Faculty of Biological Sciences

What is a Biotechnology Masters?

Biotechnology is a fast-moving sector that requires highly trained individuals who are able to work innovatively across disciplines of biological sciences, engineering and chemistry. Our MSc Biotechnology is interdisciplinary and utilises modules from the Faculty of Engineering and the Centre for Molecular Nanoscience. The programme integrates biological sciences with biochemical engineering to provide training for the modern biotechnology industry. In particular, it focuses on the applications of biotechnology in medicine and agriculture. The course begins with the technology underpinning the manufacture of pharmaceutical proteins, the structure of the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector and the way drugs interact with the body. Combined with this is a module on molecular Diagnostics, Drug Delivery and Therapies covering; biosensor design, molecular diagnostic approaches and next-generation pharmaceuticals and therapies. Students then move on to study either one or two areas from the following three topic areas:

  • Tissue engineering with a focus on the 'functional' engineering of connective tissues,cardiac valves and epithelia.
  • Human toxicology with the opportunity to study either environmental toxicology, or toxicological methods, including the use of computers to predict chemical biotransformation and toxicity.
  • Plant biotechnology including topics such as engineering of plants for the production of novel products, and development of stress tolerant crop varieties.

Why study a Biotechnology Masters?

This programme is suitable for students wishing to enter employment in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, as well as those wishing to progress to a higher research degree (PhD).

  • exciting contemporary topics such tissue engineering, pharmaceutical engineering and bionanotechnology.
  • teaching delivered by top researchers, many world-class experts, who bring the latest cutting-edge research to their teaching and therefore, to your learning.
  • module leaders with experience of launching innovative biotechnology companies and consortia including:Tissue Regenix (Professor Ingham); ELISHA (Professor Millner) and Badrilla (Professor Colyer).
Qualification Master of Science (MSc)
Duration 12 months full-time
Entry requirements Normally a 2:1 honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject, but relevant experience may be taken into account . Chemistry to at least A level standard or equivalent is also required.
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
Email: fbsgrad@leeds.ac.uk
Department Faculty of Biological Sciences Graduate School
Programme leader Dr Joanne Tipper
Course brochure See Postgraduate Taught Degrees (Masters) brochure


The MSc Biotechnology course consists of core research training modules designed to equip students with the expertise necessary to work at the cutting-edge of a modern biotechnology sector, including research planning exercises, methodologies underpinning contemporary biotechnology, and an extended practical project providing hands on practical experience in recombinant DNA techniques. Added to this is an independent research project in an area of biotechnology through which students receive substantial subject-specific training.

Taught modules

This degree allows you to select modules from a range of taught modules, specialising in biotechnology. Download the full module list.

Our teaching

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 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.

Semester: 2  Credits: 85

Drugs, Processes, Products and People

This module covers the following: Structure of the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector. Drug discovery strategies. Time-line in the development of a new pharmaceutical product. Thermo-chemical and physico-chemical aspects of crystalline, organic, molecular materials. Industrial synthetic route selection, process development involving robustness, reagent conditions, solvents and scale-up of primary manufacturing processes. Regulatory framework in the pharmaceutical sector. Mechanisms of selected disease and interaction of drugs with the body. Routes of drug administration, trans-membrane transportation. Absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion of drug in human body. Introduction to pharmacokinetics and pharmacogenetics. Drug modifications. Social implications of pharmaceuticals. Changes in health of population, life expectancy. Emerging diseases and social impact. Drug dependency, drug abuse. Organic chemistry for Industrial processes: structure and bonding, intermolecular forces, nomenclature, chemical reactivity, acid-base reactions, classification of reactions, oxidation/reduction, functional group conversions, reaction mechanisms, curved arrow notation, aromaticity, benzene, aromatic compounds. Stereoisomers, conformational Isomers, chirality & symmetry, enantiomorphism, optical activity, stereogenic nitrogen, achiral diastereomers. A variety of selected reactions.

Credits: 10

Molecular Diagnostics, Drug Delivery & Therapies

This module will provide an up to date understanding of biosensors including current and next-generation biosensors and biosensor design; of molecular diagnostic approaches used in a range of settings; including plant, environmental, medical and food areas; of next-generation therapeutics, including those based on RNAi therapy or pharmaceutical which employ targeted drug delivery approaches. In addition; the module will provide an understanding of employability prospects and how a (industrial) career can be built in diagnostics or pharmaceutical development.

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 relevant to biotechnology. 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:

  • Interrogation of affinity biosensors by electrical pulsing?
  • Novel biosensor platform for fluorescent detection of small amounts of analyte
  • Tissue engineering of the mitral heart valve
  • Production and characterisation of a tissue engineered human skin equivalent using acellular human amniotic membrane
  • Protein engineering of enzymes
  • Engineering affinity reagents for protein arrays
  • Kinetics and mechanism of metabolic membrane enzymes
  • Cell wall changes induced by the use of agrochemical ‘straw thickeners’
  • Effects of constitutive cysteine protease inhibitor (cystatin) expression on drought tolerance in tobacco
  • Effects of chilling stress on the dorso-ventral regulation of photosynthesis and stomatal opening in sugar cane leaves
  • Biosensors based on the FluRedox principle

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.

Teaching - An outstanding scientific education

We provide students with the very best learning resources and academic support possible, and our teaching draws on the world class research base of the University of Leeds and highly-qualified professionals from industry, non-government organisations and charities.

All our Masters programmes contain core skills courses, specialised subject-specific courses and research projects. Plus our more ecological Masters programmes contain field courses. Very few of our courses contain unseen examinations, and most are assessed entirely by continual assessment exercises.

Core Skills

Our core skills courses include topics that enable you to learn efficiently, to improve your study and research skills and to perform well in the world of work after graduation (e.g. communication skills, professional development, enterprise, experimental planning). They also give you the skills needed to cope with the subject-specific courses and your independent research project (e.g. practical techniques in molecular biology in the MSc Bioscience programmes, use of statistics in ecological research in the MSc/MRes Biodiversity and Conservation programmes). They are all taught in a very practical way, with exercises carried out in our modern, well-equipped laboratories, in the field or on computer, and with additional teaching in workshops and seminars.

Specialist Modules

These cover the entire range of subjects within the programmes that we offer. We teach across a range of areas, from molecular biology and microbiology to whole systems biology and ecology. Specialist modules range from " Topics in Cancer Biology" in MSc Human Disease and Therapy and "Computational Biology of Genomic Systems" in MSc Bioinformatics and Genomics to "Habitat Restoration" on our Biodiversity and Conservation programmes. Module information appears under the "course structure" tab for each individual programme.


All our Masters students carry out at least one original research project. The entire period from May to September is devoted to project work, and students are able to work with professional research groups within the faculty, many of them internationally renowned. The projects are carried out within our superbly equipped research laboratories, in industrial research laboratories or in the field.

Field research projects are undertaken by students on the Biodiversity and Conservation programmes and are often in association with conservation bodies and government agencies. Approximately half the projects are carried out in the UK, the rest overseas - from Ecuador to Indonesia and New Zealand to the Azores.

Independently reviewed teaching standards

The standard of our teaching is very high, as is expected of a leading “Russell Group” university. UK universities operate a system of external examiners to ensure standards are maintained, and all of our Masters programmes have an external examiner from another university. We are subjected to regular audit of our teaching standards called the Student Academic Experience Review. There are also regular meetings of a Student:Staff Forum, where student representatives from each of the degree programmes can raise issues with staff, and our modules are assessed by student feedback.

Student Support

All our students are assigned a personal tutor to guide them during their time at Leeds. The programme leader is also responsible for helping students achieve their academic goals. The staff in the Student Education Office give a friendly welcome to all our new students, and help them feel at home when they arrive here.