A batch of labelled eppendorf tubes
Eppendorf tubes in an Oxford laboratory
(Image Credit: Rob Judges / Oxford University Images)

DPhil in Biochemistry (Skaggs-Oxford Programme)

About the course

The Skaggs-Oxford Programme is a joint five-year programme in biology or chemistry at Scripps Research based in either La Jolla, California or Jupiter, Florida, and the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Oxford, leading to the award of a joint PhD/DPhil degree.

The joint Skaggs-Oxford Programme permits highly qualified students to gain a broader and deeper interdisciplinary research experience than is possible from a single institution's doctoral programme. It provides diversity in curriculum, scientific approaches and research training, with access to facilities and expertise at both  the University of Oxford and Scripps Research. It also offers the experience of the distinct cultures of the United States and the United Kingdom.

You will undertake an induction session at Scripps Research and thereafter have the option of beginning the full programme of study either at Oxford or at Scripps Research. You will be required to carry out research for a minimum of two years at Oxford.

You can choose from a wide range of research areas covered by the University of Oxford's Department of Biochemistry and Scripps Research's Departments of Chemistry, Immunology and Microbiology, Integrative Structural and Computational Biology, Molecular Medicine, and Neuroscience.

Research areas include: ageing, cancer biology, cell biology, chemical biology, chromosome biology, chemical synthesis, drug discovery and vaccine design, epigenetics, host-pathogen interactions, infectious diseases (such as HIV, Ebola and Zika), innate and responsive immune systems, medicinal chemistry, membrane proteins, neural stem cell behaviour and development of the brain and sensory organs, ion channels and transporters, and RNA biology.

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.


For this course, the allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the University of Oxford's Department of Biochemistry and Scripps Research. Please note that it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff.

Information about Oxford supervisors connected with this course can also be found at the Department of Biochemistry website. You will typically meet with your supervisor on a weekly or fortnightly basis. In addition, your supervisor may appoint a senior member of the laboratory as your day-to-day supervisor. Most laboratories also have weekly meetings where members present and discuss their results with other members of the laboratory.


Starting at the University of Oxford

If you begin your programme of study at Oxford, you will start your course as a probationary research student (PRS) and apply to transfer to DPhil (PhD) status near the end of your first year. Your application to transfer will involve you writing a research report and statement of future research plans. This will be assessed by two independent experts, who interview you as part of the process. Continuation in the programme is subject to passing the Transfer of Status exam.

Starting at Scripps Research

If you begin your programme of study at Scripps Research, you will also start your course as a probationary research student (PRS). You will be required to undertake a sequence of taught coursework in connection with your proposed field of research, unless you are granted an exemption in recognition of study and examinations previously undertaken. Courses are graded based on written assignments and a final written exam. You will typically apply to transfer to DPhil (PhD) status near the end of your second year. Your application to transfer will involve you writing a research report and statement of future research plans. This will be assessed by two independent experts, who interview you as part of the process. Continuation in the programme is subject to passing the Transfer of Status exam.

Common assessment elements

After three years of study you will need to apply formally to confirm your DPhil (PhD) status. This involves writing a short progress report and thesis outline and giving a presentation. The application is assessed by two experts. Continuation in the programme is subject to successfully completing the Confirmation of Status.

The final stage of the research programme is submission of your DPhil thesis, which needs to be done within five years. Your thesis is assessed by two independent experts (one from Oxford and one who is external to the University of Oxford and Scripps Research) and your Thesis Committee at Scripps Research, who conduct a viva examination with you.

Successful candidates are awarded a degree certificate from Scripps Research and the University of Oxford. They are invited to attend ceremonies at both institutions.

Graduate destinations

The majority of alumni go on to pursue a career within academic or industrial research.

Changes to this course and your supervision

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. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic, epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.

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 illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.

Initial assessment by Scripps Research

Your application will initially be assessed by Scripps Research against the 'Admission Guidelines' published on the Scripps Research website

If your application passes this initial assessment, you will be invited to submit an application to the University of Oxford (please refer to the How to Apply section of this page for further details). A successful application to the University of Oxford is a requirement of entry to this course. Your application to the University of Oxford will be assessed against the entry requirements shown below, alongside applicants to the DPhil in Biochemistry. An interview with the University of Oxford will be conducted following your application to the University of Oxford and if successful a second interview will take place with Scripps Research. 

Entry requirements for entry in 2024-25

Proven and potential academic excellence

The requirements described below are specific to this course and apply only in the year of entry that is shown. You can use our interactive tool to help you evaluate whether your application is likely to be competitive.

