Graduate School

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MSc Plant Science and Biotechnology

MSc Plant Science and Biotechnology

In the last 10-15 years the study of plant sciences has been revolutionised by the development of new tools and technologies which have allowed unprecedented progress in the study of plant biology.

These include genomics technologies that are giving access to the secrets of plant genomes, new techniques for studying the regulation of genes and the activity and localisation of proteins. The adoption by the international plant science community of model species such as Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress) and rice has led to a massive expansion in our understanding of plant development and how plants interact with and respond to the environment. This knowledge is increasingly being applied to a diverse range of crop and medicinal plants where it can contribute to development of sustainable solutions to the production of food, raw materials, novel chemicals and fuel.

Our MSc Plant Science and Biotechnology degree provides training in modern molecular aspects of plant science and is suitable either for those who have done a more organism-based plant biology undergraduate degree or those from a non-plant biosciences background who wish to acquire knowledge and expertise in this area. Teaching is delivered by research active academics from the University of Leeds' Centre for Plant Sciences and is often aligned with their areas of expertise.

Graduates have many potential career paths open to them, ranging from academic or industry based research, through work in the area of science policy and government, teaching or working for non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Why choose to study plant sciences at Leeds?

This course offers:   

  • exciting contemporary topics such as DNA repair, recombination and transgene integration, organelle biogenesis and plant cell walls
  • teaching delivered by top researchers, many world-class experts, who bring the latest cutting-edge research to their teaching and therefore, to your learning
  • excellent career development opportunities with graduates moving into a wide range of exciting and challenging careers
  • training in generic research skills such as scientific writing, graphics and data presentation, bioethics, bioenterprise and intellectual property rights
  • staff links to Africa College; an interdisciplinary University of Leeds initiative focussed on major issues related to the relationship between agriculture, human nutritional health and sustainability drawing on expertise from across the University and in collaboration with national and international partners
  • the opportunity to combine theoretical disciplines with ‘hands-on’ practical laboratory skills
  • the chance to study in a Faculty ranked 4th in the UK for research in biological sciences by the leading scientific journal ‘Nature’ based on the numbers of staff producing research that was “world leading" or "internationally excellent"
  • opportunities to benefit from our strong employer connections supported by our employer engagement officer, including regular speakers from industry, goverment and scientific organisations.
  • a flexible approach to suit individual needs

Entry Requirements


MSc Plant Science and Biotechnology


Master of Science (MSc)


12 months full-time

2015 entry requirements Normally a 2:1 honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject, but relevant experience may be taken into account
English language requirements If English is not your first language, please check our minimum English language requirements.
Start date September annually (one intake only)
Admissions policy Download the University taught postgraduate admissions policy

Admissions enquiries

Postgraduate Taught Admissions
Tel. +44 (0) 113 343 1418


Faculty of Biological Sciences Student Education Office

Programme leader

Professor Alison Baker

Plant Science team profiles

Meet the Bioscience team

Course brochure

See our Postgraduate Taught (Masters) brochure

Course Structure

The MSc Plant Science and Biotechnology programme consists of core research training modules designed to equip students with the expertise necessary to work at the cutting-edge of a modern plant science and biotechnology sector, including research planning exercises, methodologies underpinning contemporary bioscience, and an extended practical project providing hands on practical experience in molecular biology techniques. Added to this is an independent research project in an area of plant science and biotechnology which provide substantial subject-specific training. Specialist plant science and biotechnology taught modules make up the rest of the programme.

The programme is full-time and lasts 12 months, with teaching activities broken down into three parts:

  • September-December (taught modules including a protein engineering laboratory project)
  • January-March (taught modules and research project proposal)
  • April-September (independent laboratory-based research project)

Students study a total of 180 credits worth of modules comprising of the following::

  • 55 credits of compulsory core research training modules
  • 85 credits of a compulsory research project
  • 40 credits of taught specialist plant science and biotechnology modules

Compulsory Modules

Research Planning and Scientific Communication

This module provides training on how to plan and structure a programme of research from an individual experiment to a programme of work and to communicate research findings in different formats including; literature review, scientific research papers and oral presentations. During the module students write and defend a grant proposal outlining a programme of research to solve a defined research problem and work through a series of interactive activities intended to develop sophisticated communication skills (written, oral and visual). This module is delivered through a series of formal lectures and interactive workshops.

Credits: 10  

Advanced Biomolecular Technologies

This module provides an overview of a range of modern techniques and methodologies that underpin contemporary biomolecular l sciences. Five broad areas will be covered: molecular biology, structural biology, cell imaging and flow cytometry, high throughput techniques and transgenic organisms. Specific examples of techniques include polymerase chain reaction (PCR), site-directed mutagenesis and DNA sequencing, protein expression, chromatographic techniques, antibody technology, x-ray crystallography, mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), microarrays, proteomics, bioimaging, flow cytometry and transgenic organisms. The techniques lectures are complemented with demonstrations of a range of research facilities and there are data analysis tutorials linked to some of these sessions. Statistics is also covered as part of this module. In addition, students attend the Faculty research seminars which are delivered by internationally-renowned speakers and attend the annual Faculty PhD symposium.

Credits: 20  

Protein Engineering Laboratory Project

This module is an extended practical investigation in the form of a laboratory based project. It provides practical training in a range of modern molecular biology and protein engineering techniques including gene cloning, PCR, mutagenesis, protein expression, protein purification and analysis. Students are trained not only in experimental work but also in maintaining detailed and accurate laboratory notebooks, and presentation of the results obtained in the form of a short research paper.

Credits: 15  

Practical Bioinformatics

Bioinformatics is an essential tool that is used extensively in academia and in industry to solve a variety of biological problems. This module will provide training in a range of bioinformatic tools including gene sequence analysis and protein structure analysis. The module will emphasise the practical application of the tools in academia and industry and provide hands-on training in using these tools. The module will be taught through a series of lectures, problem-based learning groups and computational practicals.

Credits: 10  

Research Project Proposal and Research Project

The research component of the programme comprises approximately half of the degree programme and allows you to undertake a high quality laboratory-based experimental project on a topic related to your course options. This will be original, innovative work that is currently being undertaken in the Faculty and there may be opportunities for projects to be taken outside of the Faculty, with employers in Industry. You will be assigned a research project supervisor who will support and guide you through your project. Overall, you will receive extensive training in experimental design, the practical use of advanced techniques and technologies, data analysis and interpretation as well as substantial subject-specific knowledge through this project. You will communicate your research findings through a written dissertation, orally and in poster format presented at the annual MSc poster session.

Credits: 85  

Topics in Plant Science

International experts present leading edge research in 3 advanced topic areas of plant science. These are currently
1) DNA recombination and repair mechanisms and their importance for transgene integration and biotechnological applications
2) The biogenesis of mitochondria, chloroplast and peroxisomes
3) The biosynthesis, structure and function of plant cell walls.
Students undertake an extended literature review, a data analysis exercise and research paper critique to underpin their understanding of these topics. These activities are supported via tutorials.

Credits: 10  

Plant Biotechnology

This module addresses areas of current research in the area of plant biotechnology. Some of the topics covered are: engineering of plants for the production of novel products, development of stress-tolerant crop varieties, knowledge and methodologies for designing plants with specific morphology or architecture and techniques for gene expression and gene silencing.

Credits: 10  


The aim of this module is to provide an introduction to the wide range of approaches used in Bio-imaging and their relative advantages and disadvantages for analysing protein and cellular function. This includes i) understanding the principles of phase, DIC, fluorescence, deconvolution and confocal microscopy, calcium imaging, and transmission and scanning electron microscopy; ii) performing techniques required to obtain epifluorescence, confocal and deconvolution images of fluorescently stained fixed cells; iii) understanding how to transfect cells with GFP-fusion protein expression constructs, and subsequently analyse the behaviour of the expressed protein in live cells by techniques such as time-lapse fluorescence microscopy and FRAP and iv) understanding the principles of the techniques FRET, FLIM and TIRF microscopy, the principles of calcium imaging in live cells and the principles of imaging cells, and single molecules in the electron microscope.

Credits: 10  

High Throughput Technologies

This module aims to make you aware of the range of experimental technologies and data analysis methods associated with 'genome scale' investigations of gene sequences, and gene and protein regulation and expression. It will provide you with experience of analysing this type of data, and help you understand the statistical principles involved.

Credits: 10  


Is the course mainly practical or theoretical?

The course combines theoretical modules with practical skills training. 100 credits out of the total 180 credits that you study will be practical based modules and therefore the programme will provide you with substantial training in practical methods and technologies currently being used to advance the biological sciences. This is through a 15 credit laboratory-based mini-project and an 85 credit laboratory-based independent research project on a cutting edge topic related to your course options. Our teaching and assessment methods are designed to develop scientists who are able to think independently, solve problems, communicate effectively and demonstrate a high level of practical ability.

