School of Biosciences
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You are viewing this course for 2022-23 entry.
Our four-year microbiology course is designed to give you the best start for a career in industrial or academic research. You'll study the importance of bacteria, viruses and other microbes in the environment and as pathogens. You’ll also discover how we can manipulate the genetic makeup of microbes to put them to good use in biotechnology, how we can tackle the threat of antimicrobial-resistant infections, and the role that microbiology continues to play in supporting the global response to pandemics such as Covid-19. 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, where you’ll work in industry or in an academic lab with our world-leading academics.
From your first year you’ll study modules that span the molecular biosciences covering microbiology, biochemistry, genetics and molecular biology. Alongside these modules you’ll have the freedom to explore complementary topics across the breadth of bioscience, such as biomedicine, ecology, plant science and zoology. This flexibility allows you to study microbiology in greater depth, keep your interests broad or even switch to another degree programme within the biosciences. No matter what modules you choose to study, you’ll develop the practical laboratory and transferable skills that make our graduates attractive to employers including project management, problem solving, communication skills and data analysis.
We’ll give you plenty of opportunities to apply your new skills and knowledge too. You’ll be in the lab completing in-depth practicals across molecular genetics, DNA manipulation and protein structure analysis, and you’ll get the chance to use cutting-edge equipment to run your own in-depth research projects.
Whether you choose to focus solely on microbiology, or study a range of topics across the molecular biosciences and beyond, your personal tutor will support you to tailor your degree to your interests and career goals.
This course has advanced accreditation by the Royal Society of Biology which shows employers that you've developed the practical skills and scientific knowledge that they're looking for.
A selection of modules are available each year - some examples are below. There may be changes before you start your course. From May of the year of entry, formal programme regulations will be available in our Programme Regulations Finder.
Choose a year to see modules for a level of study:
UCAS code: C509
Years: 2022, 2023
In your first year, you'll spend six hours in the lab each week learning the practical skills and knowledge that every bioscientist needs, including how to establish bacterial cultures, assess bioenergetics and perform gene cloning. Analysis classes will equip you with the skills you'll use outside the lab, from interacting with your data to interpreting your findings. Your lectures will give you a broad understanding of the molecular biosciences, allowing you to explore what you're most interested in.
- Biochemistry 1
This module provides a broad introduction to Biochemistry and examines the molecules that carry out and control all the chemical reactions in biological cells. The basic chemical concepts underlying the structures, functions and mechanisms of action of biomolecules.20 credits
- Molecular & Cell Biology
This module considers the fundamental processes at the heart of all life on this planet. Students will learn about the basic molecular processes that enable cells to store and use genetic information to make proteins, as well as the mechanisms that allow cell growth, division, and ultimately cell death. Learning materials will be delivered through a combination of lectures, videos, practical classes and independent study.20 credits
- Microbiology 1
This course is an introduction to the field of microbiology. Students will explore the diversity of microorganisms including Bacteria, Archaea, unicellular Eukaryotes and viruses. They will examine the diversity of the structure and the function of these microorganisms, emphasising the fundamental role that they play in our everyday lives by using examples in medicine and biotechnology.20 credits
- Genetics 1
This course is an introduction to the principles of genetics. Students will explore the genetics of pro- and eukaryotes by studying the mechanisms of gene transmission, genetic exchange, mutations and gene mapping. Additional topics are the genetic basis of diseases, prenatal diagnosis, genetic counselling, gene therapy and genetic basis of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Students will learn through lectures and videos and independent study.10 credits
- Skills in Molecular Bioscience
The Skills for Biology module introduces students to the fundamentals of scientific practice: lab practical skills, experimental design, information technology, data visualisation and analysis, writing and presentation skills, skills reflection, professionalism and career development.30 credits
A student will select approved modules from the School of Biosciences to the value of 20 credits.
In your second year, you'll begin learning more advanced scientific techniques, both in the lab and in lectures, with topics including experimental design, genome editing using CRISPR/Cas9 and protein purification. You'll continue to take analysis classes to develop your data handling skills further and you can choose to study modules that allow you to work in teams to come up with pioneering science enterprise ideas to launch a virtual business.
