The CVR Clinical Research Fellowship programme

Image of 4 PhD students looking over documents and in conversation.

Viral diseases kill many millions of people each year and are a significant global challenge to human health and prosperity.  We have created a specialized MRC programme to train the next generation of scientists and leaders in virology research.  There has never been a better time to train as a virologist and the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research (CVR) is the place to do it. The CVR is a world-leading virology research institution. We are the largest dedicated virology centre in the UK and are amongst the largest in Europe.   The CVR spans a complex of buildings that seamlessly blend purpose-built virus containment facilities with state of the art imaging and sequencing facilities that are tied together by a community of investigators with a wealth of expertise, knowledge and experience.‌

Nurturing the next generation of leaders in virology is a key mission of the CVR.  We have tailored a competitive PhD programme that is delivered by leaders in their field. Our interests range from classical human pathogens to emerging viruses and arboviruses, with research areas covering antiviral responses, virus-host interactions, molecular virology, structural virology and virus discovery. We investigate a wide range of important human and animal pathogens, from influenza and herpesviruses to rabies and arboviruses such as bluetongue, dengue and Rift Valley fever.

"The discoveries and therapies of the future are only possible if we nurture our promising talent in the present" - Massimo Palmarini - CVR Director 

State of the art facilities and world leading virology research

You will work in a world leading virology research institution, alongside the UK’s largest grouping of internationally-leading virologists. Your training experience will centre on a 'hands on' research project in your supervisor's laboratory, this formal training will be supplemented with mentorship, career advice and the acquisition of transferable skills. 

Our purpose-built, state-of-the-art facility is home to a community of investigators with a wealth of expertise, knowledge and experience. The CVR’s collegiate and collaborative environment fosters a broad research portfolio. Research interests at the CVR range from classical human pathogens to emerging viruses and arboviruses, with research areas covering antiviral responses, virus-host interactions, molecular virology, structural virology and virus discovery. Our research activities span the molecular, structural and cellular levels, through to the individual host and affected population, integrating molecular and structural virology, cell biology, pathogenesis, epidemiology, mathematical modelling, viral genomics and bioinformatics. The CVR is embedded within the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation within the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences (MVLS) at the University of Glasgow, which provides excellent research opportunities to foster multi-disciplinary collaborative projects. 

Learn more about the viruses we study at the CVR.

The CVR Clinical Research Fellowship programme - Much more than a PhD

Two students sitting at a deskSpecialised Training - Our three and a half year PhD programme begins with a two and a half week taught course which ensures that all students have a fundamental understanding of modern virology as well as an overview of the practical and bioinformatic approaches that can be applied to the study of viruses. The course consists of seminars and practical classes delivered by CVR Group Leaders, and allows our new PhD students to get to know the groups and people in the CVR before beginning their research work.

Your PhD - Your Choice - Following the training course, all students do two rotation projects in the laboratories of their choice.  Each student then selects a lab in which to undertake a thesis project.  

A Global View - It is expected that all programme students will attend a relevant international conference at the earliest opportunity (within 18 months of commencing their PhD).

Global Impact - As a member of the CVR community our students are encouraged to make a difference.  Virology expertise can be urgently required during 'outbreaks' worldwide.  Several CVR PhD students volunteered their services during the recent Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone and were presented with the Ebola Medal for Service in West Africa in recognition.  We always encourage our students to use their expertise for the benefit of humanity.

Public Engagement – A critical responsibility of today’s scientist is to engage the wider community with research. CVR PhD students have a wealth of opportunities to hone their science communication skills. The Centre’s outreach programme includes schools workshops, Meet the Expert days at the Glasgow Science Centre and activities at community days and the Glasgow Science Festival. See our public engagement pages to find out more about the sort of work you can get involved with.

Beyond the CVR - Virology is 'greater than Glasgow'. As part of a community of collaborative virologists, opportunities exist for collaborative PhD projects with our partner institutions.

Transferable Skills Training - As a member of the University of Glasgow postgraduate community, all CVR students have access to a wide range of training opportunities and a professional support network to ensure students get the most out of their PhD.

Your Environment - Glasgow is a vibrant city on the West coast of Scotland, with excellent connections to other areas of the UK and Europe. It has an exciting student and cultural life. The CVR itself is based in the beautiful Garscube campus, easily accessible from the city centre but with views across parkland out to the Campsie Fells. Sports facilities in and outside the University offer a huge variety of activities, with the nearby countryside offering outdoor pursuits such as mountaineering and skiing. The city regularly hosts major events that showcase the region across the world. The University of Glasgow is part of the Russell Group of elite UK institutions and is regularly ranked among the best in the world. To maintain this standard of academic achievement is a key aim of our work, and the CVR PhD students play an important role in this.

Benefits - The UK MRC pays all University fees for MRC programme students and all programme students receive a tax-free stipend (currently 14,777 GBP per year).  In addition, programme students have access to a flexible travel allowance to facilitate international conference attendance at the earliest possible opportunity.

Your PhD - Your Choice

Your PhD - Your Choice

Research at the CVR spans molecular, structural and cellular levels through to the individual host and affected population, thus integrating molecular and structural virology, cell biology, pathogenesis, epidemiology and mathematical modelling.

Learn about the viruses we study at the CVR.

Following an interview, successful candidates will select a PhD project. Examples of available projects include: 

Prof Sheila Graham, together with colleagues from the Scottish HPV Investigators Network (SHINe:, is investigating novel biomarkers for detecting human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and its progression to cancer.

The HPV vaccine has been available for over 10 years. However, although uptake in the UK is greater than 90%, it is low in most other developed countries and is too expensive for use in low to middle income countries. The HPV vaccine is delivered mainly to young women but there is a current epidemic in the developed world of HPV–associated anogenital and oropharyngeal cancers in young men and in men who have sex with men (MSM). Therefore the vaccine will not help this population. There is a pressing need for inexpensive but effective molecular biomarkers to detect HPV-associated lesions that have a high risk of progressing to cancer. We have developed a novel panel of biomarkers to detect HPV-associated disease. We have access to a massive set of well-annotated HPV-positive and HPV-negative clinical samples. This project will use cell culture, quantitative molecular methods, bioinformatics and statistical analysis to test the efficacy of a biomarker matrix to risk-stratify HPV-associated disease.

The work will be carried out in collaboration with colleagues in the Scottish HPV Investigators Network, particularly Dr Kate Cuschieri, Director, Scottish HPV Reference Laboratory, NHS Lothian and University of Edinburgh, Dr David Millan, Consultant Pathologist, NHS GGC, Dr Kim Kavanagh, statistician, University of Strathclyde and Dr Kevin Pollock, Health Protection Scotland. 


Dr Antonia Ho and Dr Rory Gunson at the West of Scotland Specialist Virology Centre are investigating the use of a next-generation targeted sequence enrichment probe to diagnose respiratory viral infections.

Acute respiratory infections (ARI) are the leading infectious cause of death worldwide. Viruses are increasingly recognised to cause a substantial proportion of ARI. Although polymerase chain reaction (PCR) provides rapid and sensitive viral diagnosis, it can only detect targeted viruses. Metagenomic next-generation sequencing is culture independent, requires no pre-existing knowledge of expected viruses in the sample, and can be used to generate full genomic sequences directly from clinical samples. However, their utility in routine viral diagnosis is hindered by poor sensitivity, due to the relatively low abundance of viral nucleic acids in human samples. There is a great need for a sensitive test for detecting respiratory viruses from clinical specimens that can detect genetic variants, as well as novel or emerging pathogens.

We have developed a targeted capture sequencing panel that includes targets from all viruses of human and animal origin known to be associated with human respiratory infection. The aim of this Clinical Research Fellowship is to use next-generation sequencing methods, bioinformatics, epidemiological and statistical analysis to evaluate the use of this enrichment probe as a tool for clinical diagnosis and virome analysis, in addition to characterising the viral epidemiology of hospitalised ARI in Greater Glasgow.


Professor Margaret Hosie and Professor Brian Willett are working towards an improved understanding of measles epidemiology in Thailand by investigating circulating genotypes, vaccine failure and the role of neutralizing antibodies.

This UK-Thai collaborative research project seeks to understand why vaccination failed to prevent recent outbreaks of measles in Thailand. We challenge the long-standing assumption that measles virus (MV) vaccine-induced immunity is effective against all circulating MV strains.  Clinicians and epidemiologists have noted the resurgence of measles among previously vaccinated individuals in Thailand, as well as in developed countries including the UK. Preliminary data provide compelling evidence that measles vaccine failure could be the result of the emergence of measles virus (MeV) strains that are more resistant to current measles vaccines. If we are to ensure that measles vaccination is effective in Thailand, it is critical that we identify the strains associated with the recent outbreaks of disease and characterise their distribution. At present, tests are available that identify patients who have been either infected with measles or vaccinated. It is possible to diagnose infection within a few days of the onset of the rash associated with measles. Using these tests, it is possible to differentiate recent or current infections from past infections or vaccination. However, we recently developed a robust, sensitive and specific assay that detects neutralising antibodies; this assay allows the measurement of the specific immune responses that protect people against infection with the strains of MeV that are transmitted during outbreaks. The student will investigate whether the responses that develop following measles vaccination are likely to protect patients against infection with strains collected during recent measles outbreaks in Thailand, or whether these emerging strains can still cause disease in vaccinated people. If the strains of MeV that were isolated during recent outbreaks can overcome immunity in vaccinated patients, we will identify those regions of the virus associated with vaccine resistance. Our findings will lead an improved understanding of immunity to measles, more accurate diagnoses and better strategies to prevent future measles outbreaks. 


Dr Arvind Patel is interested in the B-cell response in disease progression in Hepatitis C virus infected individuals.

A recent study of the B-cell response in chronic HCV infection in the Patel laboratory identified an association between the production of an antibody response capable of neutralizing multiple genetic variants and reduced cirrhosis (Swann et al., 2016). This suggests that a broad neutralizing antibody response may be protective for disease progression. Moreover, generation of a broad antibody response was associated with an SNP in an MHC-class II gene. The preliminary study was conducted in a small cohort of genotype-1 infected individuals with chronic infection.

