Plant Sciences MBiolSci
School of Biosciences
Explore this course:
You are viewing this course for 2022-23 entry. 2023-24 entry is also available.
This course is designed to give you the best start for a career in industrial or academic research. You'll develop an in-depth understanding of fundamental plant biology, exploring photosynthesis, the genetics of disease resistance and the conservation of plant diversity. You’ll study these topics while considering how we can harness plant technology to solve global food and energy shortages, mitigate the effects of the climate crisis, and develop sustainable and green technologies.
The first three years of your course have the same structure as the BSc, with the fourth year devoted to a major research project in the field or in the lab, where you’ll work alongside our world-leading academics.
You'll cover two main themes at Sheffield:
- plant physiology - how plants harvest light energy, acquire nutrients from the soil and convert this to sustain growth
- plant ecology - how plants interact with each other and their non-living environment, and disease resistance and biodiversity.
Our courses are designed for students who have a passion for understanding the role of plants in sustainability and the science and technology of food production. Sheffield is home to the Institute for Sustainable Food, which brings together our expertise in this area in order to find dynamic solutions to the challenges of food security and sustainability. It’s research like this that you’ll be able to get involved in throughout your studies.
Alongside your specialist plant science modules, from your first year you’ll have the freedom to study topics across the breadth of biology to complement your knowledge. Topics range from molecular genetics, developmental biology and biochemistry, to evolution, zoology and physiology. This flexibility allows you to study plant sciences in great depth from a range of perspectives, broaden your interests or even switch to another biosciences degree.
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, out in the Peak District conducting your own research projects, visiting zoos, aquariums and other scientific spots around the country and embarking on a field course in the UK or abroad.
Whether you choose to focus solely on plant sciences, or study a range of topics across the biosciences, your personal tutor will support you to tailor your degree to your interests and career goals.
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: C209
Years: 2022, 2023
In your first year, you'll spend your first week on a field course in Sheffield, collecting and analysing data throughout the city's green spaces and out to the edge of the Peak District. Throughout the year, you’ll study topics including developmental biology, disease, photosynthesis, sustainability and climate change. You'll develop practical skills in the lab, including microscopy and genetics, complemented by regular field trips to zoos, aquariums and nature reserves. You'll also have lectures and take part in small group tutorials where you'll enhance your writing, data analysis and presentation skills as you learn about the latest research findings from our world-leading academics.
- Climate Change and Sustainability
This course introduces the core scientific issues required to understand climate change and sustainability. Students will learn the causes of climate change, its impacts in natural and agricultural ecosystems, the influence of biogeochemical cycles in these ecosystems on climate, and strategies for sustainably managing ecosystems in future. Learning will be achieved via lectures and videos, practicals and independent study.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
- Principles in Plant Science
This course is an introduction to the scientific study of plants and associated organisms. Students will explore plant origin, diversity, form, reproduction and development, photosynthesis, nutrient and water acquisition, as well as interactions with symbiotic and pathogenic microbes. Students will learn through lectures and videos, practicals and independent study.20 credits
- Skills in Biology
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
- 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
- Ecological identification skills
This module is aimed at providing an initial training in the identification and research skills needed for ecological fieldwork. It involves a structured prgramme of online identification and research assignments over the academic year, with practical examination at the end of the semester. The course will develop familiarity with using identification guides, with a range of plant and invertebrate groups and the ecological issues associated with them. It will prepare students for fieldcourses and other practical work.10 credits
- Principles of Zoology
This course is an introduction to the scientific study of animals. Students will explore the wonders of the animal kingdom through investigations of the physiology, reproduction, development, form and function of a wide diversity of both invertebrates and vertebrates. Students will learn through lectures and videos, practicals and independent study.20 credits
- Animal Behaviour
