Molecular Biotechnology MSc

The programme aims to provide students with training and learning opportunities in the skills and specialised knowledge needed to equip them for a career in biotechnology, molecular biotechnology or molecular biology, in particular in industry.

Practical skills will include sessions on fermentation, molecular biology, immunology, cell biology and protein chemistry, and you will go on to complete a major, supervised laboratory or computer-based research project.

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The programme aims to provide students with training and learning opportunities in the skills and specialised knowledge needed to equip them for a career in biotechnology, molecular biotechnology or molecular biology, in particular in industry.

Dongni Li

“It is difficult not to be influenced by such a great learning atmosphere and this is certainly one of the reasons I wanted to study abroad”

Dongni Li - China
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Programme content

Modules (all core) are as follows:

  • Introduction to Molecular Biotechnology (10 credits)
  • Research Techniques in Molecular Biotechnology (20 credits)
  • Practical Applications of Molecular Biotechnology (20 credits)
  • Functional Genomics and Reverse Genetics (20 credits)
  • Gene Expression Analysis (20 credits)
  • Funding Science (10 credits)
  • From Bench to Market: The Development of Pharmaceutical Products (10 credits)
  • Therapeutic Biologicals (10 credits)
  • Research project (60 credits)

Module descriptions can be found here

Learning and teaching is via lectures, workshops, independent study, laboratory practicals, research and a lab-based project.

Skills gained

Transferable skills gained via this programme will include written and oral presentation skills, statistics, and the ability to plan and write a grant application or a business plan. Subject-specific skills will include key techniques used in molecular biotechnology, specialist knowledge in theoretical and practical aspects of the subject, including: process engineering, molecular biology, functional genomics, 'omics' technologies, protein expression systems and antibody engineering. Practical skills will include fermentation, molecular biology, immunology, cell biology and protein chemistry.

Careers

While many graduates will go on to employment in biotechnology companies, you will also be employable in other life sciences industries or able to go on to further study and research.

Related links

School of Biosciences website: www.birmingham.ac.uk/biosciences

Why study this course

Dr Pete Lund, Programme Leader, MSc Molecular Biotechnology
"Biotechnology is likely to be one of the major growth areas in applied science in the 21st century, as societies and economies adapt to the many challenges ahead.

Graduates trained both in the practical skills and the relevant life sciences are likely to be highly sought after by many industries in the life sciences sector, and the aim of this MSc is to produce such graduates."

Key features of this programme:

  • Focuses on the molecular and cellular aspects of biotechnology
  • Includes material on fermentation, process and downstream engineering, and business aspects
  • A mixture of taught material and lab-based research projects
  • Teaching and research at one of the UK's top Schools of Biosciences

Who is this programme aimed at?

  • Those looking for a future in a biotechnology or an other life sciences related industry
  • Those interested in pursuing a research career in life sciences in industry or academia
  • Those returning from industry to obtain higher qualifications

Modules

Module descriptions for MSc in Molecular Biotechnology

Introduction to Biotechnology

Credits: 10
Module organiser: Dr Peter Lund
Semester: 1
Description: This module will teach the practical skills which you require in your lab projects and in a practical modules, revise some areas which some students traditionally find challenging (handling concepts of concentration and dilution), and look in lectures and discussion sessions at the history, development, and current shape of the worldwide biotechnology industry and the employment opportunities within it.

Research Techniques in Molecular Biotechnology

Credits: 20
Module Organiser:  Dr Tim Dafforn
Semester: 1 and 2
Description: This module is intended to provide in-depth research training.  Sessions are designed to give you an appreciation of, and enhance your knowledge of, modern techniques in molecular and cellular biology, for all of which the University of Birmingham has world-class facilities.  Members of staff present details of different techniques, with examples including animal cell culture; high throughput DNA sequencing; cell manipulation, transfection & micro-injection; protein expression and purification; microscopy and cell sorting; circular dichroism, fluorescence & absorbance; reporter gene technology; immunodiagnostics; NMR spectroscopy; mass spectrometry; and X-Ray crystallography.  Some sessions will include tours of the laboratories and a chance to work on data generated using the above methods.  Workshops tackle open-ended research problems using some of the above methods.

Practical Applications of Molecular Biotechnology

Credits: 20
Module Organiser:  Prof Jeff Cole
Semester: 1
Description: This continuously assessed practical module will focus on techniques used in molecular biotechnology. The first of two major groups of activities will involve preliminary experiments to learn the basic techniques necessary to prepare fermentation experiments designed to produce a difficult recombinant protein. Then students will work in teams of 4 or 5 to complete a fermentation experiment. They will individually write reports of each group of experiments, the second of which must be presented in the form of a paper suitable for submission to a specified journal. The assessments will be based on all four components, the performance in the laboratory, and the quality of the written reports,

Gene Expression Analysis

Credits: 20
Module Organiser:  Professor Zewei Luo
Semester: 1
Description: This module introduces the concepts and methods of genomics, transcriptomics and proteomics, and provides an in depth coverage of their current status. A special emphasis is given to genetical genomics and reconstruction of transcriptional networks, and the analysis and interpretation of micro-array data.

