PhDs in Life Sciences

We offer a range of different programmes. Some involve rotation projects whilst others are focused on a single research area.

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“The superseminars have opened my eyes to the huge range of work going on in the School and the training course really helps you to find your feet and make sure you aren't completely lost in an alien field! ”

Jennifer Dement

“Besides the value of the first class science on offer, Dundee was also attractive to me because I'm passionate about walking and wanted to live near beautiful countryside. ”

Jaeger Hamilton

There are many reasons to do a PhD in the School of Life Sciences (SLS) at Dundee. More than 900 staff and research students representing no fewer than 62 different nationalities provide a genuinely global research environment here in Scotland. We offer a range of different programmes; some involve rotation projects whilst others are focused on a single research area. In all cases the programme is structured to maximise effective guidance and mentoring, in addition to providing a basis for optimally matching students' interests with cutting edge research.

The School benefits from funding from Research Councils and charitable foundations to provide PhD opportunities, including

  • BBSRC (UKRI), which supports students on our EASTBIO programme and our new BARIToNE Collaborative Training Partnership with Industry.
  • Wellcome, who have supported PhD students within SLS since 2000.
  • MRC (UKRI), which supports existing students on our QIBIOMED Doctoral Training Programme

PhD recruitment

Recruitment for our PhD programmes, such as our Wellcome, CSC, EASTBIO and BARIToNE programmes, generally begins around October each year, with shortlisting and interviews taking place in January and February so, if you want to start a PhD in September 2023, you should think about applying in October 2022. There are also PhD opportunities within the MRC Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit (MRC PPU), the MRC PPU Prize Studentships.  Outwith our programmes, we will often advertise for specific PhD projects throughout the year.

Find a PhD project

How to choose a PhD

We know that undertaking a postgraduate research project is both challenging and rewarding and it’s important to know that you are making the right choice when choosing the PhD programme, and university, and so here’s some advice to help you when making your decision.

Choose a subject area that inspires you. Genuine fascination with the area of research helps you to learn quickly and provides motivation to carry you through the times when experiments are not working out as planned. Our Wellcome Programme offers rotations in year 1, allowing you to experience multiple labs and find your passion before choosing your main PhD project.

Choose a laboratory in which the resources and facilities required for your project are available. Is the institute well-resourced and do the staff work collaboratively? SLS and the wider University has a variety of facilities to support your research.

Choose a laboratory with a strong track record of producing high quality publications. The overwhelming majority of students complete their studies with a PhD and subsequent applications for postdoctoral positions and fellowships is significantly dependent on the quality of research that has been published as a result of your PhD. Research outputs of SLS labs can be found in our Discovery Portal. You can search by group leader.

Large or small research group? In general, larger groups publish more papers, but bear in mind that smaller groups are often more productive per person.

How have the careers of former lab members developed? This is not relevant for a very new lab, but for established labs this information can often be found on lab web sites or with a little detective work.

Management style. This varies greatly from lab to lab. Do you want the freedom to follow up on your own leads, or would you prefer to have a very well-defined project? This is best assessed through interaction with lab members and if you are invited to interview, you’ll have the opportunity to chat to current students.

Our positive research culture

The School is proud of its positive culture. A culture that has allowed our community to perform to the highest level and as a postgraduate researcher you will join, and contribute to, this positive environment.

Our PGR (postgraduate researcher) community includes students on our Masters by Research course as well as PhD students. Our Students receive a great deal of support from their peers via the PhD student association (PiCLS) and the wider University PGR community is brought together via the Doctoral Academy

Leading the way in supporting diversity, equality and research integrity within the School is our Associate Dean for Professional Culture and we are the proud recipients of an Athena SWAN Silver Award recognising our commitment to gender equality, and the Bronze mark of the Race Equality Charter. Our mentorship arrangements draw on the skills and expertise of diverse groups to provide the best advice possible.

The University has a variety of services in place to support students and staff, whether this is through our Student Services, our various networks (BME, Disabled, LGBTQ+) or within the School itself. We operate zero tolerance on bullying and harassment and have trained advisors as well as staff trained in mental health first aid.

Masters by Research MSc

We also offer a Masters by Research MSc. This one year (or two years if part time) MSc enables you to carry out a research project, working alongside our world renowned experts. 

Life Science PhD office contacts