Plant and Microbial Biology banner

MRes Plant and Microbial Biology

Plants and microbes are fundamental to food security, as well as being central to global ecosystems, and so at Sheffield we study them from every angle: from the molecular level up to whole organisms, in the context of ecosystems, industry and major global challenges.

Our MRes Plant and Microbial Biology course is uniquely research-focussed and, over 12 months, you’ll be embedded in one of our research groups, working alongside students and staff who are at the forefront of their research field. Sheffield is home to the Plant Production and Protection (P3) global centre of excellence for translational plant science where our world-class research expertise span topics including plant development, plant biotechnology, soil health, genomics, food security, sustainable agriculture, photosynthesis, plant-microbe interactions, plant immunology, and climate change biology, allowing you to examine the effects of past, present and future climates on plants and the wider environment.

Our research in Plant and Microbial Biology at Sheffield

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 our MRes Plant and Microbial Biology degree could be the next step towards a great career in industry, the environmental sector, or further study to PhD level.

Industrial placement opportunities

Our links with external collaborators make it possible for students with a particular interest in agricultural or horticultural research to complete their MRes project at Enza Zaden in the Netherlands or Rothamsted Research in the UK.

Find out more

Top 20 for Ecology in the world

Academic Ranking of World Universities 2018, ShanghaiRanking




To apply for this course, complete the University of Sheffield's postgraduate online application form.

Online application form

Because of the research-intensive nature of this course, we ask you to include a short supporting statement with your application which explains clearly how your interests and experience relate to the Plant and Microbial Biology research we do in the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, including which particular supervisors or research groups you would be most interested in working with and if you wish to be considered for an industrial placement within our P3 Centre.

You can find more information about the application process on the University's postgraduate webpages.

How to apply: applying essentials


Course Director: Dr Stephen Rolfe

If you would like to know more about this course, contact:

You can also visit us throughout the year: Postgraduate open days, visit afternoons and online chats

International students:
Pathway programme
Don't meet our entry requirements?
Pre-Masters in Science and Engineering

About the course

This 12-month course is designed to equip you with the knowledge and expertise to become a research leader, developing your own research skills to contribute new knowledge in the area of plant and microbial biology. You’ll be assigned to a research supervisor and undertake an extended research project, either in the UK or abroad, under their supervision, gaining experience in state-of-the art techniques which may include molecular genetics, metabolomics, fluorescent imaging, gas exchange analysis and carbon isotope analysis, as well as other experimental, field, and computational methods. Students with a particular interest in agricultural or horticultural research have the opportunity to complete their project with one of our industrial partners: Enza Zaden, a Dutch breeding company, or Rothamsted Research, the oldest agricultural science institute in the world.

In the taught component of your MRes degree, you’ll learn about the most recent developments in the field of plant and microbial biology and discuss them with research leaders from the UK and around the world. You’ll gain advanced skills in experimental design, data analysis and presentation - a full list of current modules can be found below.

In addition to technical skills, throughout your course you’ll also develop transferable skills around problem solving and communication, equipping you for your future career or further study. In order to build these skills, you’ll learn through a mixture of working in a research laboratory or on a field-based research project, tutorials, discussion groups, attendance at seminars, and statistics and other workshops. Assessment includes, but is not limited to, a project report, literature review, critiques, short reports and essays and oral presentations including a viva.

Read more about this course on the University of Sheffield's webpages for postgraduate students:

MRes Plant and Microbial Biology

Meet our students

Entry requirements

For this course, we usually ask for at least a 2:1 BSc honours degree, or equivalent, in biology or a closely related quantitative subject. In addition, you should be able to demonstrate evidence of aptitude and enthusiasm for research (e.g. an undergraduate research project). Applicants with professional experience may also be considered following interview.

We can also accept qualifications from other countries. You can find out which qualifications we accept from your country on the University's webpages for international students.

Prospective international students: Your country

International pathway programmes

If you are an international student who does not meet our entry requirements, the University of Sheffield International College offers a Pre-Masters in Science and Engineering programme. This programme is designed to develop your academic level in your chosen subject, introduce you to the study skills that will be vital to success and help with language if you need it.

Upon successful completion, you can progress to this degree at the University of Sheffield.

Pre-Masters in Science and Engineering

English Language Requirements

If you have not already studied in a country where English is the majority language, it is likely that you will need to have an English language qualification. We usually ask for:

  • International English Language Testing Service (IELTS): Overall grade of 6.5 with 6 in each component

You can find out whether you need to have an english language qualification, and which other English language qualifications we accept, on the University's webpages for international students.

English language requirements

The English Language Teaching Centre offers English language courses for students who are preparing to study at the University of Sheffield.

