Find a Degree Postgraduate Research Areas Institute of Medical Sciences

Research Degrees

MSc, MPhil, PhD, MD, ChM

Head of Research Area

Professors Peter McCaffery and Steve Heys

For Further Information Contact

Senior Postgraduate Secretary
Graduate School
College of Life Sciences & Medicine

Related Taught Programmes


The Institute of Medical Sciences is a major research institute in the College of Life Sciences and Medicine, which incorporates biomedical research in the Schools of Medical Sciences and Medicine and Dentistry.

The Institute is home to approximately 90 Principal Investigators and their research teams, leading to a population of approximately 450 researchers and active grants totalling more than £40m. New centres of excellence are growing in the Institute of Medical Sciences, aimed at nutrition, neuroscience, research into fungal and other microorganisms and how they cause infectious disease and new aspects of drug discovery and pharmacology. These exciting new developments join the pre-existing topics of excellence including cannabinoid research, the use of mathematics to study biology (systems biology), bone and musculoskeletal research, cell and developmental biology, cancer medicine alongside recently enhanced cardiovascular research. A wide range of cutting-edge techniques is used and the combination of basic and clinical scientists working closely together generates superb translational research.

Over 90% of the College’s research that was submitted in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), was judged to be of international quality in terms of originality, significance and rigour. Furthermore, 60% of the College’s submission was been rated as world leading or internationally excellent. Underpinning these results is a vibrant research environment, illustrated by a coherent research strategy, high levels of investment in new buildings and other research infrastructure and an unambiguous commitment to staff development.

Specific highlights include the following:

  • Other Hospital Based Clinical Subjects submission (Unit of Assessment 4) - was ranked as fourth equal in the UK based on the proportion of the submission considered of 3* or 4*quality. Virtually all of the submission was rated international, with 75% world-leading or internationally excellent
  • Preclinical and Human Biological Sciences (Unit of Assessment 15) – three quarters of the submission was rated international, with 40% world-leading or internationally excellent
  • Biological Sciences (Unit of Assessment 14) – almost all of the submission was rated international, with 55% world-leading or internationally excellent
  • Sports-related Studies (Unit of Assessment 46) – 70% of the research outputs for sports physiology were graded at the international level

Our Research

The research activity within the Institute is organised into Research Programmes, each containing several research groups with overlapping research interests that form the basis for both formal and informal collaborations.

These are listed below to give you a flavour of the exciting research opportunities:

Aberdeen Biomedical Imaging Centre
The University of Aberdeen has made significant investment in clinical and small bore MRI and PET facilities. This gives excellent opportunities to work with imaging scientists performing translational research to address important clinical problems in the cardiovascular system, the brain and tackling diseases such as cancer and musculoskeletal syndromes.

Bone and Musculoskeletal
An estimated 3 million people in the UK suffer from the bone destroying disease osteoporosis, costing the NHS and government over £1.7 billion each year (that’s £5 million each day!), and recent studies suggest that 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 in the UK will have an osteoporotic bone fracture. Come and join a team of laboratory-based and clinical scientists at the University of Aberdeen, who are at the forefront of research into the genetic and molecular cause of bone diseases such as osteoporosis, Paget’s disease and osteoarthritis and are helping to develop new therapies and better ways of diagnosing these crippling diseases.

Cancer Medicine
Important areas of cancer research are biomarkers and their role, not only in identifying patients with cancer, but also as predictors of patients most likely to respond to treatments. In addition, the role of nutrient/gene interactions in carcinogenesis is vital to understanding the dietary basis of cancer.

Cell and Developmental Biology
The Cell and Developmental Research Programme investigates the molecular biology, cell biology and cell physiology that is unique to cells in multi-cellular organisms. We study molecular pathways and mechanisms during embryonic development and when they are re-deployed in the adult to regulate stem cell maintenance and differentiation in wound healing, regeneration and tissue repair. Many diseases have their origin in embryonic development. The molecular and genetic technologies that are being developed within the group are being applied to numerous clinical research areas. This demonstrates how fundamental research can provide solutions to problems in clinical medicine.