This unit will provide an introduction to behaviour, focussing on the four fundamental questions: (i) the evolution of behaviour; (ii) the function of behaviour, (iii) the ontogeny of behaviour and (iv) the causation (or mechanisms) of behaviour. The course will introduce the major concepts and information on specific topics, including sexual behaviour, foraging behaviour and social behaviour in humans and non-humans. A central theme will be the extent to which animal behaviour can inform us about human behaviour and in particular the similarities and differences between the evolutionary approach to animal behaviour and evolutionary psychology.10 credits
- Introductory Developmental, Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology
This module aims to provide students with a general introduction to Developmental, Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology. The approach will be concept-based, with an emphasis on the importance of techniques and the interpretation of experimental data. Topics covered include life cycles of the main animal model systems, how cell differences are generated during development, the basic principles of regenerative biology and wound healing as well as stem cell biology. Teaching will take place in a formal lecture environment, supplemented by online tutorials. Assessment will be by formal examination.10 credits
- Maths for Molecular Bioscience
Proficiency in basic calculations is essential for all scientists. In this module, designed for first-year students who have not studied maths to A-level (or equivalent) we will develop the mathematical skills needed to excel as a molecular bioscientist. Using video tutorials, problems classes, and worksheets, we will give students plenty of practice performing calculations, building their skills and confidence. Topics covered include arithmetic, exponential numbers and logarithms, mathematical and statistical notation, probability, functions, precision and accuracy of measurements, and the graphical presentation of data.10 credits
- 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
- Principles of Evolution
This course is an introduction to evolution as the central unifying theme of modern biology. Students will examine evolutionary patterns from the geological past to the present, and investigate evolutionary mechanisms of selection, adaptation and the origin of species. They will be introduced to the approaches used to study evolution including classical population and quantitative genetics, phylogenetic trees, and the fossil record. Students will learn through lectures, videos, practical sessions, quizzes, and independent study.20 credits
- Principles of Ecology and Conservation
This course is an introduction to the principles of ecology and conservation. It covers ecological concepts about the abundance and distribution of species and key ideas about conserving populations, communities and habitats.20 credits
- Introduction to Neuroscience
This module aims to provide students with an introduction to neuroscience. It will introduce the fundamental principles of cellular and molecular neuroscience that govern neuronal excitability and neurotransmission. Building on these principles, it will introduce theories relating to how sensory information is processed, and how motor output and aspects of behaviour are controlled by the central nervous system. How the normal functioning of the nervous system is affected by disease and drugs will be examined. It will also provide an opportunity to perform neuroscience experiments and interpret the data. Although focussed on the understanding of human neuroscience, the module will demonstrate how the study of model organisms has contributed to this understanding.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
- Introduction to Physiology with Pharmacology
This module aims to provide students with an introduction to human physiology and pharmacology. It will introduce the fundamental physiological principles that govern the functioning of all cells and tissues within the body. The physiology of normal bodily functions will be explained using a systems-based approach which encourages students' to integrate their understanding of events at a molecular and cellular level with the structure and function of tissues and whole organs. It will examine how these normal bodily functions are affected by disease and drugs, with examples of how model organisms can inform this understanding. It will also provide an opportunity to perform and interpret physiological measurements, giving students hands-on experience of the experimental methods that they will be learning about in lectures.20 credits
In your second year, you’ll build on your new skills and knowledge covering more advanced scientific topics and techniques across plant science. Some students choose to take our science communication module where you'll get the chance to make your own factual science documentaries, with support and advice from professional filmmakers.
All of our plant sciences students receive training in modern data analysis techniques and get the opportunity to participate in an optional two-week intensive project, designing and carrying out your own research. Depending on your focus, this could be in the field, giving you the chance to develop an understanding of the ecology and biodiversity of different habitats across the globe, or in one of our world-class labs here in Sheffield, dedicated to an area such as molecular biology, genetics or even wildlife forensics.
