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MSc Molecular Biology and Biotechnology

Genetics and recombinant DNA technology underpin major biotechnological industries in the medical and agricultural sectors including pharmaceutical, industrial and microbial biotechnology. Thanks to increased insights from the study of genetic material, we’re better able to develop new diagnostic tests, therapeutic agents and bioenergy production. But with this progress comes the increased need for scientists to learn, evaluate and use these pioneering techniques.

The MSc Molecular Biology and Biotechnology course brings together the diverse areas of biology and engineering, giving you an interdisciplinary perspective on this fast-moving area. You'll receive training in the latest laboratory techniques including CRISPR genome editing technology, and other molecular techniques such as PCR, gene cloning, plasmid DNA construction, and protein expression before putting these into practice during your own research project.

Through lectures and seminars delivered by visiting experts from leading universities across the globe, you'll gain a unique perspective on the underpinning theory and latest research spanning the breadth of molecular biology, ready to pursue an exciting career in the biotechnology sector.

Meet our students

Hands-on training in CRISPR genome editing

The CRISPR genome editing technique is quickly emerging as a powerful avenue not only for research, but also in medicine: transforming biology, enabling the development of treatments for a wide range of diseases, and creating new variations of organisms.

During your studies, you'll get hands-on experience to master modern molecular, biochemical, cell biological, and genetic techniques including cutting-edge CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing laboratory technology.


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

Online application form

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

How to apply: applying essentials


Course Director: Dr Qaiser Sheikh

If you would like to know anything else about this course, contact: mbb-pgt-apply@sheffield.ac.uk | +44 (0)114 222 2750

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

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

About the course

This 12-month course is designed to develop your confidence and independence to become a reliable researcher or investigator in the fast-moving biotechnology industry. Through research-focussed training, you'll develop your skills in planning and carrying out your own experiments, approaching scientific problems experimentally across molecular biology and biotechnology, and putting your new laboratory techniques into practice to solve these problems. 

Throughout your studies you'll be exposed to the diverse areas of biology and engineering, blending molecular science with chemical and biological engineering modules to develop your understanding of the interdependencies between these fields. You'll have the opportunity to be trained, not only in the latest molecular bioscience laboratory techniques, but develop your understanding of the processes used in manufacturing biopharmaceuticals and biotherapeutic proteins. Modules include: Cells as Factories, Advanced Biochemical Engineering, and The RNA World. A full module list can be found below.

Alongside your laboratory training, you'll learn from visiting experts from leading universities across the globe through the departmental research seminar programme with topics spanning the breadth of biology.

The biggest part of the course is the Research Project. Here you'll spend up to six months researching an area of molecular biology or biotechnology of your choice that matches your future career aspirations under the supervision of an expert in the field. You'll learn how to design and conduct your project before presenting your findings.

Example research projects include:

  • Cell cycle regulation;
  • Plant genetic engineering;
  • Study of mRNA processing;
  • Molecular cell biology and imaging;
  • Immunological approaches for disease therapy;
  • Structural biology (e.g. X-Ray Crystallography);
  • Production of biofuels and other useful products from microalgae;
  • Biotechnology via genomic engineering techniques e.g.
    - Next Generation Industrial Biotechnology (NGIB) on Extremophiles;
    - Engineering of Yeast for Enhancement of Ethanol Fermentation;
    - Metabolic engineering of E. coli.

In addition to technical skills and specialist knowledge of molecular biology and biotechnology, throughout your course you’ll also develop transferable skills around problem solving, data analysis and communication, sought after by employers around the globe. In order to build these skills, you’ll learn through a mixture of working in a research laboratory, lectures and seminars. Assessment includes, but is not limited to, examinations, essays, written reports, practical work, presentations and a literature review.

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

MSc Molecular Biology and Biotechnology

After your degree

Biotechnology is a rapidly developing area that is heavily dependent upon molecular approaches, creating significant demand for graduates with strong experimental skills and knowledge of molecular bioscience and biochemical engineering. The applications are vast, from pharmaceutical biotechnology, to tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, and bioinformatics and system biology.

This course is designed to train you for a wide range of exciting careers within biotechnology, or further study to PhD level.

Graduates will be equipped with the specialist knowledge and transferable skills to pursue careers within:

  • The pharmaceutical industry;
  • Food, manufacturing and brewing;
  • DNA sequencing and diagnostic laboratories;
  • Inspiring the next generation as a university teacher.

If you choose to continue your research training, you’ll be ready to pursue PhDs in molecular biology or biotechnology and beyond.

The University's Careers Service runs workshops on CV and application writing, job hunting and preparing for interviews. They offer events where you can meet employers, and opportunities to get work experience while you study. The Careers Service will even continue to support you for three years after you graduate.

Careers in bioscience

The 19th century was the golden age of chemistry and the 20th century was the golden age of physics. There is every reason to think that the 21st century will be the golden age of biology. Career prospects are bright for graduates trained in the molecular biosciences.

Dr Jim gilmour, Department of molecular biology and biotechnology

Read the full article

Entry requirements

For this course, we usually ask for a first class or second class BSc honours degree, or equivalent, in a molecular biology related subject (eg, biochemistry, genetics, biotechnology, microbiology). 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.

  • International English Language Testing Service (IELTS): Overall grade of 6.5 with 6.0 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

Alison came to Sheffield from India to further her hands-on training in this fast-moving area of biology.

Alison M Fernandes

The project for our laboratory module involved the use of CRISPR/Cas9 mechanism as a gene editing tool which enhanced my skills in molecular cloning and provided a deeper understanding of this mechanism.


Sam chose to continue his studies to postgraduate level in order to hone his practical laboratory and research skills.

