Biological Sciences

Degrees
  • MPhil/PhD Biological Sciences
  • MSc by Research Biological Sciences
Degree typesTypes of research degrees explained
DurationDegree duration details
LocationCornwall (Penryn), Exeter (Streatham)
Study modesFull time and part time Study mode details
Start date September, January or April

Research overview

"I love my PhD"

PhD student Nicola Perera tells us about her research into the evolutionary ecology of Arabidopsis thaliana. View full size.

PhD student Nicole Goodey introduces her research into the variance in defence strategies of plants of the same species. View full size.

PhD student Paul Hopwood introduces his research into the parental care strategies of beetles. View full size.

PhD student Beatrice Downing introduces her research into the social systems of Canada geese. View full size.

We take full advantage of our location in the South West to undertake environmental, ecological and conservation studies. Our research groups reflect the interests and expertise of our staff, ensuring that we are able to optimise the knowledge of our academic experts.

Biological Sciences at the Streatham Campus in Exeter in Devon

Research at our Streatham Campus spans all scales of biological organisation, from molecules to global ecosystems, and we actively foster interdisciplinary research across the University and beyond. We pride ourselves on seamlessly bridging fundamental and applied research, aided by our physical linkage to the £52M Living Systems Institute and the recently-established BioEconomy Centre.

Our research is organised into seven distinct research groupings:

Biological Sciences at the Penryn Campus near Falmouth in Cornwall

Here you have the opportunity to study at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation, which has more than 50 academic staff, creating a vibrant and internationally research-active environment focused on whole-organism biology, with leading research groups in:

The Centre has a thriving and dynamic population of postdoctoral researchers, MPhil and PhD students, funded by research councils, industry and charities, studying a diverse range of topics and working at sites around the UK and around the world, recently including:

  • South Africa
  • Gabon
  • the Cayman Islands
  • Cyprus
  • Australia
  • the Arctic

The Penryn Campus is also the home of the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI).

Interdisciplinary collaboration

Biosciences also plays a central role in two of the University's key areas of research, the climate change and sustainable futures research theme and the systems biology research theme, both of which are highly relevant to 21st-century global challenges.

This research aims to tackle issues in these areas by using an interdisciplinary approach, combining the skills of researchers from across the University.

Supervision

You will be given high quality research supervision to develop and nurture your scientific potential.

We have adopted a tailored supervision approach to help best suit your requirements. Supervisors are easily accessible, and are enthusiastic about working directly with postgraduate research students.

As well as having regular timetabled meetings with your supervisor, our academics also operate an 'open door' policy to all postgraduate students. This ensures you have instant access to world-leading researchers who will share their expertise and ideas with you.

You will also have regular meetings with your supervisory team, other members of your research group, and mentors.

Research training

Opportunities to teach

All of our research students are given the opportunity to get involved in some form of teaching. Whether it is through designing and giving demonstrations in the laboratories, working closely with our academics to design practicals and exercises, or taking lectures, there is something to suit your needs.

Postgraduate training and support

The University of Exeter is committed to ensuring that its research students are given the training and support to develop high-level professional skills required for careers in academia, commercial or public sectors.

On our Penryn Campus, there are several training options open to our students, including grant and fellowship application workshops, intensive programmes highlighting ways in which to help get scientific literature published, and training in statistical programming.

You can also find out more about the options available to research students at the University of Exeter on our Research Opportunities and Careers webpages, including the University’s Researcher Development Programme which offers an extensive choice of training and development events exclusively designed for our PhD students. A wide range of training is available to our Masters by Research students from academic staff in Biosciences as well as via the University's Research Development Programme, which is exclusively designed for our postgraduate research students.

Exeter (Streatham Campus)

There are a wide range of training opportunities available to PhD and taught Masters students, including both universal transferable skills and research specific training. There are a number of events, workshops and sessions available every year that cover transferable skills and research specific training. These include quantitative biology and statistics, demonstrator training and various aspects of safety. Research seminars featuring internal and external speakers are organised each week during term time.

Specific training associated with microbiology techniques, the use of radioisotopes and genetically modified organisms are provided for students expecting to use these techniques. You will be encouraged to attend additional optional courses, graduate schools and conferences and these are arranged through discussion with supervisors on an individual basis.

In addition, you will be encouraged to participate in the University's Researcher Development Programme. This offers training in a wide range of generic and transferable skills in key areas such as research management, personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking, teamworking, and career management.

Penryn Campus, Cornwall

There are a wide range of training opportunities available to MPhil/PhD students, including both universal transferable skills and research specific training. These opportunities are either provided by Biosciences staff, or colleagues from the University’s Researcher Development Programme.

