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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 wider University community,  also feel free to ask Jen Drumond Baptista (, our HR and Postgraduate Coordinator, or Thury Agustsdottir (,  our  Departmental Administrator. If you have any questions related to the Postgraduate Student and Postdoc Committee please email

A Postgraduate handbook is available to download here.

With best wishes,

Pharmacology PG Team

Postdoc Academy

The University has a dedicated postdoctoral community group, which aims to enable Cambridge postdocs to realise their potential. This is the Postdoc Academy.

They can support you through their four pillars of activity:

  • Information: Bringing postdocs the information they need, and when they need it
  • Community: Fostering a sense of belonging for all postdocs
  • Advocacy: Working with the community to solve issues
  • Professional Development: Helping postdocs develop for their current role and beyond

Learn more about the Academy on its website.

1st Year

First-year assessment

The Department of Pharmacology is part of the Postgraduate School of Life Sciences (PSLS). The School requires that there is a formal assessment of the progress of a PhD student towards the end of the first year of study. This is a written report of the research undertaken. The process involves an examination of the research report, and 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 decides 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 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 based on 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 30 September (for Michaelmas Term start), 31 December (Lent Term start), or 31 March (Easter Term start).



Between the end of the first term (end of November or December) and the middle of the second term (end of January), the PG 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.


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 PG students. Current PG students and administration staff are also welcome to join. The PG Coordinator will contact the students and will organise the schedule.

2nd and 3rd Year


Between the end of the first term (end of Nov or Dec) and the middle of the second term (end of Jan), the PG 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.

Final Year


Two months before you are due to submit, you are required to fill in an Intention to submit form (Intention to submit form ( This will allow the PG 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 PG 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 PG Coordinator with contact you with more information.

Supervisors and Postgraduate Advisors

Your Supervisor is the person who is primarily responsible for guiding your research during the PhD. You will also have a postgraduate Advisor. This will be someone from within the University who can advise you on the research thus allowing independent input into the project. In addition, all students are encouraged to contact a member of the Departmental Postgraduate Education Committee (DPEC) if they have any problems or concerns.  

With the exception of students on Doctoral Training Programmes such as the BBSRC-DTP, who may already have written a research proposal as part of their Programme, every new PhD student is required to submit a 3000-word research proposal to their supervisor for assessment by the end of their first 6-weeks. This proposal intends to challenge you to think for yourselves about the research you are here to do and to start reading relevant literature. You and your supervisor will have a formal meeting to discuss the proposal. The proposal should also be sent to the DPEC for their records, and we recommend that students send it to their Advisor to form the basis for an introductory meeting.

At the end of their first 3 months in the Department (i.e. in December, March or June) every student will have an appraisal meeting with their supervisor, based on a template appraisal form to be filled in separately by the student and supervisor before the meeting. Meetings with their advisor are the responsibility of the students, we recommend they should take place at least every 6 months. 

Personal Progress Log

The Postgraduate School of Life Sciences offers a range of training and development opportunities. Your Personal Progress Log serves as a means of recording and reviewing your training and development as a postgraduate student. As well as gaining valuable skills through the training itself, you will find that the information accumulated in this Log will be helpful when you come to updating your C.V. and applying for jobs.  

The document belongs to you - it is your responsibility to keep it up to date and to ensure your supervisor is aware of the training activities you have undertaken. You should discuss your training requirements with your supervisor at the start of your first year, and you are advised to re-evaluate your progress regularly – at least at the beginning of each subsequent year. It is particularly important to carry out such a review at the start of your first year to help you make the most of your time in Cambridge. There is also a self-assessment tool to help you to do this; you should keep the results in your Log.   

Your Log is an essential part of your first-year assessment and must be submitted with your first-year report. Make sure your Log is in a final form and up to date when you submit your dissertation. The Degree Committee reserves the right to request a copy of your Log, and a copy should be provided to the Department.


Every year the Department offers teaching and practical classes to over 450 undergraduates from Natural Sciences Tripos as well as Medical and Veterinary Sciences Tripos, which involves both lectures and laboratory practicals.  

During the practical sessions, the academic and teaching staff are supported by post-docs and postgraduate students who help out with demonstrating a variety of experiments. These are a great way to get some teaching experience within the department and, as with any other teaching commitments, demonstrating is paid at the standard rates. 

If you would like to get involved with demonstrating contact Dr Andrzej Szewczak-Harris ( A short training course is given at the beginning of every academic year. Following this, you train by attending two experimental sessions during your first year, which you will then supervise in the subsequent years.