The Immunology Programme is a diverse and thriving organisation. The University of Aberdeen hosts cutting-edge research in the causes and treatment of immune system diseases, such as allergy, autoimmunity, graft rejection, blood group reactions and leukaemias. The “bench to bedside” approach has led to success in the commercial sector, with investment for clinical trials of new treatments.

Diseases affecting four major systems are studied: the eye, brain, kidney, lungs and blood, underpinned by basic research on immune regulation and inflammatory cells.

Medical Genetics
Researchers across the University of Aberdeen in both the Institute of Medical Sciences and the Institute of Applied Health Sciences are studying fundamental and applied aspects of the genetic contribution to inherited and acquired disease. Benefits of such medical genetics research are widespread, from improving information for families of those affected, to the identification of new targets for novel therapies, and the ability to create models of disease that can then be used in therapeutic research.

At Aberdeen, molecular and cell biologists, clinical scientists, epidemiologists and environmental microbiologists are working together to address key questions about the basic cell and molecular biology, growth and activities of micro-organisms, how they interact with the environment and with human and plant hosts to cause disease.

Molecular Exercise Physiology
Exercise physiology aims at understanding the body’s reaction to exercise and sport. It has now moved from whole body measurements to investigations at the molecular level. Thus molecular biology techniques are essential to address key questions such as ‘why do muscles grow after exercise?’ or ‘what genetic variations determine athletic performance?’.

The brain is probably the most complex thing in the universe. There are many exciting challenges and problems to investigate concerning the brain: for example, how memories form, how neural circuits work, and how and why we sleep. In addition many important medical problems concerning the brain are being studied at Aberdeen: Parkinson’s disease; Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and schizophrenia. Research in the Institute of Medical Sciences is on the cutting edge of all these disorders and has lead to breakthroughs in the understanding of these diseases.

Physiology and Pharmacology
The physiology and pharmacology research programme concentrates on areas important for human health and disease such as; the medicinal properties of cannabis to develop new drugs for treatment of pain and obesity and identifying new medicinal targets to prevent cardiovascular disease (the number one killer disease in the UK). Other research examines how exercise affects athletes in both beneficial and detrimental ways. Through our research programmes, you can be involved in developing successful new treatments to benefit human health.

Systems Biology
Systems biology is a rapidly developing and new field that seeks to make new discoveries at the junction of biology and mathematical modelling. Research teams in Aberdeen are seeking new post-graduate researchers to work on a number of exciting and challenging problems, including stress response modelling in pathogens, modelling of wild-animal populations and prediction of chemotherapeutic outcomes in tumour treatment. 

Translational Medicine
Translational medicine has been defined as “research going from bench to bedside, where theories emerging from pre-clinical experimentation are tested on patients with a variety of disease conditions, and from bedside to bench, where information obtained from preliminary human experimentation can be used to refine our understanding of the biological principles underpinning the heterogeneity of human disease”.

The main interests of the vascular theme are in the role of cardiac risk assessment and management in healthy volunteers and patients with peripheral vascular, cardiac, and cerebrovascular disease. Our areas of expertise are in the investigation of the role of platelets, coagulation, endothelial function, inflammation and dyslipidaemia in the development and progression of atherosclerosis and the molecular mechanisms and innovative therapies in the management of hear t failure


Tuition fee rates for the academic year can be found at :- 

Sources of Funding

Funded studentship opportunities are routinely advertised on the Graduate School website, along with details of other sources of funding.

Students with an interest in a specific area of research are encouraged to visit the Institute’s research website to identify potential supervisors and submit a project proposal with their application.

Enquiries can be made to:
The Graduate School
College of Life Sciences & Medicine
College Office, Polwarth Building
Aberdeen, AB25 2ZD

Elphinstone PhD Scholarships

ElphinstoneTo commemorate the 500th anniversary of our founder, Bishop William Elphinstone, we are offering a new £5 million PhD scholarship programme in memory of his commitment to excellence and "the pursuit of truth in the service of others".

More Details on the Elphinstone PhD Scholarships »


Related Information

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