- Practical Molecular Bioscience 2
This module provides detailed knowledge in key areas of practical molecular bioscience, emphasising the integration of the disciplines of biochemistry, microbiology and genetics. An important aim of the module is to provide experience in the preparation of written laboratory reports, and in the correct interpretation and representation of biological data. Laboratory, computer and data analysis sessions build on the skills gained during first year and allow students to develop a high level of technical competence and theoretical understanding. Tutorial-based support is also provided for the enhancement of transferable skills, such as the preparation and delivery of oral and written presentations.30 credits
- Biostructures, Energetics and Synthesis
This module aims to furnish students with a working knowledge of the structures and functions of proteins and nucleic acids, in order that they gain an appreciation of the crucial relationship between structure and function. Both cytosolic globular and membrane proteins will be considered, as well as an introduction to nucleic acid structure. The module also explains the basic principles of how energy is made available (transduced) for essential biological functions, such as ATP synthesis and solute and protein transport. To achieve this understanding, the nature of biological membranes and the energy transducing proteins associated with those membranes are considered, and the principles of chemiosmosis, light absorption and biological redox reactions are discussed. Finally the module provides an understanding of the general principles underlying the biosynthesis of complex biomolecules from simpler precursors, and the control of these processes, with particular relevance to biotechnology.20 credits
- Genes, Genomes and Chromosomes
This module aims to provide the student with a clear understanding of how genomes are organised within cells and how the expression of specific genes can be regulated. One part of the module addresses experimental approaches to address the function of specific genes and how genetic information is expressed in a regulated manner. Both classical and molecular genetics techniques to study gene function will be described. DNA repair and recombination mechanisms will be addressed, along with the use of reporter gene fusions. The regulation of gene expression at the molecular level will be explored through the consideration of (post-) transcriptional control mechanisms and intercellular signalling pathways. The other part of the module discusses the structural features of chromosomes and how they contribute to the maintenance and evolution of the genome; the development of sequencing techniques and their application to genome sequencing projects; the use of scoring systems to determine related DNA sequences and the application of sequencing technologies to measure gene expression, identify protein binding sites within DNA, analyse long range nucleic acid interactions within genomes and study DNA methylation patterns.20 credits
- Microbiology 2
This module builds upon the microbiological topics introduced in earlier modules, including aspects of bacterial growth and gene regulation, microbial biodiversity and cellular differentiation, biotechnology, the mechanisms used by pathogenic bacteria to subvert and fool the host's defences, the use of vaccines and antimicrobial agents in controlling and treating diseases caused by pathogens, the problems associated with newly-emerging pathogens and the role that resistance to antimicrobial agents is playing in the re-emergence of certain diseases.20 credits
- Biochemistry 2
This module provides an advanced treatment of the biochemical topics introduced in earlier modules, to provide a deep understanding of the underlying chemical principles and molecular interactions governing life in cells. Topics covered include reaction and ligand binding kinetics, enzyme catalysis and chemical mechanism, protein structure and function, small molecule drug development and methods in which these processes are studied experimentally.20 credits
- Genetics 2
This module builds upon the introduction to genetics provided by MBB162 Genetics. A range of eukaryotic genetic systems will be considered, including humans and a number of model organisms, ranging from yeasts to Drosophila melanogaster, Caenorhabditis elegans, Arabidopsis thaliana and Mus musculus. Topics to be covered include methods for isolating and genetically analysing mutants with specific phenotypes, extranuclear inheritance, developmental genetics, quantitative inheritance, population genetics and evolutionary genetics. A collaborative group work exercise will give students opportunities to apply concepts introduced in the module to the analysis of genetic data, planning of experiments and the creation of a joint report.
In your third year, you'll complete an extended research project alongside your chosen specialist modules. This will reflect an area of molecular bioscience that interests you. Depending on your interests and career goals, you can choose a project from: experimental science, clinical diagnostics, industrial biotechnology, molecular systems and computing, science communication or education and outreach
This module is a research project in the molecular biosciences that allows students to apply their core subject knowledge to develop key skills in an area related to their career aspirations. Students have the opportunity to design, plan, and undertake an investigation, either within the Department or externally. Projects choices include laboratory-based research; biotechnology; computational biology and bioinformatics; science communication; science teaching in a local school; and clinical diagnostics.30 credits
All projects are undertaken under the supervision of a member of academic staff; most placements are within the Department, but a small proportion of students undertake projects in other locations, such as the Medical School. Students will develop skills in the collation, interpretation, presentation, and communication of data and ideas. Students will submit their work in the form of a formal written report and present their research to the department during a showcase poster event.
- Literature Review
In this module students are required to write a literature review on a topic chosen from a wide range suggested by members of staff. Students will develop a range of transferrable key skills associated with searching for, analysing and critically evaluating information from the literature, together with presentation skills in writing and presenting their review.20 credits
- Microbiology Data Handling
The module aims to develop problem solving, interpretative and numerical skills by the study of deductive questions drawn from the broad area of microbiology, including gene regulation, microbial physiology and pathogenicity. Students will gain experience in reading scientific papers and in the handling, analysis, interpretation and evaluation of microbiological data of different types. The module also contains an element that develops the skills required by the students to write on a broad topic drawn from across all their areas of study10 credits
- Bacterial Pathogenicity
Infectious diseases account for the majority of deaths worldwide. This will continue to be the case until we have a greater understanding of the mechanisms of microbial pathogenesis. This course builds on the principles introduced in level 2 microbiology and begins by showing how molecular genetic approaches are being used to unravel the complexities of microbial virulence. Following an introduction to the regulation of virulence genes, the pathogenic mechanisms of selected bacterial pathogens are explored in detail, demonstrating the involvement of multiple virulence determinants and their genetic regulation in the disease process. Mechanisms by which toxins deregulate or kill host cells will be explored. Virulence mechanisms that represent common themes in bacterial pathogenesis will be highlighted. The appearance of antibiotic resistant strains and strategies adopted to tackle this problem will also be considered.10 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.10 credits
Students will work both individually and in small groups, to develop presentation skills and the critical skills required for evaluation of primary literature.
- Genomic Science
A top-down approach to biology, simultaneously investigating the structure and function of the entire genome and its products, both contrasts with and complements the traditional gene-by-gene approach, allowing us a birds-eye view. In this module, we cover how genome sequencing can be used to understand the structure of human populations, profile microbial diversity and to trace the origins of disease outbreaks. We then discuss how methods such as RNA-seq, ChIP-seq and 4C can be used to investigate the genome-wide transcriptional profile, the chromatin landscape and the three-dimensional structure of the genome. Finally we describe the use of technologies such as mass spectrometry to investigate the complete proteome of a cell. The module builds on the material from the level 2 module Genes, Genomes and Chromosomes, to illustrate how cutting-edge genomic and proteomic methods can be used address fundamental biological questions.10 credits
- Membrane Protein Structure and Function
The aim of this module is to impart a thorough understanding of the structure and function of membrane proteins. A major theme is the structural basis of energy transduction in membranes. Membrane protein complexes mediate the transfer of excitation energy, electrons and protons upon which all life depends. They also control the entry and exit of proteins, ions, nutrients, drugs and antibiotics from cells and the transfer of signals across membranes. We will examine membrane proteins involved in energy harvesting such as respiration and photosynthesis. The principles underlying the efficiency of energy transduction and redox chemistry taking place in these complexes will be covered. We will look at how harvested energy is coupled to movement of molecules ions and signals across membranes. The role of structure in determining specificity and directionality in vital transport process and signalling will be emphasised.10 credits
- Microbial Structure and Dynamics: Genes and Populations
This module aims to give students an overview of the structure and dynamics of bacteria and how they respond to the environment. The module is research led giving current highlights from ongoing work as well as standard lectures. The principles of signal transduction are illustrated with specific examples such as oxygen sensing, cyclic nucleotide signalling and differentiation.10 credits
- Molecular Immunology
This module explores the mechanisms that higher organisms use to defend themselves against infectious disease. The course considers the relationship between innate immunity (the first line of defence) and adaptive immunity, which can evolve throughout a lifetime to specifically recognise and remember different pathogens. The functions of the various cells and molecules that constitute the immune system are discussed and the genetic mechanisms that contribute to immunological diversity and specificity are examined. Topics include the roles of cytokines, T cell subsets and the structure/function relationship of the different antibody classes. The module also includes an overview of current techniques that exploit or manipulate the immune response for the prevention and treatment of disease e.g. through the development of therapeutic antibodies and the design of new vaccines.10 credits
- The Microbiology of Extreme Environments
The overall aim of this module is to provide a detailed account of how diverse 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 of the diverse microbes that inhabit them 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.10 credits
In your fourth year, the majority of your time will be devoted to a major research project. You can choose between spending a year in industry and completing your project at a company such as AstraZeneca, GSK or Unilever, or undertaking projects in one of our world-leading research labs within the department or the University of Sheffield Medical School.