English Language Teaching Centre

Funding and scholarships

Funding is available, depending on your fee status, where you live and the course you plan to study. You could also qualify for a repayable postgraduate masters loan to help fund your studies.

Funding your postgraduate course

UK/EU scholarships

100+ scholarships image

We're offering 100+ scholarships worth £10,000 each for home students starting a taught postgraduate course in 2019 that can be used towards fees or living expenses.

Find out more

International scholarships

International scholarships image

We're offering 100 International Postgraduate Taught Merit Scholarships, each worth 25% of the original tuition fee for a postgraduate taught programme starting in September 2019.

Find out more

Alumni rewards

Alumni rewards

If you’ve previously graduated from the University and intend to pursue further studies with us then you may be eligible to receive a 10% discount on your tuition fees.

Find out more

Up-to-date fees can be found on the University of Sheffield's webpages for postgraduate students:

Tuition fees

Emily completed her research project at Rothamsted Research, one of the oldest agricultural research institutions in the world.

Emily Shone

The placement has allowed me to gain experience in working in an industrial setting rather than the academic setting I experienced during my undergraduate studies. I have been able to work independently in the laboratory, whilst drawing upon the knowledge of others around me to develop my work.

emily shone - READ MORE

Gabriel chose the MRes because of the large research component and was able complete his project in industry with one of our collaborators.


The possibility of working on my research project with Enza Zaden, a plant breeding company in the Netherlands was really attractive to me as I wanted experience working in industry and thought it would be interesting to live abroad for six months.

Gabriel robinson - READ MORE

Current modules

All students will study:

Research Project (90 credits)

This module will give you the opportunity to develop skills relevant to a career in biological research. It will consist of a laboratory or field based research project in our Ecology and Environment research group where you'll work under the supervision of a member of academic staff. You'll formulate the hypotheses and questions to be addressed and plan and carry out experiments to test these hypotheses. The project will be written up in the form of a scientific paper and you'll keep a notebook of the research, deliver an oral presentation of your work, and participate in a viva voce in which you'll discuss your research findings in the context of the literature.

Your masters includes funding for your research project which can cover field or laboratory costs in the UK or abroad. Previous MRes Ecology and Environment students have conducted fieldwork in locations including Brazil, South Africa and Sweden as well closer to home in the wonderful Peak District National Park on our doorstep.

Literature Review (15 credits)

The literature review requires you to write a critical review of a biological topic of choice. The literature review will involve extensive reading of original research papers, reviews and books together with information extracted from other media. You'll be required to critically analyse hypotheses in the field and critically analyse the quality of the evidence used to support them. Where controversies exist, you'll indicate which side has the stronger case. The literature review should also identify gaps in our current knowledge and understanding and make suggestions for the future developments in the field.

Advanced Trends in Biology (15 credits)

This module utilises seminar programmes within biological sciences to expose you to the most recent developments in a wide range of biological subjects. You'll evaluate and discuss these topics in informal discussion groups in open forum workshops. You'll be required to select topics for further research where the content of the seminar is critically evaluated using the literature and provide a notebook containing your notes concerning each seminar. This module fosters and develops skills in the acquisition, processing and presentation of information as well as in written and oral communication: the emphasis is on succinct and precise communication.

Advanced Biological Analysis (15 credits)

This module provides advanced training in the use of statistical methods and computers to present and analyse biological data necessary to pursue a research career in whole organism biology. The core component of the module covers advanced principles of experimental design, data interpretation, and graphical presentation, with an introduction to advanced univariate and multivariate techniques. The course is based on the statistical program R, using a series of workshops and student-centred learning assignments to develop skills and proficiency. You'll then opt to study sub-units including image analysis, microarray and genome analysis and numerical modelling.

Research and Study Skills in Biology (30 credits)

This module provides training in the fundamental generic skills and advanced practical skills necessary to pursue a research career in whole organism biology. The generic skills involve learning how to communicate both written and oral information to professional audiences and the general public. The module also considers advanced scientific writing (CVs and grant applications). Advanced practical skills are acquired as a result of a series of 'master-classes' that will allow you to develop a portfolio of techniques for use in your future research careers, allowing you to gain experience in advanced analytical techniques using state-of-the art laboratory equipment.

Tutorials (15 credits)

The MRes tutorial system provides you with a forum to develop as a research scientist. Academic tutors provide support with the advanced studies needed for postgraduate research. You'll present your ideas and research results to their peer group for feedback and constructive criticism. In addition, you'll participate in a journal club where you'll choose which areas of the current research literature you wish to discuss with your fellow students. The tutorial system provides a structure to develop a community of learners within the postgraduate programme.

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

We timetable teaching across the whole of our campus, the details of which can be found on our campus map. Teaching may take place in a student’s home department, but may also be timetabled to take place within other departments or central teaching space.