Pontecorvo Prize for best PhD thesis


Due to the current COVID-19 situation, nominations for all our researcher prizes have been postponed until 2021.

Nominations for PhD students who would have been eligible for the 2020 round will be accepted for the next round in 2021 once open.

This prize is awarded annually to the CRUK-funded students who have produced the best PhD theses and made the most outstanding contribution to scientific knowledge in their field.

Key information

Awarded to

Awarded to

Cancer Research UK PhD students

Prize value

Prize value


Key dates

Nominations open

Postponed until Spring 2021


Nominations close

Postponed until Spring 2021

In addition to the honorarium, winners will be expected to give a talk at the next CRUK student meeting after they are awarded the Prize.

Make a nomination

The competition is open to any Cancer Research UK funded graduate students, clinical research training fellows and scientific officers who submitted a doctoral thesis and/or who were awarded their degree of Doctor of Philosophy during the 2018 or 2019 calendar year. 

The judges will award the prize to the student who has produced the best PhD thesis and made the most outstanding contribution to scientific knowledge in his/her field of research leading to publication(s) in major peer reviewed journals. The student should also have given evidence of a strong original contribution to the direction of the research.

Cancer Research UK is committed to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion.  We’re seeking nominations from a diverse range of backgrounds for this Prize.

Nominations should come from the student’s academic supervisor. The following materials must be submitted in a nomination:

1. A letter from the supervisor putting the scientific contribution made by the student's thesis into the context of the research programme of the lab and of the field of research as a whole. It should also make clear the student's intellectual and technical contribution to the work described in the thesis and include comments on the following:

  • the level of independence shown by the candidate
  • the candidate’s input into the development of the project
  • the candidate’s initiative and/or creativity
  • the candidate’s intellectual ability and/or experimental expertise
  • comparison with the student’s peers, the supervisor's past and present students, others known to the supervisor (e.g. in the top 1, 2, 5%, best ever etc); i.e. is he/she truly outstanding and, if so, why?

2. The candidate’s CV (short), including education and research experience and a list of publications, with publications arising from their thesis research highlighted.

3. The names of two senior scientific staff from whom informed opinions, addressing the above criteria, may be sought.

4. Confirmation of the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

5. The thesis abstract.

6. The examiners’ reports from the student's PhD viva.

7. A copy of the thesis will be requested prior to the meeting of the judging panel.

Nominations must be submitted electronically to prizes@cancer.org.uk

Ms Clemency Jolly
Research Funding Manager
Tel: +44 (0) 20346983796

Remarkable student awarded prize

This year’s Pontecorvo Prize has been awarded to Dr Nicholas McGranahan, an outstanding young scientist at UCL and the Crick.

Past winners of the Pontecorvo Prize for Best PhD Thesis

Year Winner Affiliation during PhD Nominated by
2018 Connie Yip King’s College London Vicky Goh
  Evangelos Giampazolias CRUK Beatson Institute Stephen Tait
2017 Rafael di Marco Barros University College London and the Francis Crick Institute Adrian Hayday
2016 Nicholas McGranahan UCL and the Francis Crick Institute Charles Swanton
2015 Maria Maric CRUK Manchester Institute Karim Labib
  Anca Farcas University of Oxford Rob Klose
2014 Marcus Wilson Clare Hall* Jesper Svejstrup
2013 Melda Tozluglu Lincoln's Inn Fields* Paul Bates
2012 Dominic Schmidt CRUK Cambridge Research Institute Duncan Odom and Jason Carrol
2011 Devanshi Jain Lincoln's Inn Fields* Julie Cooper
2010 Siim Pauklin Clare Hall* Svend Petersen-Mahrt
  Ferdia Gallagher CRUK Cambridge Research Institute Kevin M Brindle
2009 Sophie Acton (nee Pinner) Lincoln's Inn Fields* Erik Sahai
  Victoria Marsh Cardiff University Alan Clarke
2008 Andreas Pilchmair Lincoln's Inn Fields* Caetano Reis e Sousa
2007 Peter O'Donovan Clare Hall* Peter Karran
  Agnieszka Gambus CRUK Manchester Institute Karim Labib
2006 Kyle Miller Lincoln's Inn Fields* Julie Cooper
  Oliver Sieber Lincoln's Inn Fields* Ian Tomlinson
2005 Sarah Trewick Clare Hall* Tomas Lindahl
2004 Giovanna Lalli Lincoln's Inn Fields* Giampietro Schiavo
2003 Leah Vardy Lincoln's Inn Fields* Takashi Toda
2002 Sally Lowell Lincoln's Inn Fields* Fiona Watt
  James Shorter Lincoln's Inn Fields* Graham Warren
2001 John Seery Lincoln's Inn Fields* Fiona Watt
2000 Charlie Swanton Lincoln's Inn Fields* Nic Jones
1999 Pablo Rodriguez Viciana Lincoln's Inn Fields* Julian Downward
1998 James Chong Clare Hall* Julian Blow

*ICRF (until 2002), CRUK London Research Institute (until 2015). Now part of the Francis Crick Institute.

The funding for this prize exists through the generosity of Professor Peter Goodfellow FRS, formerly Head of the Human Molecular Genetics Laboratory at the Imperial Cancer Research (now part of the Francis Crick Institute). It is named after the geneticist Professor Guido Pontecorvo, who worked at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund from 1968-75.