Please be aware that any studentships that are linked to this course may have different or additional requirements and you should read any studentship information carefully before applying. 

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:

  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours.

The qualification above should be achieved in one of the following subject areas or disciplines:

  • biochemistry
  • chemistry
  • biology
  • cell biology
  • molecular biology
  • biophysics
  • physics
  • mathematics
  • computation.

Please note that entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree. 

A previous master's degree is not required in order to be considered for the programme.

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

If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.

GRE General Test scores

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

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

  • Applicants are normally expected to have research experience in a biomedical or scientific field. Examples of suitable research experience include, but are not limited to, research projects carried out during previous degree-level study, research internships or work experience as a research assistant
  • A track record demonstrating an interest in research, including the ability to master technical/computational skills, and plan and execute experiments effectively, is likely to advantage your application
  • You are expected to have a good understanding of your proposed area of research and be familiar with the recent published work of your proposed supervisor(s)
  • Applicants are not required to have publications, but it may strengthen your application if you have already published your work in a scientific journal.

English language proficiency

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's standard level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's standard level are detailed in the table below.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's standard level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.06.5

TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'

(Institution code: 0490)

100Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24
C1 Advanced*185176
C2 Proficiency185176

*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.

Declaring extenuating circumstances

If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.


You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.  

Applications are reviewed by a panel of academics associated with the course. A short-list of applicants is confirmed, based on assessment of achieved or predicted undergraduate degree grade, academic references, personal statement and CV.

Interviews are in person or by video link and are conducted by a panel of at least two interviewers. Applicants are asked to talk about any research project(s) that they may have pursued and questioned on aspects of their research training to date, understanding of the proposed area of study and motivation for undertaking a DPhil.

Following a successful interview with the University of Oxford, shortlisted candidates will be interviewed separately by Scripps Research in the final stage of the application process.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements described under that heading.

References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process. Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed

Shortlisting and selection

Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:

  • socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
  • country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
  • protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.

Processing your data for shortlisting and selection

Information about processing special category data for the purposes of positive action and using your data to assess your eligibility for funding, can be found in our Postgraduate Applicant Privacy Policy.

Admissions panels and assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).

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

Other factors governing whether places can be offered

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

  • the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
  • the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
  • minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.

Offer conditions for successful applications

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about offers and conditions

In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:

Financial Declaration

If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.

Disclosure of criminal convictions

In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

Some postgraduate research students in science, engineering and technology subjects will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate prior to applying for a Student visa (under the Student Route). For some courses, the requirement to apply for an ATAS certificate may depend on your research area.

COVID-19 vaccination required for graduate students

To help maintain the health and safety of the Scripps Research community, effective September 15, 2021, all personnel must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and certify their COVID-19 vaccination status through the institute’s online platform. Individuals applying to the doctoral program at the Skaggs Graduate School of Chemical and Biological Sciences must agree to comply with and abide by this policy


At Oxford you will have access to:

  • experimental facilities, as appropriate to your research
  • IT support from both the Department of Biochemistry and University IT Services
  • library services, such as the Radcliffe Science Library and the Cairns Library.

The provision of project-specific resources will be agreed with the relevant supervisor during the planning stages of the research project.

The Department of Biochemistry has in-house research facilities, including advanced fluorescence microscopy, advanced proteomics, NMR spectroscopy, molecular biophysics, and crystallography.

There is the possibility to use facilities in other departments across the division and to access remote facilities at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, DIAMOND Light Source and Harwell Science and Innovation Campus.

Departmental seminars and colloquia bring students together with academic and other research staff in the department to hear about on-going research, and provide an opportunity for networking and socialising.

The Scripps Research website provides details about its Research Departments and its Cores and Services.


The Department of Biochemistry comprises over 45 research groups and around 400 researchers and support staff, including more than 100 graduate students.

Oxford's Department of Biochemistry is a vibrant research and teaching department and benefits from state-of-the-art research facilities in its stunning purpose-built building occupied since 2008.

Research in the department is very broad and encompasses all aspects of modern molecular and cellular biochemistry, from atomic resolution biophysics to cell biology and imaging. The quality of research is outstanding, as demonstrated by an impressive publications output and the international standing of many of the department's researchers.

Research students reading for their DPhil or MSc by Research in the Department of Biochemistry are admitted to one of several programmes, either by the department or one of Oxford’s Doctoral Training Centres (DTCs).

