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Graduate Admissions


Applying to study for an MPhil or PhD in Chemistry

The Department of Chemistry at Cambridge is a world-class teaching and research centre recognised for its exceptional record in discovery, innovation and excellence. It consistently ranks as the top chemistry department in the UK and within the top 5 departments world-wide. We progress fundamental science in three strategic areas:

Chemistry of Health Advancing the understanding of health and disease in areas of global importance (ageing, cancer and infection). Our new £25M building, the Chemistry of Health Centre opens in Spring 2018.

Innovative Molecular & Materials Design Transforming the development and assembly of important functional chemicals to produce new high-value products for novel applications in health care, agriculture, energy, and consumer products.

Sustainable Energy, Environment & Climate Investigating the impact of chemical processes on the environment and working to develop sustainable energy systems.

Our research culture is extensive, inclusive and dynamic. The department sits in the centre of Cambridge, one of the world’s greatest intellectual communities. This enables all who study here to find opportunities to engage and benefit from this extraordinary hub of creative, scientific activity – encompassing the department, its collaborators, industry partners and through the unique experience of College life.

The Department of Chemistry admits around 80 postgraduate students each year. Most of these are PhD students with around 20 MPhils. All graduate students are enrolled on to our comprehensive Graduate Education programme which underpins our Centre for Advanced Graduate Training and Research


Important Dates

Tuesday 5th September 2017 | University of Cambridge Graduate Admissions Applicant Portal opens
Friday 20th October 2017 | Graduate Admissions Open Day - Register  Download Poster
Friday 10th November 2017 | Application deadline for all those seeking funding from the University or Department of Chemistry


Graduate Admissions Open Day 2017

Our popular research open day for prospective graduate students will be held on Friday 20 October. It is free to attend and many of our academic members of staff will be present their research. The Graduate Admissions Day 2017 Brochure can now be viewed online. There should be very few changes between now and the event. The schedule will be as follows:

10:15 – 10:30  Welcome Talk

10:30 – 12:50   Morning Session  Synthetic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Theoretical Chemistry I
Speakers in order of appearance: Prof Matthew Gaunt, Dr Hugo Bronstein
, Dr Robert Phipps, Prof Jonathan Goodman, Prof David Spring, Prof Rod Jones, Dr Steven Lee, Dr Stephen Jenkins, Prof Markus Kalberer, Dr Sergei Taraskin, Dr Anja Schmidt, Prof David Klenerman, Prof Tuomas Knowles, Prof Robert Glen, Prof Stuart Althorpe, Dr Andreas Bender

12:50 – 14:10   Lab Tours, Buffet & Posters 

14:10 – 16:25   Afternoon Session  Theoretical Chemistry II, Biological Chemistry, Materials Chemistry
Speakers in order of appearance: Dr Robert Jack, Dr Alex Thom, Dr Finian Leeper, Prof Shankar Balasubramanian, Dr Gonçalo Bernardes, Dr Paul Barker, Prof Sophie Jackson, Prof Christopher Dobson, Prof Michele Vendrusculo, Prof Clare Grey, Prof Melinda Duer, Prof Erwin Reisner, Prof Oren Scherman, Dr Silvia Vignolini, Dr Andrew Wheatley, Prof Dominic Wright 

16:25 – 17:00   Lab Tours

17:00 – 18:30   Social Reception

Register here to attend


MPhil in Chemistry

This intensive one-year research MPhil in Chemistry prepares students for a career in the chemical sciences. You will conduct a substantial research project within the main themes of research ongoing in the department. The 15,000-word thesis you produce at the end of your project is examined by formal viva. Many students choose this MPhil programme as an access route for PhD study here or elsewhere. Others head off into the industrial sector, having gained solid expertise in laboratory and practical skills. Our chemistry education programme, including lectures and researcher development workshops, are open to all MPhil students, along with career development advice and mentoring.

The minimum entrance requirements set by the Department for research degrees are higher requirements than the University of Cambridge sets for postgraduate degrees in other departments. Occasionally, exceptions can be made to our requirements based on the length of the undergraduate degree and other factors. Each exception is considered individually. If you are in any doubt about fulfilling the Department of Chemistry entry requirements contact our Graduate Student Coordinator before submitting an application. 

Entrepreneurship Programme

From entry in 2018, a number of our MPhil students will be able to undertake training in Entrepreneurship provided by the Entrepreneurship Centre at the Judge Business School at Cambridge. This marks the beginning of a unique partnering bringing together two world-leading centres at the top their fields. Register your interest for this on your department application form. This will be a pilot programme for a future MPhil in Chemistry with Entrepreneurship. Applicants should still apply for the normal MPhil in Chemistry for entry in 2018. (Read more: p1 and p2).

Entry requirement: 2.1 Bachelor’s Honours degree or equivalent.


PhD in Chemistry

Coming to Cambridge for a PhD in Chemistry means you will be joining a community of over 50 academics, 350 PhD students and more than 200 postdoctoral researchers. The research opportunities are vast and career development is second to none. 

