Plant Sciences

Plant Sciences emphasises the central role of plants in understanding how the natural world works, sustainably feeding the planet and mitigating climate change.

Plant Sciences student

About Plant Sciences at Sheffield

Our Plant Sciences courses span fundamental plant biology, exploring evolution, developmental biology, photosynthesis and disease whilst considering the role of plants in solving global food and energy shortages, and developing green technologies. You’ll cover two main themes at Sheffield: plant physiology - how plants harvest light energy, acquire nutrients from the soil and convert this in order to sustain growth, and plant ecology - how plants interact with each other and their non-living environment.

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 specialist knowledge of plant sciences and the skills that every professional biologist needs. Alongside these you'll have the opportunity to study optional modules that span ecology and conservation biology and zoology. You can mix and match these modules so you specialise as much or as little as you like, covering photosynthesis, global warming and vegetation, climate change and pollution impacts on plant communities, underpinned by the latest research discoveries from our experts.

Our courses are designed for students who have a passion for agronomy. Sheffield is home to the Institute for Sustainable Food which brings together our expertise in this area in order to find dynamic solutions to the challenges of food security and sustainability. It’s research like this that you’ll be able to get involved in throughout your studies. You might even choose to add an extra year of research experience with our integrated masters programme, or gain valuable work experience with a placement year


As a Plant Sciences 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 practical lab sessions, field trips and research projects.

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, exploring local green spaces 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.

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Field courses

All of our plant sciences students get to go on 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 then 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.

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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 plant sciences 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:

  • Brassinosteroids regulate EXPAs underpinning effectual root growth in Arabidopsis thaliana;
  • Epibrassinolide and Auxin synergistically promote root growth in Arabidopsis;
  • Clay soil effects on plant productivity: a study on phytase availability.

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

APS students in the lab (15724)

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 plant sciences 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.

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Spend a year on a work placement

Our BSc and MBiolSci Plant Sciences 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;
  • Food and Environment Research Agency;
  • Kew Gardens.

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

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Biosciences student on a fieldtrip

Working for a large, global confectionery company provided lots of variety in terms of opportunities to work on different projects, both as an individual and in teams, which was exciting. The best part of my placement year was being able to use all of the skills I had learned to produce chocolate from scratch by myself.

Alysia Dyke

BSc Biology with Placement Year at Mondelez International

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:

  • Are there biomechanical constraints on seed size between and within species?
  • Tracking wetland change in South Yorkshire from 1850 to the present day, and assessing impacts on bird indicator species;
  • The effects of five-year grass-clover leys on bulk density, organic carbon and total nitrogen with depth.

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Your career

Our graduates have an understanding of ideas and techniques that are in extensive demand, particularly in agriculture, biotechnology, crop protection, environmental management and climate change mitigation. There are excellent career opportunities in government, academic and industrial research institutes focused on science and policy, as well as in consulting and teaching. 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.

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Our courses

Plant Sciences 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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