University of Cambridge MB-PhD Symposium 2022

University of Cambridge

By Joanne Oke, a second year Medical Student at The University of Manchester


2022 saw the reintroduction of many face-to-face events and marked the first in-person MB-PhD symposium at the University of Cambridge since 2019. The event was an opportunity for second and third-year MB-PhD students at the University of Cambridge to present their research and posters to current and prospective students from University College London and The University of Manchester, along with many academics.

About Joanne Oke


I have an undergraduate degree in Biosciences from St George’s, University of London and I am currently in the second year of my Medical degree at The University of Manchester. I am currently considering applying for an MB-PhD next year, and this symposium proved to be very informative for me to consider my options going forward.




Joanne Oke

The day itself


Following a long and rainy drive from Manchester to Cambridge, we were ready for a day of hearing about the latest scientific discoveries and what current second and third-year students are working on. The symposium was held at the School of Clinical Medicine, which, similar to the Stopford Building at The University of Manchester was busy and bubbling with students. Research topics ranged from how changes in oxygen saturation can affect T-cell calcium responses to Haematopoietic stem cells. Since it was my first time attending a conference, I felt nervous but also excited to learn more and to see how much I would understand from listening to the presentations.

During the breaks in the presentations, there was the opportunity to network with current students and gain a greater insight into their presentations. This was probably my favourite part of the symposium as I was able to speak with students directly. I enjoyed looking at the different posters that were displayed on a variety of topics.

It was also insightful to speak to students from UCL who were at a similar stage to me in the application process. It was during this time I also was able to have a brief conversation with Professor Stefan Marciniak, the current director of the MB-PhD programme at Cambridge who was also one of the early students in the programme when it was first established nearly 30 years ago. Through our conversation, I learnt that the MB-PhD programme was first established at the University of Cambridge, with UCL following shortly afterwards and The University of Manchester being the newest university taking part in the programme. Even though our conversation was cut short due to the second set of presentations commencing, it was useful to learn more about the history of the programme.

Key topics


Overall, the symposium illustrated the various topics that students can do as part of their MB-PhD; from the development of natural killer cells to a presentation of early brain development in primates. It was fascinating to learn after the symposium that a majority of the students didn’t present projects that were part of their thesis but collaborations or side projects they had been working on.

To end the conference there was an amazing talk by the keynote speaker Professor Menna Clatworthy who spoke about her journey in clinical academia. Her talk was enjoyable, informative, and it was filled with moments of laughter, integrating a lot of life lessons about undertaking a PhD and also the opportunities following its completion.

My learnings


This opportunity allowed me to realise the value of conversation, collaborations and conferences within the world of research. I valued being able to speak to current MB-PhD students about why they decided to apply for this programme, how they chose their projects and future prospects after graduation. I enjoyed listening to their conversations about their experimental designs and the impact it had on their projects. This trip inspired me to push myself out of my comfort zone not only academically but socially. It amplified my strong interest in academic research and made me excited to see what opportunities are available for me in the future.

Overall, if you’re interested in research, I would highly recommend getting involved in any of the activities the MB-PhD programme has to offer.

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