- Animal and Plant Science Tutorials
This module provides training in the generic and subject-related skills necessary to undertake research in biology and communicate biology effectively. Students will learn: different forms of scientific writing (including essays, abstracts and scientific papers); experimental design; analysis and evaluation of biological information; synthesis of material from a variety of sources including the primary literature; and presentation of scientific information (seminars and debates). Teaching will be in small-group tutorials, during which students will discuss key topics and recent developments in biology. Evaluation will be based on continual assessment of written work, exercises and presentations. Tutors will provide both academic and pastoral support.10 credits
- Careers for Biologists
The Career Development for Biologists module will explore career paths open to biology graduates including employment as a professional biologist, postgraduate study, teaching, enterprise activities and the development of transferable skills. Students will identify and research career options and the skills that they have, or need to acquire, to pursue these options. They will develop and implement an action plan during the course of the module, and participate in the APS careers fair. Teaching methods will include seminars, group work and portfolio development.10 credits
- Data Analysis
This course provides training in the analysis and presentation of biological data through the application of computers for word processing, statistical analysis and graphical presentation. The course uses self-teaching material involving individual use of computers, together with project work assignments. The application of a wide range of statistical techniques which are commonly used by biologists is illustrated using the MINITAB statistical program with data drawn from botanical, zoological and ecological studies.10 credits
- Plant Habitat and Distribution
This course will: provide experience of work in the laboratory and in the field; provide an introduction to the techniques employed in the study of plants in relation to their habitats and the vegetation in which they occur; develop skills in record keeping, observation, sampling, identification, problem solving, task-oriented team work, data interpretation, communication and the application of biological principles; and help develop an understanding of aspects of the plant environment and the importance of environmental variables and plant traits in controlling species distributions. This course consists of an integrated series of 12 sessions which include lectures and practical work relevant to understanding controls on plant distributions and community composition. The course includes 2 field excursions (soil and vegetation sampling), 7 practical classes (soil chemical analysis, experimental ecology, vegetation data analysis and vegetation processes), 8 lectures and 1 session for synthesis, interpretation and presentation of the data for the module as a whole.10 credits
- Plant, Cell and Environment
Plants differ from many other organisms in that their growth and development is highly tuned to the environment. This course examines how plants respond to diverse environmental factors (focussing on light, water, temperature and disease) integrating developmental, biochemical and physiological studies. We explore the processes that control photomorphogenesis from seed germination through to flowering, responses to extremes of temperature and defence responses to pests and disease.Plants differ from many other organisms in that their growth and development is highly tuned to the environment. This course examines how plants respond to environmental factors.10 credits
- Animal Diversity
This course will examine the major animal phyla that make up the animal kingdom. It will discuss their structure and how this is related to function and way of life. The major invertebrate groups will be considered including the Porifera, cnidarians, protostomes and deuterostomes. The unique features of the vertebrates and the constituent vertebrate classes will be examined. The biology of the fishes, the evolution of the jaw, the colonisation of the land, the origins of flight and the evolutionary innovations of the mammals will be addressed. The emphasis throughout will be on natural history, development, behaviour, ecology and evolutionary relationships.20 credits
- Behavioural Ecology
