Molecular and Cellular Biology MRes

Start date
1 year
Course Type
Postgraduate, Combined research and taught

£7,440 FT (UK students)
£27,360 FT (International Students)
More detail


Our Molecular and Cellular Biology MRes is designed to provide professional training in the principles, analytical methods and interpretive skills that are necessary to explore biology systems at the cellular and molecular level. This will include training in a wide range of state-of-the-art techniques.

This masters programme is designed to prepare you for a career in research in molecular and cellular biology and its applications.

It comprises a year of intensive training and research experience leading to the award of an MRes degree which will give you a ‘flying start’ to a subsequent PhD programme, if this is your chosen career path.

The reason I applied for postgraduate study was so I'd be able to get onto a PhD programme of my choice, within the realm of molecular biology. I picked this programme because it's similar to a mini PhD programme and gives students a taste of what it feels like to be a full-time research student, and an idea of different projects one could get involved in during their postgraduate study.

Appy Bhattacharya, MRes Molecular and Cellular Biology

Why study this course?

The School of Biosciences has an international reputation as a centre of excellence in the areas covered by this MRes degree.

This programme is designed to prepare students for a career in research in molecular and cellular biology and its applications. It comprises a year of intensive training and research experience leading to the award of an MRes degree. Applicants for the MRes programme should be of high calibre with first or 2.1 degrees.

Applications will be welcome from students with a background in Physics and Chemistry, as well as from those with a degree in Biochemistry, Biology or other Life Sciences.

Applications from overseas are welcome but note that no funding is available and applicants will have to raise their own funds. EU applicants are also welcome.

Advantages of the programme are:

  • A research-based post-graduate degree that, on a shorter time scale, replicates selected training features of a PhD degree
  • A broader training in the skills and techniques of contemporary research in molecular and cellular biology.
  • The chance to undertake a substantial research project of about 9 months duration.

  • A 'flying start' to a subsequent PhD programme, if this is the chosen career path, ensuring completion within three years. MRes students usually find it easy to secure funded PhD posts.
  • The increased breadth and experience will make students more adaptable and enhance subsequent employability.
  • An exit point after one year with a recognised qualification for those who decide that further research training is not for them.

The course offers a wide range of research topics, from structural biology to genetics to systems biology. Projects are not limited to the School of Biosciences, but can also be supervised by academics in the Institutes of the College of Medical and Dental Sciences.


The programme consists of three major components comprising 180 credits over 44 weeks.

1. Research project

The core element of the course is an extended research project of approximately 9-months duration. Each project supervisor will team up with a co-supervisor to offer a collaborative project, where most of the work is done in the lead supervisor’s lab, but complementary elements take place in the lab of the co-supervisor.  The research project is documented in the MRes Research Thesis, which has the character of a small PhD dissertation and is examined by a team of external and internal examiners. 

2. Research Techniques in Molecular Biotechnology

The first of two taught modules in the course introduces you to fundamental concepts of key techniques in molecular and cell biology through a series of lectures and workshops. Evaluating and working with published research literature is a second key element of this module.

The assessment is focused on thinking about research problems. For instance, an assignment would ask you to devise experiments to investigate a particular research question in the area of molecular cell biology.

Below are some of the topics that you will encounter in this module:

  • Flow cytometry
  • Cell Manipulation, Transfection and Micro-Injection
  • Mammalian cell culture
  • Protein expression and purification
  • Metabolomics
  • NMR spectroscopy
  • Chromatin immunoprecipitation screening
  • Drug screening

3. Funding and Communicating Science

The module is taught as a 2 day intensive workshop in which a range of subjects are covered relating to:

  • How science is funded in the public and private sector 
  • Research councils and charities funding 
  • Project Planning 
  • Intelectual property 
  • Financial planning

Assessment take the form of a group work activity aimed at producing a grant proposal or business plan for a research project. This includes a oral presentation of the plan as well as an assessment of a critical review of another groups plan.

Please note: The modules listed on the website for this programme are regularly reviewed to ensure they are up-to-date and informed by the latest research and teaching methods. On rare occasions, we may need to make unexpected changes to compulsory modules; in this event we will contact offer holders as soon as possible to inform or consult them as appropriate.


Home students - Standard tuition fees apply.

International students - Standard international tuition fees apply (research) - This programme is in Fee band 3a (Laboratory).

Fees for 2024/25

  • Code 5959: UK students £7,440 FT only
  • Code 5959: International students £27,360 FT only

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships may be available. 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 Funding, Graduation & Awards via the online enquiries system.


How To Apply

To initiate an application, you need to complete the forms on the application portal (‘Apply Now’ button on the top of the page). Informative applications specify academic qualification you have acquired or are in the process of acquiring, and including details of prior laboratory experience. We also like to learn what you are hoping this course allows you to achieve in relation to your career aspirations. We welcome references from supervisors who can comment on your prior experience and performance in academic or professional settings. If your prior degree is outside the immediate area of biology or biochemistry (e.g. chemistry, physics), it would still be helpful to know about your prior research experience.

