Prof Frank Vollmer

University of Exeter, Living Systems Institute

Exeter EX4 4QD, United Kingdom

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Living Systems Institute (LSI) Studentships - 2020/21 entry

About the Award


Understanding and manipulating living systems requires the ability to control how cells behave in a precise and specific manner. Given the complexity of biological processes, discoveries that will ultimately lead to successful applications are likely to emerge from research in the context of the whole living system. Research in the Living Systems Institute (LSI) addresses biological mechanism on all scales and spanning all disciplines using the latest methodologies and technologies. This integrated interdisciplinary approach is aimed both at fundamental discoveries and at enabling innovation in healthcare and therapy.

Modern scientific innovation involves the integration of diverse disciplines and the bridging of pure and application-oriented research. This requires a new generation of scientists who are trained to think and experiment beyond traditional boundaries. The recently established Living Systems Institute (LSI), University of Exeter, provides this opportunity by housing world leading Biologists, Physicists, Mathematicians, Computational Scientists and Engineers using cutting-edge technologies. Our mission is to understand life across all scales - from individual atoms to whole organisms - and to discover approaches for improving health and treating disease. 

We are pleased to announce availability of four studentship opportunities for September 2020 intake.  Funding is available for Two Home/EU and Two International students for this initial cohort.  These studentship opportunities are available on a part-time and full-time basis.

We wish to recruit the best and most imaginative students from across the full range of disciplines to join our thriving community of over 60 PhD students.



Places are fully funded with funding also available for overseas applicants.  This includes payment of tuition fees, a personal stipend for 3.5 years (currently £15,009 per year 2019/20) and a training budget.

We also welcome applications from candidates who can provide partial or full-funding from other sources.



The variety of research systems, fields and approaches in the Living Systems Institute provide a multitude of training opportunities for our PhD students.  Training needs are identified on an individual basis throughout the course of the PhD, however, at the beginning of your studies we support you to develop your broad skillset. There will be opportunities to engage with an interdisciplinary training programme that includes sessions on physical, mathematical and computational analyses of living systems (imaging, modelling and bioinformatics) as well as workshops on the latest methods in Biological sciences.

Induction Projects


As part of the training available to support your development the first year will begin with an opportunity to undertake a group project to provide an introduction to interdisciplinary research.  During the following 3-4 months you will be able to undertake rotation projects, designed on an individual basis to allow students to experience the research environment in different laboratories.  The purpose is to familiarise you with approaches relevant to your research interests and provide you with the information to refine or design your PhD project with help from our supervisory team.

PhD Project


This would normally be based in one of the groups that hosted a rotation project during the induction period.  Our cross-disciplinary faculty are spread over six broad research themes:

  • Molecular and Cellular Dynamics

  • Mechanisms of Disease,

  • Physics of Living Systems,

  • Neurobiology

  • Mathematical Modelling in Physiology and Medicine

  • Quantitative Biology and Evolution

The project will usually be co-supervised by two academics from different themes.  More information on supervisors and sample interdisciplinary projects can be seen on the LSI website

Research Culture


You will join a friendly and diverse community of over 60 PhD students within the LSI.  We provide a vibrant research culture among our staff and students and within the programme. PhD student-led seminar series’, journal clubs and discussion groups are aimed at developing peer-to-peer learning and discourse.