Sainsbury Wellcome Centre Systems Neuroscience PhD

London, Bloomsbury

Our PhD will give you world-class training as a neuroscientist and launch an exciting career in academia or industry.

Our students receive a comprehensive introduction to theoretical and systems neuroscience, as well as intensive training in experimental techniques, including imaging, physiology, molecular, and behavioural methods in systems neuroscience.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2023/24)
Overseas tuition fees (2023/24)
3 calendar years
Programme starts
September 2023
Applications accepted
All applicants: 22 Sep – 22 Nov 2022

Applications closed

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a keen interest in neuroscience combined with an undergraduate degree in a relevant field (for example Neuroscience, Life Sciences, Physics, Mathematics, or Computer Science) at a minimum of upper second-class UK Bachelor’s level or overseas equivalent.

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. International Preparation Courses

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

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 Sainsbury Wellcome Centre PhD Programme is designed to provide world-class training in experimental and computational neuroscience, a perfect start for a career in academia or industry.

The first-year courses are taught by faculty from the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre, the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit (GCNU), and affiliated institutions, all experts in their respective fields. Right from the start of the programme, this team teaching approach allows students to interact with our faculty. The taught courses will provide you with a solid foundation in systems and theoretical neuroscience, as well as in modern experimental techniques and approaches to data analysis.

Regular large scientific events and informal internal meetings offer a wealth of opportunities to learn about the latest research going on within the Centre and in the larger neuroscience community.

Students in our programme are core to the activities at the Centre, playing a crucial part in organizing seminars, outreach opportunities, and internal learning groups.

Students admitted to the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre PhD Programme are fully funded and receive an annual stipend, as well as funds to support attendance at international courses or meetings. We also cover the cost of tuition fees for both home and international students.

Who this course is for

We are looking for candidates with a keen interest in neuroscience, coupled with an undergraduate degree in Neuroscience, Life Sciences, Medicine, Psychology, or related degrees, such as Physics, Maths or Computer Science at a minimum of upper second-class UK Bachelor’s level or overseas equivalent. English language proficiency at Level 2 ("Good").

What this course will give you

You will live and work in central London, with the highest concentration of neuroscience research in the world.

The foundation of your career

Alumni from the programme have set up or joined start-ups, and accepted positions in prestigious labs or world-renowned companies.


As a graduate from the Sainsbury Wellcome PhD programme, you will have developed advanced skills in neuroscience research techniques, analysis and writing, public presentations, teaching at university level, and managing projects. These transferable skills are useful also for careers outside of academia.

In the programme you will work within research labs with world-leading expertise in experimental and theoretical approaches to systems neuroscience, including molecular and genetic techniques, optics and imaging, electrophysiology, behaviour, computational and theoretical methods.

You will also be able to benefit from seminars with outstanding external and internal speakers, as well as journal clubs and data clubs. Together, this will provide understanding of the most recent advances in the field, and give you training in research methodology.


Sainsbury Wellcome Centre PhD students benefit from shared events with the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience unit and the UCL Neuroscience community as a whole. Students are regularly invited to informal lunches with seminar speakers from around the world. You will also receive a travel and education budget, which allows you to attend international courses and conferences.

Teaching and learning

Upgrade from MPhil to PhD

  • Written report
  • Viva

PhD thesis

  • Written PhD thesis
  • Viva 

Courses and talks are scheduled between 9 AM and 5 PM. Hours of self-directed study are flexible.

Research areas and structure

Research environment

Our state-of-the-art research facilities in central London are close to a wealth of other excellent neuroscience research institutions. You will work alongside outstanding scientists at all career levels and from around the globe.

Researchers at the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre have access to cutting-edge core facilities and platforms including advanced microscopy and imaging; advanced manufacturing and innovation and research fabrication laboratory; high performance computing platforms and biological research facilities.

Year 1 – Courses and rotations

Year 2 – Select a project and supervisors, project proposal, research

Year 3 – Upgrade, research

Year 4 – Finish research, submit thesis, graduate


Details of the accessibility of UCL buildings can be obtained from AccessAble 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
Tuition fees (2023/24) £5,860
Tuition fees (2023/24) £32,100

Additional costs

There are no programme-specific additional costs to students.

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 Sainsbury Wellcome PhD Programme is generously funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and the Wellcome Trust. Students receive an annual stipend starting at £24,278. Further, the programme covers tuition fees for all students, whether you come from the UK or abroad. We also provide an annual budget to be used, in agreement with the Graduate Programme Committee or your primary supervisor, to support attendance at international courses or conferences. Once you join a lab, the lab receives an annual research consumables budget to help pay for your research. No additional costs are expected. The Sainsbury Wellcome Centre PhD students are fully funded, receiving an annual stipend starting at £24,278. The programme covers tuition fees and provides a travel and education budget.

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

The application consists of an application form, grade transcripts, a current CV, an essay, and two letters of reference.

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.

UCL is regulated by the Office for Students.