Cardio Metabolic Research at Leeds

BHF 4 year PhD Programme

Why specialise in cardiovascular disease and diabetes?

Professor Mark Kearney

"In spite of modern treatments, diabetes substantially increases the risk of suffering major cardiovascular problems including heart attack, stroke, limb ischaemia and heart failure, impairing quality of life and reducing survival. While our PhD programme alumni are in their early scientific careers, more than one in ten adults in the UK will suffer from diabetes, with major implications for individuals, families, and the economy. Our expertise in cardiovascular and diabetes research provides an excellent opportunity to develop researchers who are capable of meeting this substantial public health challenge."

Mark Kearney, British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiovascular & Diabetes Research.

PhD studentships available

4 studentships will be available from October 2019. New projects will be available. Follow this link to the projects on offer for 2019.

Special attractions of the PhD programme:

A unique feature of our programme is the focus on your chosen project during Year 1. This gives you the best opportunity to publish during your PhD and become a strong contender for prestigious fellowships following the award of your degree.

  • Emphasis on support for you, including a dedicated administrator to look after you, and buddy and mentoring systems

  • Maximised time for your main PhD project to help you achieve publications

  • Opportunities such as 3-month overseas experience, giving your own lecture, and attending research retreats in the Lake District

  • Extensive relevant taught and real-life training experiences customised for you

  • Over 30 outstanding supervisors to choose from, from a vibrant diverse community of researchers

  • Opportunities to work with clinician scientists

  • Publication of a review article

  • BHF and international advisor endorsement of research and training excellence

  • Located in a stylish state-of-the-art scientific building on one of the largest university-hospital complexes in the UK

  • Close to a vibrant modern multinational city of 750,000 people with major retailers in the centre and diverse restaurants, culture and entertainment, with outstanding countryside all around including the Yorkshire Dales just to the north



How to apply

About the studentships

UK/EU students: This studentship will cover the cost of tuition fees (at UK/EU rate) and a maintenance stipend (£19,919 - £23, 298 per year), based on 2017/18 rates

Non UK/EU students: a maximum of one International Studentship will be considered for an exceptional candidate from outside the UK and EU.  This studentship will cover:

  • an annual contribution towards the international academic fee, leaving a deficit to be funded by the applicant of approximately £10,000 per annum
  • a maintenance stipend (£19,919 - £23,298 per year), based on 2017/18 rates
  • The deficit in academic fees for international students must be paid by the student or their sponsor at the time of registration. This can either be a payment for the full amount, or a payment for half the amount outstanding (approx. £5,000), with a second payment for the same amount required half way through each academic year. The academic fee will remain the same for international students for all subsequent years of the programme.

You will need to provide evidence that you are able to fund a minimum of half the academic fees outstanding (approx. £5,000) at the time of application. It is important to note that stipend cannot be used to pay your first instalment of fees. This is because the stipend will be paid to successful candidates on a monthly basis, and cannot be issued until after registration is complete.

Laboratory costs of all students are also covered by the programme.


  • Students will have, or expect to obtain, a degree equivalent to at least a UK upper second class undergraduate degree in a relevant subject area including; medical sciences, biomedical sciences, structural biology, biochemistry, imaging, physics, chemistry, mathematics and computing
  • 4 awards will be available, with a maximum of one for an international candidate
  • Applicants applying should not already have been awarded a doctoral degree
  • Applicants whose first language is not English must meet the Faculty’s English Language requirements

How to apply

The closing date for applications is 2nd January 2019.

Applicants should email the following supporting documentation to

  • Completed Faculty Scholarship Application Form indicating, in rank order, your chosen 3 projects. Please identify each project with the title and supervisor name. (Please note that if selected for the programme it is possible to changes these preferences)
  • Full Academic CV including referee details
  • Transcript of marks so far or achieved in undergraduate degree
  • Two references from academic referees, please ask your referees to send these references on your behalf, directly to: We may not be able to process your application if we do not receive references in time for registration.
  • For non UK/EU applicants, evidence (e.g.: bank statement, sponsorship letter) that you are able to cover the additional cost of fees, either personally or via a sponsor (approximately £10,000 per annum)

If you have any queries regarding the application process please contact

Interview process

Our interview process is as much about you getting to know us and the research we do as it is about us meeting you. As such, we have a relaxed atmosphere at our interview events.

