Faculty of Biological Sciences

What is a Plant Science and Biotechnology Masters?

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 its application to plant biotechnology. While we are happy to consider those who have done a more organism-based plant biology undergraduate degree we do expect some fundamental knowledge of the cellular and molecular basis of life, so please make sure you provide this information in your application or contact us to discuss your suitability. We will also consider  those from a non-plant biosciences background who wish to acquire knowledge and expertise in this area, again please contact us to discuss your suitability. 

Why study a Plant Science and Biotechnology Masters?

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).

This course offers exciting contemporary topics such as DNA repair, recombination and transgene integration, organelle biogenesis and plant cell walls

  • opportunities to work on contemporary issues with leading researchers during your research project. Our Centre for Plant Sciences is a dynamic environment for research into plant cell biology, developmental plant biology, plant gene expression, signal transduction, biotechnology, crop science & the development of biosafe crops
  • 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
Title MSc Plant Science and Biotechnology
Qualification Master of Science (MSc)
Duration 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
Email: fbsgrad@leeds.ac.uk
Department Faculty of Biological Sciences Student Education Office
Programme leader Professor Alison Baker
Course brochure See our Postgraduate Taught (Masters) brochure


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.

Taught modules

Specialist plant science and biotechnology taught modules make up the rest of the programme. 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 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

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 Why Leeds 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.


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.