Molecular Cell Biology (4 years) MPhil/PhD

London, Bloomsbury

The Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology (LMCB) at UCL is dedicated to research aimed at understanding the molecular and cellular basis of cell behaviour relevant to human disease.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2024/25)
Overseas tuition fees (2024/25)
4 calendar years
6 academic years
Programme starts
September 2024
Applications accepted
All applicants: 16 Oct 2023 – Closing date to be confirmed
Applications close at 5pm UK time

Applications open

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.

The English language level for this programme is: Level 2

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.

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. Please note that ATAS processing times can take up to six months, so we recommend you consider these timelines when submitting your application to UCL.

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

This four-year Molecular Cell Biology PhD programme at the Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology (LMCB) provides a broad in-depth training in molecular cell biology and fundamental aspects of biomedical science. The programme provides students with the opportunity to carry out cutting-edge research in an internationally renown environment. First-year rotations through three different laboratories and a bespoke tutorial series just are some of the programme highlights.

Who this course is for

Inquisitive, smart, adaptable and ambitious applicants.

What this course will give you

The goals of our training are to produce scientists who have explored one area and one level of analysis in great depth, but who are familiar with the full scope of molecular and cell biology. They should be able to move from one level to another in a critical and creative manner. We also try to develop an appreciation for translational research that bears on human disease.

During their first year, students have a free choice of three laboratories from the groups within the LMCB, and spend three months in each, working on research projects.

Students also participate in twice-weekly tutorials that are designed to broaden their understanding of molecular cell biology, developmental biology, neurobiology, immunology and the cell biology of disease.

Towards the end of their first year, students select a supervisor and lab in which they will carry out their three-year thesis project. Overall our programme is designed to offer training in fundamental aspects of molecular and cell biology, and to provide an opportunity to carry out cutting-edge research in a vibrant and internationally competitive environment.

The foundation of your career

Throughout the course of the PhD programme students gain a wide range of employability skills, these include but are not limited to, training in presentation skills, computer literacy, reading and analysis of scientific papers, team working, committee membership, event organisation (including outreach events) and cutting-edge microscopy training. 


Recent graduates have secured positions as research fellows and postdoctoral researchers at leading UK universities including the University of Cambridge and UCL, and at overseas organisations such as Memorial Sloane-Kettering Cancer Center, USA and the Agency for Science Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore. Graduates of the programme have also established careers within the scientific technology and pharmaceutical industries.


Students in their first year share tutorials, practical courses and informal discussion meetings. They also join the wider cohort of LMCB graduate students that influences all aspects of LMCB strategy, outreach and social activities.

Teaching and learning

Students have access to a wide range training in soft and academic skills as well as access to training from other programmes.

You will do an upgrade from MPhil to PhD, and then a viva for your final examination.

The contact hours will be agreed between the research supervisor and the student. The hours of self-directed study will vary depending on the work being undertaken.

Research areas and structure

The programme offers research projects in areas including:

  • Cell Signalling/Transcription
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Membrane Trafficking
  • Growth Control
  • Developmental Biology
  • Neurobiology
  • Immunology
  • Human Disease
  • Clinical Session

Research environment

The Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology (LMCB) is a division within the UCL Faculty of Life Sciences. The Faculty has been associated with nine Nobel Laureates and presents an unrivalled environment for students and researchers in life science disciplines ranging from the biology of molecules, cells and organisms through to neuroscience and behavioural sciences.

Our research leaders, staff and PhD students work together to understand the fundamental principles of cell biology relevant to human disease. We are located in the heart of the Bloomsbury Campus of UCL and are funded by Cancer Research UK, Wellcome and University College London.

As an LMCB MPhil/PhD student, you will have the opportunity to learn from, and contribute to, this research culture by pursuing original research and making a distinct and significant contribution to your field. We are committed to the quality and relevance of the research supervision we offer, and as an MPhil/PhD candidate you could work with academics at the cutting-edge of cell biology. Furthermore as a research student, you will be an integral part of our collaborative and thriving research community.

We provide a bespoke tutorial series designed to offer a broad training in cellular and molecular aspects of biomedical science, as well as an opportunity to carry out cutting-edge research in an internationally competitive environment.

In the first year, students rotate through three laboratories of their choice within the LMCB. Students then choose any one of these laboratories for their three-year thesis project. The first year of the programme also includes weekly tutorials run by experts in various fields of cell and molecular biology, as well as discussion sessions and debates on wider issues in science.

This crucial first year allows students to broaden their understanding of biomedical science and, most importantly, sample different laboratories in order to make an informed choice of thesis area and mentor.

The length of registration for our PhD Programme lasts four years full-time, with the initial rotation year consisting of three ten-week projects.

You are required to register initially for the MPhil degree with the expectation of transfer to PhD after successful completion of an upgrade viva 9-12 months after starting your PhD project (second year of the programme).

Upon successful completion of your approved period of registration you may register as a completing research student (CRS), for up to one year, while you write up your thesis.

Within three months of joining your PhD lab, you are expected to agree with your supervisor the basic structure of your research project, an appropriate research method and a realistic plan of work. You will produce and submit a detailed outline of your proposed research to your PhD supervisory committee for their comments and feedback. Towards the end of the first year of your PhD project, you will have an opportunity to present your research before an audience of LMCB staff and fellow PhD students.

Additionally, in this year you will be expected to upgrade from an MPhil to a PhD. To successfully upgrade to a PhD you are required to submit a short dissertation describing the progress of your work to date. You are also required to present and answer questions about this work to your thesis committee who determine whether your upgrade to PhD is justified.

The PhD programme is expected to be completed within four years. If you are not ready to submit at the end of the fourth year, you may be able to go onto CRS for up to one additional year.

Year 1: First lab rotation: normally the rotation is 3 months for full-time students, but can be extended to up to 6 months for part-time students

Year 2: Second and third lab rotations

Year 3 – 6: PhD research in a laboratory of the student’s choice, thesis preparation and submission.


Details of the accessibility of UCL buildings can be obtained from AccessAble Further information can also be obtained from the UCL Student Support and Wellbeing team.

Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time Part-time
Tuition fees (2024/25) £6,035 £3,015
Tuition fees (2024/25) £34,400 £17,200

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:

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

The programme is open to any student with their own funding source. For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the UCL Scholarships and Funding website.

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

Next steps

Prospective students can contact the Programme Tutor ( if they need help with the application process.

Please note that you may submit applications for a maximum of two graduate programmes (or one application for the Law LLM) in any application cycle.

Choose your programme

Please read the Application Guidance before proceeding with your application.

Year of entry: 2024-2025

UCL is regulated by the Office for Students.