This module will provide introduce animal behaviour through lectures and a Student Centred Learning Exercise (SCLE). The focus will be on answering questions in animal behaviour, through testing hypotheses about the adaptive significance and mechanism of behaviours. The main areas studied will be foraging, reproductive behaviour, mating systems, cooperative breeding and communication. The course will also introduce the use of theory and mathematical modelling (game theory and optimisation modelling). This will involve simple mathematics and the analysis of simple figures and tables showing the costs and benefits of behaviours. The SCLE is based on short research papers on animal behaviour.The course will provide an introduction to animal behaviour through lectures, SCLEs and the course textbook. The main focus will be on answering questions in animal behaviour through testing hypotheses about the adaptive significance ("why") and mechanism ("how") of particular behaviours. More specific focus will be made on feeding, reproductive behaviour, eusociality and communication. The course will also introduce the use of game theory and optimisation modelling. This will require simple mathematics, and the analysis of simple figures and tables showing the costs and benefits of particular behaviours. There will be an SCLE which will involve special readings in animal behaviour.10 credits
- Biology Undergraduate Ambassadors Scheme
This module will enable students to gain experience in the communication of biology to a non-scientific audience, including the preparation of teaching/public engagement materials and the planning and execution of a teaching/engagement programme either in a local school or as part of the departmental outreach programme. Students will be responsible for formulating and delivering an educational project about some aspect of biology. In the school context students will work under the supervision of a class teacher at all times.10 credits
- Biotechnology and Food Security
This course will consider agricultural productivity, crop protection, breeding and genetic engineering of plants in four blocks of lectures. These emphasise the production of both forest and agricultural crops, the biotic and abiotic factors which can affect productivity and the use of breeding and genetic manipulation to improve crop performance. Biotic factors include such topics as weeds, insect pests and pathogens and sink-source relationships in crop plants. Abiotic factors include economic constraints, the structure of canopies and light interception, effects of pesticides on the environment, genetic manipulation to provide resistance to pests and pathogens and the use of fertilisers and other chemicals.10 credits
- Conservation Principles
This module will introduce students to the fundamental principles of conservation biology that influence conservation programmes around the globe. Following a brief examination of the rationales for conservation the course discusses some of:(i)the fundamental issues in conservation planning, such as selecting appropriate units for conservation and priority assessment(ii)the research tools commonly used by conservationists, such as population viability analysis(iii)the ways in which ecological theory guides conservation action. These topics are illustrated using case studies of animal and plant conservation in both terrestrial and marine ecosystems from temperate and tropical regions.10 credits
- Ecosystems in a Changing Global Environment
Human impacts on the world's ecosystems are profound and without precedent in Earth's history. The urgent need to understand the impacts of overexploitation, land-use change and anthropogenic climate change has meant that ecosystem science has become one of the most important biological disciplines. This module will introduce students to the fundamental principles of ecosystem science by exploring human impacts on key marine and terrestrial ecosystems and their feedbacks on global climate. In doing so, it will cover the interacting roles of (1) climatic tolerance, trophic interactions, carbon sequestration and fire on land, and (2) biodiversity, energy, nutrients and extinction in the sea.10 credits
- Environmental Biology Practicals
In this practical module students will examine the effects of environmental factors on plant growth and development. Students will work in small groups to design, set up and execute an investigation of aspects such as growth and the carbohydrate and protein content of plants (using gel electrophoresis), in plants grown under different conditions, including among others, light intensities and nutrient regimes. The practical write-up will be aided by a group discussion of the interpretation of the results obtained by the whole class.10 credits
- Evolutionary Biology
This module will provide insights into major concepts in evolutionary biology, illustrated with a wide range of examples that cut across taxa. The course will cover the origins of variation, adaptation, and natural selection. Population genetics concepts will be briefly summarised, with particular attention to the persistence of genetic variation. Examples of microevolution will be used to show that evolution is a continuous and ongoing process. Species concepts and theories of speciation will be discussed and illustrated by examples of adaptive radiation. The evolution of sex and sexual selection, and the evolution of cooperation under kin selection, genomic conflict and coevolution will also be discussed.10 credits
