Quantum Biology PhD

Key information

Full-time - 4 years

Start date

January 2020
April 2020
July 2020
October 2020

Why choose this course

Recent research suggests that quantum mechanics appears to play an important role in many biological processes such as photosynthesis, enzyme action and mutation. This emerging and exciting discipline – known as quantum biology – could hold the key to new approaches in solar energy, drugs and diagnostics, or might even improve our understanding of how the brain works. It is also shedding light on the conceptual foundations of quantum theory.

Surrey is uniquely placed to offer a PhD in Quantum Biology. We are home to the Leverhulme Doctoral Training Centre for Quantum Biology – the first centre of its kind in the world. As well as standard biological and physics resources, our PhD students also have access to advanced spectroscopy, ion beam proton irradiation, nanotechnology and mass spectrometry facilities within our Advanced Technology Institute, and additional facilities at our partner institute, the National Physical Laboratory.

The University of Surrey has a strong reputation for PhD training and we are currently home to over 1,000 postgraduate researchers and nearly 450 supervisors, working together across over 170 research areas. The most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) in 2014 rated 84 per cent of our research output as world-leading or internationally-excellent. We also have an excellent graduate employability record, and the collaborative, interdisciplinary and industry-relevant nature of our research means that you’ll make contacts, gain skills and get practical experience that will give you an edge with employers.

What you will study

Our PhD in Quantum Biology gives you the opportunity to undertake an interdisciplinary research programme in a theoretical or experimental area of the discipline. Depending on the availability of studentships, you could explore a topic such as photosynthesis, molecular mechanisms of mutation, enzymes, olfaction, nanobiotechnology or synthetic biology.

As a PhD student you will become part of Surrey’s Leverhulme Centre for Doctoral Training in Quantum biology, putting you at the heart of a community of academics, postdoctoral researchers, and guest scientists. In the first year, you will embark on a training programme of interdisciplinary seminars and workshops that are designed to ‘fill in the gaps’ in physics for biologists and in biology for students from a physical science or mathematics background.

You’ll be co-supervised by academics who are experts in their areas of research and will guide you through your PhD. These academics are from a range of departments across the University including Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Computing and Biosciences, as well as the Advanced Technology Institute. They will help you define the objectives and scope of your research and help you learn the experimental, theoretical and computing skills you will need to complete your research. You will normally meet with your supervisors every week or every other week.

After your first 12 months you will complete a confirmation report which will be assessed by independent examiners; your PhD will be assessed overall by a written thesis after you have studied for at least three years.

Throughout your studies you will have regular opportunities to meet other PhD students, academics and staff at our informal postgraduate research forum meetings, and to get involved in socials and other events.

Research support

Your professional development is supported by Surrey’s Doctoral College which provides training in essential skills through its Researcher Development Programme of workshops, mentoring and coaching. A dedicated postgraduate Careers and Employability team will help you prepare for a successful career after you complete your PhD.

Research themes

  • Photosynthesis
  • Molecular mechanisms of mutation
  • Enzymes
  • Olfaction
  • Nanobiotechnology
  • Synthetic biology
  • Magnetoreception
  • Neurobiology
  • The role of noise in quantum biology
  • Open quantum systems
  • Quantum information theory
  • Quantum computing.

Research facilities

You will have access to a range of facilities across the University including the £12m Innovation for Health Learning Laboratory, as well as ion beam proton irradiation, mass spectrometry, nanotechnology and advanced spectroscopy facilities within Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute.

In addition, depending on the topic of your PhD, you may benefit from Surrey’s strategic partnership with the National Physical Laboratory. PhD students get the opportunity to attend seminars and workshops run by the UK Centre for Postgraduate Training in Measurement Science and Surrey’s successful EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Micro and Nano Materials & Technologies.

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to hold a first or upper-second class degree in a relevant discipline (or equivalent overseas qualification), or a lower second plus a good Masters degree (distinction normally required).

View entry requirements by country

English language requirements

IELTS Academic: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6 in each individual category.

Selection process

Selection is based on applicants meeting the expected entry requirements, assessment of application, successful interview and suitable references where required.


Start date: January 2020


UK/EU £4,327

Overseas £21,400

Start date: April 2020


UK/EU £4,327

Overseas £21,400

Start date: July 2020


UK/EU £4,327

Overseas £21,400

Start date: October 2020


UK/EU To be confirmed

Overseas £22,000

For fees payable in 2018/19, these will increase by 4 per cent, rounded up to the nearest £100 for subsequent years of study. Any start date other than October will attract a pro-rata fee for that year of entry (75 per cent for January, 50 per cent for April and 25 per cent for July).

Overseas students applying for 2018 entry should note that annual fees will rise by 4% rounded up to the nearest £100.

View a complete list of all fees for our research programmes.

Code of practice for research degrees

Surrey’s postgraduate research code of practice sets out the University's policy and procedural framework relating to research degrees. The code defines a set of standard procedures and specific responsibilities covering the academic supervision, administration and assessment of research degrees for all faculties within the University.

Download the code of practice for research degrees (PDF).

Terms and conditions

When you accept an offer of a place at the University of Surrey, you are agreeing to comply with our policies and regulations, and our terms and conditions. These terms and conditions are provided in two stages: first when we make an offer and second when students who have accepted their offers register to study at the University. View our offer terms and conditions and our generic registration terms and conditions (PDF) as a guide as to what to expect.
Please note: our offer terms and conditions will be available in the September of the calendar year prior to the year in which you begin your studies. Our registration terms and conditions will vary to take into account specifics of your course.


This online prospectus has been prepared and published in advance of the academic year to which it applies. The University of Surrey has used its reasonable efforts to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content or additional costs) may occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for a course with us. Read more.

Course location and contact details

Campus location

Stag Hill

Stag Hill is the University's main campus and where the majority of our courses are taught. 

University of Surrey

University of Surrey
Surrey GU2 7XH