Medical Biology PhD Program

Medical Biology PhD Program

Student learning in the lab
We offer our PhD students a program of study that includes world-class research training, as well as opportunities to develop diverse skills that will benefit their future career. 

WEHI’s PhD program centres on medical research. Our PhD students develop their skills and knowledge through tackling important questions in medical research.

Students are supported to develop broader career skills through attendance and participation at seminars, conferences and research exchanges, involvement in WEHI training and teaching programs, and contribution to committees.

Research and training are based at WEHI's Parkville campus. As the Department of Medical Biology, our students' PhD degrees are conferred through the University of Melbourne. 

Mentoring and supervision

Students are valued members of our research groups.

PhD students are guided by at least two supervisors at WEHI(at least one must be a faculty member). Within their research group, students receive training, guidance and teaching within an intensive research laboratory environment that includes other faculty, postdoctoral researchers, research assistants and technical support staff.

Our students receive further support and mentoring through regular meetings with a PhD advisory committee. This is made up of WEHI faculty, postdoctoral researchers and external researchers, ensuring the committee has diverse expertise that compliments the research project. 

PhD students are supported by peer mentoring upon commencement, by being matched with a senior PhD student. Recently submitted PhD students volunteer to guide junior students through candidature processes. 

PhD outcomes

The majority of our PhD students are lead authors on papers in peer-reviewed journals, and have opportunities to present at national and international conferences.

To graduate, a student must submit a thesis that is passed by external examiners, and make an oral presentation of their findings. WEHI awards Corcoran Prizes annually to the top two completing PhD students (based on thesis assessments and research impact), and our PhD students are also eligible for the University of Melbourne Chancellor’s Prize for Excellence in the PhD Thesis

Our students have an excellent track record of obtaining early career fellowships post-PhD to support their research career. 

Research specialties

Our multidisciplinary PhD program offers students the opportunity to develop skills in diverse subsets of medical research.

In-depth training is available in fields including

PhD students are encouraged to broaden their understanding of medical research by attending seminars within their own and other research divisions, as well as weekly WEHI seminars and seminars at our research neighbours in the Parkville precinct.

Broader skills

Our PhD students have opportunities to develop broader skills that will benefit their future careers.

Our students develop wider skills through advanced activities including: 

  • Our postgraduate seminar series is presented by national experts on significant research fields, providing students with a thorough grounding in contemporary topics in medical research. The series theme changes annually, ensuring our PhD students develop a broad knowledge base.
  • Our student induction series provides an overview of research ethics, laboratory practices, intellectual property and commercialisation, literature searches, career paths and teaching opportunities.
  • Weekly institute, division and student seminars, as well as journal clubs provide all students with an opportunity to learn from their colleagues and peers, and present their own research discoveries and learnings in a supportive environment where feedback is encouraged.
  • WEHI’s internal Internship program provides PhD students with the opportunity to undertake a period of training (typically the equivalent of three months) within WEHI’s professional services teams. Hands-on internship projects allow students to develop additional skills in areas such as business development, commercialisation, project management, science education, human resources, information technology, integrity and ethics, communication, graphic design, fundraising and grants management.
  • Opportunities to teach or mentor secondary school students, such as through the Gene Technology Access Centre.
  • Membership of WEHI committees as a representative of the student voice. PhD students contribute to many committees including WEHI's Education Committee and our Engagement Committee. Our student association executive also offers diverse opportunities for leadership.
  • Travel funding is provided for our PhD students through the Edith Moffat Scholarship Fund. This allows students to attend an international conference and to visit prospective future employers towards the end of their PhD studies. Opportunities may also exist for attending local and international conferences at other stages of PhD studies.

Our student association is run by students for students, and coordinates skills and career training, social activities and organising an annual student retreat. 

Affiliation with a leading university

WEHI offers our PhD program as the Department of Medical Biology in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Melbourne.

Founded in 1853, the University of Melbourne is one of Australia’s leading ‘Group of Eight’ Universities with more than 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students. It is been internationally recognised by many international rankings including: 

  • Number 1 university in Australia and 13th in the world in the area of clinical, pre-clinical and health in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2017
  • Number 1 university in Australia and 40th in the world in the Academic Ranking of World Universities 2016 

Enrolment through the University of Melbourne provides our students with many advantages including:

  • Access to wider networks of leading research teams, within WEHI as well as in Melbourne’s Parkville biomedical research precinct
  • Eligibility for University of Melbourne scholarships, awards and recognition
  • Access to student career, health, fitness, cultural, housing (including residential colleges) and support services
  • Membership of a large and diverse student body of almost 20,000 postgraduate students, almost half of whom are international
  • Access to affiliated PhD Programs which may offer additional enhancement opportunities
  • Upon graduation, affiliation with the University of Melbourne’s alumni program, as well as WEHI’s alumni network


Scientific Education Office