Wellcome Trust Four Year PhD Programme

Mechanisms of Inflammatory Disease

The Wellcome Trust Doctoral Training Centre in Mechanisms of Inflammatory Disease is designed to train the next generation of leading scientists in all aspects of inflammation biology. The Centre will be led by Professors Steve Watson (Medical School) and Robin May (Biosciences).



The programme is based on a 1 + 3 year model with all students embarking on a bespoke MRes degree in year 1 which will include training in research methods and lectures in inflammation biology, and three rotation projects of which one may be taken in an international research group, such as one of our three strategic partners in Calgary, Illinois and Melbourne.  There will also be a group research project.  A unique feature of the program is that, following thesis submission, all students will be able to apply for an additional 9 months of funding to complete outstanding publications and/or apply for independent postdoctoral fellowships. 

Why study inflammation?

Inflammation is a complex protective response that serves to eliminate the cause of cell injury or infection, as well as removing any necrotic cells and tissues, and initiating the process of repair. The acute inflammatory response involves the migration of leukocytes into the injured tissue along with elevation of a variety of chemokines, cytokines and related mediators, which together are essential for the resolution of infection and damage. However inappropriate inflammation can lead to a variety of inflammatory diseases which range from acute sepsis to chronic inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and atherosclerosis. A detailed understanding of how to trigger, control, and limit inflammatory responses would open the door to unprecedented medical advances, both in harnessing the host immune system in eradicating infection and in reducing the substantial burden of acute and chronic inflammatory diseases. 

Our four-year PhD programme aims to tackle this major healthcare need by training the next generation of inflammation researchers in cross-disciplinary inflammation research, allowing them to move seamlessly from molecular studies (both cellular and subcellular) through whole animal physiology to human clinical trials. 


The programme is relevant to students with a good degree (equivalent to first / high 2:1; or distinction in masters programmes) from within the UK / EU  with an interest in inflammation-based research including protein structure, cell signalling, cell biology, organ pathology, animal models and clinical studies. It is suitable for students at the interface of the biological and physical scientists with an interest areas such as mathematical modelling and advanced imaging.   

Exceptionally, funding may be available for outstanding candidates from other parts of the world: if this applies to you, please contact us in the first instance to discuss this further.

Programme details


The course is organised on a 1 + 3 year model, with all students receiving a MRes degree after year one.  After completing their PhD thesis, all students will be able to take advantage of 9 months additional funding to enable them to complete any outstanding research and to position themselves strongly for independent postdoctoral fellowships.

Year 1: MRes

In the first year, students will undertake a bespoke 180-credit MRes in ‘Mechanisms of Inflammatory Disease’. An induction period (2 weeks) will provide core generic and transferable skills training, followed by two taught modules of lectures and tutorials including a 3 week research project for the entire cohort.

Students will select two rotation interdisciplinary projects (Jan-June).

The students will select a third project during Jul-Aug; either a technology-driven project in the University of Birmingham or an external internship at one of our (inter)national strategic partners (Calgary, Illinois and Monash, or alternative partners where appropriate).

All students will be afforded the opportunity to undertake the 2-week Biophotonics Summer School, University of Illinois, or an equivalent course of relevance to their area of interest.

Years 2-4: PhD

Students will select their PhD project/supervisors at the end of Year 1 drawing on their research placement experiences and submitted projects.  All projects will be overseen by a supervisory team which will include their supervisors and a minimum of two other researchers with relevant experience.

During the PhD, students will undertake a short (2-4 weeks) internship in a non-laboratory science discipline (e.g. science editing at major scientific journals, science policy at funding organisations, or public engagement in science) and a 3 month external (inter)national placement related to the PhD.  


Graham Anderson Foxp3+ Regulatory T-cells and tolerance
Alexander Brill Role of immune system in thrombosis
Christopher Buckley What determines tissue tropism in chronic inflammation: A key role for fibroblasts
Jorge Caamano Inflammation-induced formation of lymphoid tissues
Adam Cunningham Impact of infection on immune regulation and function
Anne Fletcher The influence of non-hematopoietic stromal cells in regulating autoimmune, anti-viral and anti-cancer immune cells 
Research group
Rebecca Hall Influence of polymicrobial communities on inflammation
Research group
Rowan Hardy The role of steroid metabolism in chronic inflammatory disease
Ian Henderson The role of antibody in inflammatory damage of the lung
Gideon Hirschfield Immunologic and cellular aspects of liver injury, repair and therapy
Centre for Liver Research
Sara Jabbari Understanding host-pathogen interactions using mathematical modelling combined with experimental data
Neena Kalia Stem cell trafficking and vasculoprotective effects
Research group
Patricia Lalor Role of inflammation in chronic liver disease in humans
Centre for Liver Research
Gareth Lavery NAD+ salvage and energy metabolism in ageing skeletal muscle
 Janet Lord  The role of immune ageing in age-related musculoskeletal decline and disease
Robin May Phagocytic cells in inflammation and infection
Research group
Helen McGettrick Mesenchymal stromal cell regulation of the inflammatory infiltrate
Paula Mendes Development of diagnostic molecular-based technologies and nanoscale and molecular probes to monitor and control processes occurring within cells
Tim Mitchell Pathogenesis of bacterial infections
Carol Murphy Trafficking and signaling in human embryonic stem cells.
Philip Newsome Stromal cell modulation of liver inflammation
Myra A Nimmo Muscle-adipose cross-talk; Investigating inflammation induced by metabolic disease.
Ed Rainger Novel immune regulatory peptides in autoimmune and chronic inflammatory disease / Thrombo-inflammatory cross talk in the propagation of vascular disease.
Research group
Elizabeth Sapey Neutrophillic inflammation in chronic inflammatory lung disease and ageing
Dagmar Scheel-Toellner Investigating the contribution of a novel B cell population to inflammatory diseases
David Thickett Pathophysiology of inflammatory and fibrotic lung diseases
Graham Wallace Investigating the genetic and molecular basic of immune privilege in the eye, and its breakdown during inflammatory disease
Steve Watson The molecular events underlying the role of platelets in inflammation and cardiovascular disease
Benjamin Willcox Understanding and exploiting immune receptor recognition
David Withers Innate lymphoid cell regulation of adaptive immune responses
MRC Centre for Immune Regulation

How to apply

Applications for the October 2017 intake to the Wellcome Trust “Mechanism of Inflammatory Disease” Training Programme are now open

The available positions are fully funded for University fees and a stipend at £19,919 rate (for an October 2017 start) Interested applicants should apply with an up-to-date CV including 2 academic referees and a personal statement detailing your research experience to the contact details detailed below. Applications via email are preferred. The closing date for applications is 11pm on Sunday 8th January 2017. Interviews will take place on Wednesday 25th or Thursday 26th January 2017.

Applicants should have a background and interest in inflammation-based research. This can be from across the biological sciences or at the interface of the biological and physical sciences in areas such as mathematical modelling and fluorescent imaging. You should have a commitment to inflammation biology research and hold or realistically expect to obtain at least an Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a relevant subject.  

The studentships are awarded on a 1+3 basis with the first year consisting of an MRes “Mechanisms of Inflammatory Disease” which will train and enhance your laboratory skills and scientific understanding.

Please note that applicants
are not expected to make contact with an academic supervisor prior to application.

For informal enquiries, please contact Dr Graham Wallace: G.R.Wallace@bham.ac.uk

To apply, please contact:

The College Graduate School
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

E-mail: colmds-c-mds-gradschool@adf.bham.ac.uk


Student projects

Example projects will be shown in October 2016 to coincide with the first intake of students.