Research course

The Molecular Basis of Biological Mechanisms

University of Leeds · Faculty of Biological Sciences
PhDMSc by research

Entry requirements

Normally a 2:1 honours degree or equivalent, but relevant experience may be taken into consideration.

Months of entry


Course content

Understanding complex biological systems in structural, mechanistic and quantitative terms is a key and growing area that will be the forefront of biology for decades to come. How the complex macromolecules of life are assembled/disassembled and how they interact and function are central questions of immense importance. The ability to interrogate and interfere with biological processes using designer molecules, together with the explosion of information from genomics projects and systems biology are also stimulating new and exciting opportunities in this area, with potentials for tailor-made chemical intervention and customized medicines. Our major strengths lie in multi-disciplinary research, covering (i) bioinformatics and computational biology; (ii) molecular biophysics; (iii) chemical genetics and chemical biology; (iv) structure elucidation and (v) biomolecular interactions, and the application of these areas to provide new knowledge of protein-protein, protein-ligand, protein-membrane and protein-nucleic acid interactions. By delineating interacting partners, and by quantifying their behaviours from ensemble to single molecule measurements, we aim to equip students with the most modern arsenal of techniques and a philosophy of scientific adventure.

Our training atmosphere is buoyant and it is our policy to encourage interactions and to encourage ambition and drive and students are invited to play a full, active role in all activities. Students have access to an extensive instrument base for cutting edge research, built up over the last 10 years. Briefly, this includes two X-ray systems, four NMR spectrometers and six EMs for structure elucidation; a suite of the very latest mass spectrometers for structure elucidation and analysis of non-covalent interactions and first rate facilities for protein purification. For the analysis of biomolecular interactions AUC, SPR, ITC, plate-readers and spectrometers nanosecond laser temperature jump, ultra-rapid mixing, fluorescence anisotropy, UV Raman, single molecule fluorescence and a suite of 11 AFMs are all available. Our computing infrastructure for bioinformatics includes a Beowulf machine with a 6TB storage area network. Recent funding from the Wellcome Trust has provided a new integrated ultra-fast confocal/TIRF imaging station.

Post-graduate training is considered to be of paramount importance. We have long-standing experience in post-graduate education through staff involvement in Masters teaching (MSc Chemical Biology; MSc Biosciences and MRes Bioinformatics, a BBSRC-funded Doctoral Training Grant and through our prestigious Wellcome Trust 4-year PhD programme. Our staff are totally committed to every aspect of post-graduate training and have successfully supervised >450 PhD students to date.

Information for international students

The Faculty has many years experience welcoming international students. For details on language requirements please see our website.

Fees and funding

Information on fees, funding and finance can be found on our website.

Qualification and course duration


full time
36+ months

MSc by research

full time
12 months

Course contact details

Martha Smith
+44 (0)113 343 8186