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PhD in Molecular, Genetic & Lifecourse Epidemiology 4 year programme

Wellcome Trust 4-year PhD Programme in Molecular, Genetic and Lifecourse Epidemiology (MGLE)

We are seeking enthusiastic scientists to join the next generation of inter-disciplinary researchers who will exploit the wealth of new data being generated in population health sciences. Our innovative four-year PhD programme offers you the opportunity to develop the knowledge and technical skills to become a future research leader in the fields of molecular, genetic and/or lifecourse epidemiology.

The Programme

The MGLE 4-year PhD programme has been funded by Wellcome and is based in the University of Bristol. This four-year programme combines tailored innovative training in a foundation year with your choice of a three year PhD project.


We welcome students from a wide range of scientific backgrounds. Our community of researchers have diverse skills and work together on exciting interdisciplinary research projects using data and samples from leading cohort studies such as ALSPAC and UK Biobank. We strongly encourage applications from a range of disciplines (e.g. natural sciences, biostatistics, molecular genetics, econometrics, biochemistry, mathematics, statistics, engineering and computer science). Our PhD programme and training environment is designed to provide you with the necessary skills to succeed in this field!

Wellcome Trust 4-year PhD Programme in Molecular, Genetic and Lifecourse Epidemiology (MGLE)

Programme structure

Our PhD studentship is fully funded for 4 years and has two major components:

  1. Our foundation year combines specific and generic skills training with practical experience gained from undertaking two 'mini-projects'. Each mini-project consists of a four month period during which you work on a project in one of the programmes research areas (eg epidemiology, genetics, epigenetics, bioinformatics/data science or molecular laboratory research).

    The mini-projects are integrated with training from a menu of 1-5 day short courses which you will select on the basis of experience and training needs. These courses cover epidemiology, statistics, programming, high-performance computing, reproducible research and other research skills. You will also have the opportunity to attend external specialist courses and international meetings.

  2. Years 2-4 are spent undertaking your main PhD research project. You will be encouraged to continue attending courses and conferences throughout your studentship, with a focus on presenting your results at international conferences towards the end of your project.

Towards the end of your studentship a range of training opportunities are available to support your transition into the next stage of your career.

The University

You will be hosted by the University of Bristol, a leading UK research university. The university is near the centre of Bristol, a vibrant and welcoming UK city. The MGLE twitter page and our University Instagram page showcases Bristol activities and our city.

During your studentship you will be part of Bristol Medical School, which offers an integrated approach to postgraduate education in a collaborative and multidisciplinary environment. The PhD programme is based within the Population Health Sciences Department and complements parallel PhD programmes at the University, including (amongst others) those in: Dynamic Cell Biology, Integrative Cardiovascular Science, Neural Dynamics and Complex Networks.

We have an extensive pool of >100 supervisors and all PhD students are co-supervised by more than one member of staff to provide optimal support and access to a wide range of skills and expertise.

Research visits to other organisation within and beyond the UK are actively encouraged, along with participation in conferences, workshops and other events.

The University of Bristol publicly commits to intensify our efforts to improve the representation, progression, experience and success of our minority ethnic students.

"The mini projects in my first year enabled me to develop a multidisciplinary skills set, which will prove helpful for my PhD project."

Caroline Bull

"The 1+3 year programme was also very appealing as my BSc is biomedical, so I wanted the time in the first year to learn as much as possible before starting my main project."

Tom Battram

"Hopefully, my research will contribute to further scientific understanding in the field of autism research. I hope to continue my career in Psychiatric Epidemiology after my PhD."

Amanda Ly

"Having the opportunity to discuss and develop interesting causal inference techniques and contribute to debates surrounding important healthcare issues has served as my primary motivation for undertaking a PhD at Bristol."

Wes Spiller

How to Apply

Applications are invited from October 2023 for 5 studentships starting in September 2024. Applications are completed online at . Before applying please email for further details about the programme, potential topics, supervisors, and what information we will require from you.

You are encouraged to contact potential supervisors to discuss potential research projects before you submit your application. Example projects are listed below, but you are welcome to contact potential supervisors with your own project ideas if they are relevant to the programme. Supervisors may be identified from the listing of potential programme supervisors on the programme website.

The Wellcome Trust provides support for four years, which includes a stipend of £23,955-£25,666, PhD registration fees (UK rate only)*, research expenses totalling £50,000 over 4 years, travel and transferable-skills training. The scheme also provides access to up to £35,000 per student in transition funding to help each individual to plan, train and move into their desired career path once the PhD has been completed.

* Two studentships per year are also available to non-UK International applicants.

