On this page you will find information about the five-month taught component of the course, the seven-month laboratory research project and the course examinations. The taught component is the first part of the course and it includes all written exams followed by the research project including the thesis and Viva voce examination. More information, about each of these components, is given below.

Taught component - lectures

The taught component consists of 3 two and a half weeks modules, 1 five weeks module and a two and half week mini research project (MRP).  Each module comprises lectures, seminars, group work, keynote lectures, an ongoing journal club and tutorials. In group work, you will undertake an assignment with some of your peers, such as giving a seminar, producing a poster or leading a journal club. At the completion of the taught component you should have a good understanding of:

  1. The molecular mechanisms and cellular interactions that underlie the development, activation and effector functions of the immune system
  2. The defects in this that give rise to disease states (e.g. allergy, autoimmunity and immune deficiency)
  3. The ways in which the immune system can be manipulated (e.g. transplantation, immunotherapy).

In addition you will have experience of critically analysing the literature and making a variety of presentations.

Taught component - mini-research project (MRP)

During the two and a half week MRP, students get to work in pairs or groups of three and experience a hands-on approach to experimental work, taking ownership of their project. In a set frame of scientific theme and of available samples, equipment and reagents, students first define their working hypothesis. They subsequently answer their framed scientific questions by researching and developing the most adapted protocols, performing all the experimental work, computing and critically analysing their own data.  The MRP will be undertaken in dedicated teaching laboratories.

Written exams

The written examinations for modules 1, 2 & 4 are held mid-January, module 5 examinations are held at the beginning of March and the ones for module 3 are held at the end of the module itself.  There are 5 assessments constituting Element 1 (50%) of the course.   The papers carry the weighting, detailed below, towards the final mark of the course:

Assessment 1, 2 & 4 - module 1, 2 & 4: 1 x 1 hour-long written examination per module (8.33% each).

Assessment 3 - module 3: 1 x individual 10 minute maximum oral presentation & 1 x individual report, maximum 2,000 words (8.33%).

Assessment 5 - module 5: 1 x 2 hour-long essay & 1 x 2 hour-long paper critique (16.68%).

Research component - 7 month laboratory project

The 7 month research project examinations make up Element 2 (50%) (see Thesis and Viva Voce Examinations below).

Students carry out their research projects at Imperial College or associated Institutions. Projects are based primarily at the Hammersmith Campus but are also offered at some of the other Imperial College campuses. Each student is supervised, throughout their project, by the member of the academic staff in charge of the laboratory in which they work.

By completion of the research project the student will have received a thorough training in the methods and ethos of laboratory research, including:

  1. Design of a good research project
  2. Design and planning of experiments
  3. Troubleshooting for experimental problems
  4. Data presentation and analysis
  5. Literature searching and critical review
  6. Presentation of work for publication (thesis).

Projects are designed to form part of major ongoing themes of interest in the host laboratory, in order to give students experience of top quality, cutting edge, competitive research.

To see some examples of previous project titles with links to the laboratory that hosted the project please click here.

Thesis and Viva voce examinations

In September, students are examined on their research projects. This is on the basis of their written report (thesis) and a Viva Voce (oral) examinations, which focuses on the research project and thesis. The viva examinations are conducted by internal and external examiners. The thesis is weighted at 42.5% and the viva at 7.5%. The sum of both marks comprise Element 2 (50%) of the course.

The mark awarded for the thesis is based on the quality of the thesis, your comprehension of the work
(also assessed in the viva) and the report submitted by your supervisor on your general performance in the laboratory and related areas (e.g. literature awareness).

The viva voce examinations take place in the last two weeks of September and the same two examiners that read the thesis will perform the viva voce. The examination lasts 30 mins and explores the details of the research thesis and surrounding literature. No PowerPoint presentation will be required.


Provisional results (Fail, Pass, Merit, Distinction) are released on the day of the viva exams. Official results (including marks for each Element) are sent from Registry to you approximately one month after the viva day.