If selected for interview you will be invited to visit the Institute for most of the day. The day will include:

  • A short talk by the programme director Professor David Beech and co-director Dr Richard Cubbon who will discuss the research ongoing and the support on hand for PhD students
  • A tour of the laboratories and office space
  • Lunch with current PhD Students (lunch will be provided)
  • Short meetings with the supervisors of your three selected projects - a chance for you to ask questions and find out more about the projects
  • The interview itself. Normally ~30 minutes and with three members of the programme management team. We do not require interviewees to give presentations

For candidates currently outside the UK, interviews can be conducted over Skype.

For further information about our cardiovascular research go to:
or visit our Twitter:
or email

Athena SWAN Silver

Athena Swan

The Athena SWAN Charter ( recognises and celebrates good employment practice for women working in science, engineering and technology (SET) in higher education and research. The University’s Athena SWAN Bronze Award was originally gained in 2009 and renewed in 2013. The University gained a Silver award in 2016. Holding an award at University level allows individual Schools or Faculties to apply for their own awards.

About the programme

Introduction to the PhD programme

Professor David Beech

Our unique programme seeks to create a new generation of basic scientists who think differently and go on to be instrumental in transforming understanding and treatment of cardiovascular disease associated with diabetes. We don’t expect you to be the finished article from the start. We provide a supportive, nurturing, structure to maximise the opportunities and allow our students to develop.

We want to help you to become fully aware of the challenges of a scientific world that will be increasingly competitive. We want to encourage you to achieve breadth of knowledge and collaboration, opening up possibilities across the spectrum of biomedical research and reaching out to other disciplines including chemistry, computing, engineering, mathematics, physics and structural biology. We want you to appreciate the problems faced by patients and healthcare providers. We want you to understand and be confident about interacting with the commercial world in order to deliver new therapies. Leeds is uniquely placed to deliver a blend of training which meets these high demands.



Dr Richard Cubbon

Our students receive a structured taught programme in which diverse talks and demonstrations are given from our most successful investigators. Due to the collaborative nature of current science, it is important for future investigators to experience the breadth of their subject area in addition to the specialism of their chosen project. This programme offers both and does so within a friendly open environment in which students are encouraged to establish relationships and learn from the experience of others.

BHF 4-year PhD Programme in Cardiovascular Disease & Diabetes


Training opportunities on the programme

Training opportunities

We plan to admit 4 new students to join the 10 students who are already established on our programme. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for an introduction to the programme, including existing students and potential supervisors, and an interview during a 1 day visit; selected students will be contacted to discuss the best-suited project. Each potential project addresses the challenge of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and includes 2 mini-projects in Year 1, usually outside the laboratory of the primary supervisor, but closely related to the main research project. This gives students the opportunity to spend 4 years primarily directed towards their main PhD project, while retaining the option to change direction and/or supervisors during Year 1, if properly justified. Final alignment of students with project and supervisors occurs by 9 months, when the proposal is provided to the BHF.




Year 1 includes a carefully designed programme of lectures, generic laboratory training and clinical experience provided specifically to the 4-year students or delivered in parallel to students on our clinical cardiovascular PhD programme. The details of this taught programme are provided below, and attendance is compulsory. Also in Year 1, students are supported to write a review article relevant to their project for formal publication in a peer-reviewed journal. We recognise the importance of maintaining support and guidance for our students beyond the supervisor team, and throughout their PhD project, so we organise quarterly progress meetings with students and supervisors, which assess progress towards thesis compilation and at least one high-quality original research paper. We support each student in establishing an outstanding independent mentor who will provide advice on long-term career planning and personal development. We also use the knowledge accrued by more senior 4-year PhD programme students to provide peer mentors.



Together with supervisors and the programme team, students also plan a visit to an outstanding overseas laboratory to develop further skills and experience relevant to their project. This normally occurs in Year 2/3 when the student is most able to capitalise on the experience, and potentially develop post-doctoral opportunities. For example, one of our current students has visited Donald Ingber’s lab at Harvard and another is currently at the University of Uppsala in Sweden.


The long-term success of our programme will be tracked and promoted by developing an active alumnus network co-ordinated by our programme administrator.

Being based in LICAMM allows students access to investigators and technology in cutting edge centres of excellence across the University. Examples from the broad range of opportunities include:

ePIC: Experimental and Preclinical Imaging Centre based in the LIGHT Building. This is a unique purpose-built multi-modal preclinical imaging facility, created with generous support from the British Heart Foundation. It contains a preclinical MRI scanner, a combined in vivo imaging platform for fluorescence, radioisotope, x-ray and CT, and a small animal ultrasound system. Combined with our existing clinical imaging set up, the new facility represents a step change in cardiovascular research offering unique new translational research opportunities.

Astbury Centre: The Astbury Centre brings together researchers from across the University - largely from physics, the biological sciences and chemistry - to allow interdisciplinary approaches to be harnessed to understand the molecular basis of life. The Centre has outstanding expertise and research infrastructure in chemical biology, biophysics and all of the major techniques in structural molecular biology.

Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA): Data Analytics brings together applied research groups and data scientists from all disciplines, opening up new opportunities to understand health and human behaviour and casting light on the action required to tackle a wide range of social and environmental problems.




Click here to download the Foundation Year Course Structure


Student presenting at the journal club

LICAMM aims to be an open and friendly place to work. As well as the excellent academic and professional opportunities, other events are organised to bring together students, academics and other staff more informally.


  • Seminars


    There are a variety of regular seminars open to all. A monthly series, organised by the MCRC, invites a range of external investigators to discuss their work. Alongside this, a BHF Programme seminar series allows primary supervisors to talk about their research and students are invited to meet them afterwards for an informal lunch. In addition, students take turns to present at an internal weekly “Nature” journal club.

  • Research Retreat



    Everyone is invited to the annual research retreat which takes place over 2 days in the Lake District. Student presentations are an important part of this event.


  • The LICAMM Early Career Group (ECG)


    This group aims to provide a network and community for the career development of early career researchers within LICAMM. The group is co-ordinated by active researchers representing each of the divisions within LICAMM; between them they arrange a series of meetings and seminars relevant to early career researchers. Events are advertised via event listings below and through the ECG mailing list.  As well as regular internal meetings, there are one-off events, in which speakers from across the University of Leeds and beyond are invited. Please follow this link to find out more:

  • Fund Raising and Social

    Recognising our invaluable sponsorship and links to health related charities, fund raising events, such as BHF Red Cake baking, are popular with everyone. Regular BHF supporters day are organised, bringing together researchers and those living with heart disease, carers, volunteers, fundraisers, and other health professionals. They are an opportunity to share current research and ideas.
    An Institute Christmas party is also being organised, for everyone to enjoy some relaxing time together.

  • BHF decorations BHF cake BHF group wearing red BHF supporters day BHF supporters day BHF supporters day

For information on these activities, see ‘What’s Happening’ at

and our Twitter account at

Current students

Feedback from current students on the PhD programme:

The interview process was by far the best that I encountered whilst applying for PhDs. The interview day was very well organised and I came away with a real flavour of what doing a PhD at Leeds would be like. We were given a talk about the research at the Institute, had lunch with current PhD students and then had separate informal meetings with potential supervisors. The interview itself had more of a friendly feel than other interviews and I liked that I was not asked to prepare a presentation.

I chose to study at Leeds University to be a part of the prestigious Multidisciplinary Cardiovascular Research Centre and to have the opportunity to be funded by the British Heart Foundation. I also chose this particular PhD program as it provided funding for 4 years and included a 3-month placement in a laboratory abroad.

BHF investigators

I found the interview process really informative and organized. We got to meet a range of people including the institute director and we got to have lunch with other current PhD students on the course. We also got to have one-on-one chats with some of our potential supervisors. The tour of the facilities was very useful. I got a real feel for what it would be like to study in Leeds.

The highlight of my PhD so far without a doubt has been my visit to Harvard University Medical School. Here I got to present my data to various groups, network with highly prestigious professors and visit the laboratories. Getting the opportunity to visit such a world class laboratory was invaluable and I feel it really has helped my development as a young scientist.

I chose Leeds because of the top quality Science. All the groups are striving to publish high impact “4*” papers and this push is a great opportunity for us to publish our own papers, which is really important for our progression as young scientists. The friendly and approachable atmosphere of the institute also instantly drew me towards choosing to study here in Leeds. The support, guidance and opportunities on offer really stood out compared to the other universities I visited. I also loved the idea of the lectures and demonstrations in the first year of the course, the variety of the lectures was a great opportunity to learn a lot about cardiovascular disease and diabetes facilitating collaborations with other members of the institute. I was also attracted to the idea of being able to see a real mix of demonstrations from basic science to medical clinics and theatres.

Hands-on in the lab

The highlight of the program for me has been the 3-month placement abroad in Leipzig, Germany as well as the hands on practical nature of the introductory lectures and lab demonstrations in the first year. Furthermore, the opportunity to regularly work with patients in a clinical setting has been a real highlight of this program.

During the program I feel that I have really developed as a young scientist. I now have much more confidence at public speaking. I present my own work in lab meetings weekly and present scientific papers in larger institute meetings quarterly. As well as within the institute I have also had the opportunity to present my work at various conferences, including presenting my work at an international conference in Vancouver. All these opportunities have developed my confidence in public speaking. I have also found that I have developed as an independent scientist. I am now confident in managing my own project and preparing manuscripts that we aim to submit before the end of the year.

