Life sciences interface Centres for Doctoral Training

Modern medicine and biology present many exciting challenges that require input from mathematicians, physicists, chemists and engineers. These Centres offer an exciting new multidisciplinary approach to PhD study. Each Centre has been funded to take around ten students per year.

Chemical Biology

  • Imperial College London

This Centre is based in the Department of Chemistry and run by the Chemical Biology Centre (CBC), a joint venture of Imperial College, the Institute for Cancer Research and the London Research Institute of Cancer Research UK. Chemical biology is the quantitative study of the function of gene products and how they interact with their cellular environment at the molecular level. Students at the Centre learn how to harness existing techniques and develop new ones for the study of biochemically important processes in and around biological membranes. Each student is jointly supervised by a biologist and a physical scientist.

Bio-nanotechnology, Medical Imaging and Bioinformatics

  • University of Oxford

The Life Sciences Interface Centre is based in a purpose-built interdisciplinary centre in the e-Science building, University of Oxford. The aim is to provide training at the life-sciences interface and facilitate research in the mathematical, physical and engineering-science techniques to underpin three application projects:

  • "From Medical Images and Signals to Clinical Information"
    (funded by EPSRC and Medical Research Council (MRC))
  • Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration in Bio-Nanotechnology
    (funded by EPSRC, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and MRC)
  • Oxford Centre for Gene Function
    (funded through the Joint Infrastructure Fund)

Maths and Physics in the Life Sciences and Experimental Biology

  • University College London

This Centre is based at the Centre for Mathematics and Physics in the Life Sciences and Experimental Biology (CoMPLEX). The programme extends over four years. In the first year, students follow a Research Masters (MRes) programme that introduces them to research at the life sciences interface. Students carry out three mini projects, with a four-month summer project that is written up as a research dissertation. There are two practical courses: experimental physics techniques and a ten day field course at the Laboratory of the Marine Biological Association, Plymouth. In the second year students begin their research project supervised by CoMPLEX members.

The main research theme of the Centre is the development of mathematical and physical science approaches to the analysis of complex behaviour in biological systems, with particular emphasis on mathematical and computer-modelling techniques. Students at the Centre have two supervisors from complementary sides of the life sciences interface to ensure the biological relevance of the problems they address.

Projects involving CoMPLEX members are being carried out in a wide range of departments at University College London, including Mathematics, Biology, Biochemical Engineering, Physics, Pharmacology and Physiology, as well as the Institute of Child Health and the Eastman Dental Institute.

Medical Devices and Related Materials

  • University of Strathclyde

Medical devices and related technologies are a core part of modern medicine and healthcare and are evolving rapidly as medicine and technology converge in the 21st century. Future needs in medical devices will require engineers, scientists and clinicians who can work together in multidisciplinary teams.

The Centre at the University of Strathclyde aims to provide the core life science skills and research training this challenging and important sector requires. The Centre is hosted by the Bioengineering Unit in association with the Strathclyde Institute of Biomedical Sciences and works in close harmony with the Medical Devices Faraday Partnership. The Centre is open to high quality engineering and physical science graduates and provides its students with the opportunity to work with medical companies and clinical groups on state of the art research projects aimed at developing new medical devices and related technology. Areas of research include:

  • Drug delivery and bioimaging
  • Medical diagnostic devices and instrumentation
  • Cardiovascular devices and diagnostics
  • Cell and tissue engineering
  • Orthopaedic devices
  • Microdevices
  • Biomaterials
  • Neuroprosthetics

Molecular Organisation and Assembly in Cells (MOAC)

  • University of Warwick

The main focus of

  • Mathematical modelling of biological systems
  • Mathematical and statistical analysis of complex data sets from genomic and post-genomic technologies
  • Development of computational techniques for data collection, analysis and experimental design
  • Physical analysis of the structure and function of bio-macromolecules, and their interactions in vitro and in vivo.


  • University of Edinburgh

Neuroinformatics is the emerging interdisciplinary field crossing the boundaries between the neuroscience-related life sciences, such as neurology, psychology and linguistics, and the information and physical sciences, such as computer science, mathematics and statistics. The aim of the Centre is to enable students with backgrounds in the information and physical sciences to gain a thorough grounding in the cognitive sciences, so that they can carry out original research in neuroinformatics. The programme is grouped around three main themes:

  • Computational modelling of brain and behaviour
  • Neural engineering - neurally inspired approaches to machine-learning applications
  • Software systems for data management and manipulation

Physical Methods and Life Sciences: Molecules to Cells

  • University of Leeds
  • University of Sheffield

This Centre is administered from the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leeds, and the Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Sheffield. The Centre is cross-faculty, with many physical science and biology departments involved. The aim of the Centre is to train doctoral scientists in basic and emerging techniques, both experimental and theoretical, to address a focused set of biological problem areas at the biomolecular and cellular level.

The physical techniques available include optical tweezers, atomic force microscopy, theoretical and computational biophysics, time-resolved electron microscopy, confocal microscopy, terahertz spectroscopy, biophotonics, and neutron and x-ray scattering. Target areas of study include nucleic acids, proteins, complexes, membranes, vesicles, aggregated protein states, bio-mineralisation processes, and bio-nanotechnology.

