2022 start September 

Molecular Biology and Biotechnology

School of Biosciences, Faculty of Science

This course uses research-focused training to give you a unique perspective on the underpinning theory and latest research spanning the extent of molecular biology.
Image of Bethaney Green, postgraduate student in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology

Course description

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.

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.

Through research-focused training, you’ll develop your skills in planning and carrying out your own experiments, approaching scientific problems experimentally across molecular biology and biotechnology, and using revolutionary laboratory techniques, including CRISPR genome editing technology, Western analysis, and BLAST DNA sequence analysis, to solve these problems.

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.

Once you’ve mastered the latest molecular bioscience techniques, you’ll be ready to apply these skills to your Research Project. Here you’ll spend up to six months researching an area of molecular biology or biotechnology that matches your future career aspirations under the supervision of an expert in the field.

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


We accept medical students who wish to intercalate their studies. Find out more on the Medical School's website.

Apply now


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.

Core modules:

Research Project

This unit provides a period of laboratory work, with training in experimental techniques, record keeping and writing up. Projects are supervised by a member of staff within MBB or another suitable department, and are related to on-going research projects within the Department or in other suitable research laboratories. This unit is designed to provide students with experience of undertaking investigations independently on a specific research topic, so that they can develop a research oriented approach, and gain experience of laboratory work in preparation for a future career in science.

60 credits
Laboratory Techniques in Molecular Biology

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 a variety of molecular biology and bioinformatics techniques As part of MSc training we also focus on improving your scientific writing skills.

30 credits
Advanced Research Topics

This unit will develop the ability of students to acquire information through the medium of research seminars and published scientific papers. Students will attend Departmental research seminars and monitor the publication of new scientific papers relevant to their research area. They will also attend a journal club, in which they will present a recently published research paper and summarise the presentations of other students. Assessment of the unit will be on the basis of the journal club presentation and a series of short reports on research seminars, journal club presentations and newly published scientific papers.

15 credits
Literature Review

This unit involves an in-depth survey of the current literature on a topic relevant to molecular biology and biotechnology, agreed with an appropriate supervisor allocated by the module coordinator. The exact nature and scope of the literature review will be determined by discussion between the student and the supervisor. 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. The unit involves primarily private study by the student who will meet their supervisor at regular intervals to discuss progress.

15 credits
Cellular Systems Engineering for Biotechnology

This module explores how recent developments in high-throughput methodologies, genomics, bioinformatics and synthetic biology in microbes is transforming biotechnology. Approaches to producing valuable and novel products from microbial cell factories will be examined. Students will learn to appreciate the (1) fast pace at which modern industrial biotechnology is developing, (2) behavioural complexity of biological systems, (3) associated difficulties of predicting biological behaviour in areas such as industrial biotechnology and drug development and (4) emerging approaches to overcome these challenges.

Students will work both individually and in small groups, to develop presentation skills and the critical skills required for evaluation of primary literature.

15 credits

Optional modules* - three from:

Advanced Bioprocess Design Project

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 you will produce a process design and accompanying report. The course will also cover part of modern quality by design, specifically the attainment of product critical quality attributes through the control of process parameters and its ramifications on process design will be discussed.

15 credits
Advanced Biochemical Engineering

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, centrifugation, filtration and chromatography. Unit operation specific models will also be applied to predict these operations effectiveness.

15 credits
The Microbiology of Extreme Environments

The overall aim of this module is to provide a detailed account of how microorganisms survive in extreme environments on Earth. The first part of the course examines a range of extreme environments including salt lakes, hot springs, polar regions, mining areas, soda lakes, deserts, hydrothermal vents and sea ice and explains the metabolic processes used to grow optimally under these extreme conditions. The growing industrial applications of extremophilic microorganisms will also be covered. The second part of the course looks at how proteins are adapted to remain stable and active under extreme conditions, since proteins readily denature under moderate heat, increased levels of salinity or changes in pH.

15 credits
Plant Biotechnology

This module considers the application of biotechnology to plants, for both agricultural and research uses. It covers the production of transgenic plants and how this technology has resulted in genetically engineered crop plants that show novel traits or produce novel products. It also covers traditional methods of plant breeding for the development of novel crops without the use of genetic engineering. The release of genetically engineered crops has and is having a major impact on society, raising issues of ethical, economic and ecological importance. An appreciation of these issues will be developed.

15 credits
The World of RNA

This module will analyse the vital roles that RNA plays in the life of a cell and how RNA is increasingly used as a tool to understand biology. The module will cover the following 'cutting edge' research topics: RNA interference, CRISPR Genome Editing, non-coding RNAs, together with the latest work on well known RNA based activities. These include transcription, RNA splicing, RNA stability, RNA export and translation and how all these processes are coupled in the cell to ensure efficient, quality-controlled gene expression. The module aims to present the latest innovations and discoveries in the RNA world and their application.

15 credits

*Please note, students that take the Advance Bioprocess Design Project module must also take Advance Biochemical Engineering, as the content of these two modules is interlinked.

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.


1 year full-time


This masters course give you a solid grounding in experimental science, with personal supervision and tutorials by experienced scientists, based in modern, well-equipped labs, leading to a project in which you design and conduct your own research. You will learn cutting edge science from research leaders, and gain practice in reading scientific literature and writing reports.


Assessment is based on a combination of coursework, project work, formal examinations and a dissertation.

Your career

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.

Entry requirements

A 2:1 degree or equivalent university qualification in molecular biology or a related subject (eg biochemistry, genetics, biotechnology, and microbiology).

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

Candidates with professional experience may also be considered following interview.

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

Pre-Masters programmes

If you're an international student and don’t meet our entry requirements, we offer a Pre-Masters in Science and Engineering programme through the University of Sheffield International College. The programme develops your knowledge of your chosen subject, introduces you to vital study skills and provides additional support to reach the English language level for the course, should you need it.

Once you complete your Pre-Masters in Science and Engineering and achieve the required grades, you can enter your chosen postgraduate degree 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.


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

Apply now

+44 114 222 2341

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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