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Cambridge Biosciences BBSRC DTP


Applications for the SBS DTP 2021 Programme are now closed

Applicants seeking to join the School of Biological Sciences (SBS)  DTP 4-year funded PhD degree programme in 2021 should apply to the department/institute of their choice in the first instance, taking account of departmental and institutional deadlines. Participating departments will assess and select eligible applicants for this programme.

There are up to 14 fully funded four-year PhD studentships available across the following departments and institutes. Follow the links for more information about how to apply.

SBS DTP 2020

In 2020, sixteen students were recruited to the School of Biological Sciences (SBS)  DTP 4-year funded PhD degree programme and are based in a number of departments and institutes: 

  • Department of Biochemistry
  • Department of Genetics
  • Department of Pathology
  • Department of Pharmacology
  • Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience
  • Department of Plant Sciences
  • Department of Veterinary Medicine
  • Department of Zoology
  • Gurdon Institute
  • The Sainsbury Laboratory
  • MRC Toxicology Unit
  • Babraham Institute
  • National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB)


In addition to your own Department Postgraduate Administrator, you can also contact the DTP team for any issues related to PIPS and training:

  • Professor Chris Smith - DTP Programme Director
  • Dr David Sargan - Chair of Training Committee
  • Sandra Di Eleonora - DTP Coordinator
  • Yolibeth Lopez - DTP Administrator
  • General enquiries -

Programme Structure

The School of Biological Sciences (SBS) DTP Programme is a 4-year, full-time PhD degree. During the PhD project, you will continue to undertake further research skills and subject-specific training, and spend 12 weeks undertaking a Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS). 

Students must successfully complete a First Year Registration Assessment before the end of their first year in order to progress to year 2 and be formally registered for the degree.

The final thesis is due for submission no later than 48 months after the course start date. For students starting in October 2020, the final date for submission of a thesis is 30 September 2024.

Professional Internships for PhD students

A distinctive feature of the SBS DTP is that all students undertake a 3-month internship during the 4-year PhD programme. The professional internship should be unrelated to your PhD project and provides the opportunity to experience a different working environment. This could be in a large company, a small start-up (of which there are many to choose from in the Cambridge area), in scientific publishing, outreach or policy development in the private, public and voluntary sectors. Previous PIPS have been hosted by AstraZeneca, Cambridge Cancer Genomics Ltd, UL EHS Sustainability, Alzheimer's Research UK, Royal Society of Biology, The Company of Biologists, The Naked Scientists, Entomics Biosystems Ltd, to name a few.

The PIPS experience has been highly valued by previous students and in some cases has led to subsequent job offers from the host organization, publications, and even the know-how to spin-out a company.

We recommend that the internship should take place during the second or third year of your studies. The exact timing will depend on when it will fit with your PhD project and the availability of the internship placements within your host organization.
We aim to run an annual PIPS event where you can hear about previous PIPS experiences from both the student and host organization perspectives, and meet with representatives of potential hosts.

You will continue to receive your stipend throughout the internship and there are some funds available (up to £1000) to cover expenses related to PIPS such as for travel or accommodation. Sometimes, the host organisation might also contribute to the cost of your expenses.

There is an online platform (Moodle site) to support PIPS with guidance on how to prepare for your internship, find a suitable placement and the necessary forms to complete. The SBS DTP Programme Office will also provide support throughout the process on an ad hoc basis. Further details are in your Student Handbook.

Training and Networking

The SBS DTP includes a programme of training and cohort building events spread across the four years. We expect all students who have been enrolled in the training to attend every session; the training is an integral part of your course aimed at your personal development for future careers. 

Our training programme has been developed according to the Cambridge Researcher Development Framework (CamRDF). The CamRDF maps out the skills and personal qualities needed to conduct up-to-date, professional research, in what is an ever more interdisciplinary and international context. It breaks this down into fifteen competencies, all of which are highly valued and sought after by employers both within and beyond academia. The competencies are grouped into four inter-connected areas: Personal Effectiveness, Engaging Others, Career Progression and Research Expertise. You can find out more here

The training activities throughout the four years of the programme have been colour-coded to indicate how they map onto the Framework and the programme is available in your Student Handbook.

To support the start of your researcher development training, we have identified four main themes that we believe will help you in your first year: establishing new relationships, academic writing and data management and research ethics. Early in the first year and in subsequent years you will use a Skills Analysis Survey, an online resource designed to help you assess your existing skill-set against the core competencies of the CamRDF. This will help you to build a plan of where you'd like to focus your development efforts.

Training in Years 2-4 will also focus on specific themes appropriate to the stage of your PhD: resilience and presenting with impact in year 2, planning your career, publishing your research and profile raising in year 3, and writing your PhD, preparing for your viva and finding your future employment in year 4. Detailed timetables will be provided at the start of each academic year.

A number of cohort-building and inter-cohort activities, involving students from across year groups, will complement the training. These include annual PIPS events and also the annual DTP Symposium. The Symposium is organised by second year DTP students and features research talks and posters from DTP students from different year groups across a wide range of science, as well as talks from invited speakers. The first Symposium this year will be held online on October 26-27 (delayed from July due to COVID-19).

In addition to the training organised by the DTP Office you will also have access to a large range of training opportunities offered by the University Training service and your Department or Partner Institute. You should use the DTP programme as a base upon which you can build more specialised training tailored to your interests and needs (as informed by your ongoing Skills Analysis Survey). You will also have access to a fund of £920, which can be used during your PhD to cover travel expenses to conferences.