• For Entry: September
  • Duration: 12 months
  • School: Life Sciences
  • Study Mode: Full Time+Part Time

This course offers the opportunity to spend a year carrying out a research project in one of the leading and most productive research Universities for molecular cell biology in Europe.

This course allows you to work alongside our world renowned experts from the School of Life Sciences and gain a 'real research' experience. You will have the opportunity to select a research project from a variety of thematic areas of research.

The research themes are:

  • Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)
  • Agritech and Plant Sciences
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology
  • Cancer
  • Computational biology
  • Cell Signalling
  • Developmental and stem cell biology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Gene regulation and expression
  • Immunology and Immunotherapy
  • Microbiology
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Structural Biology

You will be part of our collaborative working environment and have access to outstanding shared facilities such as microscopy and proteomics. Throughout your year, you will develop an advanced level of knowledge on your topic of interest as well as the ability to perform independent research in the topic area. Alongside basic science training in experimental design, data handling and research ethics, we will help you to develop skills in critical assessment and communication. This will be supported by workshops in scientific writing, presentation skills, ethics, laboratory safety, statistics, public engagement and optional applied bioinformatics.


All our laboratories in the School of Life Sciences are open-plan, which encourages collaboration and interdisciplinary working. You will have access to state-of-the-art technologies, equipment, and expertise  to facilitate your research.

For much of the additional training aspects of the course you will be part of the wider international postgraduate community in the School of Life Sciences. We have around 180 students from over 20 countries. You will also be invited to be part of our postgraduate student-led association, who run numerous events from an annual lecture to careers seminars together with a range of regular social events.

The period of study is one year full-time or two years part-time research, which includes two months to write up the thesis. You'll join the Life Sciences five-day induction course for postgraduate research at the beginning of September.

The best thing about this course has been getting to work with other researchers who are passionate about their work, I have enjoyed learning from them and will be forever grateful. I have loved being able to have a dabble in lots of new techniques that I would otherwise never have got to experience. I've learnt so many techniques and had many valuable experiences that will help me with my future career and plans. I'm certainly much better off for doing the course.

Emily Millard
MSc by Research Life Sciences student

What you will study

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)

Resistance to antimicrobial agents (such as antibiotics) is one of the great threats to medical science. Through the identification of targets for new therapeutic agents, developing innovative technologies for application in AMR research, and performing drug discovery programmes to develop new antimicrobial agents, you can help to meet this challenge.

Agritech and plant sciences 

Working on an agritech and plant sciences research project will allow you to address global challenges such as food security, renewable energy, conservation and climate change. Our plant scientists are based at the James Hutton Institute (JHI) on the outskirts of Dundee. This provides access to extensive specialist facilities and interaction with the JHI researchers.

Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology

How do the complex cellular processes within cells explain how they function in both health and disease? You will investigate how our genetic information is interpreted, focussing on the plethora of molecular machines’ that perform the many functions occurring within living cells and integrate many cellular and subcellular activities.


Cancer is the second most common cause of death worldwide, yet there is much about how cells mutate, become immortalised and grow uncontrollably that we do not understand. You can help to answer these questions by working to unravel the fundamental mechanisms by which these cellular processes occur.

Cell signalling

The ability to send messages across the body is critical for optimum functioning. Internal signals can indicate changes in cellular metabolic activity and energy status, for example. When the signals go wrong pathologies associated with cancer, diabetes and infectious disease can arise. Studying the biochemical 'wiring' underlying the diverse systems in the body, which can often overlap will provide you with unexpected discoveries and opportunities for collaboration among the different signalling research groups.

Computational biology and Artificial Intelligence

Computational biology uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to get information from huge amounts of biological data. You can work with computational biology specialists to continue to answer important biological and medical research questions through the development of predictive algorithms and models that may be tested experimentally.

Developmental and stem cell biology

Developmental biology studies how organisms grow and develop and is closely aligned with stem cell biology research. Stem cell biology aims to restore normal function through the repair or replacement of damaged or diseased human cells or tissues. Projects in these areas include investigating the mechanisms of differentiation in developing organisms, stem cells and adult tissues.

Drug discovery

Drug discovery is a practical science that includes modern computational methods combined with chemical and molecular biology techniques. Projects will allow you to be part of this process from identify drug targets against diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and malaria to designing and creating new cures that are safer and more effective.

Gene regulation and expression

You will undertake research to answer some of the most basic questions in biology – how genes are maintained, organised, inherited, copied and controlled to underpin complex life. Understanding these processes, how they inter-relate and what happens when they go wrong will provide further understanding and potential treatments for the many different diseases that people can have including cancer.


The body's immune system is essential for defence against infection and wound healing. However excessive, or inappropriate, activation of the immune system results in unwanted damage to healthy tissue. Research projects will allow you to study the mechanisms that cells use to sense external and internal signals in response to infection plus what happens when these responses go wrong.


Microbiology encompasses a spectrum of research that flows from fundamental science using model organisms to translational research on medically and economically-significant species. Understanding how microbes like bacteria, viruses and parasites function is at the heart of much of this work. Projects will allow you to recognise, investigate, resolve and manage the innumerable microbiological challenges affecting health, industry and the environment.


Research projects in neurodegeneration integrate the molecular and cellular aspects of the subject with our clinical expertise in neurological conditions such as dementia, and Parkinson's disease.

Structural Biology

The structure of biological molecules (such as proteins) is essential for their function. By understanding protein structure we can determine how they function and how we can change this. You will use structural biology techniques such as X-ray crystallography and cryo-EM to determine structure-function relationships of host and pathogen proteins.

How you will be taught

  • Supervised laboratory research
  • Workshops
  • Induction programme
  • Poster presentation
  • Super seminars
  • Journal Clubs

How you will be assessed

  • Written Thesis
  • Oral examination at the discretion of the examiners

Our MSc by Research course allows you to develop your technical ability for research as a stepping stone to embark on a PhD programme, or for a subsequent career in academic or industrial research.

Even if you decide that a career in research is not for you, the many transferrable skills you gain and a qualification in a STEM based subject will make you very desirable to potential employers.

Normally a 2.2 BSc degree in Life Sciences or a related discipline; applicants with alternative qualifications and/or relevant experience may be considered.

 EU and International qualifications

English Language Requirement

IELTS Overall 6.5
Listening 5.5
Reading 5.5
Writing 6.0
Speaking 6.0

 Equivalent grades from other test providers


English Language Programmes

We offer Pre-Sessional and Foundation Programme(s) throughout the year. These are designed to prepare you for university study in the UK when you have not yet met the language requirements for direct entry onto a degree programme.

 Discover our English Language Programmes

Fee statusFees for students starting 2021-22
Scottish students £12,600 per year of study
Rest of UK students £12,600 per year of study
International students (including EU) £26,250 per year of study

You need to list your top three project choices as part of your application

View PDF of available projects



You apply for this course using our Direct Application System

Additional documents you will need

When you complete your form, you need to upload the following documents in the Other Information - Supporting documents section of the application form

Two letters of reference

these should be from two academics or employers who know your skills, and can speak to your suitability for the MSc by Research, your academic progress and work ethic

Letter of motivation

this should be a document written by you, detailing:

  • why you are interested in this MSc by Research
  • titles and supervisors of which three projects you are interested in (see details above)
  • a short explanation on why you are interested in these projects (500 word limit)


Please save these documents as a Microsoft Word or PDF.


Apply for MSc by Research Life Sciences


Application deadlines

Start date

Application deadline

Shortlisting Decision and interview invitation



1 May

1 June

Last week of June


1 September

1 October

Last week of October


1 February

1 March

Last week of March