Biology

Biology at Sheffield covers all types of organisms - microbes, plants, animals and humans - and all the scales of biology - from cells to ecosystems. We offer you breadth, depth and choice as you study, so you can specialise as much or as little as you like.

APS students in the lab (15724)
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About Biology at Sheffield

Our flexible Biology courses cover the full breadth of biological sciences. You’ll learn about how cells and genes work, how organisms age, how populations evolve, and how organisms and ecosystems function. You'll also discover how we can work towards solving pressing global challenges including antibiotic resistance, ageing, biodiversity, sustainability and climate change.

Top 10 in the UK for Biological Sciences

The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020

All of our courses start with an essential set of core modules designed to give you the skills that every professional biologist needs. Alongside these you'll have the opportunity to study optional modules that span zoology, ecology and conservation biology, and plant sciences. You can mix and match these modules, covering genetics, structure, function, evolution, behaviour and ecology of all organisms, underpinned by the latest research discoveries from our experts across DNA, evolution, biodiversity and beyond.

Our courses are designed for students who are looking to explore the breadth of whole-organism biology, with the freedom to specialise as much or as little as you like. You might even choose to add an extra year of research experience as part of your studies with our integrated masters programme, spend your second year abroad, or gain valuable work experience with a placement year. Whether you want to study genes, or ecosystems, or a bit of both with lots in between, it’s your decision.

Teaching

As a biology student you’ll learn in lots of different ways, from lectures and small group tutorials where our world-leading academics will share their latest research findings with you, to learning by doing during research projects, practical lab sessions, and field trips.

Explore the course structure and content

Our staff are committed to great teaching and you'll have lots of opportunities throughout your degree to be creative, think independently, and express your ideas. You’ll be building your knowledge and capacity to do science during research projects, in-depth lab practicals, exploring local field sites applying your new skills, embarking on once-in-a-lifetime field courses, and getting the opportunity to share your knowledge with the general public through modules in science communication. All giving you plenty of chances to gain new skills and experience to put on your CV.

Find out more about our teaching


Field courses

All of our biology students get to go do an optional two-week long field course between second and third year in order to cement what you've learnt during lab practicals and field trips. We give you a choice of fascinating habitats to explore, from dramatic landscapes in remote corners of the globe, to complex ecosystems operating right under our noses where you'll design and conduct your own research linked to evolution, behaviour, conservation and ecosystems. We also offer field courses in the lab if you're interested in exploring cells, genetics, physiology or other topics tied to laboratory research.

You won't have to wait until third year to get out in the field though - there's also lots of field work built into the rest of your degree. All of our students spend the first week of first year on a field trip exploring Sheffield's green spaces, learning observation and research skills. There are regular visits to zoos, aquariums and nature reserves too.

Explore our field courses

Ireland field course image

Research projects

Project work is built into our degrees from the beginning, from field courses, to research projects based around first and second year modules on genetics, computer modelling, behaviour, species interactions, conservation and climate change.

In your third year, you'll get the opportunity to complete a major research project and dissertation in an area of biology that interests you. Conducted under the supervision of one of our world experts, you'll work in a small group to define questions, develop experimental protocols, conduct the research, analyse the data and ultimately produce a written report in the form of a scientific publication. Example research projects include:

  • Conservation of coral reefs under climate change;
  • Linking SNP genotypes to local human adaptations; an analysis of adaptation frequencies in ancient DNA;
  • Alternative methods for measuring climate-induced changes in vegetation phenology.

Our integrated masters course allows you to complete a further in-depth research project whilst embedded in one of our specialist research groups.

Student with butterfly

Talking the Talk: Getting Science on Film

Many of our students are inspired to study biology by seeing the natural world captured on screen. Our Talking the Talk: Getting Science on Film module gives biology students the chance to make your own factual science documentaries, with support and advice from professional filmmakers.

Science communication is a popular career route for many of our graduates and this is just one way that you'll be able to gain experience in this area.

View more student videos


Spend a year on a work placement

Our BSc and MBiolSci Biology with Placement Year degrees allow you to do a year-long, paid work placement between your second and third year, applying your scientific knowledge and transferrable skills in a workplace environment. You'll pay reduced fees for the year you're on placement and you'll still have access to your tutor and the support you need from the university. Most students earn salaries during their placements too.

Our students have done their placements at organisations that include:

  • Atkins Environmental Consulting;
  • Cadbury (Mondelēz International);
  • Transport for London.

Placements aren't guaranteed – it’s your responsibility to secure one but we’ll do everything we can to help.

Find out more

Isabel Farlie student profile

One of the most enjoyable aspects of working at Kew has been the opportunity to talk to so many people in different disciplines at different stages in their academic careers. Realising how their career paths led them to this point has provided many ideas for my future.

Isabel Fairlie

MBiolSci Biology with Placement Year at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew


Spend a year studying abroad

If you take a Year Abroad course, you'll spend your second year studying biology at another top university in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore or Hong Kong. It's a great way to get an even bigger range of perspectives on the subject, explore habitats unlike anything here in the UK, and experience life in another part of the world. This unique course counts towards your final grade and allows you to gain international experience without extending your degree. You'll even pay reduced fees for the year you're abroad.

Your place at another university isn't guaranteed – it’s your responsibility to secure one but we’ll do everything we can to help.

Find out more

Photo of Chris Buckley

For any biologist, the opportunity to study Australian ecosystems is an exciting one, and I was not disappointed. Regular field trips to the bush and the coast exposed me to unique plants and animals endemic to Australia, and as a result much of the teaching was given from a refreshing new angle. 

Chris Buckley

MBiolSci Biology with a Year Abroad at Monash University in Australia


Integrated masters

Our four-year integrated masters courses (MBiolSci) are designed for students who want to pursue a career in industrial or academic research or where understanding the process of research is vital to success. The first three years of your course will have the same structure as the BSc, with the fourth year devoted to a major research project designed to equip you with the advanced laboratory skills you’ll need for a successful and rewarding career in science. You'll be embedded within one of our specialist research groups, conducting your own independent research and interacting with academics and lab staff as a professional scientist. All of our courses are available as a three-year BSc degree, or a four-year MBiolSci degree

Example research projects include:

  • The distribution of foraging birds: testing the ideal and free assumptions of the Ideal Free Distribution;
  • The impacts of variable weather changes on the peak abundance of Aphids and Homoptera in a temperate woodland of South Yorkshire, England;
  • Locally adapting agricultural land management strategies to promote avian biodiversity in the temperate zone.

Find out more


Your career

The demand for skilled biologists has expanded in recent years within industry, research, education and beyond. Our graduates go into careers across conservation, research, marketing, human resources, science communication and teaching, using their sought after transferrable skills in data analysis, project management and teamwork to thrive in a range of organisations. Each year our graduates join conservation and environmental consultancies, wildlife trusts, museums, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and local, national and international government. Many also go on to do PhDs. 

You'll get lots of support to help you work out what you want to do after graduation, and the steps you need to take to get there. Your personal tutor will be on hand to provide careers advice throughout your course, and with training and events, from our annual employability day tailored to specific biology degree pathways, to mock assessment centres and portfolio building workshops, you'll be well equipped to plan your career and find a great job after you've finished your degree.

Find out more

Jayne Ashe student testimonial

I am now working as the Community Engagement Officer for the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership... It’s great to be able to put some of the theory learnt in my modules within my degree into practice! Working at a landscape scale has also given me the opportunity to learn more about how different areas and sectors can work together for common aims and goals.

Jayne Ashe

MBiolSci Biology with Biodiversity and Conservation (now MBiolSci Biology)


Our courses

Biology courses – 2020 entry

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it is 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. 

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