Proteomic Technologies

  • University of Glasgow
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Dundee

This Centre aims to train students in new technologies that will lie at the centre of future developments in proteomics. The major themes of the Centre are:

  • Instrument development: Lab-on-a-chip devices for single cell protein fractionation, Mass spectrometry (MS) with improved sensitivity and resolution.
  • New fractionation methodologies: Development of processes for rapid sub-cellular fractionation of very small (pL-scale) samples of protein complexes.
  • Functional analysis of the proteome: Improvements in MS analysis of post-translational modifications, Smart arraying technologies using functionally informative baits, New methods for quantification, New methodology for the analysis of dynamic and transient protein interactions.
  • Integration of genomic and proteomic data: To establish an integrated relational database to facilitate the storage, analysis and rapid dissemination of all available data.

Targeted therapeutics

  • University of Nottingham

The CDT in Advanced and Targeted Therapeutics is based at the University of Nottingham's School of Pharmacy and has been established in partnership with AstraZeneca. Targeted therapeutics is the science of delivering drugs where they are needed in the body - at the right time, in the right place, and at the right dose.

This was the first EPSRC CDT to be established in direct collaboration with an industry partner, and combines fundamental, multidisciplinary and pharmaceutically-focused research using the most modern instrumentation and facilities.

Systems Biology

  • University of Manchester

The CDT in Integrative Systems Biology from Molecule to Life (CDT-ISBML) sits within the Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre (MIB), and is closely allied with the BBSRC-EPSRC funded Manchester Centre for Integrative Systems Biology and the AstraZeneca Chair for Systems Biology.

In this Centre, students with a physical science, engineering, and/or mathematics background team up with students from biological and medical backgrounds to engage in training and research in various areas of systems biology. In the model system baker's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) all tools of systems biology are developed, with the aim of developing a complete computer replica of the organism. The same tools are applied to other systems, ranging from macromolecular machines such as ribosomes, to human beings with cancer, type-2 diabetes or sleeping sickness. Exemplar projects include:

  • Vertical genomics/hierarchical regulation analysis in yeast.
  • Anti-tumour drugs and systems biology.
  • Skin ecosystems biology.
  • From metabolomics up: data-driven hypothesis generation put into the context of the yeast model.
  • Systems biology of translation in yeast.
  • Yeast-silicon cell: carbon and energy metabolism.
  • The dynamics of signal transduction.

Systems Biology

  • University of Oxford

The main research focus of the Oxford Systems Biology Centre is in developing a systems approach to 'bridging the gap' between theoretical and experimental knowledge from the level of the individual protein to the level of the whole cell/organism. Research themes exemplifying the approach include the following:

  • Bacterial sensory networks
  • Pathway regulation in model organisms
  • Cellular hypoxia
  • Physiome modelling

These themes are linked directly to ten different departments within the university, each of which provides opportunities for DPhil projects to students from both mathematical and physical, and life sciences backgrounds.

Systems Biology

  • University of Warwick

Systems biology requires an ongoing collaboration between modeller/theoretician and experimentalist, such that the former understands the biological system and takes part in the design of new experiments, while the latter appreciates the principles of converting biological information into mathematical descriptions. The key aim of this Centre is to promote and develop such a two-way integration, and provide students with the requisite skills that could not possibly be provided by most life sciences PhD programmes. The major features of the Centre are:

  • Detailed, individually tailored training in the mathematical, statistical and computational approaches that underpin systems biology research.
  • Personalised training in the laboratory and data collection techniques required to work with biological problems at a system-wide level.
  • State of the art multidisciplinary PhD projects on a wide range of model bacterial, animal and plant systems.

Regenerative Medicine

  • University of Loughborough
  • University of Nottingham
  • Keele University

Continued improvement in the nation's health depends upon the efficient development of affordable replacement human tissue and related therapies; an acute shortage of willing organ donors and the shortcomings of conventional therapies leads to the preventable death of many patients each year. The next healthcare revolution will apply regenerative medicines, creating biological therapies or substitutes for the replacement or restoration of tissue function lost through failure or disease.

This Centre is integrated across three Universities (Loughborough, Nottingham and Keele) with highly complementary expertise where students are trained in the core skills needed to work at the life science/engineering interface and then engaged in strategic research programmes designed to address the major challenges in the emerging field of Regenerative Medicine.

Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine

  • White Rose - Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York

At this Centre, students based in a multi-disciplinary engineering and biology environment have access to supervision from at least two leading academics in engineering and biology, and excellent facilities including a state of the art tissue engineering laboratories and clean rooms for the development of materials for clinical use.

This provides ideal training for a career in research and development in the tissue engineering field as well as providing invaluable experience in industry and clinical applications. Over the four year period of the PhD, the programme aims to provide research, clinical and industrial training within an interdisciplinary and innovative environment, applying advanced multidisciplinary basic sciences to market-led engineering research challenges in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

Physical Sciences of Imaging for the Biomedical Sciences (PSIBS)

  • University of Birmingham

This Centre offers a four year integrated MSc and PhD programme in Imaging at the Life Sciences Interface.

Combining taught modules, practical research experience and transferable skills packages with a major PhD research project, the PSIBS programme seeks to train a generation of scientists for whom the principles of imaging, physics, chemistry, molecular biology, bioengineering, physiology and data analysis will form an intellectual continuum.

The course particularly develops the physics, chemistry and computer science that support modern imaging to address key questions in biology and medicine. PSIBS students work with chemists and physicists to gain expertise in different imaging techniques and molecular probe design, with computer scientists for complex modelling and image analysis, and with life scientists drawn from the Schools of Biosciences, Medicine and Dentistry. A number of international industrial scientific companies and other bodies are partners in the programme and also deliver taught materials on the course.