From Bench to Market – the development of pharmaceutical drug products

Credits: 20
Module Organiser:  Dr Rachel Bridson (Chemical Engineering)
Semester: 1
Description: The module covers the typical “time-line” of drug product development, Key activities, issues and importance of stages in drug product development: drug discovery, developability, pre-clinical studies, formulation, clinical trials, primary and secondary manufacturing, marketing and post marketing activities, Patents and intellectual property, The regulatory and quality environment of the pharmaceutical industry, and quality by design approaches to pharmaceutical manufacturing.

Therapeutic Biologicals

Credits: 10
Module Organiser:  Dr Jon Green
Semester: 2
Description: This module describes the different types of therapeutic biologicals (also known as biopharmaceuticals) used for diagnosis, prevention and treatment of serious and chronic diseases. These molecules are generally large, complex modified proteins derived from living material. The module will cover the production and use of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies, cytokines, hormones, enzymes and vaccines. The production of these molecules, their mode of action and pre-clinical development will be described.

Funding Science

Credits: 10
Module Organiser:  Dr Eva Hyde
Semester: 2
Description: In this module you engage in an activity designed to develop your entrepreneurial and business skills in a science context and develop team working skills.  A mini-course is held on writing grants and business plans, after which you work in small groups on a topic of your choice for an application.  A series of presentations and feedback sessions lead to final presentations where each group presents their proposal or business plan to the other students, who have to provide a written critique of the proposal. 

Functional Genomics and Reverse Genetics

Credits: 20
Module Organiser:  Dr Matthias Soller
Semester: 2
Description: This module will explain current methods of exploring and confirming the nature of candidate genes underlying quantitative and major gene traits. It will cover functional genomic and molecular genetic  techniques including forward and reverse genetic approaches, gene cloning, functional analysis of genes via knock-out and knock-in technologies, and techniques for analysing protein function within an organism. We will also cover more general topics relevant to modern functional genomics "in practice”.

 

Examples of recent project titles offered to MSc Molecular Biotechnology students

  • The role of nuclear envelope in controlling meiotic progression and meiotic recombination in Plant meiosis
  • The progression of meiosis in Brassica oleracea and related polyploids
  • Computational analysis of 3D cell shape change in plants
  • Implementation of the CRISPR‐Cas9 to tag genes in yeast
  • Promoter organization in bacteria
  • Identifying Bacterial species associated with moss spores
  • Development of liquid extraction surface analysis mass spectrometry for the analysis of proteins
  • How does arginine methylation regulate the transcription factor c‐MYC in cancer?
  • Engineering M13 Bacteriophage to produce new nano‐structures
  • Self Cleaning Surfaces: Preventing the Spread of Infection
  • Development and optimization of workflows for acquisition and processing of liquid chromatography‐mass spectrometry metabolomics data
  • Sepsis and other clinical outcomes in burn trauma: applying metabolism to understand sepsis and clinical outcomes
  • How does metabolism differ in different human samples (biofluids and tissues)?
  • Identification and characterization of novel regulators modulating programmed cell death and tissue recovery
  • Control of meiotic recombination in Arabidopsis: role of the chromosome axis
  • Probing the role of pseudo‐enzyme EchA6 in mycolic acid synthesis
  • Investigation of novel genome instability mutation
  • N‐terminal acetylation as a signal for protein degradation in plants
  • Cellular responses and resistance to histone deacetylase inhibitor treatment in Burkitt's Lymphoma
  • Analysis of phospho‐proteomic datasets from human breast cancer cells addicted to FGFR signaling
  • The role of MCL1 in Breast Cancer Cell survival
  • The essential intragenic landscape of Escherichia coli
  • Global assay of every gene in Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Generation of mutants involved in nervous system development using CRISPR technology
  • Indentification of novel anti‐tumour agents from marine sediments
  • Investigating the mechanism of protein secretion in E. coli
  • Interaction of the partitioning proteins KorB and IncC with DNA and other protein partners
  • Transcription rate variability and gene regulatory network dynamics
  • Role of novel non‐coding RNAs in shuttling regulatory proteins
  • Probing the structure of the desmoplakin linker domain
  • Probing the structure and function of the Bam complex, the Gram negative bacterial outer membrane protein folding machinery
  • Retrograde lipid transport in E. coli
  • Using novel methods to purify a membrane protein complex
  • Towards a structure for the neurodegeneration protein Cln3
  • Individual‐based modelling of biofilms
  • Transfer of antibiotic resistance carrying plasmids in spatially structured multispecies communities
  • High throughput determination of substrate affinity in a microfluidic device
  • Gene regulation in bacteria
  • Structure:function studies of potential self‐protection proteins in the bacterial predator Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus
  • Understanding the pH sensing mechanism of E. coli
  • Understanding the link between genotype and phenotype in laboratory‐evolved strains of stress‐resistant bacteria
  • The behavior of lab‐evolved stress resistant strains of bacteria under fermentation conditions
  • MicroRNA associated metastasis of non‐small cell lung cancers
  • Understanding the antifungal mechanism of acetic acid
  • Mechanisms of 'Division of Labour' in Cryptococcus gattii
  • Cloning and expression of the lectinolysin gene from Streptococcus mitis
  • Histone H2AX role in DNA recombination
  • The role of exonuclease activities in meiotic DNA recombination
  • Effect of topoisomerase II inhibitors on genome stability
  • Expression analysis of alternatively spliced neuronal genes important for synaptic plasticity in bee mushroom bodies, the brain center required for learning and memory.
  • Understanding and manipulating mupirocin and thiomarinol biosynthesis to create novel biologically active molecules
  • Dissecting plasmid host range determinants
  • Regulation of antibiotic production in marine bacteria
  • Investigation into the regulation of Notch signalling through the generation of CRISPR/Cas9‐ mediated TspanC8 knockout T cells
  • Regulation of the 'molecular scissor' ADAM10 by TspanC8 tetraspanins: generation of TspanC8 knockout cell lines by CRISPR/Cas9 technology
  • Regulation of the epithelial cell function by the 'molecular scissor' ADAM10: generation of an ADAM10 knockout epithelial cell line by CRISPR/Cas9
  • Crystallographic structure determination of E. coli nitroreductases.
  • Structural bioinformatics for the reengineering of the mupirocin and thiomarinol antibiotic biosynthesis pathways
  • Sequence and structural comparison of ketosynthase domains from trans‐AT polyketide synthase systems

