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Researcher in the lab

Programme structure

Our unique four-year programme ensures that you will have gained a wider appreciation of the challenges and applications of cardiovascular research by the time you select your final project.

Programme structure

Our unique four-year PhD programme ensures that you will have gained a wider appreciation of the challenges and applications of cardiovascular research by the time you select your final project.

In Year 1, you will undergo training in the cardiovascular system in relation to health and disease, as well as research methods and critical evaluation skills, in addition to undertaking mini research projects to gain practical research experience.

You will receive an MRes award on completion of Year 1. You will spend Years 2 to 4 on your final PhD project while continuing to develop your research skills through additional training.

"Rotation through three mini-projects is an amazing advantage and you really get to know your supervisors."

Lorenz Becker / British Heart Foundation 4-year PhD student

Year 1

Successful completion of Year 1 will give you an MRes in Cardiovascular Sciences and help you choose the area you want to specialise in for the next three years.

Research methods

This interactive blended learning unit provides an introduction to key material required for the design, execution and interpretation of medical, scientific and clinically related research and the production of a high-quality dissertation. You will cover:

  • critical analysis of scientific/medical research and literature;
  • information management;
  • study design;
  • basic statistical analysis;
  • ethics, fraud, plagiarism and medical and academic misconduct;
  • presentation, scientific writing and publishing skills.

Assessment is through two short essays focusing on critical appraisal of scientific literature and ethical issues related to research and a statistics test.


Our seminar unit introduces the principles of the cardiovascular system in health and disease, with an emphasis on emerging technologies.

Delivered through lectures, the format is split with the first half providing background to the subject area and the second half introducing specific research questions and discussions around the various methodologies and techniques.

The seminars will cover a number of areas including:

  • Hypertension and its complications;
  • Cardiac physiology and heart failure;
  • Human genetics of cardiovascular disease.

Assessment is through three short essays, selected from a wide range of titles related to the content of the seminars.  


The tutorials focus on developing skills in critical evaluation by providing the opportunity to discuss and evaluate selected research papers alongside fellow students and academics.

You will also learn about communicating with different audiences by hosting a debate with fellow students and academics, and presenting your research to a lay audience.

The tutorials allow you to develop discussion, debating and presentation skills, all essential for scientific and clinical researchers.

Assessment is through a group presentation and individual written critique of a research paper.

A third tutorial focuses on science communication and will include writing for a lay audience and debating.

Research projects

All trainees carry out three independent research 'mini projects' during your first year.

You will meet with our academic supervisors and discuss potential projects spanning different cardiovascular applications, techniques and approaches. With the guidance of a dedicated advisory team, you will select three projects through which you will 'rotate' in 12-week cycles.

This will provide you with an insight into different areas of cardiovascular science and equip you with a variety of practical skills.

Projects are offered in subject areas including:

  • functional physiology
  • cell signalling
  • human genetics
  • in vivo disease modelling
  • informatics
  • bioengineering
  • computer modelling
  • novel delivery mechanisms
  • omics approaches
  • structure-function mechanisms
  • regenerative medicine
  • imaging.

You will be strongly encouraged to select projects that use different experimental techniques. The experiences of each placement will allow you to make a well-informed choice for your final PhD project.

You will also deliver an oral presentation on each mini project, on which you will be given formative feedback.

Example mini research projects

Mini projects undertaken by recent Year 1 students include:

  • Effects of prenatal hypoxia on mitochondrial function in the foetal ventricle
  • The coronary circulation of the world’s oldest living vertebrate, the Greenland Shark
  • Effects of interleukin-33 on perivascular adipose tissue function in obesity
  • Investigation of cardiac membrane damage-control strategies
  • Exploring desmosomes in heart disease
  • CHRNA7 overexpression increases YAP activity and cardiomyoblast proliferation in vitro
  • Investigating genetic variants in a large CHD family within the 100,000 Genomes
  • Can peptide hydrogels support viability and maturation of iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes?
  • Determining cardiac conduction system dysfunction in a mouse model of myocardial infarction
  • Investigating the role of PKCα in atherosclerotic calcification
  • Establishment of assays to assess the role of von Willebrand factor in neutrophil extravasation
  • Athletic training, atrioventricular block and ion channel remodelling
  • Functional characterisation of genetic variants associated with renal function and chronic kidney disease in genome-wide association studies

Assessment is through a written research paper for each mini project to show you can describe your work concisely to both an expert and a broader readership.

Having never studied cardiovascular science before the 1st year of the programme gave me a broad base to build upon.

Steph Baross / British Heart Foundation 4-year PhD student

Years 2–4

The final three years of the programme focus on the PhD project you have selected.

You will be strongly encouraged to have an input into the final project design and direction of your PhD.

PhD projects will be multidisciplinary and benefit from the experience of at least two academic supervisors who can bring their experience to bear on your project and support your career development. The final PhD project follows the standard assessment processes of The University of Manchester, with key academic milestones in place to support trainee progression. These include literature reports, oral viva and eventual thesis examination.

All trainees undertake a training needs analysis at the start of their PhD project to establish any skills gaps and ensure suitable additional training is provided. This allows appropriate assessment and support to be integrated at every stage, ensuring you have every opportunity to excel.

The facilities are great – we have access to a huge array of equipment and all the experts who know how to use them.

Lucy Collins / British Heart Foundation 4-year PhD student

Contact us

For enquiries about the programme, please get in touch.

You should email Professor Elizabeth Cartwright, the BHF PhD Programme Director, in the first instance: