‌The CVR MRC PhD Programme

Image of PhD student Veronica Rezelj working in a lab

Applications for 2023/24 are now CLOSED.  Applications for 2024/25 will open around November 2023.

Viral diseases kill many millions of people each year and are a significant global challenge to human health and prosperity.  We have created a specialised 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, that is the largest dedicated virology centre in the UK and is amongst the largest in Europe. The CVR spans a complex of buildings that seamlessly blends 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, clinical virology, vector-biology and virus discovery. We investigate a wide range of important human and animal pathogens, from influenza and SARS-CoV-2 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

The CVR MRC PhD programme - Much more than a PhD

The CVR MRC PhD programme - Much more than a PhD

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

Specialised Training 
Our four-year PhD programme begins with the ‘CVR Introduction to Virus Research’ course. In this two-week course, which is attended by all new virology postgraduate research students at the university, scientists from across the CVR and the wider university use their research to explain the many different approaches that can be used for studying viruses here. As well as providing an overview of modern virology and allowing new students to get to know the groups and people they will be working alongside during their PhDs, the course allows our students to join a supportive cohort of new virology researchers in the CVR before beginning their own research work.

Your PhD - Your Choice 
Following the training course, all students undertake two rotation projects in the laboratories of their choice.  Each student then selects a lab in which to complete a thesis project.  Look through our research groups to find out about the labs you could work in and the kind of research you could be doing.

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 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone and were presented with the Ebola Medal for Service in West Africa in recognition. Similarly, multiple students have volunteered to be part of the CVR’s COVID-19 response. We always encourage our students to use their expertise for the benefit of humanity and the CVR is proud of the contributions made by our current and former students in response to viral outbreaks.

Public Engagement 
A critical responsibility of today’s scientist is to engage the wider community with their research. CVR PhD students have a wealth of opportunities to hone their engagement skills. The Centre’s engagement programme includes blogging and podcasting, schools workshops, activities at community days and the Glasgow Science Festival. We are also embarking on a new programme of patient and public involvement work, including patient forums and science/art collaborations. See our Public Engagement website to find out more about the sort of work you can get involved with.

Beyond the CVR 
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 parts 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.

A  tax-free stipend (currently £18,022 GBP per year for academic session 2023/24) and funding is available to cover tuition fees for those students who are classed as 'home' students (further details below) 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

Tackling the global threat of viruses requires a multidisciplinary, multilevel, multi-partner approach. We are a committed champion of team science, working to remove barriers between basic and clinical sciences, laboratory and computational approaches and human and veterinary virology.  

Our research spans four interconnected challenge-led programmes supported by multiple innovative underpinning technological platforms.

Students select a laboratory from the following list of research themes and mentors:

Structure and function
of virions

cross-species transmission
Host cell
responses to infection

Integrative viral
genomics & bioinformatics

David Bhella
Stephen Carter
Joe Grove
Ed Hutchinson
Chris Illingworth

Massimo Palmarini
Pablo Murcia
Suzannah Rihn
Daniel Streicker
Sam J Wilson

Chris Boutell
Alfredo Castello
Adam Fletcher
Pablo Murcia
Alain Kohl
Benjamin Brennan
Alfredo Castello
Emilie Pondeville
Steve Sinkins
Emma Thomson
Ana da Silva Filipe
Sheila Graham
Antonia Ho
Margaret Hosie
Chris Illingworth
Ruth Jarrett
David Robertson
Brian Willett
Janet Scott
Arvind Patel
David Robertson
Viral Genomics &
Bioinformatics Team

CVR affiliates

In addition to our core team of principal investigators, we work with a number of affiliates, including:

Roman Biek
Sarah Cleaveland
Daniel Haydon
Megan MacLeod
Charles Masembe
Louise Matthews
Lubna Nasir
Richard Reeve
Laura Spagnolo
Georgia Perona-Wright 

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 cvr-phdprogramme@glasgow.ac.uk 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.

CVR PhD Student Films

Here's what our PhD students have to say about the programme...

Ilaria Epifano

Alex Hardy

Jordan Clark

Muhamad Afiq Aziz

Veronica Rezelj


Admission Requirements

Funding and Eligibility

Funding is available to cover an annual tax-free stipend, currently £18,022, for academic session 2023/24 and tuition fees at the Home level rate.

To be classed as a Home Student (tuition fees covered), candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have settled status, or
  • Have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have indefinite leave to remain or enter

Applicants who do not meet the criteria above will be classed as International Students and international fees will apply.  For full eligibility criteria, please refer to the UKRI Guidance and Annex B of the UKRI Training Grant Terms and Conditions.

The CVR MRC PhD Programme will consider any graduate with a minimum 2:1 BSc degree or equivalent (meeting the residency requirements above). International applicants (not classed as Home Students) must also state how they intend to fund the international fee rate in their covering letter to be considered. Previous laboratory experience aligned to the research interests of the CVR is advantageous.

Applications for 2023/24 are now closed.  Applications for 2024/25 will open around November 2023.

Students can also apply to CVR-based projects by applying to the University of Glasgow's Wellcome Trust PhD programme in Integrative Infection Biology and the MVLS DTP.


Application Process

Please APPLY NOW to start your application.
For the 'Support Documents' section, applicants are asked to upload the following:

Essential documents:

  1. CV (strict 1 A4 page maximum)
  2. Personal statement/Covering letter (strict 1 A4 page maximum). International students, not classed as Home Students, must state how the international fee rate will be met (i.e. external funding or self-funding), specifying the details/stage of any external funding applications awarded or in progress.
  3. 2 references on headed paper (academic and/or professional) or submitted directly to us (rio-researchadmissions@glasgow.ac.uk and Cc in cvr-phdprogramme@glasgow.ac.uk).

Advisable documents:

  1. Final or current degree transcripts including grades (and an official translation, if needed) – scanned copy in colour of the original document.
  2. Degree certificates (and an official translation, if needed): scanned copy in colour of the original document.

Note that no sample of your written work other than your personal statement/covering letter is required.  

Please note that, in step 11 within the online application process, you are asked to detail supervisor/project title information. You cannot detail this information because you are applying to the programme and not for a specific project at this stage.

Add the following text: “CVR MRC PhD Programme” to all these sections. There is no requirement to upload a research proposal.   

The applications system can be imperfect.  We recommend that you also email the essential documents above (CV, personal statement/Covering letter and references directly to cvr-phdprogramme@glasgow.ac.uk).


Interview Process

Interviews are usually held in February each year.  

If you receive an offer, we will ask you to decide within a reasonable timeframe whether to join the CVR. By accepting our offer, you will be making a binding commitment to the CVR MRC PhD Programme, and we will ask you to withdraw your applications for other PhD programmes.

Any questions about the programme or eligibility requirements should be directed to cvr-phdprogramme@glasgow.ac.uk