Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology MPhil/PhD

London, Bloomsbury

The UCL Research Department of Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology brings together scientists undertaking world-leading interdisciplinary research in physiology and cell signalling in health and disease, the nervous system, synapses to circuits and behaviour, and the effects of drugs and medicines on these systems.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2024/25)
Overseas tuition fees (2024/25)
3 calendar years
5 calendar years
Programme starts
October 2024
February 2025
May 2025
Applications accepted
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Entry requirements

A minimum of an upper second-class Bachelor’s degree from a UK university in a relevant discipline or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard.

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

Students joining Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology enter this outstanding postgraduate training environment. The department brings together scientists working in world-leading interdisciplinary research specialities related to the structure and function of single molecules, synaptic signalling in the nervous system, understanding of circuits in the brain underlying behaviour, pain and inflammation, metabolic disorders and the pharmacology of neurotransmitter receptors, channels and transporters in cell membranes.

Academic research here is conducted at molecular, cellular, organismal and systems levels and may involve animal models of disease or studies in humans. 

Who this course is for

Our PhD programme will provide you with the opportunities to develop the analytical and research skills you need to answer the scientific questions of our time.

What this course will give you

The department has an outstanding academic reputation and its links with other universities and industry provide strong support for our postgraduate research students' networking and employment prospects.

We live in a period of astonishing growth of understanding in the interrelated fields of Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology. There is a vital need for well-trained researchers in these fields in order to achieve advances in medicine so that society can face the challenges of illness in the future with confidence.

The foundation of your career

Postgraduate education in our department provides an excellent scientific background accompanied by an impressive set of transferable skills, including analytical, presentation and communication skills. This, together with the outstanding reputation of UCL research in neuroscience, physiology and pharmacology and collaborative links with other major academic institutions and companies, provide numerous opportunities for our PhD students to find top science jobs in academia and industry.


Our postgraduates have transferred the excellent skills acquired to the fields of consultancy, patent law, scientific publishing and teaching. 


PhD students take an active role in the department, participating in the seminar series that includes outstanding guests from the UK and abroad. PhD students are encouraged to propose speakers and host events. Additionally, our PhD students organise their own regular meetings and receive departmental support to invite speakers from different fields (academia, industry, consultancy companies, charities, publishers, etc) to give them insight and advice on various career options. They also take part in and give presentations at national and international scientific meetings, which in most cases include networking events. 

Teaching and learning

Our PhD students work closely with their supervisor and the research team, usually in daily contact. The considerable deepening of knowledge and understanding of the research area that is characteristic of PhD study requires constant self-directed study and participation in the discussion of research methods, data analysis and interpretation.  

Throughout the PhD programme, regular scheduled progression points are used to review academic progress. This will take the form of either a report or a meeting and is overseen by a Thesis Committee, comprised of a secondary supervisor and a thesis chair. The student is also expected to meet regularly with their supervisor and/or supervision team to oversee progress. Students are required to undertake training in statistics, transferable skills, research ethics, and skills appropriate to their studies. These are provided by the Faculty or through the UCL Doctoral School. 

The student would be expected to commit to a minimum of 36.5 hours per week, as consistent with a full-time post at UCL, or the equivalent timing for a part-time position. This time frame also includes self-directed learning. The demands of a PhD may also necessitate additional out-of-hours work to accommodate a project’s need, e.g., data collection.

Research areas and structure

Research environment

We provide a world-renowned research environment in which to begin a research career. PhD students are able to join established research groups in well-funded labs that support their research throughout the PhD. PhD students participate in the departmental seminar programme in addition to having regular opportunities to attend national and international meetings of scientific societies such as the Physiological Society, British Pharmacological Society and British Neuroscience Association.

UCL has an outstanding reputation for research in Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology with five Nobel prizes winners in these areas of research.  The UCL Neuroscience Research Domain brings together UCL neuroscientists from across several departments and faculties and reflects the importance of neuroscience research at UCL which is ranked second in the world and 1st in Europe for neuroscience and behaviour. 

Across UCL, PhD student provision is supported and monitored by the UCL Doctoral School which provides the main avenue for training support for PhD students at UCL. 

The progress of all PhD students is monitored by the Graduate Tutors, Professor Alasdair Gibb, Dr Joanne Marks and Professor Alex Gourine. In addition to a primary supervisor, each PhD student has a secondary supervisor who chairs Thesis Committee meetings and the MPhil-PhD upgrade process at the end of the 1st year of PhD study. 

Our areas of research include:

Cellular, molecular and systems neuroscience: synaptic transmission, transporters, ion channel and G-protein coupled receptors, voltage- and calcium-gated ion channels and signalling pathways, neuronal network behaviour and translational neuroscience, metabolic disease, sensory systems, vascular physiology, epithelia and inflammation

Although PhD students spend most of their time within their research group working on their PhD project, the PhD programmes contain 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, and their PhD programme. 

Student progression points 
During the PhD programme, there are a number of 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. 

Student talks 
Students develop their skills in oral presentation by presenting their research to their peers, colleagues in the department and at national and international scientific meetings 

Student reports 
At the end of the 1st year of their PhD, students submit a written report on their research progress and plans for the next steps of their PhD, 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

Across UCL, PhD student provision is supported and monitored by the UCL Doctoral School which provides the main avenue for training support for PhD students at UCL

Seminars, workshops, lectures and conferences 
The department hosts a range of both internal and external speakers providing 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 with support from bespoke careers events managed by dedicated UCL Careers Office staff. 

In some circumstances, students enrol for a part-time PhD which extends the PhD programme usually to 5-6 years duration. This may be combined with part-time work or with other responsibilities. In all other respects, a part-time PhD programme aims to achieve, as far as possible, experience equivalent to a full-time PhD.


There is no fieldwork within our PhD programmes but students occasionally undertake placements in collaborative laboratories in order to expand the scope of their research project or enhance their research skills.


All students funded by the BBSRC London Interdisciplinary Doctoral (LIDo) Programme undertake a 6-month placement as a part of their PhD. In order to develop additional skills and gain experience in a non-academic sector. The placement work cannot relate to a student's PhD research project.


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

Route code RRDBISSNPP01

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

Additional Fee Element - (AFE) 

Research programmes at UCL may be subject to an Additional Fee Element (AFE). The AFE is applied to cover additional costs related to consumables, equipment and materials and other items (excluding student visas) which are not included in the composite tuition fee listed in the fees schedule and is, therefore, applied to a minority of programmes. 

As each PhD programme is unique in its nature, the AFE is calculated on a student by student basis.. The AFE is banded into four fixed amounts: £1,000, £2,500, £5,000 and £10,000, with one further band for variable sums over £10,000. Please contact your prospective supervisor or Graduate Tutor directly for advice on whether or not your programme will include an AFE. 

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

Our department is part of the Division of Biosciences where we have an MRC four-year programme, MRC CASE studentships, BBSRC four-year PhD, BBSRC CASE three- and four-year studentships.

There may also be funding opportunities through individual research grants and Charity studentships as well as through other programmes.

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

Research degrees usually start on 1 October, but may also start on 1 February or 1 May. Deadlines and start dates can be dictated by funding arrangements for studentships and scholarships. 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 (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.