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Department of Pharmacology


We are pleased to welcome you to the Department of Pharmacology!

We hope you will find it useful in becoming part of our Pharmacology community.

Should you have further questions about the Department and the wider University community, please do not hesitate to email If you have any questions related to the Postgraduate Student and Postdoc Committee please email

A Postgraduate handbook is available to read via this link.

With best wishes,

Pharmacology PG Team

Postgraduate Studies Overview

The Department of Pharmacology admits 15-20 postgraduate (PhD and MPhil) students per year and offers comprehensive facilities for research in purpose-built laboratories situated near the other biological departments in the centre of Cambridge.

Research Studentships to study for the PhD degree are awarded on a competitive basis and supported by research councils, medical research charities, industrial sponsors and by University schemes. In addition to these funding opportunities, the department may also offer studentships, including the David James Studentship.

Information on current research studentships can be found on the Jobs page of our website.

The research areas of the department include:

  • Investigating mediators and mechanisms of visceral pain in gastrointestinal diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (Bulmer lab)
  • Innovating Protein Technologies for Therapeutic and Vaccine Design (Howarth lab)
  • Molecular and pharmacological regulation of platelets and coagulation in thrombosis and haemostasis (Harper lab)
  • Protein engineering and molecular therapeutics to interrogate and target protein-protein interactions; targeted protein degradation (Itzhaki lab)
  • Understanding epithelial cancer initiation at the single cell resolution (Khaled lab)
  • The molecular basis of agonist bias at GPCRs, including adenosine receptors, class B peptide receptors and olfactory receptors (Cell Signalling Group)
  • Ubiquitin pathways and targeted protein degradation (Lindon lab)
  • Computational pharmacology and structural bioinformatics (Marti Solano Lab)
  • DNA nanostructure development and aptamer selection (Mela Lab)
  • Antibody pharmacological tool development and CNS delivery (Miller lab)
  • Ion channel structure and function; computer-aided drug design and discovery (Rahman lab)
  • The molecular basis of pain and extremophile biology of the naked mole-rat (Smith lab)
  • Antimicrobial and anticancer drug resistance (Van Veen lab)
  • Regenerative medicine (Wilson lab)

Please also take note of our Code of Practice for Research Students.

Lifecycle of a PG Student

First-year assessment

The Department of Pharmacology is part of the Postgraduate School of Life Sciences (PSLS).  It is a requirement of the School that there is a formal assessment of the progress of a PhD student towards the end of the first year of study and that this involves a written report of the research undertaken. The process involves an examination of the research report, input from your supervisor, primarily through the termly supervision reports submitted to CamSIS, and may include a review of the entries in your Progress Log.  The assessment is overseen by the DPEC, which makes the decision on PhD registration at the end of your first year.

You should discuss the CamSIS reports formally with your supervisor during the year, as they provide a valuable guide to the progress you are making throughout the year. You can also submit self-evaluations of your progress on CamSIS as well as viewing and commenting on your supervision reports.

Students are expected to undertake advanced study and training in Biological Sciences, which includes:

  • Attending relevant final-year undergraduate lectures or research seminars
  • Researcher development training run by PSLS on topics such as managing your research and writing your first-year report  
  • Training required for Health and Safety reasons

As well as carrying out a sustained research project over a period of about 9-months.

Report Structure

The report on this research will be not more than 9,000 words in length, exclusive of tables, footnotes, bibliography and appendices.  In it, you need to provide evidence to satisfy the examiners that you can design and carry out investigations, assess and interpret the results obtained, and place the work in the wider perspective of the subject. You must also provide sufficient detail and timelines for the proposed future work so that the examiners can assess its feasibility. The format of the report must include the following:  

  • A short abstract (300 words)
  • Introduction, a review of the relevant literature (no more than 3000 words)
  • Methods and materials (brief and concise - no more than 4 pages). If required detailed methods can be placed in an appendix
  • Results section, a description of your experimental work - this should be presented in a format along the guidelines of the British Journal of Pharmacology.
  • Discussion, as appropriate to the results obtained (no more than 2000 words)
  • Experimental plan for the following years of the PhD. A timeline should be included and anticipated milestones (minimum of 1500 words)
  • References (no more than 50)


The deadlines for submission of the first-year assessment for full-time students are 30 June for students who start their course in the Michaelmas Term, 30 September for those who start in the Lent Term, and 31 December for those who start in the Easter Term. For Doctoral Training Programme students starting their PhD in June after their rotations are complete, the date for submission will be the end of February following. Deadlines for part-time students will be adjusted to reflect their study time. You will need to submit the first-year assessment to the PG Coordinator.


The examination is not likely to be earlier than 3 weeks after you submit. The report will be examined by two people, neither of whom is your supervisor and one of whom is very likely to be your advisor.  At least one of the examiners will be from within the Department and both will be from within Cambridge. Before the oral examination (normally lasting 1-2 hours), they will read your dissertation and then write and sign independent reports in which they will make preliminary recommendations as to whether the dissertation provides evidence that you are likely to be successful in gaining a PhD if you continue the project.  After the oral examination, they will write a joint report in which they make a final joint recommendation to the DPEC, though they may require you to make corrections or amendments to your dissertation before making their recommendation.

The examiners submit a copy of the recommendation form and report to the Director of PG Education and the PG Coordinator (see appendix 1).


The DPEC decides on the basis of the reports on your dissertation and the oral examination, your termly supervision reports, and the recommendation of your supervisor, whether or not you should proceed as a postgraduate student. It is expected that the vast majority of students will continue their studies and be recommended for registration for a PhD. The DPEC also looks for evidence of a clear plan of work for the second and third years of research; if your examiners are not satisfied from the dissertation and oral examination that such a plan exists, you may be asked by the DPEC to provide one before a decision on PhD registration is reached. This procedure is intended to be a safeguard for you. The DPEC will aim to reach a decision on continuation and registration for a PhD no later than 30st of September (for Michaelmas Term start), 31st of December (Lent Term start), or 31st of March (Easter Term start).

1st Year Talks

Towards the end of September, after your first year viva, you will be invited to do a talk on your current thesis topic. The talk itself should be 10 minutes long; this will be followed by 5 minutes of questions from the audience.

The talk will be attended by the academic staff of the department and the new postgraduate students. Current postgraduate students and administration staff are also welcome to join. The Postgraduate Coordinator will contact the students and will organise the schedule.

2nd and 3rd Year Check In

Between the end of the first term (end of November or December) and the middle of the second term (end of January), the Postgraduate Coordinator will contact you to organise a meeting.

This is not a formal meeting and is not related to your academic progression. This is to check on student welfare and well-being, to ensure you are establishing good working relationships with your lab members and supervisor, to ensure you feel supported by your supervisor or if you would like to raise any concerns.

The PG Coordinator will also hold office hours every 2 weeks, where students can come in for a chat though please note that urgent issues should be communicated and addressed immediately.

Final Year Submissions

Two months before you are due to submit, you are required to fill in an Intention to submit form. This will allow the Postgraduate Coordinator to complete the admin process for your viva, such as the appointment of examiners.

If you have any concerns about your submission date, please discuss this with your supervisor or with the Postgraduate Coordinator.

Final Year Talks

After submission, you will be invited to present a Final Year Talk. This usually takes place in September/October every year. The Postgraduate Coordinator with contact you with more information.