Microbiology and Infection MSc

Hospital associated Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) Bacteria

This MSc programme is built on the combined expertise in microbiology and infection that has been assembled through the establishment of the Institute of Microbiology and Infection at Birmingham.

It draws on the internationally recognized expertise of members of both the College of Life and Environmental Sciences and College of Medical and Dental Sciences to provide a course that will be attractive to aspiring biomedical scientists and clinical microbiologists worldwide.

Students graduating from this course can look forward to gaining a thorough grounding in this important area, with job opportunities throughout the public and private sector, as well as in research settings. 

This course will provide graduates in the Biosciences with a sound theoretical background and hands-on laboratory experience in leading-edge microbiology. Students will gain specialist knowledge and insight in key aspects of bacterial infection.

The Institute of Microbiology and Infection at Birmingham brings together a group of researchers and lecturers from the College of Life and Environmental Sciences and the College of Medical and Dental Sciences with expertise in a wide range of aspects of microbiology in infectious disease. The MSc Microbiology and Infection draws on this expertise to highlight the impact of recent advances in understanding of microbes in infection.

The course will enable students to develop basic abilities and skills on which to build professional capability in a healthcare or related microbiology or biomedical research setting.

Why study this course

The course provides a foundation in the fundamental molecular microbiology that underlies the ongoing and increasing challenge of bacterial infectious disease in healthcare, diagnosis and treatment. The course will equip you to progress to employment in biomedical science, or to embark on a postgraduate research degree in a related field.

The course is set within the context of the Institute of Microbiology and Infection at the University of Birmingham which brings together experts in areas of microbiology from fundamental science of model organisms to translational research on key pathogens of medical and veterinary importance.

Continuing developments in infection including increasing resistance of pathogens to antibiotics and the emergence of ‘superbugs’ such as Clostridium difficile and E. coli O157, and the increasing problem of tuberculosis as a worldwide killer disease, emphasise the need for experts in this field now and into the future.


1. Core concepts and skills in Microbiology (10 credits)

This module acts as a refresher on the fundamentals of molecular and cellular microbiology. You will have the opportunity to develop key quantitative, analytical and critical analysis skills. It will also include important aspects of working in the laboratory and how to handle microorganisms safely.

2. Medical microbiology practice and applications (30 credits)

The module will introduce you to pathogenic microorganisms that cause human diseases including bacterial, viral and fungal diseases, and diseases caused by eukaryotic microorganism. The module will take a systematic approach looking at diseases of the respiratory system, urinogenital system, gastrointestinal tract, and at skin, wound and blood-brain infections. Additionally, the module will build on research strengths in the Institute of Microbiology and Infection by highlighting examples such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and enteric diseases. While emphasis will be on the mechanisms, diagnostics and prevention of microbial disease, the module will also cover clinical components of medical microbiology including hospital acquired infections, and the clinical aspects of drug resistance taught by practicing clinical microbiologists from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

3. Antibiotics: past, present and future (10 credits)

The module will begin with a look into the historical perspectives of both the discovery and use of antibiotics in the clinic. The module will then cover the current situation of global antibiotic usage and how misuse and over prescription has lead to the emergence of antibiotic resistance. A series of lectures will cover modern techniques and methodologies that are used to both discover and develop new antibiotic compounds into the next generation of drugs. In this regard, students will gain hands-on practical experience of screening antibiotics and novel natural product extracts (of their own choosing) against a panel of bacterial species. Students will have access to state-of–the-art High throughput Screening facility in the IMI.

4. Host-Pathogen interactions (20 credits)

In this module you will be introduced to several key concepts in understanding host-pathogen interactions, including: virulence, the evolution of virulence and the Red Queen hypothesis, pathogen lifestyles, such as intracellular parasitism and latency and genetic variation in hosts and pathogens

5. Antibiotics, Microbial Surfaces and Surface Interactions (30 credits)

This module will cover the key elements present at the microbial surface, and relate these in part to antibiotic targets. The threat of antibiotic resistance will be covered in detail and provide the student with a thorough understanding of both drug target and resistance mechanisms.