When you complete the application form, you do not need to specify a supervisor or propose a research project. If your academic credentials show that you have met or are likely to meet the academic entry requirements, we ask you, as a second step, to find a supervisor to host you in their laboratory for the research project. While inquiring with potential supervisors, you may be asked for informal interviews. Once agreement on supervision is confirmed by the supervisor, we proceed to extend a formal offer.

You are welcome to inquire informally with potential supervisors before you complete the application form. This is not required but can accelerate proceedings a bit. Supervisors can be in the School of Biosciences, in the various Institutes of the College of Medical and Dental Sciences or elsewhere on the UoB campus, provided the project on offer fits the scientific remit of the course (ie. offers substantial training in molecular and cellular biology).

Please, take a note of the administrative deadlines below. In order to ensure you can be registered in time for the start of the course, you need to submit your application within those time limits.

International students requiring visas

1 July 2024 is the application deadline for international students who require a visa to study in the United Kingdom. We are not able to consider applications for 2024 made after this date; a new application will need to be made for September 2025.

UK students

31 August 2024 is the application deadline for UK students. We are not able to consider applications for 2024 made after this date; a new application will need to be made for September 2025.

Applications for 2024 entry are now open.

Making your application

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

Our Standard Requirements

A first- or upper second-class Honours degree. We would particularly welcome applications from those with a background in the physical sciences, as well as those with degrees in Biochemistry, Biology or other life sciences.

Learn more about entry requirements.

International Requirements

International Students

English language requirements

Standard English language requirements apply (IELTS: 6.0 overall with no less than 5.5 in any band)

  • IELTS 6.0 with no less than 5.5 in any band
  • TOEFL: 80 overall with no less than 19 in Reading, 19 in Listening, 21 in Speaking and 19 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE) including online: Academic 64 with no less than 59 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced – minimum overall score of 169, with no less than 162 in any component

Programme content

The core element of the course is an extended research project of approximately 9-months duration. This is a hand-on project where you will be embedded in the research group of the project supervisor.  The research component is assessed through the MRes Research Thesis and the associated oral examination (viva voce), a process that resembles in many ways the assessment of PhD dissertations, albeit on much shorter time scale.

In addition to this direct research experience, there are two compulsory taught modules which provide training in:

  • Funding and Communicating Science
  • Research Techniques in Molecular Biotechnology

These modules cover the basic principles underlying scientific research methods and the design of biological/biochemical experiments, and discussion of modern techniques in molecular and cellular biology. In addition, the science funding and enterprise module provides the skills required to obtain funding for sciences. This includes grant and business case writing and scientific presentation skills. You can also take courses to develop general research skills arranged through the Biosciences Graduate Research School. 

The taught modules consist of a combination of seminars and lectures. The lab work that is carried out during the course is student-led. You will be able to choose areas of molecular and cellular biology that fit with your career aspirations.


The taught modules feature a diverse range of in-course assessments and module ‘Research Techniques in Molecular Biotechnology’ also includes a modular examination. ‘Funding and Communicating Research’ is assessed entirely through in-course assessments, which in part are group-based and in part individual.

The MRes thesis is examined on a pass/fail basis by a team of (normally) two examiners (one internal, one external to the University), and includes a viva voce (oral examination). In the viva the examiners discuss background, methods, results and wider context of the MRes thesis with the candidate.

The role of this postgraduate research degree as preparation for a PhD studentship is reflected by a considerable number of graduates progressing to PhD programmes at Birmingham, other prestigious UK institutions and abroad. However, alternative options exist, too. Former graduates have joined the R&D departments of biotechnology and molecular diagnostics companies or have gone into scientific publishing.

MRes graduates present a strong CV in that they can offer extended research experience and well-developed laboratory skills. They have shown they can cope with the intellectual challenge of producing a scientific dissertation that is evaluated by someone other than a supportive supervisor. They have learned about experimental techniques beyond the immediate remit of their project and they have developed an appreciation of how research funding can be obtained and how science is effectively communicated to a lay audience. 

Skills gained

This programme offers the following advantages:

  • Broad training in the skills and techniques of contemporary research in molecular and cellular biology
  • The opportunity to experience research on a practical level embedded in the environment of internationally leading research groups.

  • Increased breadth and experience, which will enhance subsequent employability 

The course will also enable you to:

  • Independently pursue PhD-level research
  • Present the science, experimental work and its interpretation in a professional format
  • Discuss and defend the research work in conversation with other scientists.
  • Have an appreciation and knowledge of the use of modern techniques in molecular and cellular biology
  • Effectively help build and develop research projects the academic, public and private sector.