Sam Nalty crop

The laboratory course gave me the excellent opportunity to work in the Dr Phil Mitchell research lab at the University which specialises in the research of RNA quality control and the exosome ribonuclease complex - it was an incredible experience.

Sam Nalty - READ MORE

Current modules

Core laboratory modules:

Laboratory Techniques in Molecular Bioscience (30 credits)

This module is designed to develop and practice core molecular biology and biochemical techniques so that you may progress confidently to the research project. Over a period of three months, you will receive training in CRISPR genome editing technology in addition to other molecular biology techniques including; PCR, Gene Cloning, Plasmid DNA construction and isolation, restriction mapping, protein expression, SDS PAGE and Western Blot analysis. Learning of DNA sequence analysis / cloning simulation software which is the fastest and easiest way to plan, visualise, and document your molecular biology procedures is also an integral part of this module. You will learn to view or edit sequence files, find open reading frames, translate genes, enzyme operations, simulate agarose gels, and draw graphic maps. Primer designing for PCR and alignment to a reference sequence will be at your fingertips without any planning errors with the use of the software. As part of MSc training we also focus on improving your scientific writing skills and so we give comprehensive essay writing practice with a detailed guidance and feedback on improving your scientific writing.

Research Project (60 credits)

This module lasts for six months and gives students an opportunity to conduct their own research project. Students will receive extensive training in molecular biology and biotechnology. Examples of possible research projects include:

  • Cell cycle regulation;
  • Plant genetic engineering;
  • Study of mRNA processing;
  • Molecular cell biology and imaging;
  • Immunological approaches for disease therapy;
  • Structural biology (e.g. X-Ray Crystallography);
  • Production of biofuels and other useful products from microalgae;
  • Biotechnology via genomic engineering techniques e.g.
  • - Next Generation Industrial Biotechnology (NGIB) on Extremophiles;
    - Engineering of Yeast for Enhancement of Ethanol Fermentation;
    - Metabolic engineering of E.coli.

You will communicate your research findings to the scientific community by oral and poster presentations. Students will also complete dissertation and defend their work through viva voce examination.

Core lecture and tutorial modules:

Advanced Research Topics (15 credits)

This course will develop the ability of students to acquire information through the medium of research seminars. It will give insight into the development of scientific ideas, and acquaint students with the most recent developments in selected areas. Students will attend a series of seminars, given as part of the departmental research seminar programme, and will write a brief report on each. They will take part in a journal club, involving studying, presenting and discussing papers from the scientific literature. They will also undertake more extensive research into the scientific literature relevant to a subset of topics. Reporting of this work will include oral presentations in which students will practice modern presentation techniques.

Literature Review (15 credits)

This module involves an in-depth survey of the current literature relevant to the student's Laboratory Project. Students will build upon the skills in literature searching and interpretation they have developed in their undergraduate studies, making use of a variety of databases and literature-searching tools.

Cells as Factories (15 credits)

The module will explore the concept of living organisms and enzymes as `factories' with a wide potential for product synthesis and biocatalysis. Areas of biotechnology and the market/product sectors will be discussed using three case studies in algal biofuels, therapeutic proteins and study of engineered enzymes of commercial importance. The principles which underpin biological industrial processes will be examined and developed through these case studies and will include such key elements as organism selection and improvement, process format, optimisation of physiology, biochemistry and environment to achieve maximum productivity, as well as consequences of scale up from laboratory to industrial level.

Choice of three lecture modules:

Advanced Bioprocess Design Project (15 credits)

This module will cover the design of whole biomanufacturing processes for the manufacture of biotherapeutic proteins. This will include a taught component where process design principles and practice will be learnt plus assistance during the design process where the student will produce a process design and accompanying report.

Advanced Biochemical Engineering (15 credits)

This module will extend the use of classical chemical engineering principles of mass balance, energy balance and mass transfer to unit operations used in the manufacture of biopharmaceuticals. This will include fermentation, cell culture reactors, homogenisation, centrifuging, filtration and chromatography. Unit operation specific models will also be applied to predict these operations effectiveness.

The Microbiology of Extreme Environments (15 credits)

This module will discuss extreme environments, its types and biodiversity as well as importance of extremophiles. The mechanisms used by microorganisms to grow in extreme environments on Earth alongside the industrial applications of extremophiles will be evaluated. During this module a dialogue of results relating to astrobiology (potential survival of microorganisms in space) using planetary probes and landers will also be appraised. Finally, these lectures will explore how proteins from thermophiles, psychrophiles and halophiles have adapted to their extreme environments (at a molecular level), using a number of different examples.

Plant Biotechnology (15 credits)

This course covers the production of transgenic plants and how this technology has resulted in genetically engineered crop plants that have improved qualities or produce novel products including vaccines! It introduces modern alternative techniques such as marker assisted plant breeding and genome editing technology that can be used to produce genetically improved non GM crop varieties, as well as detailing some of the grand challenges for the next generation of crop improvement. The release of engineered crops is having a major impact on society raising issues of economic, ethical, moral and ecological importance. An appreciation of these issues will be developed.

The RNA World (15 credits)

This module aims to provide students with an understanding of how RNA is made and used with an emphasis on eukaryotic cells. We will show how mRNAs are made through multiple different processing steps and how the cell couples all these together to ensure efficiency of synthesis and quality control of the product. How mRNAs are moved around in the cell will also be discussed and how this can go wrong in human diseases. We will also introduce other important forms of RNA in the cell such as miRNAs and piRNAs and the biological roles they play in processes such as RNA interference. Embedded within this course will be a series of lectures covering principle techniques used universally for eukaryotic molecular biology research such as CRISPR genome editing and RNA interference. The course will therefore be of interest to anyone considering a future career in molecular biology research.

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.