British Heart Foundation 4 Year PhD Programme in Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes

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Why focus on Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes?

“In spite of modern treatments, diabetes substantially increases the risk of suffering major cardiovascular problems, such as heart attack, stroke, limb ischaemia and heart failure which impairs quality of life and reduces survival. 
While our PhD programme alumni are in their early scientific careers, more than one in ten adults in the UK will suffer from diabetes, with major implications for individuals, families, and the economy. 
Our world leading track record in cardiovascular and diabetes research provides an excellent springboard to develop researchers who are capable of meeting this substantial public health challenge in the future.”
Mark kearney, dean of medicine, in sustainability garden.

Professor Mark Kearney BHF Professor of Cardiovascular Disease & Diabetes and Dean of Medicine, University of Leeds 


Structure of our Programme 

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We seek to create a new generation of scientists from a broad range of disciplines who think differently and go on to be instrumental in transforming understanding and treatment of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. We don’t expect PGRs to be the finished article from the start. We provide a supportive, nurturing environment to maximise the opportunities on offer and allow our PGRs to develop and grow, experiencing the breadth of their subject area in addition to the specialism of their chosen project. 

Each project addresses the challenge of cardiovascular disease and diabetes and includes 2 mini-projects in Year 1 which can be outside the laboratory of the primary supervisor but closely related to the main area of research. This allows PGRs the opportunity to spend all 4 years primarily directed towards their main PhD project while retaining the option to change direction and/or supervisors during Year 1 if properly justified. Final alignment of PGRs with project and supervisors occurs by 9 months when the proposal is provided to the BHF.  

Year 1 also includes a carefully designed programme of lectures, generic laboratory training and clinical experience provided specifically to the 4-year PGRs. PGRs are supported to write a review article relevant to their project for formal publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Within years 2 to 4 PGRs may also plan a visit to an outstanding overseas or UK laboratory, or gain experience in a non-academic environment, to develop further skills and experience relevant to their research interests and help plan a future career within or outside of academia. 

Highlights of the Programme

  • Emphasis on PGR support (dedicated administrator, buddy scheme, mentors) 

  • Access to world class research facilities  

  • Maximized time for the main PhD project 

  • Overseas visits to other world-leading laboratories – subject to COVID-19 restrictions  

  • Support for career development 

  • Off-campus research retreat in the Lake District - subject to COVID-19 restrictions  

  • Publication of a review article 

  • Extensive relevant taught and real-life training experiences 

  • Wide multidisciplinary supervisor pool (including clinician-scientists) 

  • Located in a stylish state-of-the-art scientific building on one of the largest university-hospital complexes in the UK 

Lauren eades in the light labs 1

Student group in licamm

Applications for 2022 are closed. Applications for 2023 entry will open in September 2022. 

The PhD projects we host align with one of three specialist research themes, all of which focus on our mission to improve the understanding, prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease in people with diabetes. We are keen to recruit talented researchers from all scientific disciplines and projects will be offered across the range of discovery science to translational and applied research. Successful applicants will be matched with projects after interview, after having the opportunity to meet prospective supervisors and discuss available projects. Please indicate on the application form which of the following themes you are most interested in: 

  • Diabetic vascular disease Diabetes causes a systemic vasculopathy, resulting in devastating complications, in spite of modern therapy. There remain large gaps in our understanding of how this occurs, hampering therapeutic innovation. Our broad expertise in vascular biology means that we are well placed to address this issue. 
  • Diabetes, thrombosis and inflammation Perturbed blood clotting and inflammation are defining features of the metabolic syndrome, a clustering of cardiovascular risk factors linked with (pre)diabetes. Inflammation and thrombosis are also intrinsically linked, yet how diabetes influences these remains incompletely defined. 
  • Diabetes, heart failure and multi-morbidity Heart failure is more common in people with diabetes and this combination is associated with worse symptoms and prognosis. Moreover, diabetes often co-exists with many inter-related medical problems, a phenomenon called multi-morbidity. How diabetes aggravates these problems, and how best to address them, remain important questions. 

