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3d rendered medically accurate illustration of white blood cells attacking a cancer cell

Wellcome Trust Immunomatrix in Complex Disease

Examining the immune system through tissue to define the mechanisms behind complex disease.

The Wellcome Trust 4-year PhD in Immunomatrix in Complex Disease is a basic science programme at the interface of immunology and matrix biology research. It combines scientific excellence with a commitment to improving the working environment and transition support for trainees.

Our programme will also help you to gain experience of other careers, including policy, charities, government and research in developing countries.

Key features of the programme

  • A bespoke course in immune-matrix, bioinformatics and artificial intelligence.
  • The opportunity to meet with potential supervisors and experience their labs before choosing your PhD project.
  • PhD projects at the interface of matrix biology, immunology and complex disease.
  • An opportunity to experience alternative careers related to your chosen project.
  • A supportive and inclusive research environment focused on team-based research.
  • A unique opportunity to mentor work experience of care leavers.

We commit to being part of an evolving community of practitioners who will develop and share practice to bring science and culture together, placing both firmly at the heart of what we do.


What is immunomatrix?

The most debilitating and life-threatening diseases are caused by abnormal immune responses. These include cancer, heart disease, fibrosis (associated with 45% of all deaths), arthritis (affecting 8 million people in the UK alone), and a wide range of infectious and autoimmune disease.

Progress in understanding and treating immune disease is hindered by the cellular complexity of the immune system and the molecular complexity of the tissue in which disease occurs.

The extracellular matrix (ECM) constitutes 70% of body mass and yet its role in normal immune function remains remarkably understudied. We know that the ECM can regulate the innate and adaptive immune system. In turn, the immune system alters the ECM to restore tissue homeostasis after injury or infection.

It is imperative that we understand this interconnectivity between matrix and immune function because its dysregulation leads to the loss of tissue function that underpins chronic disease. One in three adults globally present with more than one chronic disease, and this burden of multi-morbidity is projected to increase.

Although epidemiologists are currently defining the prominent disease clusters, an emphasis on immune, tissue and disease complexity is urgently needed to understand the underlying pathology.

We believe that understanding the complexity behind how the immune system integrates signals from matrix composition and mechanics to restore tissue integrity will reveal common mechanisms that underlie these conditions.

Researchers studying data on-screen


The focus of this programme is on understanding common mechanisms that underlie complex diseases by studying the interplay between immune cells and the extracellular matrix. 

At the start of Year 1, you will undertake a bespoke course in immunomatrix, bioinformatics and artificial intelligence. This includes a lab boot camp comprising laboratory sessions with all potential supervisors.

Supervisor selection takes place after this course, and you will carry out a short project in a co-supervisor's lab while developing your project with both supervisors.

You will also identify opportunities for an optional 'silo switch', where you can undertake research in a discipline distinct from your laboratory project to include in your thesis.


More about silo switches

Silo switches are available to expose you to an alternative career or way of working.

For example, you may:

  • research the policy implications of your studies on obesity and cancer;
  • engage in patient surveys on the effectiveness of a therapy relevant to your research question;
  • work to engage the public in your research.

Silo switches can take place at any time between Years 2 and 3.5.

Year 1 training programme

  • Weeks 1-4: Key principles lectures and lab boot camps
  • Week 5: Practical experience - identifying cells within complex tissues
  • Week 6: Quantitative Biomedicine course
  • Week 7: Clinical and public engagement
  • Weeks 8-11: Design and selection of projects
  • Week 12: Project presentations

You will begin your full PhD project in the fourth month of the programme.



You will be able to choose from a wide range of possible projects with over 30 supervisors.

The supervisor pool is divided into four themes:

  • immunology
  • matrix biology
  • complex disease (including cancer)
  • immuno-matrix. 

You will select supervisors from two different themes to develop your research project with.

Break-out spaces for researchers

Making an application

We take a maximum of 6 postgraduate researchers per year onto the programme, which begins at the end of September. We are looking for candidates who demonstrate academic excellence and high motivation for research.

Application process

Applications for 2023 entry will be accepted from 17 October 2022.

Please follow the information and step-by-step guide on our main How to Apply page. 

Specific details for this programme are noted below.

You must make one separate application for this programme. If you select the incorrect programme your application will not be considered.

Applicants are required to select a supervisor when making an online application. For the purpose of this application process, you are requested to indicate the Programme Director, Professor Tracy Hussell, as the supervisor.

For the funding sources section on the online application form:

  • Select 'Yes' from the drop-down
  • Type of Funding: 'Uni of Manchster Scheme'
  • Awarding Body: Wellcome Trust ICD PhD Programme
  • Status of Funding – Awarded
  • Funding Covers – Fully Funded
  • Leave the remaining boxes blank

You must download and complete our anonymised CV template (Word, 15KB), which will be used by the Recruitment Panel to shortlist candidates. On the online application form, include your anonymised CV in the 'supporting statement' category (you are not required to submit a separate supporting statement) alongside all other documents.

The selection committee undertake blinded shortlisting and we require each applicant to comply with this. All documentation/information submitted to the online system will not be shared with the selection committee and are used for internal administrative purposes only (ie to check academic/English eligibility).

Application deadline: 5 December 2022 (midnight)

Other application information

Key dates

Applications must be submitted by the deadline, as late applications will not be considered.

Incomplete applications will not be considered.

  • Application deadline: 5 December 2022 (midnight)
  • Interviews: w/c 9 January 2023


We welcome applications from all backgrounds and seek to create equality of opportunity for all our applicants and postgraduate researchers. See our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion statement.

Competition for entry to the programme is fierce, and we are looking for candidates who demonstrate academic excellence and high motivation for research.  A relevant undergraduate science degree or equivalent alternative qualifications or experience in immunology, matrix biology, complex diseases or analysis of these, is required.

These studentships are available to UK nationals and provide funding for tuition fees and stipend at the Wellcome Trust rate for four years.

International applicant eligibility requirements

This scheme is open to both UK and international applicants. We are only able to offer a limited number of full studentships to applicants outside the UK. Therefore, full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality international candidates due to the competitive nature of this scheme, following interview days.

International applicants must ensure they meet the academic eligibility criteria (including English language) before applying. English language requirements can be found on the How to Apply page.


We will contact you directly if we wish to invite you to one of our interview days.

Interviews will be carried out by a selection committee which comprises members of the Wellcome Trust ICD Management Board:

Researchers in the laboratory


Our postgraduate researchers progress beyond their PhDs into a variety of positions and areas.

You will benefit from our commitment to developing your wider skills and experience, and the breadth and quality of the research you engage with. This, along with the strength of the final PhD projects, ensures our doctoral students are in high demand.

73% of our Wellcome Trust 4-year PhD funded students who have completed their studies have gone on to postdoctoral research work. The remainder undertake science-related employment, such as medical writing, science education, science funding, and clinical science.

Career paths may include:

  • clinical training
  • industrial research
  • health services consultancy and policy
  • teaching
  • science writing.

Our programme uniquely offers the opportunity to experience careers in policy, public engagement, the NHS and industry.



Undergraduate summer placements

We offer research placements within the Immunomatrix in Complex Disease programme to undergraduate students from across the UK and Ireland.

The placements are an excellent way to experience research activity and determine your suitability and aptitude for further research.

The placements are funded by the Wellcome Trust and last for six weeks.


Contact us

Queries regarding the application process can be sent to the Doctoral Academy Admissions Office.

Please contact the Doctoral Academy.


Tel: +44 (0)161 275 5608