- Genomics and Wildlife Forensics
This unit will introduce students to a range of genomic and molecular technologies including DNA sequencing, transcriptomics and metagenomics and illustrate how they can be used to address questions in ecology, environmental biology, medicine, and forensics sciences. The course will consist of eight lectures, and five practical classes during which students learn how to apply molecular techniques to answer questions in the field of wildlife forensics.10 credits
- Molecular Evolutionary Genetics
This unit will introduce students to molecular evolutionary genetics. Students will investigate how DNA sequences evolve and how they can be used to reconstruct phylogenetic history. They will also examine some of the genes underlying phenotypic variation and adaptation. Through a mixture of lectures and practical classes students will learn how bioinformatics can enhance our understanding of the evolution of species genomes and will acquire skills in analysing DNA sequence data and identifying whether genes have evolved adaptively.10 credits
The task of palaeobiology is to provide greater integration between palaeontology and biology. This course examines recent developments in the field of palaeobiology, and demonstrates how fossils are used to generate testable theories about pattern in the history of life. This course will begin with 9 lectures outlining modern concepts in palaeobiology, and demonstrated using examples from all aspect of palaeontology, but concentrating on dinosaur palaeobiology. These same principles will then be explored using human evolution as a case study (9 lectures).10 credits
- Population and Community Ecology 2
This unit will examine major themes in population and community ecology, across plants, animals and their interactions with each other and their environment. It focuses on cross-cutting themes in ecology and evolution including life history, predation, competition, disease and biodiversity. It builds deep, conceptual and theoretical understanding of life cycles, population growth, and species interactions. It provides insight into common patterns and unique properties among plants and animals of the factors that determine the abundance, diversity and distribution of species. It provides insight into the role of species interactions and the environment in controlling biodiversity and ecosystem function.10 credits
In this module, we will explore the nature of symbiosis between plants, animals, bacteria and fungi. We will investigate the 'continuum of symbiosis' from parasitism to mutualism using specific examples drawn from natural and agricultural ecosystems to demonstrate how symbionts regulate the structure and function of host communities and the challenge their control poses. We will investigate methods of controlling parasites as well as how symbionts may be harnessed to regulate host communities in restoration ecology, for biological control and ecosystem service provision (e.g. pollinators) using an integrated teaching approach employing lectures and guest seminars from specific experts in the field.10 credits
- Talking the Talk: Getting science on Film
This intensive, week-long module (run during the Easter vacation) covers an introduction to science communication using the medium of video- making. The focus will be to turn technical scientific information into a form accessible to multiple audiences, working within the confines of a brief. A key feature will be developing a project as a group: recognising strengths and appropriate division of labour to implement innovative ideas.10 credits
Individually, it will develop strengths in presenting ideas and technical skills in shooting footage and editing. The module will be delivered in collaboration with staff from the University of Sheffield Creative Media Team and industry professionals.
- Tropical Forest Ecology and Conservation
This module will provide students with an understanding of tropical forest ecology, from species to ecosystem levels, and of the suite of conservation threats that tropical forests face. This will be achieved through lectures, independent reading, and a fieldtrip to a zoo or museum. Topics covered may include: How species coexist in tropical forests; how hyperdiversity evolved and is maintained; how species interact in food-webs and mutualistically; how tropical trees survive and forests regenerate; how forest clearance, forest degradation and hunting threaten tropical biodiversity, and the role of ecosystem services in tropical conservation.10 credits
In your third year, you'll complete a research project and dissertation in an area of plant science that interests you alongside your chosen specialist modules.
Conducted under the supervision of one of our world experts, you'll work in a small group to define questions, develop experimental protocols, conduct the research, analyse the data and ultimately produce a written report in the form of a scientific publication.
