During your PhD

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 Support during your studies

Graduate training and the needs and interests of our graduate students are overseen and represented by our Graduate Committee, which includes representatives from across the Institute, including researchers, grants and HR as well as student representatives from all strategic programmes. Each PhD student has a particular member of the committee as their pastoral mentor, who provides a confidential point of contact for issues around health, wellbeing, motivation, career development etc.

Each student has their own personal committee, to mentor them through their studies. The committee consists of a supervisor, mentor, assessor and university supervisor.

  • Your supervisor is typically the leader of your research group and will be an expert in your research area, having devised the initial project that you will be working on.
  • Your mentor will also have specialist knowledge of your project and provides an accessible point of contact for discussion of technical issues.
  • Your assessor is another senior researcher, they provide an independent opinion of your work.
  • Finally, university supervisors are part of the University of Cambridge and provide links to the University as well as a further source of complementary knowledge related to your research.

We have recently introduced a new Student Buddy system to help new students successfully integrate into our student community. The aim of the scheme is to provide new PhD students with a peer who can be a first point of contact for practical advice and support and to signpost them in the right direction if further help is needed.

The Institute also has an equality and diversity programme (equality4success) that supports healthy work-life balance and equal access to facilities and opportunities for everyone at the Institute. They are also available to help you to make the most of your time here and to enjoy studying at the Babraham Institute.



The graduate programme includes a system of formal review throughout your study to ensure continued advancement towards a successful final examination. At each stage, reports are reviewed by a student’s personal committee and progress is reported to the Graduate Committee. Key assessment points include:

  • 2 months – A short report clearly establishing the agreed aims of the research project and the resources/equipment required for its completion.
  • 8 months – A Registration Report laying out initial progress and any complications that have arisen. Candidates are formally registered as PhD students by the University following successful completion of this stage.
  • 18 months – A report detailing progress so far.
  • 24 months – A Thesis Plan outlining completed work and work still to do. For students on 4-year programmes, the Plan is subsequently revised and updated after 36 months.
  • Final thesis – Before the end of four years students are expected to complete a PhD Thesis, which is submitted to the University for examination. The thesis is typically reviewed by at least two examiners and is then discussed in detail with the student in a viva voce interview-style examination which typically lasts several hours.

PhD Students 2019


Presenting your work

Sharing your findings through posters and oral presentations is a critical part of any research career. During your time at the Institute, we will help you to develop your skills in data presentation, preparing presentations and in public speaking to ensure you are well-equipped for this aspect of research.

All research groups typically have regular group meetings to discuss progress and results. You will typically present to your research group at least once in your first year. During the second year, students present to the Graduate Programme and then present to the whole Institute in the third year. First, second and third year students contribute to the Institute’s annual Poster Day, while third and fourth year students may be selected for our Lab Talks programme.

Throughout your studies there may be many other opportunities to present too, including to specialist, non-specialist and public audiences. This includes attending national and international research conferences in relevant fields and you are encouraged to apply for travel grants to help you attend these.

Case study - Life as a PhD Student