There are also a wide range of events, workshops and targeted sessions available throughout the year. These include quantitative biology and statistics, demonstrator training and various aspects of safety, research management, personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking, teamworking, and career management.

We also organise a series of research seminars featuring internal and external speakers, held each week during term time. You will be encouraged to attend additional optional courses, graduate schools and conferences, which are arranged through discussion with supervisors on an individual basis.

PhD and MbyRes students based at the Penryn Campus also have a number of traditional training options open to them:

Critical readings in contemporary Biological literature

This reading and discussion group selects various general biology texts for thorough dissection and meets once a week for 20 weeks. Contact Professor Tom Tregenza for further details.

Grant and fellowship applications

This one day workshop focuses on NERC & Royal Society Grants, but also covers grants available to graduate students such as Genetic Society, ASAB etc. Contact Dr John Hunt for further details.

Publishing scientific literature

Biosciences currently has a number of staff who are, or have been, editors of journals focusing on areas complementary to the research work of Cornwall Biosciences groups. This day-long training programme calls on their expertise, covering both practical and structural aspects of getting published, reviewing and dealing with reviews. Contact Professor David Hosken for more details.

An active event schedule

Your postgraduate experience is enhanced by a diverse array of generic and subject-specific training, and programmes of seminars and lectures from visiting speakers. There is a weekly research seminar series that is attended by postgraduate research students and academics. You will also get involved in supporting the delivery of our teaching programmes. Each opportunity is designed to ensure that you are embedded in a thriving research-led culture, and to support your training and development as a successful researcher.

Learning and assessment

The programme gives you the flexibility to shape your own research in an area of particular interest to you. Like other research degrees you will be required to work independently, but with the support and guidance of an appropriate supervisor.

We are committed to ensuring that its research students are given the training and support to develop high-level professional skills required for careers in academia, commercial or public sectors.

A wide range of training is available to Masters by Research students, including traditional, transferable skills and research specific training. This is either provided by Biosciences staff, or by colleagues from the University's Researcher Development Programme, which offers an extensive choice of training and development events exclusively designed for our PhD students.

There are a number of events, workshops and sessions available every year. These include quantitative biology and statistics, demonstrator training and various aspects of safety, research management, personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking, teamworking, and career management. Research seminars featuring internal and external speakers are organised each week during term time. You will be encouraged to attend additional optional courses, graduate schools and conferences and these are arranged through discussion with supervisors on an individual basis.

Assessment

You will be assessed by a written thesis or scientific paper of up to 40,000 words in length.

Facilities

Facilities at Exeter

Biosciences in Exeter is based in three buildings:

  • Geoffrey Pope
  • the Henry Wellcome building for Biocatalysis
  • Hatherly

It is also supported by purpose-built greenhouse facilities.

The Geoffrey Pope building recently underwent a £25m refurbishment, and now includes:

  • 4,817 m2 of lab space, much of which is configured as BSL2/GM2 laboratories
  • Four controlled environment growth rooms
  • A bioimaging suite offering state-of-the-art light microscopy
  • A mass spectrometry facility
  • the Exeter Sequencing Service, providing genomics and bioinformatics analysis
  • A £9m state-of-the-art aquaria complex featuring:
    • 14 aquaria rooms housing 600 experimental tanks and seven preparative and analytical labs
    • seven preparation and laboratory rooms that contain specialist microscopes, cameras, and video and imaging equipment
    • a Wolfson Foundation funded imaging unit, used principally for studies on embryogenesis

Facilities at Penryn

We have state-of-the-art research facilities and aim to create a stimulating environment in which to undertake an MPhil/PhD.

Investment

Biosciences excellence at the University of Exeter is underpinned by significant investment. Our Penryn Campus is home to the £30 million Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI).

The Penryn Campus in Cornwall has benefitted from an extensive investment programme in recent years. With state-of-the-art laboratories, and the ideal 'natural laboratory' on our doorstep, we provide the very best environment in which to succeed.

Careers

We are committed to ensuring you receive high quality research supervision to maximise your scientific potential and prepare you for a rewarding future, whatever your chosen career path.

While many of our research degree graduates choose to continue their scientific research, others have embarked on careers in a variety of other sectors.

Some of our Masters by Research graduates have progressed to further study, but many have sought employment on graduation.

Graduate destinations

Some examples of recent destinations of our research students are listed here. This information has been taken from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) Survey 2012/13 and 2011/12. 

Please note that, due to data protection, the job titles and organisations are listed independently and do not necessarily correspond.

MPhil/PhD graduates

Job TitleOrganisation

Environmental Scientist
Executive Director
Fish Biologist
Marine Biologist
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscop
Performance Analyst
Postdoctoral Fellow
Research Fellow
Scientific Researcher
Technical Development Engineer
Trainee Patent Attorney

AstraZeneca, UK
British Trust for Ornithology, UK
Devon and Cornwall Police, UK
Harvard University, USA 
Institute of Cancer Research, UK
Jacobs and Babtie, UK
National Institute of Agronomic Research (INRA), France
Oberthur Technologies, UK
Royal Haskoning, UK
Toledo Institute for Development and Environment, Belize
University of Exeter
Utila Centre for Marine Ecology, Honduras

MSc by Research (Exeter) graduates

Job TitleOrganisation
Postdoctoral Researcher
Analyst - Technology Consultant
Graduate Surveyor
Associate Research Fellow and Experimental Officer
Civil Servant
Research Associate
Research Fellow
Senior Scientist in Safety Health and Environment
Associate Research Fellow
Research Technician
Post Doc Research Fellow
Genetic Analyst
Algal Scientist
Teacher
Computational Ecologist
Laboratory Technician
Field Conservation and Research Programmes Manager
Research Fellow
Consultant
Ecosystem Modeller
Academia Sinica
Cambridge Consultants
Savills
University of Exeter
DSTL
AstraZeneca
University of Warwick
University of Nottingham
Rothamsted Research
Marine Scotland
AlgaeCytes
Wheatfields
The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust
NNFCC
The University of Queensland
Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Westbrook Greenford Ltd
Charles University

MSc by Research (Penryn, Cornwall) graduates

Job TitleOrganisation
Associate Research Fellow
Biology Research Fellow
Bioinformatics Officer
Programmes manager
Post Doctoral Research Associate
Postdoctoral Researcher
Healthcare Assistant
Research Fellow
Associate Lecturer
Lab Technician
Darwin Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Researcher
Development Biologist
Field Ecologist
Science Lab Assistant
Ecologist
Ascension Island Government Conservation Department
Dow AgroSciences
Food and Environment Research Agency
Panama Wildlife Conservation
Peninsula Community Healthcare
ProDelphinus
Riverside School
Sera
The Institute of Cancer Research
University of Cincinnati
University of East Anglia
University of Exeter
University of Pretoria
University of Sussex

Entry requirements 2018

Applicants will typically hold (or be expected to attain) a First Class or Upper Second Class degree in biology or a related subject (or equivalent qualifications from other countries). However, specific requirements may vary and prospective applicants should contact the team via our enquiry form, or by calling +44 (0)1392 723310.

Start date

You can start in September, January or April but we strongly encourage a you to enrol in Term 1 in September as induction events are focused around this start date. However, we do permit MSc by Research/MPhil/PhD students to enrol either at the start of Term 1, Term 2 or Term 3 (see the University's term dates), or on the 1st of any other month except August, September and October.

Requirements for international students

If you are an international student, please visit our international equivalency pages to enable you to see if your existing academic qualifications meet our entry requirements.

English language requirements

IELTS (Academic)

Overall score 6.5. No less than 6.0 in any section.

TOEFL IBT*

Overall score 90 with minimum scores of 21 for writing, 21 for listening, 22 for reading and 23 for speaking.

Pearson Test of English (Academic)

58 with no less than 55 in all communicative skills.

Other accepted tests

Information about other acceptable tests of linguistic ability can be found on our English language requirements page.

Pre-sessional English

Applicants with lower English language test scores may be able to take pre-sessional English at INTO University of Exeter prior to commencing their programme. See our English language requirements page for more information.

Finance: fees and funding

Tuition fees per year 2018/19

  • UK/EU: £4,500 full-time; £2,250 part-time
  • International: £21,600 full-time

Funding

Our Postgraduate Funding webpage provides links to further information. If you are considering a PhD in the future, in addition to University of Exeter funding, Biosciences have been successful at securing postgraduate funding for PhD research through our Funded centres.

South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP)

The University of Exeter is part of the South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership, one of a limited number of doctoral training partnerships funded by the BBSRC to provide PhD training across the UK in areas of strategic relevance. The partnership comprises the universities of Bristol, Bath and Exeter, together with Rothamsted Research, and provides training in two key areas: food security and world-class bioscience. Find details of the studentships offered as part of this partnership, alongside current funding opportunities for our Biosciences PhD programmes.

Current available funding

Contact us

We welcome enquiries about the degree, for further information contact:

Web: Enquire online
Phone: +44 (0) 1392 725150

Potential applicants should first identify a member of academic staff who may be a suitable supervisor, and contact them by email to discuss possible directions for a research proposal. The research proposal must be agreed by the supervisor before an application to study can be made.

Research training

Opportunities to teach

All of our research students are given the opportunity to get involved in some form of teaching. Whether it is through designing and giving demonstrations in the laboratories, working closely with our academics to design practicals and exercises, or taking lectures, there is something to suit your needs.

Postgraduate training and support

The University of Exeter is committed to ensuring that its research students are given the training and support to develop high-level professional skills required for careers in academia, commercial or public sectors.

On our Penryn Campus, there are several training options open to our students, including grant and fellowship application workshops, intensive programmes highlighting ways in which to help get scientific literature published, and training in statistical programming.

You can also find out more about the options available to research students at the University of Exeter on our Research Opportunities and Careers webpages, including the University’s Researcher Development Programme which offers an extensive choice of training and development events exclusively designed for our PhD students. A wide range of training is available to our Masters by Research students from academic staff in Biosciences as well as via the University's Research Development Programme, which is exclusively designed for our postgraduate research students.

Exeter (Streatham Campus)

There are a wide range of training opportunities available to PhD and taught Masters students, including both universal transferable skills and research specific training. There are a number of events, workshops and sessions available every year that cover transferable skills and research specific training. These include quantitative biology and statistics, demonstrator training and various aspects of safety. Research seminars featuring internal and external speakers are organised each week during term time.

Specific training associated with microbiology techniques, the use of radioisotopes and genetically modified organisms are provided for students expecting to use these techniques. You will be encouraged to attend additional optional courses, graduate schools and conferences and these are arranged through discussion with supervisors on an individual basis.

In addition, you will be encouraged to participate in the University's Researcher Development Programme. This offers training in a wide range of generic and transferable skills in key areas such as research management, personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking, teamworking, and career management.

Penryn Campus, Cornwall

There are a wide range of training opportunities available to MPhil/PhD students, including both universal transferable skills and research specific training. These opportunities are either provided by Biosciences staff, or colleagues from the University’s Researcher Development Programme.

There are also a wide range of events, workshops and targeted sessions available throughout the year. These include quantitative biology and statistics, demonstrator training and various aspects of safety, research management, personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking, teamworking, and career management.

We also organise a series of research seminars featuring internal and external speakers, held each week during term time. You will be encouraged to attend additional optional courses, graduate schools and conferences, which are arranged through discussion with supervisors on an individual basis.

PhD and MbyRes students based at the Penryn Campus also have a number of traditional training options open to them:

Critical readings in contemporary Biological literature

This reading and discussion group selects various general biology texts for thorough dissection and meets once a week for 20 weeks. Contact Professor Tom Tregenza for further details.

Grant and fellowship applications

This one day workshop focuses on NERC & Royal Society Grants, but also covers grants available to graduate students such as Genetic Society, ASAB etc. Contact Dr John Hunt for further details.

Publishing scientific literature

Biosciences currently has a number of staff who are, or have been, editors of journals focusing on areas complementary to the research work of Cornwall Biosciences groups. This day-long training programme calls on their expertise, covering both practical and structural aspects of getting published, reviewing and dealing with reviews. Contact Professor David Hosken for more details.

An active event schedule

Your postgraduate experience is enhanced by a diverse array of generic and subject-specific training, and programmes of seminars and lectures from visiting speakers. There is a weekly research seminar series that is attended by postgraduate research students and academics. You will also get involved in supporting the delivery of our teaching programmes. Each opportunity is designed to ensure that you are embedded in a thriving research-led culture, and to support your training and development as a successful researcher.

Learning and assessment

The programme gives you the flexibility to shape your own research in an area of particular interest to you. Like other research degrees you will be required to work independently, but with the support and guidance of an appropriate supervisor.

We are committed to ensuring that its research students are given the training and support to develop high-level professional skills required for careers in academia, commercial or public sectors.

A wide range of training is available to Masters by Research students, including traditional, transferable skills and research specific training. This is either provided by Biosciences staff, or by colleagues from the University's Researcher Development Programme, which offers an extensive choice of training and development events exclusively designed for our PhD students.

There are a number of events, workshops and sessions available every year. These include quantitative biology and statistics, demonstrator training and various aspects of safety, research management, personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking, teamworking, and career management. Research seminars featuring internal and external speakers are organised each week during term time. You will be encouraged to attend additional optional courses, graduate schools and conferences and these are arranged through discussion with supervisors on an individual basis.

Assessment

You will be assessed by a written thesis or scientific paper of up to 40,000 words in length.