6. Omics of Pathogens (20 credits)

Our understanding of Microbes has been revolutionised by our ability to sequence their genomes and by other ‘omics’ techniques. This module will cover sequencing technology, genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metagenomics and explore how these have advanced our understanding of microbial pathogens. You will consider issues which arise from the need to analyse large data sets and will gain hands on experience.


Project titles offered to MSc Microbiology and Infection students 2014/15

  • Biochemical and molecular genetic characterization of mycobacterial cell wall biosynthetic enzymes
  • How do pathogenic mycobacteria transport virulence lipids?
  • Mutational analysis of the AcrA-hairpins (component of the tripartite multi drug efflux pumps)
  • Control of gene expression in pathogenic Enteroaggregative Escherichia coli.
  • Production, purification and biochemical functions of two proteins implicated in the resistance of E.coli to nitrosative stress
  • Self Cleaning surfaces: Preventing the spread of hospital infection
  • Turning gene regulation inside out: prevalence of promoters within genes in bacterial chromosomes
  • Exoproteomes of oral pathogens
  • Impact of the host environment on fungal phagocytosis
  • Zebrafish as an infection model for human pathogenic E. coli
  • Examining the effect of azide on oxidative stress in E.coli
  • Determining whether AKR1C3 selective inhibitors can sensitise tumour cells to chemotheraphy
  • Investigating the role of quorum sensing agonists on Vibro cholera disease transmission
  • Transfer of antibiotic resistance carrying plasmids in spatially structured multispecies communities
  • Analysis of gene expression variation in E. coli
  • Biophysical Characterization of Proteins from Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus
  • Acid sensing in E.coli: the roles of the EvgS protein
  • The role of chaperonins in Mycobacterium marinum, a model for TB
  • Analysis of genes responsible for acid stress resistance in E coli
  • Genomic comparison of colonisation versus disease in serotype 1 Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Peptidoglycan Modification in Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Dissecting plasmid host range determinants
  • Regulation of antibiotic production in marine bacteria
  • Host-Pathogen Interaction: macrophage recognition of fungal pathogens
  • Alternative platelet functions during fungal infections
  • Structural Bioinformatics for the Reengineering of the Mupirocin and Thiomarinol Antibiotic Biosynthesis Pathways

Fees and funding

Standard fees apply - This programme is in Fee Band Laboratory


  • Home/EU students £6,480 FT (£3,240 PT)
  • International students £17,960 FT only

Learn more about fees and funding 

Scholarships and studentships
International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government. 

Find out about scholarships for international students.

For further information contact the School directly or get in touch with the Student Funding Office via the online enquiries system.

Entry requirements

Minimum lower second class Honours degree in a Biosciences subject. The course should include at least 40 credits of Microbiology.

Learn more about entry requirements

International students:

International students

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications, our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

English to IELTS 6.0 (with no less than 5.5 in any band).

How to apply

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

Researcher with petri dishThe taught modules will be delivered through a combination of lectures, workshops and laboratory teaching. The Institute of Microbiology and Infection infrastructure provides high level capabilities for laboratory teaching at module level, while leading research groups offer opportunities for innovative and challenging research project opportunities.

Assessment methods

In-course assessments will be varied in format, to include written assignments such as essays, assessed laboratory notebooks and reports, group work; some modules will also include class tests or end of module examinations. Formative assessments are incorporated into the course so that you feel well prepared for the summative ones.

The project will be assessed by a combination of a substantial written report and assessment of your performance in the laboratory; you will also give an oral presentation at the end of the project.

The course will give you a thorough grounding in this important and topical area of biomedical science, enabling your entry into employment in health-related positions including hospital and public health laboratories, industry (biotechnology, pharmaceutical and other sectors) and regulatory or quality assurance functions in the public sector or industry. It will also prepare you to work in a research setting, perhaps studying for a PhD as the next step on a research-based career path.

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