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.

Our location in the South West enables us to undertake undertake a wide range of biological science research, from cell and molecular biology, microbiology and biochemistry through to evolutionary, 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 and MbyRes, 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
  • Indonesia
  • India
  • China
  • Kenya
  • Uganda

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

Interdisciplinary collaboration

Biosciences plays a central role in two of the University's key areas of research:

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 can expect:

  • High quality research supervision to develop and nurture your scientific potential
  • A tailored supervision approach to help best suit your requirements
  • Accessible supervisors who are enthusiastic about working directly with postgraduate research students
  • Regular timetabled meetings with your supervisor
  • 'Open door' policy to all postgraduate students - instant access to world-leading researchers who will share their expertise and ideas with you
  • Regular meetings with your supervisory team, other members of your research group, and mentors
  • Social evolution

Research training

Opportunities to teach

All of our research students are given the opportunity to get involved in some form of teaching:

  • Designing and giving demonstrations in the laboratories
  • Working with academics to design practicals and exercises
  • Giving lectures

Postgraduate training and support

We are committed to ensuring that our 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:

  • Grant and fellowship application workshops
  • Intensive programmes highlighting ways in which to help get scientific literature published
  • Training in statistical programming

Find out more about the options available to research students:

Exeter (Streatham Campus)

There are a wide range of training opportunities available to PhD and taught Masters students including:

  • Universal transferable skills and research specific training
  • Yearly events, workshops and sessions that cover transferable skills and research specific training, including 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
  • Additional optional courses, graduate schools and conferences arranged 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:

  • Universal transferable skills and research specific training provided by Biosciences staff, or colleagues from the University’s Researcher Development Programme.
  • Yearly events, workshops and targeted sessions including quantitative biology and statistics, demonstrator training and various aspects of safety, research management, personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking, teamworking, and career management.
  • Weekly (term time) research seminars featuring internal and external speakers
  • Additional optional courses, graduate schools and conferences arranged with supervisors on an individual basis

Learning and assessment

The MbyRes, MPhil and PhD programmes give 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 our 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 postgraduate 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 postgraduate 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.

MbyRes Assessment

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

Candidates may be required to take a viva voce examination.

MPhil/PhD Assessment

All MPhil/PhD students enter onto an MPhil degree and undergo an upgrade to the full PhD typically during the first year of study. This upgrade typically involves a written progress report assessed by an internal viva with academics from within the department. For students who successfully upgrade to PhD, the PhD is assessed by a thesis of up to 100,000 words and a viva voce examination. For students who remain on the MPhil, the MPhil is assessed by a thesis of up to 60,000 words, and candidates may be required to take a viva voce examination.

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 to create a stimulating environment in which to undertake an MPhil/PhD. Our Penryn Campus is home to the £30 million Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI). Our laboratories are fully equipped with the needs of a modern laboratory and are complemented with state of the art cold rooms and numerous temperature and light controlled incubators, enabling rearing of model and non-model organisms for study. Our facilities include:

  • Controlled environment rooms: 13 large programmable environment rooms (including 8 in the ESI) with variable temperature and light regimes and shelving for insect rearing and plant growth applications
  • Greenhouses: 2 large fully programmable greenhouses with automated blinds and lighting systems and full racking for plant and insect rearing
  • Aviary: this Home Office approved facility is for breeding and observational studies of small birds
  • 100 tank freshwater aquarium
  • Molecular biology laboratories, including Category 2 microbiology/molecular biology laboratory, Class 2 tissue culture room, radioactive area licensed for a range of radioactive procedures, dark room/microscope rooms for light sensitive work and fluorescent microscopy, protein purification and proteomics equipment including HPLC and 2D SDS PAGE analysis, quantitative PCR machines and DNA preparation robot for preparation of DNA from BAC libraries and DNA capillary sequencer for DNA sequencing and DNA fragment analysis
  • Metabolomics laboratory, dedicated to HPLC, Gas Chromatography and mass spectrometry
  • Stable Isotope facility - the Sercon facility has two isotope ratio mass spectrometers with elemental analysers allowing the dedicated technician to measure Carbon Nitrogen, Sulphur, Oxygen, and Hydrogen ratios.

