Biological Imaging banner

MSc Biological Imaging

The development of advanced and super-resolution microscopy has opened a new frontier in how scientists study biological systems and develop new approaches in medicine. In recent years, Nobel Prizes have been awarded to the researchers behind super-resolution fluorescence microscopy and cryo-electron microscopy.

Whether your background is in biological science, physical sciences, medicine or engineering, MSc Biological Imaging is designed to train you to use the technologies behind these state-of-the-art techniques, and see what discoveries can be made using the highly detailed images you'll capture. You'll have access to some of the most advanced microscopy tools as you learn from the experts in optical, atomic force and electron microscopy, and from our partners in industry.

Our scientists have created a unique centre of excellence for microscopy research through the Imagine: Imaging Life project. This ground-breaking collaboration brings together physicists who have built microscopes that capture biological processes in unprecedented detail, chemists who create fluorescent probes that make the most advanced microscopy techniques possible, and biologists who use imaging to make advances in healthcare and medicine. On this course, they'll help you build a specialist set of skills that you can apply to roles in the microscopy industry or PhD study in this growing field of scientific research.

The next generation of microscopy technology

The scientists behind MSc Biological Imaging are using the latest advanced microscopy tools to shed new light on life and disease.

Their expertise in atomic force, cryo-electron and optical microscopy has forged a unique centre of excellence for microscopy at the University of Sheffield called Imagine: Imaging Life.

Life Under the Microscope

Imagine logo


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

Deadlines for 2019 entry

Students requiring visas: Friday 2 August
Students not requiring visas: Friday 16 August


Course Director: Dr Ashley Cadby

For general queries contact:

Telephone: +44 (0)114 22 23789

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

About the course

This one-year masters course will teach you the latest microscopy techniques, which you can use to help answer biological questions ranging from how proteins interact and how cancer cells grow to how plant cells breath and how photosynthesis works at the most fundamental level. During your degree, you will be able to learn super-resolution and atomic force microscopy techniques from specialists in the University of Sheffield's Biophysical Imaging Centre and Light Microscopy Facility, and electron microscopy techniques from the scientists running our new £2 million Arctica microscope.

At the start of the course, each week is devoted to a different microscopy technique. In the first half of the week, you will learn the theory behind the technique by attending lectures and studying key scientific papers. You will then get practical training on each technique in the second half of the week, so that you can learn how to use specialist equipment to capture detailed images of biological systems. Finally, you will learn how to analyse and write up the data you have produced, often by learning to use code to programme your own analysis tools.

Once you have practiced a range of techniques, you will choose a topic for your own independent research project. The project will take up one-third of your course and you will be supported by a supervisor either based here in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, in one of the University of Sheffield's biology departments, or with one of our partners in industry. They will provide advanced training in the microscopy techniques your project is based on. This gives you the chance to develop specialist knowledge of the latest scientific technology, and a distinctive set of skills that can help you stand out to potential employers and PhD supervisors.

Your training will be supported by scientific careers skills sessions, lectures and seminars. This includes guest talks by our partners in the bioscience sector and imaging technology industry, so that you can learn about the opportunities to apply your advanced microscopy expertise in your career.

Labs and facilities

Your practical training will take place in a range of labs in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and across the biology departments at the University of Sheffield.

In Physics, our scientists run the Biophysical Imaging Centre, which has a number of atomic force microscopy stations and our super-resolution optical microscopy instrument development laboratory.

The University of Sheffield's Light Microscopy and Electron Microscopy facilities, including our new £2 million Arctica cryo-electron microscope, are nearby in the Departments of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, and Biomedical Science. 

Biophysical Imaging Centre



BICEN at Imagine: Imaging Life

Electron Microscopy Facility


Cryo-EM at Imagine: Imaging Life

Wolfson Light Microscopy Facility


LMF at Imagine: Imaging Life

After your degree

We have close links with lots of companies working in the microscopy industry. These are organisations that we've collaborated with on projects, and that we've sourced state-of-the-art equipment from.

They'll also support your learning on this course by giving guest lectures, designing research projects for you to tackle and providing insights into the jobs that you can be qualified for after graduation.

Our industry partners include:

The MSc Biological Imaging course is also great preparation for a PhD: PhD opportunities

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.

Entry requirements

For this course, we usually ask for an upper second class (2:1) degree in physics or biology.

We also accept medical students who wish to intercalate their studies.

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

Cropped version of Matthew Stedman's photo

We were some of the first people to use the new Arctica cryo-electron microscope, and considering the cost of the microscope I was surprised that we were allowed to use it at all. This was a nice reflection of the faith the department had in our abilities and made us feel rather valued.

Matthew Stedman, masters student


Cropped version of Victoria Lund's photo

In my work, I use several different techniques, but what particularly interests me is the use of high-resolution microscopy. One of my reasons for staying in Sheffield is its recent investment in imaging through the Imagine program, which gives me access to some of the best microscopes.

Victoria Lund, Postgraduate student

Read more


Masters students build research-grade microscope for bio-imaging lab

John Cully and James Baxter

Two University of Sheffield students built a single-molecule FRET microscope that was used in a major international study.

Full story


Nobel Prize winner opens state-of-the-art cryo-electron microscopy lab


Professor Per Bullough invited his former supervisor Dr Richard Henderson to unveil Sheffield's new Arctica microscope.

Full story


New super-resolution probe captures cells in unprecedented detail

Cell microscopy

Professor Jim Thomas led a study that captured striking 3D images of DNA within nuclei at scales below 40 nanometres.

Full story


Imagine: Imaging Life

The scientists behind this masters course capture spectacular biological images using the latest atomic force, cryo-electron and optical microscopy technologies.

You can see some of the team's images on the Flickr page for the University of Sheffield's Imagine: Imagine Life project.

Imagine: Imaging Life on Flickr

Imagine 1

Imagine 2

Imagine 3

Current modules

The modules listed below are examples from the current academic year. There may be some changes before you start your course.

Taught modules – students take both:

Imaging Life (30 credits)

This module will introduce you to the cutting edge research that is either developing imaging modalities or exploiting them.  It will be taught by a different academic or industrial partner each week, who will give a lecture on the cutting edge research behind a specific microscopy technique.

Imaging Across the Disciplines (15 credits)

This module is designed to help you develop the skills you'll need for a career in bio-imaging, or science in general. It will allow you to combine skills and expertise from across a range of scientific disciplines, from fundamental biological, chemical and physical studies, through to their translation into biotechnological and medical applications. Teaching methods include seminars from external speakers, one-off training events by industrial and external partners, and networking opportunities.

Practical modules – students take all three:

Theory and Practical Application of Imaging (60 credits)

This module will give you hands on experience, to complement the theory-based 'Foundations of Imaging' module. It will cover a wide variety of imaging techniques and their application to biological imaging, including basic imaging, basic microscopy, advanced microscopy and super resolution microscopy. There is a focus on learning to apply each technique to specific biological questions.

Image Analysis (15 credits)

This module is designed to give you the skills required to process image data. This training will stretch from from basic image correction to developing custom image analysis code.

Imaging Project (60 credits)

On this module, you will conduct an experimental project, embedded in a University of Sheffield research group or with one of our industrial partners. Your supervisor will be an expert on imaging and/or its application to biological systems.

The aim here is to answer a biological or technical question that can be addressed though imaging and provide practical experience in applying imaging to real world problems.

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.

Learn more about the expertise behind this course: