MSc
2022 start September 

Biological Sciences

School of Biosciences, Faculty of Science

Choose to develop a wide range of knowledge across the biological sciences or specialise within one of three major areas: ornithology, plant and crop science or biodiversity and conservation.
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Course description

Our MSc trains you for a career in research or management around the world. Throughout your course, you'll learn about fundamental concepts and key skills required within the discipline before applying what you've learnt in your literature review and Independent Research Project.

You can choose to explore the breadth of organismal biological sciences or specialise in an area that most interests you within three pathways:

Plant and crop science: Training is led by the experts behind the Institute for Sustainable Food. You'll understand the key issues in global food security and explore how plants can truly influence global change.

Biodiversity and conservation: You'll develop fundamental knowledge about today’s major conservation issues and the human and environmental drivers including marine plastics, urbanisation, tropical logging and the balance between sustainable food production and biodiversity.

Ornithology: You'll be equipped with the tools to sample avian diversity from cellular to population levels, learning about techniques including specimen handling and curation, DNA extraction and analysis, and geographic range mapping. You'll also develop an understanding of the evolutionary and ecological processes that shape bird behaviour, beauty, and community composition, and of the large-scale conservation challenges that threaten the world's birds.

Whichever path you choose, you'll be learning about the latest research in the field, from experts who are making the discoveries first-hand.

You’ll conduct your own fieldwork in the Peak District and receive training in experimental design and data collection, giving you the key skills to plan and manage your own projects.

The biggest part of the course is the Individual Research Project. Here you'll spend three months researching an area within the biological sciences that matches your future career aspirations, under the supervision of one of our world-leading researchers.

You could be field-based, lab-based or complete a computational data driven project which will give you an opportunity to apply the subject-specific knowledge and analytical skills that you've developed throughout your degree as well as developing new skills in the use of cutting-edge research methods.

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Modules

The modules listed below are examples from the last academic year. There may be some changes before you start your course. For the very latest module information, check with the department directly.

Field Biology

Students will participate in a range of field visits to representative ecosystems in a location appropriate to their programme, which may include Sheffield region and the Peak District, elsewhere in the UK, or overseas. During these visits they will learn about the habitats, wildlife, and human context of the landscape, and will gain experience in a range of appropriate methods for data collection. Applying this knowledge, they will identify a research question and present this to the group. They will develop this into a written proposal for a field project, using independent research to generate preliminary data and to place it in the context of previous published work from the scientific literature. The module will develop subject-specific knowledge, as well as skills in experimental design, critical thinking and writing.

15 credits
Scientific Skills and Project Management

This module provides training in the skills and approaches necessary to design, manage, conduct, analyse and present research in whole organism biology and environmental science. Generic skills involve designing and planning an effective and reproducible study, making best use of available resources; collecting and managing data to address study aims; conducting research in an ethical manner; and communicating results orally and in writing to different audiences. There are also workshops explaining key aspects of the research process, introducing peer review and describing the science funding landscape. The module also covers advanced principles of experimental design, data interpretation, and graphical presentation, introduced in the statistical computing environment R using a series of workshops and student-centred learning assignments to develop skills and proficiency.

30 credits
Literature Review

The literature review requires the student 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. The student will be required to critically analyse hypotheses in the field and critically analyse the quality of the evidence used to support them. Where controversies exist the student should be prepared to 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.

15 credits
Individual Research Project

This module gives students the opportunity to develop to high level skills relevant to a career in research or management. Based on their interests and career aspirations, students will conduct either a laboratory of field-based research project, a computational project, a theoretical modelling project or a systematic literature review. There is the potential to work with external organisations. A common element is the independent production of a piece of research and its presentation, with guidance from an academic supervisor in the department.

60 credits

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 are no longer offering unrestricted module choice. If your course included unrestricted modules, your department will provide a list of modules from their own and other subject areas that you can choose from.

Teaching

You’ll learn through a combination of practical and field classes, individual research projects, lectures, seminars, tutorials and discussion groups.

Assessment

Most assessment is through coursework with some written examinations. Your assessment includes, but is not limited to, essays, extended project reports, policy briefing notes, online statistics exams, oral presentations and written grant proposals.

Duration

1 year full-time

Your career

Graduates will develop the specialist knowledge and transferable skills to pursue careers working around the world or further study to PhD level.

Possible career paths include: working in biotechnology, agri-tech, or conservation and sustainability programmes within government science, NGOs including environmental bodies or wildlife trusts, or in industry. Inspiring the next generation as a university teacher, or solving pressing problems through research.

If you choose to continue your research training, graduates will be well equipped to pursue PhDs in ecology, evolution and conservation and beyond. Doctoral Training Programmes like Adapting to the Challenges of Changing Environment (ACCE) train PhD students in these areas.

Student profiles

Biological sciences student

There’s such a wide range of research interests within the department which ensures that every student has the chance to do a project related to their field of interest. The department did a great job at getting me up to speed with any processes and techniques I needed to know which has been a massive asset as I’ve carried out my research.

Sam Fenton

Entry requirements

A 2:2 honours degree, or equivalent, in biological sciences or a related subject.

Overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or equivalent.

Pathway programme for international students

If you're an international student who does not meet the entry requirements for this course, you have the opportunity to apply for a pre-masters programme in Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield International College. This course is designed to develop your English language and academic skills. Upon successful completion, you can progress to degree level study at the University of Sheffield.

We also accept a range of other UK qualifications and other EU/international qualifications.

If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.

Fees and funding

Fieldwork

The cost of all core fieldwork and practical project work is included in your tuition fees, this includes both one day field trips and compulsory field courses as well as obligatory safety equipment. Travel to field sites for project work may incur additional costs.

Apply

You can apply for postgraduate study using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.

Apply now

Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

Our student protection plan

Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.

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