Example Research Projects

A selection of project titles offered previously:

  • Characterization of a new class of inhibitors of plant growth
  • Genetic identification of the target of a novel inhibitor of lipid breakdown in Arabidopsis
  • Expression of the Peroxisome targeting receptor PEX7
  • Secretion of arabinogalactan-proteins into cell walls of salt-stressed plant cells
  • Defining homozygous lines of transgenic, nematode resistant rice
  • Cell wall changes induced by the use of agrochemical ‘straw thickeners’
  • Effects of constitutive cysteine protease inhibitor (cystatin) expression on drought tolerance in tobacco

Visit the Studying with us pages to find out more about studying in the Faculty of Biological Sciences Undergraduate School.

Please be aware that course details do change from time to time...

... If in doubt, please contact us to verify course content and availability. Whilst the University endeavours to ensure that the information on this website is accurate at the date of publication it does not accept liability for any inaccuracies. The University reserves the right to change or cancel its courses or services at any time without liability even after students have registered at the University. The University's contract with its students does not confer third party benefits for the purposes of Contracts (Right of Third Parties) Act 1999.

Fees and Funding

What does it cost?

The cost of a postgraduate degree varies by course; you will get details of your fees with your offer letter.

UK / EU student fees 2015 - 16
MSc Bioscience £8,500
MSc Biotechnology £8,500
MSc Infection, Immunity & Human Disease £8,500
MSc Plant Science and Biotechnology £8,500
International student fees 2015 - 16
MSc Bioscience £17,750
MSc Biotechnology £17,750
MSc Infection, Immunity & Human Disease £17,750
MSc Plant Science and Biotechnology £17,750

The academic fee covers tuition and exam costs as well as membership of the students' union. International students will pay a higher fee than UK students as the fees for UK and European Union (EU) students are subsidised by the UK government, but international students can get get financial help from international scholarships. See also Biological Sciences International Scholarships.

Tuition fee deposit

If you require a visa to study in the UK you will be required to pay a tuition fee deposit before being issued with a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). The tuition fee deposit will be deducted from your programme tuition fee and shown on your CAS. For more information on our fee deposit please see:

Financial help

The majority of our students are self-funded, or funded by their employer or national government. However, several additional sources provide either fully-funded or part-funded scholarships, both for UK and for overseas applicants. Postgraduate scholarships are available to international, UK and EU students and you may be eligible.

If you are experiencing severe hardship you could get help with your living expenses from the Access to Learning Fund, after you have applied for all other available means of support, but please note that residency conditions do apply.

When to pay

Fees must be paid in full before you can register as a postgraduate student, unless you will be paying for yourself. If you are self-supporting you can pay fees in two instalments, the first payable at registration.

If you are supported by your government, employer, or other sponsor, you should provide a letter from them addressed to the University, confirming that the fees will be paid directly. Sponsors cannot pay by instalments.

The information provided is for general guidance purposes only. The University believes the information provided is accurate at the time of publication. The University cannot accept liability for any inaccuracies.


Excellent career prospects

The strong research element combined with the specialist and generic skills training of the postgraduate Bioscience degrees equips our graduates for a wide range of careers and is internationally recognised.

A substantial proportion of our graduates undertake PhDs either at Leeds or elsewhere, whilst others enter employment in diverse posts ranging from bioscience-related research through to scientific publication, teacher training, health and safety and pharmaceutical market research.  Examples of posts held by recent MSc graduates include:

  • PhD positions in the UK, USA and overseas e.g. at the Max Planck Institute, Germany
  • Research post at Harvard School of Public Health, Botswana
  • Trainee Cytogeneticist, UK
  • Commissioning Editor/Scientific Publishing, UK
  • Research Fellow, National Centre for Biological Sciences, India
  • Clinical Researcher, Kent and Medway Cancer Network and NHS Trust, UK
  • Research Technician, University of Warwickshire/University of Oxford, UK
  • Graduate Medical Degree, UK
  • Bioassay analyst, Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics, UK
  • Laboratory technician, Exova Group Limited
  • Quality Management at Johnson & Johnson Lifescan Technologies
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Education, UK
  • Trainee Embryologist, UK
  • Research Assistant, Qatar National Research Fund, Qatar
  • Sypol, Health and Safety Services, UK
  • Research Executive, Adelphi International Research, UK
  • Biopharmaceutical Experimental Officer, Covance, UK

PhD in Leeds

The Faculty offers a wide range of postgraduate research opportunities. Browse our online database to find out about our research staff and current research interests and visit our research news bulletin for all the latest research stories. Chelsea Brain

Alumni Profiles

Chelsea Brain (MSc Bioscience 2010) secured a position as a Doctoral Student Researcher with Newcastle University and Scottish Bioenergy, a university spin-out company in Newcastle. This allows her to not only use her bioscience skills, but also to be involved on the business side of things too.

Read more alumni profiles.

