Research course

Biological Science (Plant Sciences)

University of Cambridge · Department of Plant Sciences

Entry requirements

Expected Academic Standard

Applicants for this course should have achieved a UK Good II.i Honours Degree.

If your degree is not from the UK, please check International Qualifications to find the equivalent in your country.

University Minimum Academic Requirements

Months of entry

January, April, October

Course content

The Department of Plant Sciences is an outstanding University Centre for research in plant and microbial sciences. It offers unrivalled research and training opportunities in the following areas of plant and microbial science:

Cell function & responses to the environment

Developmental biology & signalling

Genetics & epigenetics

Ecosystem function & conservation

Evolution & diversity

Microbiology & biotic interactions

Plant pathology & epidemiology

Systems & mathematical biology

Enhancing photosynthesis

Biotechnology & engineering

The Crop Science Centre is an alliance between the University of Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences and the crop research organisation NIAB. The Centre will serve as a global hub for crop science research and a base for collaborations with research partners around the world.

The research MPhil degree essentially follows the format of the PhD but is compressed into one year of full-time study or two years of part-time study. The work consists of research and courses as required under academic supervision. Applicants should contact a potential supervisor before proceeding with their MPhil application. You can browse the personal/group pages of the Research Group Leaders to check the details of their research.

The aim of the course is to provide Masters-level training in practical aspects of Plant Sciences, augmented by appropriate lecture courses delivered within the Department.

The course provides training in a wide range of disciplines, which can include plant genetic engineering, plant development, plant molecular biology, plant biophysics, plant biochemistry, plant-microbe interactions, algal microbiology, plant ecology, crop biology, plant virology, plant epigenetics, epidemiology, plant taxonomy, plant physiology, eco-physiology and bioinformatics.

Having identified a research area of interest and contacted the appropriate supervisor, the first stage in developing an application should be to draft an appropriate research summary of the training to be undertaken.

MPhil students must submit a thesis for examination within the maximum period of their study.

All postgraduate students attend induction and safety training courses in the Department.

As well as undertaking their research, students will attend courses and lectures on some of the following: instrumentation, sequencing and database use, statistics, experimental design, analysing data, writing reports and a thesis, and how to give effective scientific presentations. Students are expected to take part in the Postgraduate School of Life Sciences' Researcher Development Programme.

Students receive termly reports on their work.

Learning Outcomes

The primary outcomes from successfully completing the MPhil include:

specialist training in experimental or theoretical methods;

an ability to analyse relevant literature and apply it to the development of innovative research;

capacity to develop and apply data abstraction and analytical procedures with an appropriate level of statistical validation;

independence in designing and conducting original research, and preparing that data in a format suitable for publication in peer-reviewed journals;

enhanced organisational skills, in terms of time management, good laboratory practices, safety and planning of a specific programme of research.

MPhil candidate's are required to draft a project proposal four weeks after starting the course and deliver a seminar and prepare a thesis plan four months before their thesis submission deadline.

As an MPhil student, you must keep a separate training log, in which you will record all seminars and lectures attended and given, training undertaken, the highlights of your research work, and your notes of discussions with your supervisor(s). This log will be quite distinct from your laboratory notebook(s) which should contain all the details of your research work.

The Masters thesis has a word limit set at 20,000 words, exclusive of tables, footnotes, bibliography, and appendices.

The MPhil provides specialist training in scientific methodology relevant to the project subject area and based on the expertise of the supervisor and research group. This training also enables students from other scientific areas to proceed with a career in plant sciences and other allied areas. General training is also available and includes courses and lectures in instrumentation, sequencing and database use, statistics, experimental design, analysing data, writing reports and a thesis, and how to give effective scientific presentations. The training in research and preparation of the Masters thesis will provide an excellent foundation for those wishing to continue onto a PhD programme.

Information for international students

Language Requirement

IELTS (Academic)

Element Score

Listening 7.0

Writing 7.0

Reading 6.5

Speaking 7.0

Total 7.0

TOEFL Internet Score

Element Score

Listening 25

Writing 25

Reading 25

Speaking 25

Total 100


Score: Grade A & B (overall score of 193, with no element lower than 185 plus a Language Centre assessment)


Score: Grade A, B, or C (with at least 200 with no element lower than 185).

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • MPhil
    full time
    12 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
    part time
    24 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details