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Integrative Neuroscience

We offer an exceptional research environment with world class facilities for all areas of neuroscience.

This programme is now closed for applications for 2019 entry. Applications for 2020 entry will open in due course.

Our four-year programme provides a broader and more in-depth practical and theoretical grounding in neuroscience than conventional three-year programmes.

Early in year one you will receive formal lectures in research design, statistics, lab safety, animal welfare and ethical standards, and attend a series of specialised lecture courses in behavioural, cellular, molecular, genetic and system neuroscience.

In the second part of year one, you will experience three 11-week laboratory rotations in internationally renowned labs. During the lab rotations, you will carry out research, gain knowledge of the questions addressed by the lab, and acquire direct experience of the relevant techniques.

Lab rotations help you to reach an informed choice of the neuroscience area and supervisor you will choose for your full PhD project during years two to four. Throughout all the years you and your colleagues will participate in weekly seminars and presentations at journal clubs.

The programme is designed to ensure an excellent PhD experience and an outstanding future.

Programme aims

To give students a varied experience in integrative neuroscience research techniques, ranging from the genetic, cellular, and behavioural, incorporating methods such as genetic sequencing and human imaging.

Distinctive features

This programme is jointly taught by the School of Medicine, School of Psychology and the School of Biosciences.

Students will benefit from:

  • generous stipend of over £19,919 per annum
  • tuition fees paid by the Wellcome Trust for EU and Home students
  • Financial Support for all research consumables
  • £1,500 for travel
  • £1,700 for training

Key facts

Mode of study Full-time
Qualification PhD
Full-time duration PhD 4 years
Start dates October
Application deadline(s) Closing Date of applications – Monday 31 December 2018 (please note that the University will be closed for the Christmas holidays from Friday 21 December and will not reopen until Wednesday 2 January 2019). Applications received after 31 December 2018 will not be considered.


The key components in the first 16 weeks (up to the first laboratory rotation) cover the areas of Neuropsychiatry, Vision and Action, Developmental Psychopathology in Childhood Adolescence, Molecular Neuroscience, Neuroscience of Learning and Memory. These issue-focussed modules are complemented by the skills-based training modules in Research, Design and Statistics in Neuroscience.

The latter modules include substantial applied and practical components. All modules have explicit learning outcomes including Knowledge and Understanding, Discipline Specific and Transferable Skills. Once laboratory rotations start (week 18), the lecture component is scaled down so that students will only attend one additional issue-based module. For the third laboratory rotation (week 40), there are no concurrent taught modules, the extra time helping you with the critical decision concerning their research programme for years two to four.

Module assessment

You will undergo regular tests as part of the Postgraduate Research Design and Statistics PST010/PST011 module.

Additional courses

In addition to these time-tabled lectures, you will receive formal training on a number of essential topics (eg health and safety procedures in the various suites of laboratories, COSHH).

You will also complete an accredited Home Office training course (which is put on several times a year by Cardiff University). This course is followed by a formal examination, and is an essential pre-requisite for a Personal Licence.

Laboratory rotations

The parallel laboratory rotations start in week nine (late November) and all three rotations follow the same structure. Prior to starting, in week five, you will decide on the rotations you will take. A final set of first and second preferences will be provided by the end of week five. The Programme Director and Deputy will then confirm the allocation of laboratory placements, ensuring a suitable balance for each student and ensuring proportionate supervisory loads across supervisors.

To aid the your selection, potential supervisors will help compile a handbook with suggested mini-projects at the start of each academic year.

You will work on a mini-project for a nine week period, then you will have two weeks to complete two tasks:

  1. To submit a succinct report on the mini-project - this report will be a maximum of 2,500 words and will be in the style of a Journal of Neuroscience paper (e.g., Introduction a maximum of 400 words, Discussion no more than 1200 words). These reports will be read and assessed (with feedback) by the rotation supervisor and a second, independent assessor from a different school.
  2. To give a brief PowerPoint presentation on the study (10 mins, followed by a discussion). The session of five presentations (one from each PhD student) will be attended by the Directors of Postgraduate research, the other PhD students, and the rotation supervisors.

You will then receive formal feedback on the report and the presentation by your supervisory team. Presentations will be graded as either ‘Accept', 'Minor revision', 'Major revision' or 'Reject', and feedback provided on each aspect of the presentation. The three rotations provide invaluable first-hand experience of research techniques, a taster for specific research issues, and provide a method of assessment of progress.

The completion of the rotations and their associated reports and presentations take you to a crucial two week period. During this time you and your potential supervisor(s) will decide, by mutual agreement, on a suitable research project for a PhD. Students and supervisors will be encouraged throughout to engage in a project that combines multiple approaches.

Note: the supervisors for year two to four need not come from the mini-projects (laboratory rotation), although this may sometimes occur.

Years two to four

Towards the end of the first year, you, the Programme Director and the Deputy Directors will agree on a research plan and the principal supervisor. The principal supervisor will determine the ‘Home School’ of the student for years two to four. Prior to that, the home school for all students will be the School of Medicine to foster a sense of identity and to provide a strong, peer-support network.

Student welfare and progress

On enrolment you will be assigned a Personal Tutor, Director of the four-year PhD programme, who will follow you throughout the four years of the course providing both academic advice and overseeing your general welfare. You will also be assigned the Schools of Medicine as your ‘Home School’. In years two to four the student’s ‘Home School’ will be that of your PhD supervisor.

