Research course

Structural Biology

The University of Manchester · Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

Entry requirements

We require applicants to hold, or be about to obtain, an Upper Second class Honours degree, or the equivalent qualification gained outside the UK, in a related subject area for entry to a PhD programme. A Lower Second class Honours degree may be considered if applicants also hold a Master's degree with a Merit classification.

Months of entry

January, April, September

Course content

Our PhD/MPhil Structural Biology programme enables you to undertake a research project that will improve understanding of Structural Biology.

Structural biology is a rapidly developing area of biology that is aimed at determining the three-dimensional structures of biologically-important macromolecules such as proteins, DNA and RNA and their complexes (i.e. ribosomes, nucleosomes).

Structural biology developed as a field alongside molecular biology in the 1950s and 1960s and almost everyone knows some of the pioneers in this field - Hodgkin, Wilkins, Watson, Crick who determined the structure of DNA. Less widely known are the pioneers of protein structure determination, Nobel Prize winners - Kendrew and Perutz.

Recent developments in computational analysis and the availability of state-of-the-art instrumentation mean that high-resolution structures are now obtained routinely using X-ray diffraction and high resolution cryo-electron microscopy, allowing to reveal structural details of large complexes as well as individual proteins in a faster and more reliable manner.

Structural biology is crucial for the pharmaceutical industry, where identifying drug binding sites to target proteins is a key step in drug development of new medicines and treatments.

Structural biology is also essential in biotechnology where knowing the structure of enzymes allows a better understanding of their mechanism of action and provides a rational basis for redesigning them to optimise their activity or even change it to produce a novel product of commercial interest.

At The University of Manchester we have a superb infrastructure to undertake structural biology projects, which includes state-of-the-art facilities for cryo-electron microscopy, crystallisation robots, X-ray diffraction, NMR spectroscopy and computational analysis.

Structural biology is a multidisciplinary area and pursuing a postgraduate research degree in this subject will allow you to develop skills in biology, biochemistry, biophysics and computer science, as well as the opportunity to undergo rigorous multidisciplinary training.

If you are fortunate, just like Kendrew and Perutz, you will have the unique experience of being the first person on the planet to visualise the new structure of a protein or macromolecule and to have the first insights into its mechanism of action and how it interacts with other molecules to regulate an essential biological process.

Alternatively, your project may generate the structural information needed to design a new drug that will be used to treat human diseases such as tuberculosis or cancer, or to design a new protein to optimise a process in biotechnology.

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • PhD
    part time
    72-96 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
    full time
    36-48 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
  • MPhil
    part time
    24 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
    full time
    12 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health
+44 (0)161 275 5608