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Address global challenges

As a PhD student in the School of Biological Sciences, you'll explore the fundamental aspects of the living world and humanity’s interactions with it.

You’ll conduct high-impact research that addresses the global challenges faced by society and the natural environment.

PhD students presenting their research at a poster event

Purpose-built research facilities

Carry out your research in our new £60m Health and Life Sciences building, which houses dedicated research laboratories, study space and the Cole Museum of Zoology. 

You’ll also have access to the University’s Herbarium, one of the largest and most diverse herbaria in the country.

The Whiteknights campus itself is a rich environment for biological scientists, with more than 300 acres of woodlands, lakes, gardens and meadows.

Learn more about our facilities

Flexible modes of study to suit you

We offer flexible modes of study designed to fit with your needs. Our PhD is available for study on a full-time basis over three years and part-time over four to six years.

Both full-time and part-time variants are available for study in Reading, or at a distance for students who live outside the UK.

Explore our PhD opportunities

I undertook my PhD because of an interest in butterflies. Walking through the campus meadows or woodland during the summer, surrounded by hundreds of butterflies, reminds me why I'm doing my PhD. Hopefully I'll be making a positive difference to the future of some of these species.

Matthew Greenwell

PhD student

Conduct fascinating research


We study the interactions between species and between species and their environments that influence abundance and distribution.

We employ mechanistic process modelling, Bayesian statistics and high-performance computing to address climate change adaptation, design of habitat networks, and agri-environment schemes.

Evolutionary biology

Using modern analytical tools, we aim to answer fundamental questions about the evolution of plants, animals and microbes.

We’re developing new statistical methods to incorporate fossils and geographic data into phylogenies, detect natural selection on phenotypes, and probe gene network evolution and adaptive landscapes.

We’re also advancing understanding of human and cultural evolution by applying phylogenetic methods to ethnobotanical, linguistic and ectoparasite data.

Doctoral training to help you grow as an academic

Training is an intrinsic part of your development as a researcher. As part of your PhD study, you will benefit from a programme of relevant training, and have access to specialist modules agreed between you and your supervisor/s as well as attending a programme of transferable skills organised by the Doctoral and Researcher College.

You will have access to expert training on the Reading Researcher Development Programme (RRDP).

Depending on the respective funder for your PhD, further training via attendance at advanced courses, meetings and workshops may also form part of your PhD programme.

You can apply for doctoral training and studentships from the NERC SCENARIO Doctoral Training Partnerships. These include a wide range of opportunities for placements and training with external partners.

There are opportunities for participation on established research projects run by our experienced staff.

Your future career

Doctoral study offers you opportunities to make exciting new discoveries in your chosen field of interest. Our PhD degrees equip you with the skills, knowledge, and experience to become an independent researcher. You could go on to work in academia, government and the private and public sectors in the UK and abroad.

Irene Teixidor-Toneu carried out her PhD in our School, investigating medicinal plant use and its implications for healthcare. Irene now holds a post-doctoral position at the Natural History Museum (NHM) of the University of Oslo, Norway – this collaboration stemmed from links established during her PhD studies. Read more about Irene’s research and career.

A PhD student presenting her research with a poster

Life in the Department

Our students are publishing in high-impact journals, presenting at international conferences, organising outreach activities and making a difference in society. 

Fees and funding

The University allocates around 150 entry awards each year in PhD studentships and bursaries, so there are many ways to access PhD funding.

How we support you

You'll receive support from the School of Biological Sciences and the Doctoral and Researcher College, which is the University of Reading's hub for all doctoral activity.
Athena SWAN Silver Award