Photograph of experimental UV manipulation experiment in Sweden

Introduction to postgraduate study in APS

If you have a strong interest in biology, and a passion for creating and refining our knowledge about the living world, working on novel solutions to biological problems and developing your scientific creativity, then a research degree may be for you.  This introduction tells you a bit more about what is involved.

A research degree consists of an individual research project, along with opportunities for training in research methods, generic skills and subject specific techniques. The aim of the project is to develop your own research skills, and contribute new knowledge to your chosen field.  You will work alongside academic staff, postdoctoral researchers, and other postgraduates in a research community focused on doing novel and relevant research, and through the process of working on a research problem of your own you will develop a whole range of problem solving, technical, and communication skills.


Wheat experiments in growth chamber

Photo of parrot on cactus

What postgraduate degrees do we offer?

Most of the research students in APS are working for the degree of PhD (Doctor of Philosophy). This involves a three, or sometimes four, year research study, comprising an individual research project, along with training in research methods, generic skills and subject specific techniques. The research carried out is assessed by means of a written thesis, submitted at the end of the degree, and an oral examination. It is also possible to do an MPhil (Master of Philosophy) degree. This is also entirely research based, but less extensive, lasting 2 years rather than 3-4.

All research projects take place under the supervision of one or more academic staff in the Department, and sometimes may also involve joint supervision or collaboration with staff in other departments, universities, or in industry.


Photo of researcher working in growth facility

Photo of sampling in the Antarctic

What research topics could I work on?

We are interested in good research project ideas within any of the areas of research interest of APS staff, and welcome approaches from potential students in those areas. However, particular sources of funding will often be linked to particular research topics or projects. What this means is that we will also advertise specific projects, usually during the autumn/winter, and be looking for good applicants for those projects on a competitive basis.

So, it is important to approach us if you are interested in research in one of the areas we work on, particularly if you have potential sources of financial support, and it is also important to keep an eye on the Current Opportunities listings.

To find out more about possible research opportunities please read the general information for UK, EU, or non-EU applicants below:


Mass spectrophotometry

Photograph of DNA gel

What training is available?

There are various sources of training and support available to you as a postgraduate student in APS. For specialised, project-specific techniques, the training may be directly through your supervisor, or through others in your research lab/group. There are also Departmental courses (for example in Advanced Data Analysis techniques) which you can take, and then there are courses available at the University level, either in techniques from other disciplines, or in generic research, communication and management skills.

The training you undertake is tailored to your specific requirements through a Training Needs Analysis, carried out with your supervisor, and is coordinated through the University's Doctoral Development Programme (DDP).  The DDP aims to provide you with a portfolio of specific and generic skills.


Photomicrograph of Paramecium

Are there opportunities to get teaching experience?

Yes, as a postgraduate student you will have the opportunity to assist with teaching in practicals and on field courses, if you choose to do so. It provides an excellent opportunity to develop your teaching and communication skills, and pass on your enthusiasm for your subject. You are paid for this work and will receive appropriate training and support.


Student at higher degree graduation reception

How would I fund a postgraduate degree?

You will need one or more sources of financial support to cover (a) the University tuition fees, and (b) your living costs. What sources of support are available to you will depend on a number of different factors, including whether you are a UK or EU national. These are discussed in more detail on the Applications and Funding page.


Flower in sub-arctic vegetation

What qualifications do I need to apply for a research degree?

The minimum qualification you would need for starting a research degree would be a good (i.e. 1st class, or upper 2(i)) undergraduate degree (usually BSc, or equivalent) in a relevant subject.  Other relevant qualifications such as Master's degrees (MSc, MRes, MBiolSci) could be advantageous, but are not necessarily a requirement.  In addition to your degree, we would also be looking for evidence of aptitude and enthusiasm for research.