4 Year Doctoral Training Programme



Funded PhD Opportunity

Queen’s University Belfast – NCI Cancer Research Four year Doctoral Training Programme


  • ENTRY YEAR: 2019
  • PROGRAMME LENGTH*: 4 years
  • ATTENDANCE: Full-Time
  • FACULTY: Medicine, Health and Life Sciences
  • SCHOOL: Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences

* In year 1, you will complete a Masters Programme at Queen’s University Belfast, followed by a three-year PhD programme based at the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Washington DC, USA.


This unique programme involves an innovative partnership between Queen’s University Belfast and the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Washington DC. NCI provides an outstanding environment for training in both basic and translational cancer science, supporting leading research to improve cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis and survival. 

The programme will provide an unrivalled opportunity to perform postgraduate studies at internationally renowned cancer research institutions. It will expose students to high quality science, different working cultures and acquisition of new skills sets that will elevate their scientific outputs and enhance career potential.



In year 1 the student will complete a Masters degree at Queen’s University Belfast in one of the following Masters Programmes, that will include a cancer-related research project under the supervision of a principal investigator from either the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology or the Centre for Public Health.

  • MSc (Res) in Cancer Medicine
  • MSc (Res) in Oncology Drug Discovery
  • Masters in Public Health (MPH) 
  • MPH in Global Health
  • MSc in Molecular Pathology of Cancer
  • MSc in Bioinformatics & Computational Genomics

The student will also have the opportunity to take a series of courses on employability, leadership and innovation at the Graduate School at Queen’s

Additionally, in year 1 the student will:

  • Identify an area of interest for the PhD research project in conjunction with the Doctoral Training Programme Co-ordinators
  • Visit NCI to meet with potential supervisors, prior to selection of their project and supervisory team

Progress to the PhD programme will be dependent on passing the Masters.


Upon successful completion of the Masters programme, the student will complete a three-year PhD, based primarily at the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Washington DC, that will be jointly supervised by Queen’s University Belfast and NCI principal investigators.

The PhD project will be tailored to the interests of the student while reflecting the missions of Queen’s University Belfast and the NCI. Specific research priorities include characterisation of the causes and mechanisms of cancer initiation and progression; enabling earlier and more accurate detection of disease; and development of new treatments for patients with cancer. While at NCI, students will be affiliated with either the NCI Centre for Cancer Research (CCR) or the NCI Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG). The CCR is comprised of over 200 research groups comprising scientists and clinicians conducting ground-breaking basic and clinical cancer research in which insights gleaned from studies of basic cellular and molecular processes are translated into clinical applications and patient care. At DCEG, cancer epidemiologists, geneticists, and biostatisticians conduct population and multidisciplinary research to discover the genetic and environmental determinants of cancer and new approaches to cancer prevention. Specific areas of expertise include biostatistics, radiation epidemiology, clinical genetics, predisposition gene discovery and translational genomics.

 This process will involve:

  • Monthly meetings (tele or video-conferencing) including Queen’s University Belfastand NCI supervisors who are assigned to the student for the duration of their PhD and will ensure pastoral care for the student, in addition to providing advice on progress and research-specific studies
  • Annual Programme Review Committee who will evaluate satisfactory progress each year
School Of Medicine, Dentistry and Biological Sciences
"The training I received at NCI was central to developing my research career. Although the scientific resources are without parallel, the most valuable experience was the opportunity to interact with scientists who are at the very top of their game, whom I still collaborate with today."
Dr Nick Orr
Reader, Centre for Cancer Research & Cell Biology

Dr Nick Orr


A minimum 2.1 Honours degree (or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University) in a relevant biological or other science with a substantive quantitative component, life science or related subject including sciences with a substantive quantitative componant is required. Evidence of equivalent professional qualifications as appropriate or experience will be considered on an individual basis. Applicants will be required to undertake an interview.


This programme is not currently open to International Students unless there is a particular agreement with an International Institution.


If you have queries on course content please contact the school representative, Dr Nick Orr nick.orr@qub.ac.uk.

The application process is the submission of a CV and one page Declaration of Interest that must be emailed to pgoffice.smdb@qub.ac.uk and NOT to apply through the application portal.

Late applications will not be considered.

  1. Curriculum Vitae, with a particular focus on your research experience
  2. A one-page Declaration of Interest as to your motivation for being a student on the QUB-NCI Cancer Research Doctoral Training Programme
  3. Short-listed applicants will be called for interview

Closing date 12 noon Monday 3rd December 2018

Anticipated interview dates: 19 or 20 December 2018

Decisions will be made based on:

  • The quality of the candidate
  • Their progress to date
  • Their suitability for the programme
  • Their personal statement  
  • Their performance at interview

NOTE: The Committee reserves the right to only appoint candidates of particular quality to this exciting new prestigious programme at Queen's. The decision of the Committee will be final. 

FEES & FUNDING for 2019/20

Year 1: Masters Programme, Fees only Scholarship will be provided

Years 2-4: Fees and monthly Stipend will be provided


Why Queen's?

This exciting programme will be aligned to the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology or the Cancer Epidemiology Research Group within the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s University Belfast. 

The Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology is a Cancer Research UK Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre. It is recognised internationally as a Centre of Excellence for Precision Cancer Medicine.

School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences

The Centre for Public Health includes the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health, Northern Ireland, and the population-based Northern Ireland Cancer Registry. Several staff members are recipients of prestigious Cancer Research UK fellowships, making the Centre for Public Health one of the most prominent and innovative population cancer research settings in the UK. 

The programme also offers an unrivalled opportunity to undertake research at the world renowned NCI, Washington DC, USA, one of the premier oncology institutions in the world where they will have access to a pool of over 300 Principal Investigators and a range of state-of-the-art technologies


The Doctoral Training Programme will empower students to produce high impact science and achieve their true potential, providing a unique Personalised Training Portfolio for each student, tailored to their specific needs to underpin future career success. 

Successful students will perform cutting edge research which they will present at international conferences and publish in high quality scientific journals. Doctoral Training Programme students will be exposed to a premier quality training experience that equips them to be competitive in their current and future career.

Staff Profile SMDBs
"Working at the National Cancer Institute at an early stage of my researcher career was an invaluable opportunity. I had the opportunity to receive training from, and to work with, experts at the forefront of cancer research enabling me to grow as a researcher. During this time I forged friendships and collaborations that continue almost 10 years later. The NCI has some of the best facilities worldwide and I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to work there."
Dr Lesley Anderson Senior Lecturer in Cancer Epidemiology Centre
Acting Deputy Director Northern Ireland Cancer Registry

Dr Lesley Anderson