Entry Requirements

  • The award is open to applicants who are eligible to pay academic fees at the UK rate. 

  • Applicants will have, or expect to obtain, a degree equivalent to at least a UK upper second-class undergraduate degree in a relevant subject area including; medical sciences, biomedical sciences, structural biology, biochemistry, imaging, physics, chemistry, mathematics and computing 

  • Applicants applying should not already have been awarded a doctoral degree 

  • We welcome applications from all suitably qualified candidates. We particularly encourage applications from under-represented groups. All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit. 

Applicants whose first language is not English must meet the Faculty’s English Language requirements, where applicable. 

Financial Information

This studentship will cover the cost of academic fees (at UK PGR rate) and a standard BHF PhD stipend (£19,919 - £23, 298 per year), based on 2020/21 rates.  The studentship also includes a budget for research consumables and a travel funding of up to £1,000 to attend scientific meetings. 

How to apply

To apply please complete an online application form, including the following as supporting documents: 

  • Full Academic CV including a statement describing your motivation to apply to the programme 

  • Degree certificates and transcripts (or grade transcript if still studying) 

  • 2 references from academic referees. Offers are subject to satisfactory references. Please ask your referees to send these references on your behalf, directly to the Faculty of Medicine and Health Graduate School 

  • Evidence of English language ability, if applicable 

To help us identify that you are applying for this opportunity please ensure you provide the following information on your application form:

  • When asked for your programme of study please select Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes (PHP-CADD-4FT) 

  • In source of funding make it clear that you are applying for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scholarship 

  • Give your chosen research theme as the project title 

Enquiries regarding the application process should be directed to the Faculty of Medicine and Health Graduate School 

For further information about the programme, please email the BHF 4Y PhD Team  

Selection process

Closing date for applications is midnight on 5th January 2022. Interviews will be held on the 24th January 2022. 

Interviews will last 30 minutes. We do not require interviewees to give presentations. 

In addition to the interview, there will be an opportunity to learn more about the Programme from: 

  • A short talk by the Programme directors Professor David Beech and Dr Richard Cubbon who will discuss and answer questions about our programme ethos, the structure of our training, and the research in our Institute. 

  • A presentation by current Programme PGRs and the opportunity to discuss their experiences 

Successful candidates will be contacted by the Programme directors after interview to discuss their project selection, a process which will include the opportunity to meet prospective supervisors and learn about the projects they are offering 

LICAMM PhD student in the lab

Links to useful sites

International Office - Provides welcome and orientation support and immigration advice and the opportunity to be part of a Global Community.

Doctoral College - Provides support and enhances opportunities available to you as a PhD student.

Feeling at Home in Leeds - The University offers face to face support and online tools to help students feel at home and make the most of University life. 

Faculty of Medicine and Health Graduate School - As a researcher at Leeds, you will be part of a vibrant and welcoming research community both within the Faculty and the wider University.

Contact Us

For any queries about the 4 Year BHF Programme, please contact the BHF PhD Team.

Student in licamm lab pipetting 800

Lauren Eades 4-year British Heart Foundation PhD Programme

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The foundation year of my PhD has enabled me to learn a wide range of practical techniques and skills, including both experimental and computational methods. My PhD has been enriched by attending and presenting my work at conferences, such as the institute’s annual endothelial and MRCP conferences, 2019. I particularly enjoyed presenting at the annual student BHF conference at Imperial College London, 2019.
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Michael Bell PhD in Cardiovascular Science

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The highlights of the PhD so far have been conducting imaging experiments in the brand new ePIC facility and the opportunity to present research at the faculty away days. My research project is based on molecular imaging of abdominal aortic aneurysm. This involves studying the use of molecular probes which could use a stratification biomarkers in the detection and management of abdominal aortic aneurysm. The facilities in LICAMM and the University of Leeds are state of the art. ePIC houses leading equipment in medical imaging and the microscopy suite houses a range of excellent microscopes.
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