught courses or in laboratory rotations before deciding on a final PhD laboratory and project; there are also several three year programmes where you enter the PhD host department directly.

For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.

UCL Research Opportunity Scholarship (ROS)

Value: UK rate fees, a maintenance stipend, conference costs and professional development package (3 years)
Criteria Based on both academic merit and financial need
Eligibility: UK

Next steps

Research degrees may start at any time of the year, but typically start in September. Deadlines and start dates can be dictated by funding arrangements for studentships and scholarships, so please check these on the department's website before submitting your application. In most cases you should identify and contact potential supervisors before making your application. For more information please see our How to apply page.

Please note that you may submit applications for a maximum of two graduate programmes in any application cycle.

Choose your programme

Please read the Application Guidance before proceeding with your application.

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