Quantum Biology PhD

Key information

Full-time - 4 years

Start dates

October 2022
January 2023
April 2023

Why choose this programme

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. It might even improve our understanding of how the brain works. It’s also shedding light on the conceptual foundations of quantum theory. 

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

The University has a strong reputation for PhD training and we’re currently home to more than 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 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’ll become part of Surrey’s QB-DTC, putting you at the heart of a community of academics, postdoctoral researchers and guest scientists. In the first year, you’ll embark on a training programme of interdisciplinary seminars. These workshops 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 they’ll guide you through your PhD. These academics are from a range of University departments, including Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Computing and Biosciences, as well as the ATI. They’ll help you define the objectives and scope of your research, and help you learn the experimental, theoretical and computing skills you’ll need to complete your research. You’ll normally meet with your supervisors every week or every other week. 

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

Throughout your studies, you’ll 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. 


Your final assessment will be based on the presentation of your research in a written thesis, which will be discussed in a viva examination with at least two examiners. You have the option of preparing your thesis as a monograph (one large volume in chapter form) or in publication format (including chapters written for publication), subject to the approval of your supervisors.

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’ll have access to a range of facilities across the University, including advanced bioscience, microbiology and molecular genetics laboratories ion beam proton irradiation, mass spectrometry, nanotechnology and advanced spectroscopy facilities within Surrey’s ATI. 

In addition, depending on the topic of your PhD, you may benefit from Surrey’s strategic partnership with the NPL. 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 NanoMaterials and 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).

International entry requirements by country

English language requirements

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

View the other English language qualifications that we accept.

If you do not currently meet the level required for your programme, we offer intensive pre-sessional English language courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.

Selection process

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


Start date: October 2022


UK £4,596

Overseas £23,400

Start date: January 2023


UK £4,596

Overseas £23,400

Start date: April 2023


UK £4,596

Overseas £23,400

For fees payable in 2022/23, 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 2022 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.


A Postgraduate Doctoral Loan can help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate doctoral course.

How to apply

If you are applying for a studentship to work on a particular project, you should enter the details of the specific project that you wish to apply for rather than your own research proposal.

More information on the application process.

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 Admissions
Contact Admissions Team

University of Surrey
Surrey GU2 7XH