Funding and costs

Scripps Research Institute

For the duration of the US based part of the programme, students are provided with an annual stipend of $42,000 (correct for the 2022-23 academic year for students studying at Scripps Research, La Jolla, California). Tuition fees will be paid in full on the student’s behalf by Scripps Research.

If you begin this course at the Scripps Institute, you will usually be liable for three years of tuition fees at the Scripps Research fee rate, followed by two years of fees at the University of Oxford fee rate.

University of Oxford

Full funding (stipend and fees) is provided to UK and Overseas students for the duration of the Oxford based part of the programme. Students will receive an annual living costs grant, which is currently £23,955 for the 2023-24 academic year. Course fees at the University of Oxford will be paid in full on the student’s behalf by the University of Oxford.

If you begin this course at the University of Oxford, you will usually be liable for three years of course fees at the University of Oxford fee rate, followed by two years of fees at the Scripps Research fee rate.

Annual fees for the 2024-25 academic year at Oxford

Fee status

Annual Course fees


Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

Information about course fees

Course 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 course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.

Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.

Continuation charges

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.

Where can I find further information about fees?

The Feesac and Funding section of this website provides further information about course fees payable to the University of Oxford, including information about fee status and eligibility and your length of fee liability. The Scripps Research website provides information about fees payable at Scripps Research California Campus.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) 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 course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2024-25 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,345 and £1,955 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. The current economic climate and high national rate of inflation make it very hard to estimate potential changes to the cost of living over the next few years. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2024-25, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of around 5% each year – although this rate may vary depending on the national economic situation. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.

Please note that the estimated living costs above are for study in the UK at the University of Oxford. You are advised to contact Scripps Research using the details on their website for information about living costs while studying at the Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California, USA.

College preference

Students enrolled on this course will belong to both a department/faculty and a college. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 43 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as societies and permanent private halls (PPHs). 

If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. Before deciding, we suggest that you read our brief introduction to the college system at Oxford and our advice about expressing a college preference. For some courses, the department may have provided some additional advice below to help you decide.

The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Biochemistry (Skaggs-Oxford Programme):

Before you apply

We strongly recommend you consult the Medical Sciences Graduate School's research themes to identify the most suitable course and supervisor.

Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application.  You can use our interactive tool to help you evaluate whether your application is likely to be competitive.

If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide.

Application process

The first stage of admission to the Skaggs-Oxford Programme is administered by Scripps Research.  You should visit the Scripps website for application instructions and deadline information. To apply and for further details about the course you are advised to contact Scripps Research using the details on their website

Your application will be initially assessed by Scripps Research against the 'Admission Guidelines' published on the Scripps Research website. If your application passes this initial assessment, you will be invited to submit an application to the University of Oxford using the standard graduate application procedure.

Application fee - waived for all applications to this course

The application fee of £75, which is usually payable per course application, will be waived for all applications to this course. When you submit your application you will not be shown the screen that collects payment details and you will not need to enter a waiver code.

Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?

You are encouraged to contact individual supervisors before you apply. Email addresses for academic staff can be found on the departmental profile pages.

Stage 1: Apply to Scripps Research for initial assessment

You must first apply to Scripps Research by the deadline shown in the Scripps application instructions.

How to Apply to Scripps Apply to Scripps

Stage 2: Apply to the University of Oxford

If your application has passed the initial assessment by Scripps Research, you will be invited to complete an application to the University of Oxford. Only candidates who have been invited to proceed should submit an application to the University of Oxford.

You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents.

For this course, the application form will include questions that collect information that would usually be included in a CV/résumé. You should not upload a separate document. If a separate CV/résumé is uploaded, it will be removed from your application.

If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.

Proposed field and title of research project

Under 'Proposed field and title of research project' enter the advertised research project code of your chosen supervisors in order of preference or indicating equal preference. For a list of project codes visit the department's website.

You should not use this field to type out a full research proposal. You will be able to upload your research supporting materials separately if they are required (as described below).

Proposed supervisor

Under 'Proposed supervisor name' enter the names of at least one, and up to three, academics who you would like to supervise your research. You should list them in order of preference or indicate equal preference.

Three overall

You do not need to add your referees to your application as the department will receive these from Scripps Research. Please enter Referee1 ([email protected]), Referee2 ([email protected]) and Referee3 ([email protected]) in the referees section and tick the boxes to confirm that you are happy for the referees to be contacted. This should enable you to submit your application.

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.

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.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
A maximum of 1,000 words

A personal statement is required and must be in English. You can re-use the statement provided in your Scripps Research application.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

Written work

On rare occasions, written work may be requested from some applicants. You will be notified by the department and given more details of the assignment if it is required.

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