DPhil in Molecular Cell Biology in Health and Disease | University of Oxford
Lab work
Cutting DNA bands from an agarose gel in the laboratory
(Image Credit: Laurynas Pliuskys / Graduate Photography Competition)

DPhil in Molecular Cell Biology in Health and Disease

About the course

You will spend up to four years in one of the department's many research groups, working on a project supervised by the group's principal investigator. During this period you will have the opportunity to take part in the comprehensive training programme organised for graduate students.

After a very short induction period of one or two weeks, during which some basic training is provided, you will start a research project in your supervisor’s laboratory.

You will be supervised by a team that includes your main supervisor, a graduate advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies. Your graduate advisor will usually be another experienced principal investigator in the department. Your supervisor may appoint a senior member of  the laboratory as your day-to-day supervisor. Most laboratories have weekly meetings where members present and discuss their research results with other members of the laboratory. Further support is available from your college advisor.

There are a number of key stages in the research programme:

  • within a month of starting you will meet with your supervisor and graduate advisor to finalise your project and agree on an initial programme of research;
  • within the first six months you are expected to complete a literature review on a topic relating to your area of research. This will be assessed by your supervisory team;
  •  after one year you will apply to transfer to DPhil status. To do this you write a report describing your research to date and plans for the future. This will be assessed by two independent experts, who interview you as part of the process;
  • you will apply to confirm your DPhil status by the end of your third year. This involves writing a short progress report and thesis outline and giving a presentation. The application is assessed by two experts; and
  • the final stage is submission of your DPhil thesis, which needs to be done within four years.

Whilst working on your research project you will participate in a comprehensive, flexible skills training programme which includes a range of workshops and seminars in transferable skills, generic research skills and specific research techniques. There are also numerous seminars and lectures by local and visiting scientists, and you are provided with many opportunities to meet leading scientists.

There are a wide range of events organised for DPhil students. All students participate in an annual graduate student symposium, which is attended by the entire department. Student contributions are carefully evaluated and prizes are awarded to the best posters or presentations in each year.

Graduate destinations

The majority of graduates from the DPhil in Molecular Cell Biology in Health and Disease (previously the DPhil in Pathology) pursue research careers in academic institutions or industry. Graduates also pursue careers in management (in pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies), consulting, law, teaching, with science funding organisations, charities, and in scientific publishing.

Related courses

Multiple applications

In applying for this programme, you may submit further applications for up to two of the following associated programmes without paying an additional application fee:

For instructions, see Applying for more than one course in the Application Guide.

Changes to the course

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2017-18

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in any subject relevant to the proposed research project.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.

However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent. Most successful applicants will also have relevant research experience.

A previous master's qualification is not required.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.  

All applications are assessed by a panel of (typically 5-7) academics using these selection criteria and ranked. A shortlist of approximately 30 applicants is interviewed by a panel of at least three academics. Applicants are required to give a 10-minute presentation of one of their research projects and this is followed by around 20 minutes of questions from the panel. Interviews usually take place in Oxford, but international students may be interviewed by Skype.

Publications

Publications are not required, but they do provide an advantage.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Research experience, such as an undergraduate research project and/or industry placement is very important. 

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the standard level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. 
  • Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.

It would be expected that graduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor(s).

Resources

The department is located in the University Science Area in central Oxford adjacent to the beautiful University Parks. It occupies attractive, landscaped grounds and comprises three main research buildings. These are all joined by a striking link building which includes a cafeteria, recreational area, and library. There are numerous seminar/meeting rooms available within the department, fully equipped with audio-visual equipment.

You will be provided with plenty of bench space in your supervisor's laboratory and a suitable desk. The laboratories are all newly-refurbished, spacious and well equipped. There are central facilities for flow cytometry, light and electron microscopy, surface plasmon resonance, proteomics and genome engineering.  Training and support is available for use of all these resources. You will have your own computer and have access to the department’s IT infrastructure and servers. You will also have access to the University Libraries such as the Radcliffe Science Library and the Cairns Library. Library access includes full online access to all relevant scientific journals, available anywhere. 

You will also have access to the extensive range of seminars and symposia in this and other departments at the University. During term-time there are regular departmental seminars which all graduate students are expected to attend. Student also present at regular progress seminars, which bring together groups in the department working in related areas. Your research group will be able to advise you as to which seminar series you should attend. All seminars are advertised on the web portal Oxford Talks.

Graduate students in the department run a Graduate Students' Association and meet regularly for social, science, and networking events.

Funding

There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.

Full funding opportunities are available for all Medical Sciences Graduate School programmes, whatever your nationality. The Medical Sciences Graduate School website provides further details of these, as well as information about external funding opportunities.

You may also be interested in departmental funding opportunities. Further details can be found on the department's website. 

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
c. £4,250£3,021c. £7,271
Overseas£19,335£3,021£22,356

The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; for courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Tuition and college fees are payable each year for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay tuition and college fees).

Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.

For more information about tuition fees, college fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details on the impact of the result of the UK referendum on its membership of the European Union.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this programme that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs.  However, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Living costs

In addition to your tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2017-18 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between £1,002 and £1,471 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our Living costs page.

How to apply

If you are applying to one of the listed available supervisors in the departmental studentship competition, it is not necessary to make contact with these supervisors before you apply.

In all other cases you should contact prospective supervisors before you submit any application to ensure that a supervisor is able to consider your application. Contact should initially be made via email and should include a CV/résumé.

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

CV/résumé

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
Up to 500 words

Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford and your relevant experience and education.

Your statement should also indicate your choices of project(s) and supervisor(s), and your reasons for selecting them.

This will be assessed for your reasons for applying to this department, your reasons for selecting the proposed supervisor(s) and/or project(s), your understanding of the research area and the relevant techniques, and your ability to present a reasoned case in English.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally academic

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

References should generally be academic though professional references relevant to the course are also acceptable, eg from research employment.

Your references will support academic achievement and intellectual ability, appropriateness of background knowledge, proficiency in research, motivation and commitment, and your ability to work in a group.