Overview of admissions

PhD students at the LMB apply to join an individual research group, usually to do a defined project.  The list of groups offering projects is updated every year.  We will exceptionally consider applications to groups not listed in the PhD projects website, but mostly this will not be possible due to the small size of the groups at the LMB.  The number of successful applicants is limited by the funding – 20-30 per year, so not all the projects listed will be granted a student place.

We ask applicants to list up to 3 potential supervisors. It is advisable to consider groups in related areas, since your preferred group might have many applicants in the same year. This is particularly useful for candidates that are invited for interview as during the process they can learn about the different groups and their lab culture to make informed decisions about their choice. However, this is optional, and it is possible to apply to just one group.

We are looking for strong candidates that will contribute to the science in the LMB and have potential as researchers. During the admissions process we will consider the academic record and the comments from referees as well as the research experience and achievements of the applicants. We are mindful that the extent of research opportunity and publications can vary a lot depending on background and undergraduate training, for example some countries have longer undergraduate courses, different master requirements, offer short courses and practical research, etc, and all these are put into context when evaluating potential.

Applicants will be reviewed by each group leader that they apply to.  Each group leader nominate their top applicants who will be invited for interview during the PhD recruitment days – the second or third week of January. The interviews include one-to-one meetings with the potential supervisor and a panel interview that usually includes a Head of Division and a second group leader.  The interviews take approximately 15-20 minutes and candidates might be asked to discuss any past research experience or research interests.

The interview day includes meeting with current members of the group; general information on the PhD programme at the LMB, meeting with current students; and a question and answer session with the Director of Studies and the LMB Director.

Separate shortlisting applies to candidates eligible for the LMB international scholarships, with up to 20 candidates usually shortlisted and interviewed separately by the LMB scholarship panel which consist of group leaders representing all four Divisions.

We can only base our shortlisting decisions on the information that we receive through the Application portal, so please ensure that all documents are uploaded on time. We try to match applicants to their preferred topic and supervisor, so it is important that you take time to prepare your statement of interest and that you give some thought to how to showcase your initiative, original ideas, any lab experience and your way of thinking.

We are keen to recruit brilliant future scientists regardless of their origin or background. We are rewarded with training young people to solve problems and be creative in science and apply these skills to any area, including outside academia.  The LMB PhD has successfully trained many independent women and men to become group leaders and is lucky to recruit a gender-balanced mix of students from the UK, Europe and the wider world.

Debunking urban myths about the LMB PhD admissions:


You only get a place if you have been a summer student at the LMB

False. While many PhD students have previously done summer placements at the LMB, it is absolutely not required to be granted admission – it’s just a good indication of how much students like it here at the LMB that they are keen to come back!

Group Leaders at LMB will only consider applicants that apply only to them

False. Your application will not suffer if you put down more than one lab in your application. We also ensure that strong applicants are considered even by groups that they may not have applied to.

You need a paper and lab experience or a Masters to be considered for a PhD at the LMB

False. We frequently accept students without papers or Masters degrees to the LMB PhD programme, and encourage those who may have different skills to apply. Having said that, lab experience and/or a Masters degree helps your application to stand out, especially for those applying for the international scholarships.

Applicants at LMB are expected to design their own PhD project

False. Most students are given a few ideas at the start and are encouraged to shape the direction of their project. LMB students have the space to show their creativity and it is possible to undertake a completely novel project at the LMB. Applicants do not have to make up a new project from thin air! We just ask applicants to discuss the projects that they are interested as part of the application. We want to know how you think!

You will not be considered if you have not been in contact with the group leader before applying

False. It is not necessary to make contact with a specific group leader prior to submitting your application. However, this can be very useful and some applicants do make contact to introduce themselves and learn more about the group or even visit. Don’t lose heart if the group leader doesn’t reply to your email! Some group leaders receive too many queries and are unable to respond to all of them. (Some group leaders need 2 or 3 emails from applicants before they reply! or will only focus on students near the application deadlines).

The LMB only takes Oxbridge UK students

False. We admit students based on their potential to do excellent science, not on which university they attend. More than 2/3 of our students are funded by the MRC and are UK graduates from all over the UK. If you have heard of us, spread the word or enrol for the University of Cambridge Postgraduate Open day (1st November) to visit and learn more about the LMB PhD programme.

You need to secure your own funding to get a PhD at the LMB

False. Every student that we accept is fully funded from diverse sources and our candidates have an excellent track record in obtaining competitive funding (i.e. Gates, Boehringer). We consider all applicants for the Cambridge funding and international scholarships they are eligible for, so please ensure that you indicate in the application portal that you wish to be considered for all funding that you believe to be eligible for. Applicants who are unsuccessful in obtaining the LMB scholarships may be awarded funding from other sources (eg. Gates Cambridge scholarships).