Fees and funding

Standard fees apply - This programme is in Fee Band B for International Students.

  • Home/EU students £8,370 FT (£4,185 PT)
  • International students £18,900 FT

Learn more about fees and funding 

Please note: From 1 July 2015 we will be introducing a £50 non-refundable application fee for this course. This does not apply to applications received before 1 July 2015.

Scholarships and studentships

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

Find out about scholarships for intenational students.

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

Entry requirements

Typical offer:
Good UK Honours degree or overseas equivalent

This programme is designed for UK and international graduates who have an appropriate Life Sciences background, with a suitable degree in the Biological Sciences, Biochemistry or Biomedical Sciences. Graduates should have a good Honours degree from a UK university (the minimum requirement is a second-class Honours degree) or the equivalent from outside the UK. Applicants must have studied some molecular biology (including gene cloning) and some genetics as part of their first degree.

Learn more about entry requirements

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

Please note: From 1 July 2015 we will be introducing a £50 non-refundable application fee for this course. This does not apply to applications received before 1 July 2015.

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

The MSc Molecular Biotechnology will provide you with the skills and specialised knowledge required for a career in biotechnology, molecular biotechnology or molecular biology, in particular within an industry setting.

Overall our aim is to equip you with a theoretical and practical background needed to apply your knowledge to biotechnology problems. We focus on key techniques used in molecular biotechnology, including aspects of process engineering, molecular biology, functional genomics, 'omics' technologies, protein expression systems and antibody engineering.

Practical skills will include sessions on fermentation, molecular biology, immunology, cell biology and protein chemistry, and you will go on to complete a major, supervised laboratory or computer-based research project. The course provides the opportunity to develop your writing and presenting skills and you will also study relevant numerical methods, and learn how to plan and write a grant application or a business plan.

Assessment methods

Assessments:

  • Project reports and project talks, oral presentations, extended essays, written reports, practical reports
  • Class tests on data-handling and data interpretation
  • Written grant application or business plan

What can I do with an MSc in Molecular Biotechnology?

Graduates from this programme will be well-placed for future careers in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, biomedical and other science-based industries, many of which are undergoing a period of rapid international growth.

The programme was designed in consultation with a senior scientist in a global pharmaceutical company, and includes relevant applied elements such as modules on product development and business plans, in addition to those covering the scientific aspects of the subject.

More information about graduate careers

Birmingham is one of Europe's most exciting cities. If you are already based here you know what this vibrant, forward-thinking, international city has to offer. If you are moving here you are going to have great fun finding out. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Supporting you

Whoever you are, wherever you come from, we'll make sure you have all the support you need to make the most of your time at Birmingham. We have a student mentor scheme and offer other support, such as disability and dyslexia advice and support, childcare and nursery facilities and financial advice.

Postgraduate and Mature Student Association (PGMSA)

If you are a mature student it's worth considering joining the Postgraduate and Mature Student Association (PGMSA). This voluntary, student-led group has an active Facebook group where you can keep up with all the events and activities on offer.

Are you an International Student?

The University of Birmingham has one of the largest international student communities within the UK. The mix of nationalities and cultures on campus greatly enriches our learning and teaching environment and will help you feel at home during your time with us. Find out more at our international student website

Living in Birmingham

Whether you are looking for university accommodation or a rented property in the private sector, our accommodation services team, 'Living', can help you find the right place.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and culture, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work.

Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.