PhD/MPhil Structural Biology / Programme details

Year of entry: 2023

Programme description

Our PhD/MPhil Structural Biology programme enables you to undertake a research project that will improve understanding of Structural Biology.

Structural biology is a rapidly developing area of biology that is aimed at determining the three-dimensional structures of biologically-important macromolecules such as proteins, DNA and RNA and their complexes (i.e. ribosomes, nucleosomes).

Structural biology developed as a field alongside molecular biology in the 1950s and 1960s and almost everyone knows some of the pioneers in this field - Hodgkin, Wilkins, Watson, Crick who determined the structure of DNA. Less widely known are the pioneers of protein structure determination, Nobel Prize winners - Kendrew and Perutz.

Recent developments in computational analysis and the availability of state-of-the-art instrumentation mean that high-resolution structures are now obtained routinely using X-ray diffraction and high resolution cryo-electron microscopy, allowing to reveal structural details of large complexes as well as individual proteins in a faster and more reliable manner.

Structural biology is crucial for the pharmaceutical industry, where identifying drug binding sites to target proteins is a key step in drug development of new medicines and treatments.

Structural biology is also essential in biotechnology where knowing the structure of enzymes allows a better understanding of their mechanism of action and provides a rational basis for redesigning them to optimise their activity or even change it to produce a novel product of commercial interest.

At The University of Manchester we have a superb infrastructure to undertake structural biology projects, which includes state-of-the-art facilities for cryo-electron microscopy, crystallisation robots, X-ray diffraction, NMR spectroscopy and computational analysis.

Structural biology is a multidisciplinary area and pursuing a postgraduate research degree in this subject will allow you to develop skills in biology, biochemistry, biophysics and computer science, as well as the opportunity to undergo rigorous multidisciplinary training.

If you are fortunate, just like Kendrew and Perutz, you will have the unique experience of being the first person on the planet to visualise the new structure of a protein or macromolecule and to have the first insights into its mechanism of action and how it interacts with other molecules to regulate an essential biological process.

Alternatively, your project may generate the structural information needed to design a new drug that will be used to treat human diseases such as tuberculosis or cancer, or to design a new protein to optimise a process in biotechnology. 

Special features

Training and development

All of our postgraduate researchers attend the Doctoral Academy Training Programme delivered by the Researcher Development team . The programme provides key transferable skills and equips our postgraduate researchers with the tools to progress beyond their research degree into influential positions within academia, industry and consultancy. The emphasis is on enhancing skills critical to developing early-stage researchers and professionals, whether they relate to effective communication, disseminating research findings and project management skills.

Teaching and learning

PhD/MPhil programmes are based on individual research projects that last three to four years (PhD) or one to two years (MPhil), working with a specific Primary Supervisor and Co-Supervisor(s).

Applicants are specifically matched with a Primary Supervisor and individual project based on their research interests and background.

International applicants interested in this research area can also consider our PhD programme with integrated teaching certificate .

This unique programme will enable you to gain a Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning, whilst also carrying out independent research on your chosen project.

Scholarships and bursaries

Funded programmes and projects are promoted throughout the year. Funding is available through UK Research Councils, charities and industry. We also have other internal awards and scholarships for the most outstanding applicants from within the UK and overseas.

For more information on available the types of funding we have available, please visit the  funded programmes  and  funding opportunities  pages.

What our students say

Find out more about what it's like to undertake a postgraduate research degree at Manchester on the Doctoral Academy Blog and the support available through our Faculty Doctoral Academy.


You will have access to a range of  research and learning facilities  across the University and at some of our partner organisations.

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability Advisory and Support Service. Email: