Postgraduate study

Synthetic Biology & Biotechnology

Awards: MSc, PgDip

Study modes: Full-time

Funding available

This academically challenging and career-developing programme focuses on research and development using biological and chemical principles and systems to create new products, services and industries.

You will employ elements of the developing field of synthetic biology to bring about significant changes and major innovations that address the challenges of rapidly changing human demographics, resource shortages, energy economy transition and the concomitant growth in demand for more and healthier food, sustainable fuel cycles, and a cleaner environment.

You will learn through a variety of activities, including:

  • lectures
  • workshops
  • presentations
  • laboratory work
  • field work
  • tutorials
  • seminars
  • discussion groups and project groups
  • problem-based learning activities

You will attend problem-based tutorial sessions and one-to-one meetings with your personal tutor or programme director.

You will carry out research at the frontier of knowledge and can make a genuine contribution to the progress of original research. This involves carrying out project work in a research laboratory, reviewing relevant papers, analysing data, writing reports and giving presentations.

Compulsory courses:

  • Applications of Synthetic Biology
  • Tools for Synthetic Biology
  • Social Dimensions of Systems & Synthetic Biology
  • Research Project Proposal
  • MSc Project and Dissertation

Students must take at least one, and up to three, of the following choices:

  • Metagenomic Analysis of Microbial Communities
  • Practical Skills in Biochemistry A
  • Principles of Industrial Biotechnology

Option courses:

  • Biochemistry A
  • Bioinformatics 1
  • Bioinformatics Programming and System Management
  • Biophysical Chemistry for MSc Biochemistry
  • Economics and Innovation in the Biotechnology Industry
  • Enzymology and Biological Production
  • Gene Expression and Microbial Regulation
  • Information Processing in Biological Cells
  • Introduction to Scientific Programming for MSc in Drug Discovery and Translational Biology
  • Molecular Modelling and Database Mining
  • Practical Systems Biology
  • Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine
  • The Origins of Synthetic Biology
  • Biobusiness
  • Biochemistry B
  • Biodesign
  • Commercial Aspects of Drug Discovery
  • Comparative and Evolutionary Genomics
  • Drug Discovery
  • Functional Genomic Technologies
  • Industry and Entrepreneurship in Biotechnology
  • Next Generation Genomics
  • Practical Skills in Biochemistry B
  • Programming for the Life Sciences

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
MScSynthetic Biology and Biotechnology1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2018/19
PgDipSynthetic Biology and Biotechnology9 MonthsFull-timeProgramme structure 2018/19

By the end of the programme you will have gained:

  • a strong background knowledge in the fields underlying synthetic biology and biotechnology
  • an understanding of the limitations and public concerns regarding the nascent field of synthetic biology including a thorough examination of the philosophical, legal, ethical and social issues surrounding the area
  • the ability to approach the technology transfer problem equipped with the skills to analyse the problem in scientific and practical terms
  • an understanding of how biotechnology relates to real-world biological problems
  • the ability to conduct practical experimentation in synthetic biology and biotechnology
  • the ability to think about the future development of research, technology, its implementation and its implications
  • a broad understanding of research responsibility including the requirement for rigorous and robust testing of theories and the need for honesty and integrity in experimental reporting and reviewing

You will enhance your career prospects by acquiring current, marketable knowledge and developing advanced analytical and presentational skills, within the social and intellectual sphere of a leading European university.

The School of Biological Sciences offers a research-rich environment in which you can develop as a scientist and entrepreneur.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent. You should have a strong background in one or more of the following areas: biotechnology, biochemistry, molecular biology and the related sciences.

We may also consider your application if you have a background in engineering (particularly bioengineering), physics or mathematics.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

All applicants must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of their English language ability:

  • an undergraduate or masters degree, that was taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country as defined by UK Visas and Immigration

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 6.0 in each component

  • TOEFL-iBT: total 92 with at least 20 in each section

  • PTE(A): total 61 with at least 56 in each of the Communicative Skills scores

  • CAE and CPE: total 176 with at least 169 in each paper

  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components

Degrees taught and assessed in English must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your degree programme. IELTS, TOEFL, Pearson Test of English and Trinity ISE must be no more than two years old at the beginning of your degree programme.*

(*Revised 8/11/2018 to provide more accurate information on English language qualifications expiry dates.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

  • 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. We may consider late applications if we have places available, but you should contact the relevant Admissions Office for advice first.

You must submit a 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