For further details about the Wellcome Trust studentships, potential topics and supervisors please email

An online application workshop took place on 14th November 2023 to offer advice and answer questions on the application process. Please view the recording here.

When applying please choose 'Molecular, Genetic, Lifecourse, Epidemiology (Wellcome Trust PhD).' Please state that you are applying for the Wellcome MGLE PhD programme in your covering letter. A research proposal is not required at this stage. After completing your application please take 5 mins to complete this short survey.

Closing date: 11:59 GMT, 6th December 2023 for 5 studentships to start in September 2024

Interviews will be held in January or February 2024. Shortlisted applicants will be asked to identify up to three potential PhD projects in order of preference, and will be asked to submit a short project proposal and give a 5 minute presentation on their preferred project at interview outlining background, objectives, methods and training plan.

PhD Projects:

An investigation of the causal relationship and genetic overlap between sleep traits and physical and mental health using Mendelian randomizationDetails
Breastfeeding and big babies - lifecourse and genomics epidemiological approaches to disentangle cause and effect.Details
Causal risk factors and biological mechanisms for colorectal cancer riskDetails
Climate change and perinatal health: combining epidemiological data with climate projection modelsDetails
Development of methods to triangulate multiple sources of evidence.Details
Establishing and orienting causal relationships between sleep characteristics and reproductive functionDetails
Establishing the feasibility of serial optical coherence tomography-otoscopy and microbiological testing in children with suspected acute otitis media in primary care: systematic review and prospective cohort studyDetails
Estimating the global cancer burden due to low levels of physical activityDetails
Evaluating the role of circulating proteins in cancer risk and progression using genetic and observational approachesDetails
Exploring the relationship between alcohol consumption and self-harm combining epidemiological and human laboratory methodsDetails
Genetic, mental health, and neurodevelopmental influences on decisions about higher educationDetails
Gut Microbiome, Immune Response and Risk of Neuropsychiatric ConditionsDetails
Harnessing genetics of DNA methylation to elucidate molecular mechanisms underlying human phenotypes.Details
Harnessing the genetics of DNA methylation to understand context-specific gene regulation in diseaseDetails
Higher education and employment journeys for young adults and the impact on their mental healthDetails
How does parental education increase risk to ADHD in the offspring?Details
Identifying causal pathways to disease using DNA methylation derived scores.Details
Identifying causal pathways to disease using DNA methylation predicted blood traits.Details
Identifying causal risk factors and outcomes of atopic dermatitisDetails
Identifying causal risk factors for disease progressionDetails
Identifying DNA methylation signatures of prostate cancer progression and mortality among patients with clinically confirmed, localised disease at baseline in a large prospective clinical trialDetails
Identifying metabolic drivers of cancer developmentDetails
Integration of transactional and Ecological Momentary Assessment data for cancer risk factor predictionDetails
Internalized weight stigma: causes and consequences in young adulthoodDetails
Investigating causal effects of neurodevelopmental and mental health problems in childhood on adult physical healthDetails
Investigating the genetic architecture of orofacial cleft: A genome-wide association study using trio data and an investigation of parent of origin and mother-children interaction effects.Details
Investigating the relationship between digital media use and children’s mental healthDetails
Investigating the role of dietary fructose in the development of early-onset colorectal cancerDetails
Life course determinants of adult peak circulatory capacityDetails
Life course epidemiology of mental-physical multimorbidityDetails
Linking multivariable Mendelian randomization with lifecourse epidemiology: developing the methodology and application to a contemporary exemplarDetails
Mendelian Randomisation for mediation analysis with multiple mediators: theory and applicationsDetails
Metabolomic characterisation of adiposity across the life courseDetails
Multimorbidity and pregnancy complications: exploring causal relationships and identifying therapeutic targetsDetails
Prenatal and pre-conception effects on neurodevelopmental disorders.Details
Prospectively mapping the development of liver disease amongst young adults. Who is developing it early and why?Details
Synthesizing evidence on different outcome scales: development of mapping methods for analysing childhood obesity dataDetails
The epidemiology of low body weight: 2003-2023Details
The genetic map of human molecular phenotypesDetails
The genetics of human scarring – cross-cutting approaches to the understanding of human wound repair.Details
The use of life course epidemiology to support the experimental characterisation of genetic variationDetails
Understanding health service use and health trajectories of young adult survivors of intimate partner violence and abuse using birth cohort and linked electronic health recordsDetails
Understanding links between mental health and obesity over the life-courseDetails
Understanding psychiatric outcomes in children born with cleft lip and/or palate using geneticsDetails
Understanding the long-term effects of breastfeeding and lactation on maternal and child healthDetails
Using supermarket loyalty cards data to study reproductive healthDetails