Conference Report: The University of Cambridge's MBPhD Symposium

In May, it was announced that, thanks to Cancer Research UK, Manchester was set to receive funding from the Clinical Academic Training (CAT) Award to establish a new programme to train the next generation of researchers and clinicians. From 2020, University of Manchester Medical School students will be able to undertake a fully-funded intercalated PhD in Cancer Sciences, which will form part of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Centre’s new, MBPhD programme.
As outreach for this new programme, on Thursday 21 - Friday 22 November, five University of Manchester MBChB students visited the University of Cambridge, to attend their MBPhD Annual Symposium and speak to key students and staff. The attendees, James Tooke, Andrew Chai, Chun Sheng Tan, Ioannis Ioannou and Yun Jee Koh, who ranged from being first to third year Manchester MBChB students, and had all expressed an interest in becoming Clinical Academics in the future.

Thursday was spent attending the MBPhD Symposium. The novelty of hearing from Cambridge speakers resonated with the students and they were excited at the possibility that they might also work on the frontiers of research during their time at Manchester.
A particular highlight for the students were the range of scientific talks at the symposium. Ioannis enjoyed ‘Interrogating cancer metabolism using hyperpolarised 13C MRI’, focusing on the dysregulation of metabolic pathways in the microenvironment of tumours, with a particular focus on glioblastoma. James was impressed by a presentation on the application of deep learning and AI to aid early assessment of stroke risk, finding this particularly fascinating due to his background in maths and physics. 
Through conversations with the presenters, Yun Jee Koh came to appreciate the tremendous effort involved in yielding high-quality papers and the need to integrate skills and knowledge from various disciplines, including Computer Sciences and statistics. Chun Sheng Tan found it inspiring to see such deep understanding and fluent communication of subject areas by students not very much older than themselves.
Our students also attended poster presentations by Cambridge delegates. Having engaged in these discussions, they felt that the MBPhD would not only develop their research skills and expertise in a specific field, but would also teach them fluid data presentation skills.
On the second day of the visit, the students were able to interact with the University of Cambridge’s MBPhD Programme Director, Graduate Training Programme Manager and key MBPhD students and staff. Having spoken to Cambridge staff and researchers, our students were left fascinated by how combining the practice of medicine with allied research could open so many doors and opportunities.
The chance to directly ask questions to current PhD students was very constructive, and Andrew in particular felt that this clarified a lot of questions he had had about combining research and clinical practice. Being around research-orientated doctors and doctors-in-training further allowed the students to learn about how the career paths of research and clinical practice could be connected through an integrated education.
Ultimately, the visit further fuelled our students’ desire to pursue a career in clinical academia. It was inspiring to see the dedication and hard work that the Cambridge students had devoted to their research, and our attendees felt that this had been very much worth the long journey down South!


We would like to express our thanks to the CRUK Cambrige Centre and in particular Louisa Bellis and Bruce Daniels, who funded and co-ordinated our visit.
This blog post was collaboratively written by James Tooke, Andrew Chai, Chun Sheng Tan, Ioannis Ioannou and Yun Jee Koh.
For any questions about the MBPhD programme, please contact Dr Georgina Binnie, MBPhD Administrator at

Category: MCRC

Georgina is the MBPhD Administrator and Recruitment and Training Officer

Read more posts by Georgina Binnie