The aim of this Clinical Research Fellowship project will be to expand this study looking at the B-cell response in i) individuals at various stages of infection i.e. non-cirrhotic infection, decompensated liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and ii) individuals infected with other HCV genotypes, particularly genotype 3 that is known to have an increased risk of progression to HCC.

This work will be carried out in collaboration with clinical colleagues at Glasgow Royal Infirmary and Gartnaval General Hospital and CR-UK Beatson Institute.


Professor Steven Sinkins, Dr Jeremy Herren and Dr Emma Thomson are characterising the viruses causing human disease in Kenya and Uganda and investigating the influence of mosquito symbionts on transmission of these viruses.

The Clinical Research Fellow will identify circulating viruses in febrile patients at established locations in the Lake Victoria and coastal regions. Undiagnosed febrile illness is a common phenomenon in sub-Saharan Africa and is often attributed, incorrectly, to malaria. We will work with partners to carry out deep sequencing to look for viral genomes and use serological assays to characterise previous exposure to a range of viruses in samples obtained from patients. The Fellow will also identify circulating viruses in mosquitoes, using molecular and next generation sequencing methods, and relate this to the presence or absence of naturally occurring symbionts in wild mosquito populations. Laboratory challenges of mosquito lines with important viruses will then be conducted. Insect symbionts are increasingly being used as a novel approach for the control of mosquito-borne viruses, and the study may provide new control strategies.


Dr Chris Boutell and Dr Ed Hutchinson are interested in intrinsic immunity to respiratory viruses

Many viruses begin to express their genes, including immune antagonists, before the induction of an effective innate immune response. To control viruses during these early stages of infection, certain intracellular immune effector proteins are maintained at constitutively high levels, thereby creating a pre-existing 'intrinsic' immune barrier to infection. Intrinsic immunity is a relatively new area of immunology. Very little is known about these intrinsic immune barriers in the respiratory tract, a major portal of virus entry and replication.

Recent work in the Boutell and Hutchinson groups has identified an antiviral restriction factor which, although an interferon-stimulated gene in most settings, is constitutively expressed to high levels in the respiratory tract. This tissue-specific expression pattern allows the gene to confer intrinsic immunity to respiratory viruses such as influenza. This discovery will now be used to launch a detailed study of the molecular mechanisms of intrinsic immunity to human respiratory viruses in the respiratory tract. The project will both go 'deeper,' by analysing whether naturally-occurring polymorphisms in the restriction factor influence susceptibility to infection by influenza and other respiratory viruses, as well as 'broader,' by exploiting a recently developed screening platform to identify related genes with the potential to restrict respiratory viruses. Together, the project aims to create a detailed understanding of the mechanisms and importance of intrinsic immunity to limit the replication of viruses in the respiratory tract.



Introductory Course in Virology

Research on bench with pipette

All PhD students at the CVR, whatever their source of funding, begin by attending an intensive two week introductory course in virology. This is designed for all first year students, from those with no prior background in virology to those who have previously taken taught courses in the subject. The course aims to provide a solid theoretical and practical grounding in a wide range of human and veterinary virology, to a level where all students can engage with the wide range of research being performed in the CVR. Importantly, although the course introduces key concepts in virology, it does not aim to teach the subject in comprehensive detail. Instead, it highlights important areas which PhD students may choose to engage with independently. Students from outside the CVR may also be able to attend on request - please contact if you wish to enquire about this.‌

The teaching consists of seminars delivered by Group Leaders from the CVR and the wider University, as well as introductions to practical methods, viral bioinformatics and data presentation. This course is a perfect opportunity to update your theoretical and practical knowledge of virology and viral diseases, to gain more insight into the research performed in the different groups at the CVR and to get to know other PhD students in the broad research field of virology.

How to Apply


We are looking for talented and motivated clinicians who are passionate about research, have a strong academic track record and hold full GMC registration. These are full-time research positions with limited participation in clinical activities.

Applicants for this competitive programme are expected to have:

  • a primary medical qualification
  • continuous full General Medical Council (GMC) registration and licence to practice
  • evidence of achievement of Foundation competences
  • previous wet or dry lab research experience and a demonstrable interest in infectious disease research

Applications from all medical and surgical specialities are welcomed. Applicants should be in a training position (not necessarily with a training number); candidates at consultant grade will not be considered.

As these are MRC-funded pre-doctoral fellowships, residence requirements apply. 

We are now accepting applications for the 2019 Clinical Fellowship programme.  For further details of the job advert visit our vacancies page.

Application Process

Apply online at: and look for Reference No 023335

Closing date:   26 November 2018

Interview Process

Following selection for interview, you will be invited to come to Glasgow to visit the CVR. Reasonable travel expenses will be reimbursed and accommodation made available as required. 

Whilst at the CVR, time will be spent visiting the laboratories, meeting Programme group leaders and current CVR students, and being interviewed. If you receive an offer, we will ask you to decide whether to join the CVR within a reasonable timeframe, according to your circumstances. 

Any questions about the programme or eligibility requirements should be directed to