- Advanced Literature Review
This unit builds upon the skills in literature searching and interpretation developed in the Library Project and Data Handling units at level 3. It is designed to lead to a comprehensive understanding of the literature, approaches and techniques relevant to the Extended Research Project (MBB403) or Project in Industry (MBB404). It will result in the production of a literature review appropriate for inclusion in a postgraduate thesis. The exact nature and scope of the literature review will be determined by discussion between the student and the supervisor, with additional input from the industrial supervisor for those students taking MBB404. Assessment will be on the basis of the literature review.20 credits
- Advanced Research Topics
This module 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.10 credits
- Introduction to Research Methodology
This unit provides an opportunity to revise and update knowledge of technologies used routinely in biological research and introduces some advanced methods, with particular emphasis on raising awareness of the opportunities afforded by complementary technologies. The course engages students with aspects of immunology, molecular biology and genetics, functional genomics, protein expression, statistics and bioinformatics. Diverse teaching formats, including formal lectures, guided small group work, discussion groups and student presentations are used to deliver content.10 credits
- Extended Laboratory Project
This module provides an extended period of laboratory work, with training in experimental techniques, record keeping and writing up. Projects are supervised by a member of staff and related to ongoing research projects within the Department, although a proportion of students undertake projects in other locations such as hospitals and the Medical School. 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 lab work in preparation for a future career in science.80 credits
- Project in Industry
This module provides training in research methods in molecular biology, in an industrial lab, by means of an extended project. Training is also provided in record keeping and writing up. Projects are supervised by industrial research staff, in liaison with a member of MBB staff: this will include a site visit. This unit is designed to provide students with experience of undertaking investigations independently on a specific research topic, in an industrial setting.80 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.
Learning and assessment
You’ll learn from our top scientists who are working on global challenges from cancer, antibiotic resistance and healthy ageing, to saving the planet’s biodiversity and climate. Their expertise means that we can offer a huge range of modules for you to choose from across the full breadth of biology.
Through lectures, small group tutorials and workshops, field courses, research projects and practical sessions in the lab and field we’ll show you how you can help to tackle these problems. You'll have your own personal tutor who will be there to guide you through your time at Sheffield, and help identify the skills you need to work on in time for graduation.
To support your learning, you’ll always have access to a virtual learning environment with interactive course materials.
Throughout the course you will be assessed through a variety of methods, including exams, tests, presentations, coursework and practical work.
This tells you the aims and learning outcomes of this course and how these will be achieved and assessed.
With Access Sheffield, you could qualify for additional consideration or an alternative offer - find out if you're eligible
The A Level entry requirements for this course are:
including Biology and a second science
The A Level entry requirements for this course are:
including Biology and a second science
A Levels + additional qualifications | AAB, including Biology and a second science + B in a relevant EPQ; AAB, including Biology and a second science + A in Core Maths
International Baccalaureate | 36, with 6 in Higher Level Biology and a second science 34, with 6, 5 in Higher Level Biology and a second science
BTEC | RQF: D*DD in Applied Science or Forensic Science, including modules in Applications of Inorganic Chemistry, Applications of Organic Chemistry and Practical Chemical Analysis, and no more than one of the following: Forensic Evidence Collection and Analysis, Forensic Fire Investigation or Forensic Traffic Collision Investigation RQF: DDD in Applied Science or Forensic Science, including modules in Applications of Inorganic Chemistry, Applications of Organic Chemistry and Practical Chemical Analysis, and no more than one of the following: Forensic Evidence Collection and Analysis, Forensic Fire Investigation or Forensic Traffic Collision Investigation
Scottish Highers + 2 Advanced Highers | AAAAB + AA in Biology and a second science AAABB + AB, including Biology and a second science
Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels | A + AA in Biology and a second science B + AA in Biology and a second science
Access to HE Diploma | 60 credits overall in a relevant subject, with 45 credits at Level 3, including 39 credits at Distinction (to include Chemistry and Biology units) and 6 credits at Merit + interview 60 credits overall in a relevant subject, with 45 credits at Level 3, including 36 credits at Distinction (to include Chemistry and Biology units) and 9 credits at Merit + interview
Mature students - explore other routes for mature students
You must demonstrate that your English is good enough for you to successfully complete your course. For this course we require: GCSE English Language at grade 4/C; IELTS grade of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component; or an alternative acceptable English language qualification
Second science subjects include Chemistry, Maths, Further Maths, Physics or Psychology
GCSE Maths grade 6/B
If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.
