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

Wellcome Trust Immuno-Matrix in Complex Disease

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


The Wellcome Trust 4-year PhD in Immuno-Matrix 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.

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 immuno-matrix, 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 and lab boot camps
  • Week 6: Quantitative Biomedicine course
  • Week 7: Hospital visits - patients and clinicians, and lab boot camps
  • 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 7 students 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.

Relevant undergraduate science degree or equivalent alternative qualifications or experience in immunology, matrix biology, complex diseases or analysis of these.

If you wish to be considered for a studentship and meet our eligibility criteria, you must complete a single online application.

Full details on eligibility and residence criteria are available on the How to apply page.

Please follow our instructions on how to apply.

Key dates

  • Application deadline: 7 December 2020
  • Interviews: week commencing 11 January 2021 

Previous applicants need not apply.



Researchers in the laboratory


Our doctoral students 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 Immuno-Matrix 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 eight 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