Working with other PhD students

For me, the highlight of my first year on the programme has been meeting and getting to know the other PhD students in the LIGHT building. The atmosphere around the Institute is social and friendly and this makes working here a good experience. I also really enjoyed the demonstrations during the first year of the programme, especially the clinical sessions where we were able to go over to the hospital to meet patients and hear about their cases.

The program has really developed me both as an individual and as an academic, successfully preparing me for a future career in research. The program has broadened my knowledge of clinical science and the techniques frequently applied in this field. I have also become a more critical thinker and can readily digest high-impact papers with a thorough understanding of the methods employed, the rationale behind the research, and the potential drawbacks of the conclusions.



PhD student working in the lab Jack working in the lab Using the latest analysis software Working on a publication in the office Making use of the office space Side-by-side image analysis Prepping samples in the lab Careful lab work Working with reacting agents Analysing chromatography results Hannah working in the lab Hannah working in the office
LIGHT building
LIGHT building

Since 2008 we have had a single over-arching no-boundaries structure for all of our cardiovascular research. At the heart of this structure is a single cardiovascular department, the Leeds Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine “LICAMM”, home to the BHF’s only Chair in Cardiovascular and Diabetes Research, Professor Mark Kearney. LICAMM’s home, and the home of the programme, is an attractive state of the art research building of 2600 m2 (“The LIGHT Building”, built 2005) with a single management structure, team of core technicians and specialist technologists, new preclinical and advanced cellular imaging (funded partly by a £1.8 million BHF strategic award) and a newly-emerging clinical PhD training programme funded by Medtronic, LTHT Charitable Foundation and the University. Immediately behind is the Leeds General Infirmary, which contains our new cardiovascular clinical research facility (CRF) and our outstanding MRI research facilities including the MRC National Centre for Hyperpolarised MRI led by Sven Plein (BHF Chair). Importantly we are 1st nationally in recruitment to cardiovascular clinical trials. Adjacent is our new MRC Centre for Bioinformatics and our cutting-edge murine-focused animal facility, completed in 2012 and integrated with complementary Home Office-registered facilities in the LIGHT Building. Immediately across the road is the Astbury Centre for Structural and Molecular Biology led by Sheena Radford FRS which recently received £17 million new investment for cryo-EM and NMR. Within 5 to 10 minutes’ walk through the campus there are cutting-edge chemistry and small-molecule screening facilities, physics, mathematics and computation departments and our centre of excellence for medical engineering.



LIGHT building

The LIGHT Building is thus an outstanding and unique home for the programme, at the heart of our cardiovascular research and with links to key disciplines, epitomising the University’s ethos and track-record of interdisciplinarity. We have outstanding supervisors to offer students across 6 themes (see below). The supervisors organise into teams to provide the best training and projects, blended from across key disciplines, themes and the career and diversity spectra from new tenure-track academic fellow to highly-regarded professor and director of institute and research centre. If a new academic fellow is the principal supervisor, an experienced PhD supervisor will provide formal recorded guidance and support throughout the 4 years of study.



LIGHT interior LIGHT office space LIGHT lab space
About Leeds

The Leeds City Region is the largest UK city economy outside London. Its output is £60 billion and there are 109,000 businesses with 1.4 million employees. The University is the second largest in the UK with 32,000 students and 7,500 staff. It is a member of the Russell Group, in the top 10 UK universities for research power (2014 government assessment), and consistently in the top 100 universities worldwide. It contributes £1.35 billion per year to the local economy and has 44 current spinout companies. Leeds has the advantage of a single NHS Trust (“LTHT”) with two major and four other teaching hospitals coordinated with the University via a partnership board and serving over 4 million people.

A University of Leeds degree offers you much more than just academic excellence. Our size and diversity mean we can offer you a unique experience which combines our research-based curriculum with a range of opportunities to give you the knowledge, skills and experience to prepare for your future.

  • Find out more about campus life here
  • Find out more about Leeds here
  • Find out more about campus opportunities here



Outside the student union Inside the Laidlaw library Leeds city square Parkinson building Leeds city sunset Great Hall Leeds city skyline Leeds indoor market Victoria quarter Laidlaw library

What's Happening

25 September 2019: DTSD Seminar ... more

02 October 2019: DTSD Seminar: 'Direct activation of Piezo1 channels by shear stress in endothelial cells' and 'Structure determination of cardiovascular ion channels by cryoEM' ... more

10 October 2019: SBMS Seminar: Modelling & measuring ion currents: Can we tell noise from variability to make safety-critical predictions? ... more

Athena Swan