Postgraduate study
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Systems and Synthetic Biology MSc, PgDip

Awards: MSc, PgDip

Study modes: Full-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Systems and Synthetic Biology

On the Systems and Synthetic Biology MSc your study will focus on one of the newer areas of biology: the application of engineering principles to the understanding, control, and design of biological networks. This approach promises solutions to some of today’s most pressing challenges in environmental protection, human health, and energy production.

In systems biology, we use computational modelling twinned with experimental research to understand how biomolecular networks can generate such diverse behaviour as the swimming of a bacterium, to the development of a person from a single egg.

Synthetic biology combines systems biology with engineering principles to design and build new biomolecular networks with goals ranging from modifying microbes to digest industrial waste, to creating artificial life.

Why study with us?

Our MSc offers training that reflects the diversity of systems and synthetic biology, from experimental lab work to stochastic simulations of biological circuits to the social implications of designed cells. We will provide you with a thorough knowledge of the fundamental principles and biotechnological tools used in systems and synthetic biology, with applications ranging from understanding genome-wide data to designing and synthesising intracellular logic gates.

Often the highlight is the three-month research project, which is typically carried out in a world-leading laboratory at the University’s Centre for Engineering Biology. Your research can be computationally or experimentally based or both, in either systems or synthetic biology, and focused on bacteria, yeast, algae, plants, or mammalian cells and tissues.

In the School of Biological Sciences, we offer multi-disciplinary opportunities, and you are able to tailor your degree to suit your background and area of interest, selecting courses from across biology, as well as in physics, mathematics, and computer science.

The MSc comprises two semesters of taught courses followed by a research project and dissertation. Semesters 1 and 2 include 60 credits each of compulsory and optional courses.

Teaching is delivered using different ways:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • seminars
  • practicals
  • presentations

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScSystems and Synthetic Biology1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2024/25
PgDipSystems and Synthetic Biology9 MonthsFull-timeProgramme structure 2024/25

On completion of this programme, students will be able to:

  • identify and characterise the key methods, approaches and theories from science and technology studies as they apply to the study of systems and synthetic biology
  • describe a range of examples of information processing in biological cells
  • understand the literature in the field and interpret it critically
  • perform basic programming and run computer simulations, and be acquainted with the theoretical methods such as mathematical and computational modelling
  • use analytical skills and have the ability to assess the relative merits of new methods and application of these
  • look at a wide range of problems from the perspective of solving these with innovative bio-based solutions

The programme is designed to prepare you both for a competitive PhD programme and to enter the pharmaceutical and biotechnological industries.

Our Careers Service will support you throughout your time studying with us and for two years after your course finishes. They can provide:

  • tailored advice
  • individual guidance and personal assistance
  • internship and networking opportunities (with employers from local organisations to top multinationals)
  • access to the experience of our worldwide alumni network

Studying at the University of Edinburgh will lay the foundations for your future success, whatever shape that takes.

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, with a strong background in one or more of the following areas: bioinformatics, computer sciences and modelling, molecular biology and related sciences, engineering or biotechnology.

We may also consider your application if you have a background in physics or mathematics.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.0 in each component. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 59 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScSystems and Synthetic Biology1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
PgDipSystems and Synthetic Biology9 MonthsFull-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Biology Teaching Organisation
  • School of Biological Sciences
  • James Clerk Maxwell Building
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FD

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

You must submit one reference with your application.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Biology Teaching Organisation
  • School of Biological Sciences
  • James Clerk Maxwell Building
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FD