- Research Project
In this module students will consolidate the skills and knowledge they have gained in earlier levels of study and apply these in a research project. Students will work in small groups, guided by a member of staff, to identify and plan a biological study. They will collect and statistically analyse data, interpret their results and set them in the context of related studies identified from the literature. They will then present their project in the format of a scientific paper. The project may be lab, field or computer based.30 credits
In this module students will consolidate the skills and knowledge they have gained in earlier levels of study and use these to produce a dissertation. Students will work individually, guided by a member of staff, to identify and plan a biological study based on a literature review. They will collect and synthesise information from a variety of sources, interpret and critically assess their findings. They will then present their dissertation in the format of a review paper.20 credits
- Future Plants: From Laboratory to Field
This module explores current research themes in plant biology, examining how fundamental plant science, often using model organisms, can be translated into real-world applications. The course will highlight different research areas encompassing plant development and productivity, responses to environmental stresses and interactions with other organisms (beneficial or pests and diseases). Students will be introduced to the science that underpins these processes in plants and how this knowledge can be exploited to address problems such as food security, sustainability and environmental change.10 credits
- Conservation Issues and Management
This module aims to provide the opportunity for students to develop (i) their knowledge of topical issues in conservation, (ii) their ability to identify potential solutions to real-world conservation problems and assess the likely effectiveness of these (iii) their skills in accessing, interpreting and synthesising the primary scientific literature in the field of conservation and (iv) their ability to think independently. This will be achieved by introducing students, through lectures and independent reading, to a range of topical issues in conservation biology, by showing how research can inform the development of action plans and by illustrating how the success of applied measures to mitigate conservation problems can be assessed. Students will then apply their learning by developing action plans for specific conservation problems.20 credits
- Biology and Ethics
As the pace of biological research continues to increase, society and scientists are continuously faced with ethical issues which, in many cases, we are ill-prepared to consider. This course examines areas where biology and ethics interact using a series of topical examples including medicine, agriculture, industry and the environment. In each case ethical concepts will be examined and discussed in the context of the right to privacy, ownership, current regulation, historical perspectives and the public understanding of science.10 credits
- Cooperation and Conflict
This module aims to provide the opportunity for students to develop (i) their knowledge of cutting-edge research in behavioural ecology, (ii) their skills in understanding and interpreting the primary scientific literature in this field and (iii) their ability to think independently and synthesise information. This will be achieved by introducing students to a range of issues and topics of central theoretical importance in the field of behavioural ecology and by showing how a combination of observation, and field and laboratory10 credits
experimentation can be used to test hypotheses originating from theory. Specifically, the characteristics and implications of cooperation and conflict among animals will be studied in a variety of contexts.
- Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems
This module examines the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems, from the invasion of the land by plants and animals in the Ordovician (475 million years ago) up to the present day. All of the major events will be covered: the origin of land plants; the invasion of the land by invertebrate animals (worms, insects, etc); the first forests; the origin of amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds; beginnings of phtogeographical differentiation; origin of the flowering plants etc. Throughout the course the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems will be considered in light of: (i) the interrelationships between global change and evolving terrestrial ecosystems; (ii) plant-fungal-animal interactions and coevolution.10 credits
- Evolutionary Ecology
Why do some organisms weigh a fraction of a milligram and others many tons? Why do some organisms mature in a few days and others need several years? Why make a myraid of tiny eggs rather than few large offspring? This module will address these, and other questions in life history evolution, using a range of modern approaches. All the main approaches of studying evolutionary ecology will be taught (optimality models, evolutionarily stable strategies, quantitative genetics, comparative methods) and their strengths and weaknesses explored. Equal weight will be given to plant and animal systems.10 credits
- Global Change
This course will provide a framework for understanding the causes of climatic changes and the nature and scale of evolution, adaptation and ecological responses of plants to these changes. The course will describe the nature of controls of past, present and future climatic change. This provides a framework for understanding the types and scale of evolution, adaptation and ecological responses of plants to changes in climate and atmospheric CO2. The course will address land plant evolution over the last 400million years; responses to geological extinction events and global to local space scales of plat responses to past, present and likely future carbon dioxide concentrations and climate. The view of the Earth System is introduced, with examples of feedbacks between climate, the cryosphere, the oceans and the terrestrial biosphere.10 credits
