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PhD in Cancer Epidemiology (Ref. CRUK2021)

The Epidemiology and Cancer Statistics Group (ECSG) in the Department of Health Sciences, University of York, is looking for enthusiastic applicants for two funded 4-year PhD studentships, available on a full-time basis to start on or before September 2021. Funded by Cancer Research UK, the successful candidates will join the multidisciplinary research team working on the Haematological Malignancy Research Network  and will be supervised by Dr Alexandra Smith, Dr Debra Howell and Professor Eve Roman.  

Project Details

The studentships will be embedded within the Haematological Malignancies Research Network’s (HMRN’s) population-based cohorts. Haematological cancers (leukaemia, lymphomas and myelomas) account for around 1 in 9 of all new cancer diagnoses in the UK. With over 100 different subtypes, they comprise a heterogenous group of cancers with widely differing treatments and prognoses – ranging from relatively indolent to more aggressive forms

HMRN was established by ECSG and their clinical collaborators in 2004 with the aim of providing accurate population-based research outputs on the occurrence, treatment and survival of patients with haematological cancers. The patient cohort comprises of individuals diagnosed with haematological cancers (currently 38,000 – recruiting around 2,400 new patients each year), and the general population cohort comprising unaffected individuals (currently 180,000). Both cohorts are linked to the same national administrative datasets (hospital episode statistics, cancer registrations, and deaths); and members of the patient cohort are also tracked through clinical systems, the information collected including biological data on diagnostic and prognostic markers, treatment episodes, and outcomes. Patient reported outcomes and experiences are also collected via questionnaires, qualitative interviews and focus groups.

HMRN’s maturing cohorts occupy a unique forefront position, offering the opportunity to carry out innovative research at all points along the patient pathway.  Access to HMRN’s large datasets and rich research environment, will provide the opportunity for students to address key research questions in a number of different areas, including, but not limited to:

  • aetiology
  • early diagnosis
  • disease management, prognostics and outcomes
  • excess mortality/relative survival
  • patient reported outcomes (PROMS)
  • survivorship

The PhDs will suit candidates with quantitative skills and an interest in cancer. As part of the Doctoral programme you will also be able to undertake skills training in epidemiology and statistics via access to courses offered on the Masters of Public Health and Masters in Health Services Research.   

The award

The studentship provides a tax-free stipend per annum for UK/EU citizens in line with CRUK standard rates (£19,000 in 2020/21) for 4 years, plus tuition fees at the UK/EU rate. Students from elsewhere who can provide evidence of the ability to fund the difference in tuition fees may also apply (see for more information)

Essential requirements

Applicants will normally need to hold, or expect to gain, at least an upper second-class honours degree (2:1) or equivalent in a scientific subject.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the supervisors to discuss areas of interest before applying (contact details under Informal Enquiries below).

For students whose first language is not English there is a minimum requirement of an IELTS score of at least 6.5 in each component of the test and an overall score of at least 7.

Desirable requirements

A Masters in epidemiology, statistics or health services research is highly desirable.

Process for application

Applications should be received no later than 28th February 2021 before 16:00h UTC. Applications will not be considered for the studentship after this date.

Applications should be made using the Department of Health Sciences on-line application process which can be accessed using the following link.

When completing the electronic form, applicants will need to state that they are applying for the advertised scholarship and include ref: CRUK2021 under the ‘How studies will be funded’ section, in order to be considered for the scholarship. Under Research Proposal, please type "Not Required" in the summary and upload a document stating for this application a proposal is not required.  

Shortlisting: Shortlisting will take place as soon as possible after the closing date and successful applicants will be notified promptly.

Start date: On or before September 2021


Individuals with the strongest academic record and experience will be shortlisted and invited to interview on 15th March 2021. Interviews will be conducted via Zoom or similar communication tools; during which applicants will be expected to give a short presentation on a research area(s) that interests them - more information/guidance about this will be provided before interview.

Informal enquiries

For informal enquiries please contact Dr Alex Smith or Dr Debra Howell

Department of Health Sciences

The Department of Health Sciences includes over 280 academics, teachers, researchers and support staff engaged in delivering research, professional development, education and training. Our core aim is excellence in research and teaching, while contributing to improving health and healthcare through the application of our research to policy and practice. We are a multidisciplinary department, involving clinicians from a range of health professions including medicine, nursing and midwifery alongside disciplines such as statistics, health economics, health services research, psychology, sociology and epidemiology. In the most recent assessment of research quality in the UK (the 2014 Research Excellence Framework), the Department was ranked equal first nationally for its research environment and all aspects of our research environment was judged to producing research of world-leading quality in terms of vitality and sustainability. 

The successful candidate will join a vibrant community of over 200 postgraduate students in our Graduate School, including over 40 PhD students. Our PhD students are embedded in one of our research groups and have the flexibility to tailor their studies to pursue their own research interests, and a bespoke training programme is designed in conjunction with the supervisory team to support the development of essential subject-specific and transferable skills for their future careers.

The University 

The University of York is one of the foremost Universities in the UK and a member of the Russell Group of leading UK Universities. It has an outstanding record of research, teaching, and training across a full range of disciplines. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, The University ranked 10th on the impact of our research and 14th overall. The University has a particular strength in health-related research.

The main campus is a 200-acre landscaped park, with colleges and academic buildings within walking distance of each other. Proximity to the historic city of York makes the University a popular choice and provides a pleasant working environment. Transport connections to York are fast and effective.