Research course

Biological Science (Plant Sciences)

University of Cambridge · Department of Plant Sciences

Entry requirements

Applicants for this course should have achieved a UK 2:1 Honours Degree.

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 and epigenetics
  • Ecosystem function and conservation
  • Evolution and diversity
  • Microbiology & biotic interactions
  • Plant pathology and epidemiology
  • Systems and mathematical biology
  • Enhancing photosynthesis
  • Biotechnology and engineering

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 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 graduate 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 Graduate School of Life Sciences' Researcher Development Programme.

Students receive termly reports on their work.

Learning Outcomes

The primary outcomes from successfully completing an MPhil include expertise including:

  • specialist training in experimental or theoretical methods;
  • an ability to analyse relevant literature and apply 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 a specific programme of research.

Assessment of an individual MPhil candidate's progress is made via the standard reviews undertaken by first-year PhD students including the drafting of a project proposal after four weeks, delivery of a seminar, and preparation of a thesis plan and outline four months in advance of the due submission date.

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 in 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.

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