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Funding and scholarships for students

Award details

University of Exeter’s Living Systems Institute - PhD Studentships 2022/23 Ref: 4207

About the award

Understanding and manipulating living systems requires the ability to control how cells behave in a precise and specific manner. Given the complexity of biological processes, discoveries that will ultimately lead to successful applications are likely to emerge from research in the context of the whole living system. Research in the Living Systems Institute (LSI) addresses biological mechanism on all scales, spanning all disciplines and using the latest technology. This integrated interdisciplinary approach is aimed both at fundamental discoveries and at enabling innovation in healthcare and therapy.

Programme overview

Modern scientific innovation involves the integration of diverse fields and the bridging of pure and application-oriented research. This requires a new generation of scientists who are trained to think and experiment beyond traditional boundaries. The recently established Living Systems Institute provides this opportunity by housing world leading Biologists, Physicists, Mathematicians, Computational Scientists and Engineers who work together using cutting-edge technologies. Our mission is to understand life across all scales - from individual atoms to whole organisms - and to discover approaches for improving health and treating disease.

We wish to recruit highly motivated and imaginative students from across the full range of disciplines to join our thriving community of over 50 PhD students.


Places are fully funded with funding also available for overseas applicants.  This includes payment of tuition fees, a personal stipend for 3.5 years (currently £15,609 per year 2021/22) and a training budget.

We also welcome applications from candidates who can provide partial or full-funding from other sources.


The variety of research systems, fields and approaches in the Living Systems Institute provide a multitude of training opportunities for our PhD students.  Throughout your studies we support you to develop a broad skillset. We tailor training needs on an individual basis, including secondment opportunities in other labs within the institute. Our interdisciplinary training programme includes physical, mathematical and computational analyses of living systems alongside exposure to the latest techniques in molecular cell biology. 

Research Culture

You will join a friendly and diverse community of students within the Living Systems Institute. Our research staff and students experience a vibrant research culture. Within the programme, PhD student-led seminar series’, journal clubs and discussion groups are aimed at developing peer-to-peer learning and discourse.

PhD project

Our cross-disciplinary faculty are spread over four broad research themes:

  • Biosensing: elucidating and exploiting the modalities by which biological systems sense and respond to their environments
  • Physics of Living Systems: combining biology, physics and mathematics to reveal the organisation and dynamics of living systems
  • Engineering Biology: deconstructing and reconstructing biological phenomina from molecular and cellular component parts
  • Modelling: developing and analysing mathematical models to explain and predict function and dysfunction in biological systems

The project will usually be co-supervised by two academics from different fields. 

Find out more

More information on supervisors and sample interdisciplinary projects can be found on the Living Systems Institute website at

Entry requirements

Applicants must hold a university degree that is accepted by the University of Exeter for registration as a graduate student such as a BSc, MSc or equivalent with first or upper second class honours.  We encourage applicants from a wide range of backgrounds across, Biological, Medical and Physical Sciences as well as Engineering and Computation. Students must provide evidence for proficiency in English by a certified test such as IELTS.  For more information about the English Language requirements see

Funding is available for overseas students. 

The PhD programme has a strong commitment towards inclusivity, we therefore welcome applications from individuals regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age, gender, or disability status.

How to apply

To apply for funding, you must do so by clicking on the ‘apply now’ button above.

You will need to upload the following documents to the studentship application form. Please note our preferred format is PDF, each file named with your surname and the name of the document, eg. “Smith – CV.pdf”, “Smith – Cover Letter.pdf”, “Smith – Transcript.pdf”:

• Your CV
• A personal statement that should include why you are interested in interdisciplinary approaches to research.
  You should also express your preference of which research projects you are interest in (up to three) from the list available
   on the LSI webpages
• Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained 
• If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your
   current proficiency in English.  For further details of the University’s English language requirements please
• Please ensure that two references are submitted by the application closing date of 10 January 2022
   Alternatively references can be sent directly to, thought must be received by the closing date.

The deadline for applications is midday Monday 10 January 2022.

References should be submitted to us directly in the form of a letter. Referees must email their references to us from their institutional email accounts. We cannot accept references from personal/private email accounts, unless it is a scanned document on institutional headed paper and signed by the referee.

All application documents must be submitted in English. Certified translated copies of academic qualifications must also be provided.


Application deadline:10th January 2022
Value:Tuition fees and an annual stipend allowance at Research Council rates, currently £15,609 per year for 2022-23
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Admissions team