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 2016/17

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

 

Job TitleOrganisation

Marine Biologist
Applied Insect Science
Environmental Scientist
Post Doc Research Fellow
Postdoctoral researcher
Support Consultant
Principal Information Analyst
Post Doc
Research Scientist
Field Ecologist
Assistant Statistician
Formula 1 Trackside Analyst
Computational Ecologist
Conservation officer

 

Isca Diagnostics Ltd
Aspen Tech
The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
AstraZeneca, UK
Charles University
Shell
Food and Environment Research Agency
HMRC
Study Director
Best Dives Maldives
NHS
University of Exeter
Zoological Society of London
Weizmann Institute of Science
Whitley Wildlife Conservation Officer




 

Entry requirements 2019

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 2020/21

  • UK/EU: £4,400 full-time; £2,200 part-time
  • International: £23,000 full-time

Following your registration, tuition fees for subsequent years of study may increase to take into account inflationary pressures – this will not exceed 3 per cent per year of study.

*This is the expected UK/EU fee. The UK/EU tuition fees are set in line with Research Councils UK fee levels which have not yet been set for 2020 entry. Once these are set in March 2020 we will email to confirm the tuition fees for your programme. The 2020/21 fee will not increase by more than 3% from the 2019/20 fee.

Tuition fees per year 2019/20

Following your registration, tuition fees for subsequent years of study may increase to take into account inflationary pressures – this will not exceed 5 per cent per year of study.

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.

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) GW4+ Doctoral Training Partnership

The GW4+DTP is a partnership of research-intensive universities across the South West – Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter – each of which has significant research capability in NERC sciences. The partnership offers postgraduates innovative research training in environmental sciences to an excellent standard and attracts the brightest talents to the four universities. In total 190 PhD studentships are funded by GW4+DTP over a five year period: 37 per annum across the alliance, with the first students starting in September 2014. This means the NERC GW4+DTP offers the greatest number of PhD studentships awarded to any NERC DTP in 2013. Please see the GW4+ site to find out about the projects and studentships currently available through the NERC GW4+DTP. 

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:

  • Designing and giving demonstrations in the laboratories
  • Working with academics to design practicals and exercises
  • Giving lectures

Postgraduate training and support

We are committed to ensuring that our 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:

  • Grant and fellowship application workshops
  • Intensive programmes highlighting ways in which to help get scientific literature published
  • Training in statistical programming

Find out more about the options available to research students:

Exeter (Streatham Campus)

There are a wide range of training opportunities available to PhD and taught Masters students including:

  • Universal transferable skills and research specific training
  • Yearly events, workshops and sessions that cover transferable skills and research specific training, including 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
  • Additional optional courses, graduate schools and conferences arranged 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:

  • Universal transferable skills and research specific training provided by Biosciences staff, or colleagues from the University’s Researcher Development Programme.
  • Yearly events, workshops and targeted sessions including quantitative biology and statistics, demonstrator training and various aspects of safety, research management, personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking, teamworking, and career management.
  • Weekly (term time) research seminars featuring internal and external speakers
  • Additional optional courses, graduate schools and conferences arranged with supervisors on an individual basis

Learning and assessment

The MbyRes, MPhil and PhD programmes give 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 our 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 postgraduate 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 postgraduate 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.

MbyRes Assessment

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

Candidates may be required to take a viva voce examination.

MPhil/PhD Assessment

All MPhil/PhD students enter onto an MPhil degree and undergo an upgrade to the full PhD typically during the first year of study. This upgrade typically involves a written progress report assessed by an internal viva with academics from within the department. For students who successfully upgrade to PhD, the PhD is assessed by a thesis of up to 100,000 words and a viva voce examination. For students who remain on the MPhil, the MPhil is assessed by a thesis of up to 60,000 words, and candidates may be required to take a viva voce examination.

//unibuddy popcard script