- Human Evolutionary Genetics
This module will provide students with an understanding of how genomics has shaped our understanding of the evolution of modern humans. This will be achieved through lectures, independent reading and a computational biology practical. Topics covered will include: the evolution of modern humans; the history of how humans colonised the world; how the Neanderthal genome has revealed hybridisation between Homo sapiens and Neanderthal man; how human genomes can tell us about the history and causes of modern genetic disorders; how our genomes reveal past episodes of selection; and how life history theory is used to study natural selection and evolution in pre-industrial humans.10 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.10 credits
- Sustainable Agro-Ecosystems
This module highlights the threats to global sustainability, with a particular focus on food production and ecosystem functioning, being caused by human impacts on the environment. The module considers how we have got into the present unsustainable mess: of poor land and natural resource management, under valuing of farmers, life-threatening soil degradation causing flooding, pollution of fresh water and soil insecurity, as well as large numbers of people overconsuming and wasting food whilst others don't have enough. It shows that how we sustainably manage agro-ecosystems now, and in the immediate future, will determine the fate of humanity. Soils are the foundations of terrestrial ecosystems, food and biofuel production, but are amongst the most badly abused and damaged components of the ecosphere. Climate change, agricultural intensification, biofuels and unsustainable use of fertilizers and fossil fuels pose critical threats to global food production and sustainable agro-ecosystems - and their impacts on soil ecosystems are central to these threats. The module considers soil ecosystems function in nature and the lessons that we can then apply to develop more sustainable agriculture and ecosystem management.10 credits
- Topics in Evolutionary Genetics
This course aims to provide the opportunity for students to develop (i) their knowledge of current leading-edge research areas in evolutionary genetics and (ii) their skills in accessing, interpreting and synthesising the primary scientific literature in this field. This will be achieved by examining three areas of current research activity in evolutionary genetics though detailed analysis of the questions, methods and interpretations in groups of recent publications.10 credits
- Topics in Modern Ecology
This module provides students with the opportunity to develop their knowledge of topical issues in modern ecology. Students will be introduced, through lectures, independent reading, discussion and problem solving to a core set of topical questions in pure and/or applied ecology, and they will explore how data and theory combine to inform our understanding of these topics. Students will apply their learning by developing and critically evaluating research or management proposals that will address for specific real world ecological questions and problems.10 credits
- Topics in Modern Zoology
This module provides students with the opportunity to develop their knowledge of topical issues in modern zoology and wildlife ecology. Students will be introduced, through lectures, independent reading, discussion and problem solving, to a core set of topical questions in pure and/or applied zoology, and they will explore how theory and data combine to inform our understanding of these topics. Students will then apply their learning by developing and critically evaluating proposals for research projects that will address specific real world zoological questions and issues.10 credits
In your fourth year, the majority of your time will be devoted to a major research project that will equip you with the advanced laboratory, data analysis and writing skills you'll need for a successful and rewarding career in science.
You'll be embedded within one of our specialist research groups, conducting independent research and interacting with academics and lab staff as a professional scientist.
- Research Project
This module will give students the opportunity to develop skills relevant to a career in biological research. It will consist of a laboratory, field or computational research project in one of the Department's four research clusters where each student will work under the supervision of a member of academic staff. The student will formulate the hypotheses and questions to be addressed, plan and carry out observations and experiments to test these hypotheses, and analyse data. The project will be written up in the form of a scientific paper, the student will also keep an appropriate record of their research and deliver an oral presentation of their work.60 credits
- Research Dissertation
The aim of this unit is to allow the student to write a critical review of a biological topic of choice. This will involve a critical analysis of hypotheses in the field and of the quality of the evidence used to support them. Where controversies exist, the dissertation should indicate which side has the stronger case. The dissertation should contain a quantitative element; this may be in the form of a comparative analysis, meta-analysis, or systematic search and quantitative review of prior studies. It should also identify gaps in our current knowledge and understanding and make suggestions for the future development of the field. The dissertation should also include at least one novel diagram/table that summarises an aspect of the dissertation. The preparation of the dissertation involves extensive reading of original research papers, reviews and books together with information extracted from other media. The dissertation will be written up in the form of a scientific paper.30 credits
- Advanced Biological Analysis