Your progress will be monitored by a dedicated committee that will include the Programme Director, the Programme Deputy Director, The Director of Postgraduate Studies of the chosen School. You will be part of a larger neuroscience community of academic researchers, postdocs and other neuroscience PhD students. Career advice will be provided at the start of year four to ensure proper progress to a suitable postdoc employment.

The breadth and depth of our expertise ranges from the phenotypic analysis of single gene mutations to the characterisation of gene-environment interplay in psychiatric and neurological, and from imaging intracellular calcium in single dendritic spines to combined EEG and fMRI during attentional tasks in humans.

Our neuroscience researchers are among the international leaders in their respective fields. The 2008 Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology was awarded to Professor Sir Martin Evans of the School of Biosciences for his pioneering work on stem cells. Research labs are equipped with the most up-to-date facilities to address key questions of basic and clinical Neuroscience. All neuroscientists have substantial financial support that has been won in peer-reviewed competitions.

PhD students have a great opportunity to join neuroscience research that is of the highest international standard and is likely to result in publication in top neuroscience journals.

We are committed to supporting and promoting equality and diversity and to creating an inclusive working environment. We believe this can be achieved through attracting, developing, and retaining a diverse range of people from many different backgrounds who have the ambition to contribute to our programme which seeks to fulfill our social, cultural and economic obligation to Cardiff, Wales, and the world.  In supporting our postgraduate students to achieve a balance between their work and their personal lives, we will also consider proposals for flexible working arrangements.

Our applicants

We receive about 150 applications a year for 5 to 6 studentships of which 60% are home (UK) applicants, 22% EU and 18% overseas. 60% of applicants identify as female and 40% as male. Application of unbiased selection criteria result in the same proportion of women and men being invited to interview, given offers and being enrolled on the programme.

Our student profiles

63% of successful candidates are British, 28% EU and 9% overseas. 34% had a postgraduate Master’s degree or equivalent. Psychology or a related course is the most common first degree (40%) and of these student’s half went on to a non-psychology research related PhD. Other first degrees include Biomedicine, Neuroscience, Natural Sciences, Biochemistry, Generics, Biotechnology, Management and Economics, and Medicine. We welcome applications from Maths, Engineering and Physics students and have plenty of PhD project opportunities for students with these backgrounds. 100% students are successful at the final viva voce examination.

Our students’ futures

70% of our graduates have moved to an Early Career Researcher position in academia, while 8% move up to similar positions in industry. 9% have gone on to scientific publishing and writing. The remaining 13% are pursuing careers in the civil service and other related regulatory bodies.


UK government postgraduate doctoral loans

Candidates for the Professional Doctorate programme may be eligible to apply for a UK government postgraduate doctoral loan.

Find out more about UK government postgraduate doctoral loans


The Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute (NMHRI) and the Wellcome Trust are offering five fully funded PhD scholarships to students of this programme.

Studentships will include:

  • generous stipend of over £19,919 per annum
  • tuition fees paid by the Wellcome Trust for EU and Home students
  • Financial Support for all research consumables
  • £1,500 for travel
  • £1,700 for training

We welcome applications from overseas candidates. Should they be successful, they will need to pay the difference between the home/EU and overseas fees. We do have a very small number of overseas bursaries to cover this difference; however, this is at the discretion of the programme directors.

You can search our studentships or find out more about funding.

Tuition fees

UK and EU students

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

Students from outside the EU

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

This programme is now closed for applications for 2019 entry. Applications for 2020 entry will open in due course.

Your online application must include the following supporting documents in order to be eligible for shortlisting:

  • A personal statement in support of your application telling us your reasons for wanting to study Integrative Neuroscience as a 4-year PhD programme and why you think you're suitable. This combined should be no more than 3,000 characters (including spaces).
  • Two referee letters of support.
    • Important: Unfortunately due to the high volume of applications received we cannot request references, therefore it is the applicant’s responsibility to request and upload references to their application.
  • A CV detailing education and relevant work experience.
  • Academic certificates/transcripts

Interviews will take place on 23 and 24 January 2019.

Research proposal

A research proposal is not required for this PhD scheme (please enter 'N/A' in the Research Proposal section).

First or Upper Second Class in a biological science (eg neuroscience, psychology, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, genetics, biochemistry) or other discipline (mathematics, engineering, physics, computer sciences). As this is a training doctorate, previous relevant research experience is not necessary, but a demonstrable interest in neuroscience is essential.

English language requirements

Applicants whose first language is not English are normally expected to meet the minimum University requirements (eg 6.5 IELTS overall with no less than 5.5 in each sub-score).

Please read our English language requirements for more details.


Administrative contact(s)

Julie Cleaver

Julie Cleaver

Administrator (Postgraduate and Research), Neuroscience & Mental Health Research Institute

+44 (0)29 2068 8341

Academic contact(s)

Professor John Aggleton

Professor John Aggleton

Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience

+44(0)29 2087 4563
Professor Frank Sengpiel

Professor Frank Sengpiel

Head of Neuroscience Division, Professor of Neuroscience

+44(0) 29 2087 5698
Professor Seralynne Vann

Professor Seralynne Vann


+44 (0)29 2087 6253


Apply now
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