The route to a PhD takes up to four years of full-time research, culminating in a substantial thesis of up to 60,000 words which is examined by viva. Along your journey to a PhD, you will be absorbed in the laboratory life of your chosen research group. The graduate chemistry lecture series we offer aims to bring everyone up to the same high-level of foundational knowledge; irrespective of prior educational background at Masters level. You will present your research at seminars and conferences as you progress. Most PhD students go to at least one international and national chemistry conference in the course of their studies.

The minimum entrance requirements set by the Department for research degrees are higher requirements than the University of Cambridge sets for postgraduate degrees in other departments. Occasionally, exceptions can be made to our requirements based on the length of the undergraduate degree and other factors. Each exception is considered individually. If you are in any doubt about fulfilling the Department of Chemistry entry requirements contact our Graduate Student Coordinator before submitting an application. 

Entry requirement:  2.1 Masters degree or equivalent. 


How to Apply

While we accept applications until 30th June prior to entry in October, we strongly recommend you apply by the department’s November funding deadline. If you would like to be considered for Cambridge University financial support and scholarships, you must make sure your application is submitted by the department's deadline Friday 10 November 2017 for entry in October 2018.

To apply for an MPhil or PhD in Chemistry use the University of Cambridge online Applicant Portal. To complete the submission you will need to have details of your referees, academic transcripts, CV, a completed Chemistry Department Application Form and English language proficiency documentation (if required) ready to upload. Applicants who do not wish to apply for funding may apply at any time until June 2018. However, applications received by our deadline will receive priority as well as full consideration for all available funding.


Application Guidance

Our experience is that most successful applications come from people who have researched what they want to study and (in many cases) with whom. Although success in the application process cannot be guaranteed, a well-researched, focused and thoroughly written application is the expectation.

The first task before completing your online application is to identify a research area that interests you. The five Research Interest Groups (RIGs) of Biological, Materials, Physical, Synthetic and Theoretical chemistry are our overarching research themes. You will be asked to indicate which RIG(s) aligns most with your interests on the Chemistry Department Application Form. If you have overlapping interests or find it difficult to decide you may indicate more than one RIG e.g. Biological/Synthesis; Materials/Synthesis; Physical/Theory etc. This may be the case where a particular supervisor you are interested in is engaged in research at the interface.

Once a RIG choice is made, we encourage you to correspond with potential supervisors early and in advance of submitting your application. The Graduate Admissions Open Day is a good opportunity to make connections, as many of the academic supervisors will be here giving talks and meeting prospective students.

Check the table below that your potential supervisor is accepting new group members for Entry 2018. If there is a mutual fit and you have exchanged correspondence then there is space on the Chemistry Department Application Form to name them. If, however, you are flexible in your preference of academic supervisor (within one or two RIGs) there is no need to name anyone at this stage. Your application will not be disadvantaged in anyway.

Christopher Abell
Ali Alavi
Stuart Althorpe
Alex Archibald
Shankar Balasubramanian
Paul Barker
Andreas Bender
Gonçalo Bernardes
Hugo Bronstein
Jason Chin

Stuart Clarke
Lucy Colwell
Christopher Dobson
Melinda Duer
Matthew Gaunt
Jonathan Goodman
Clare Grey
Chris Hunter
Robert Jack
Sophie Jackson
Stephen Jenkins

Rod Jones
Markus Kalberer
David Klenerman
Tuomas Knowles
Steven Lee
Finian Leeper
Jonathan Nitschke
Ian Paterson
Robert Phipps
John Pyle
Erwin Reisner

Oren Scherman
Anja Schmidt
David Spring
Sergei Taraskin
Alexander Thom
Michele Vendruscolo
Silvia Vignolini
David Wales
Andrew Wheatley
Paul Wood
Dominic Wright

Table: Academic supervisors accepting postgraduate students for Entry in October 2018


International & EU Students

The Department has a large international population of researchers and we actively encourage this diversity. However, to avoid applications being rejected automatically check the current criteria set out by the University regarding English language requirements, international qualifications and visas before applying. Please direct any requests for guidance on these matters to our Graduate Student Advisor. If your are an EU student, the University has issued a BREXIT statement. For further information about the wide range of scholarships available to International and EU applicants please see the University Graduate Admissions Funding webpage.


Other MPhil & Doctoral Training Programmes

In addition to the direct routes into research, the Department also works with MPhil and PhD training programmes. Many of these are fully-funded. There is the MPhil Programme in Micro & Nanotechnology Enterprise and MPhil in Scientific Computing, as well as PhDs in the EPSRC Nano Science & Technology (NanoDTC), Materials, Graphene and Sensor Technologies. PhDs are also available with Cambridge Earth System Science programme. For applicants looking for biological based research opportunities, see the interdisciplinary programmes funded by the BBSRC, the Cambridge Cancer Centre and the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research