Careers support and personal development

University of Leeds Careers Centre

The University of Leeds has its own specialist careers centre to help students. In 2007 around 450 employers and over 13,000 students took part in the Career Centre's varied programme of events. The Centre can help students to:

  • plan what to do after university
  • attend careers fairs and employer presentations
  • write a CV
  • improve job applications
  • look for work experience
  • find vacancies

Alumni Mentoring Network

Registered students have access to our Alumni Mentoring network. Networking is one of the most effective ways to find out more about different career opportunities. In an increasingly competitive employment market it is vital to be well-informed and there really is no substitute for talking to people who have first hand experience of the work that interests you. Leeds Alumni Mentoring Network gives students the chance to make contact with Leeds alumni (graduates) to explore career options, gain tips on entry into specific careers and receive supportive advice on developing your career plans. Find out more about our alumni.

Leeds for Life

Our Leeds for Life scheme helps all students to recognise and develop the qualities they are gaining from the whole of their University of Leeds experience - both from their course and the huge range of co-curricular opportunities on offer. We want Leeds students to go out into the world and make a difference, in whatever field they choose. We believe that the research-led education at Leeds gives our students the confidence and skills to do just that.

Personal Tutors

All Masters students are assigned a personal tutor, whom they meet in timetabled individual meetings to discuss their progress and personal development .

Careers resources

  • Search jobs in science, research, academic & related employment in the UK & abroad.

  • Useful information for graduates covering a wide range of sectors and occupations.

  • Information and profiles on jobs in the UK and overseas.

The UK Centre for Bioscience based at the University of Leeds also offer some useful advice for students with a biosciences degree. Download their 'A Bioscience degree - why and what next?' guide.

Developing your employability skills

Talk from the Society of BiologyWe work closely with a variety of employers to ensure that our students and graduates are well-equipped to successfully compete in the global bioscience and wider employment markets, as well as academia.

We offer our students various opportunities:

  • Industrial projects
  • Industry-relevant courses
  • Industrial advisers and speakers
  • Networking opportunities

Who we work with

We have a proactive Industrial Advisory Board who give up their time to advise us on what they look for in graduates and on employability related skills within our programmes.

We collaborate with a range of different organisations in the public and commercial sectors. Our commercial collaborators include larger multinational organisations to smaller to medium sized enterprises, and University of Leeds spin-out companies.

Many of these are represented on our Industrial Advisory Board.

We work with...

Industrial projects

Some of our partners also offer MSc research projects in their organisations. Students completing projects in industry are able to gain valuable work experience, develop their commercial awareness and build their network of contacts.

This year, some of our students are completing their research projects in organisations such as the Food and Environment Research Agency and the Health Protection Agency for their research projects.

Industry-relevant courses

Employers advise on and input directly into our MSc Bioscience course content, ensuring our courses are relevant to industry as well as academia. This gives our students the knowledge, skills, qualities and experiences employers tell us they are looking for.

Industrial advisers and speakers

Graduate employers also advise and teach on MSc modules either by joining our Industrial Advisory Board and/or delivering one-off lectures, workshops and practical demonstrations. Employers also contribute 'real world' case studies, work-based learning examples and problems. As a result, students are able to relate their learning to the wider context of the bioscience industry. Employers also provide valuable career development advice to students.

Example employer lectures...

Networking opportunities

2010 Bioscience Careers FairEmployers meet with students on campus at dedicated networking events. Visiting employers often advise about job vacancies and the types of new recruits that their organisation is looking for. They also provide insider tips on the skills, knowledge and competences required to enter their respective careers/organisations.

The annual bioscience careers fair

Representatives from multi-national bioscience employers attend our bioscience careers fair, including Croda, GlaxoSmithKline and Unilever. University careers advisors also provide students with one-to-one advice on topics such as improving their CVs and securing future job interviews. This gives students the opportunity to practice their networking skills and learn about future career avenues that might be open to them.

Industry visits

We arrange industrial worksite and research institute visits, to help our students find out how their knowledge and skills can be practically transferred into the wider world of work. Students use these opportunities to build their own networks and learn more about future career avenues that are open to them. MSc Bioinformatics & Genomics students have the opportunity to visit the European Bioinformatics Institute to find out about the research work that goes on there and in Europe, and about potential PhD and job opportunities in their field in the future.

Bioscience News

Faculty research news:

Browse online biological sciences research news bulletin...Screen shot of the Step up to Masters page

Step up to Masters

The Step up to Masters website is designed to help you Step Up to your time as a Masters student, so that you can make the most of all the opportunities offered at the University of Leeds, Faculty of Biological Sciences. It is designed to prepare you for living in Leeds but more importantly for studying at this higher level. You will find it packed with useful information.

Biotechnology research and innovation across the University of Leeds