School of Biosciences
The School of Biosciences brings together more than 100 years of teaching and research expertise across the breadth of biology. It is home to over 120 lecturers who are actively involved in research at the cutting edge of their field, sharing their knowledge with more than 1,500 undergraduate and 300 postgraduate students.
Our expertise spans the breadth and depth of bioscience, including molecular and cell biology, genetics, development, human physiology and pharmacology through to evolution, ecology, biodiversity conservation and sustainability. This makes us one of the broadest and largest groupings of the discipline and allows us to train the next generation of biologists in the latest research techniques and discoveries.
The School of Biosciences is based at the heart of campus across the interlinked Firth Court, Alfred Denny, Florey, Perak and Addison buildings which house lecture theatres, teaching labs and research facilities. You’ll be over the road from 24/7 library facilities and the UK’s number one students’ union, a short walk from our student accommodation, sports facilities and the city centre, and just a bus ride away from the Peak District National Park.
Our students have access to world-class laboratory and computing resources for biological research and are trained in specialist teaching laboratories. The school is home to state-of-the-art facilities, including the Medical Teaching Unit where our students work alongside trainee medics to gain an excellent foundation for understanding human physiology and developmental biology. We also have the Alfred Denny Museum of Zoology that we use for teaching animal anatomy, biodiversity and evolution.
To further support our research and teaching, we have a world-leading controlled environment facility which allows our staff and students to study the impacts of climate change; multi-million pound microscopy equipment that’s helping us to understand and prevent diseases such as MRSA; and facilities for genomics, proteomics and metabolomics research, Biological Mass Spectrometry, and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance imaging.
Why choose Sheffield?
The University of Sheffield
A top 100 university 2022
QS World University Rankings
Top 10% of all UK universities
Research Excellence Framework 2014
No 1 Students' Union in the UK
Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017
School of Biosciences
National Student Survey 2021
The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022
Research Excellence Framework 2014
Graduate Outcomes 2020
School of Biosciences
Biosciences graduates have a growing range of career options available to them. Whether you want to work in industry, join a Top 100 graduate employer, or continue your studies, employers seek out our graduates because of their ability to communicate complex ideas to a range of audiences, handle data, and work to deadlines, independently and as part of a team.
A research career is a popular path, with our graduates choosing to work within higher education, for public bodies, or in research and development at institutions around the world. Others are interested in industrial research, joining pharmaceutical, biotechnology and consumer goods companies like Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Reckitt.
Many of our graduates pursue careers in healthcare, joining the NHS, private healthcare providers, or charities; working in analytical labs or specialised healthcare sectors. A number of students progress into postgraduate medicine, or begin training to become Physician Associates.
Further study in areas including veterinary science, physiotherapy and teaching, or taking the next step onto a PhD is another popular route.
A biosciences degree from the University of Sheffield can even take you into roles in marketing, teaching, human resources, IT, science communication and beyond. Each year our graduates apply their transferable skills and begin careers in these areas with Top 100 employers like GSK, Google and Aldi.
You can find out more about where a biosciences degree can lead to on our careers web pages.
Each year undergraduate students can apply to join the Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) scheme. This gives you the chance to spend six weeks working in one of our research groups over the summer. It's a unique opportunity to pursue research in an area that you’re interested in and inform your future career aspirations.
Fees and funding
The annual fee for your course includes a number of items in addition to your tuition. If an item or activity is classed as a compulsory element for your course, it will normally be included in your tuition fee. There are also other costs which you may need to consider.
Funding your study
Depending on your circumstances, you may qualify for a bursary, scholarship or loan to help fund your study and enhance your learning experience.
Use our Student Funding Calculator to work out what you’re eligible for.
University open days
There are four open days every year, usually in June, July, September and October. You can talk to staff and students, tour the campus and see inside the accommodation.
At various times in the year we run online taster sessions to help Year 12 students experience what it is like to study at the University of Sheffield.
If you've received an offer to study with us, we'll invite you to one of our applicant open days, which take place between November and April. These open days give you the chance to really explore student life here, even if you've visited us before.
Campus tours run regularly throughout the year, at 1pm every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Apply for this course
Make sure you've done everything you need to do before you apply.
The awarding body for this course is the University of Sheffield.
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.