The aim of this module is to provide students with advanced training in the use of statistical methods and computers to visualise and analyse biological data which is necessary to pursue a research career in whole organism biology. Advanced principles of programming for data analysis, data interpretation and statistical analysis, and graphical presentation are stressed. The course is based on the statistical programming language R, the Integrated Development Environment RStudio. The course is comprised of 7 introductory sessions, and then a choice of two out of six specialist modules selected to support student-specific requirements in research.15 credits
- Research & Communication Skills in Biology
This module will provide training in fundamental generic skills necessary to pursue a research career in whole organism biology. Skills will involve learning and applying various forms of communication (both written and oral) to different audiences (professional and general public) and advanced science writing (e.g. journal publications and grant applications). Teaching will be through workshops, lectures, peer-review panels, and student-centred learning.15 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
A Levels + additional qualifications AAB, including Biology and a second science + B in the EPQ; AAB, including Biology and a second science + B in Core Maths
International Baccalaureate 36, with 6 in Higher Level Biology and a second science
BTEC Extended Diploma RQF: D*DD in Applied Science or Forensic Science with Distinctions in all Biology Units
Scottish Highers + 1 Advanced Higher AAAAB including a science subject + A in Biology
Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels A + AA in Biology and a second science
Access to HE Diploma 60 credits overall in science, with 45 credits at Level 3, including 39 credits at Distinction (to include Biology and a second science) and 6 credits at Merit. Applicants are considered individually
Human Biology is acceptable instead of Biology. Second science from Chemistry, Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Physics, Psychology, Environmental Science, or Geography
GCSE Maths grade 4/C
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 the EPQ; AAB, including Biology and a second science + B in Core Maths
International Baccalaureate 34, with 6, 5 in Higher Level Biology and a second science
BTEC Extended Diploma RQF: DDD in Applied Science or Forensic Science with Distinctions in all Biology Units
Scottish Highers + 1 Advanced Higher AAABB including a science subject + B in Biology
Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels B + AA in Biology and a second science
Access to HE Diploma 60 credits overall in science, with 45 credits at Level 3, including 36 credits at Distinction (to include Biology and a second science) and 9 credits at Merit. Applicants are considered individually
Human Biology is acceptable instead of Biology. Second science from Chemistry, Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Physics, Psychology, Environmental Science, or Geography
GCSE Maths grade 4/C
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
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.
Biosciences students are based across Firth Court, the Alfred Denny, Florey and Addison buildings. We are at the heart of the University campus, adjacent to the Students' Union and just a 15-minute walk from the city centre.
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
92 per cent of our research is rated in the highest two categories
Research Excellence Framework 2021
No 1 Students' Union in the UK
Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017
School of Biosciences
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.
Many of our graduates choose to pursue a bioscience research career, working within higher education, for public bodies and charities, or in research and development in leading organisations around the world. Some are saving local biodiversity and developing solutions to global food shortages, others are interested in industrial research, joining pharmaceutical, biotechnology and consumer goods companies like Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Reckitt.
Our graduates are also applying their skills and training from Sheffield working in healthcare, in the NHS or for private healthcare providers or charities.
If conservation or ecological consultancy is something that you’re passionate about, the RSPB, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Wildlife Trusts are just some of the places where our graduates now work. Roles often cover environmental management, sustainable forestry, crop protection and breeding, and climate change mitigation.
Going on to further study in the biosciences, or in areas such as medicine, veterinary science, physiotherapy and teaching is another popular route, with graduates often completing masters courses and PhDs.
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.
Each year undergraduate students can apply to join the Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) scheme. This gives you the chance to spend around 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 excited about, and can help inform your future career aspirations.
You can choose to do a full year of work experience as a recognised part of your degree. We have a BSc Plant Sciences with Placement Year and MBiolSci Plant Sciences with Placement Year. You can test out a career path between your second and third year - whether that's in the lab, the field, or applying your scientific knowledge and transferable skills in industry - and earn a salary while you're doing it.
Our students have completed their year in industry at organisations including GSK, AstraZeneca, Mondelez International, Kew Gardens and Newquay Zoo.
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 days, which take place between November and April. These applicant days have a strong department focus and 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.
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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.