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School of the Biological Sciences


Our aim is to provide a multi-faceted course that gives students a comprehensive preparation for their research project, and a sound foundation for a wide range of careers, including advanced research in industry or to apply to doctoral programme.


Introduction and Orientation (weeks 1-2)

  • to familiarise you with the various buildings
  • to introduce participating supervisors offering projects through short presentations
  • to participate in induction and safety courses

Lab Research Project (32 weeks; October to June)

Each student will choose a laboratory for their research project from among the many participating groups. The research project will last for 32 weeks and should expose you to different techniques, model organisms used to study Developmental Biology and underlying mechanisms. You will have a further six weeks for writing up your report.

Please note: each lab will only be able to support one student at any one time. Following introduction to labs, we will ask for a ranked choice of three, allocating the first choice whenever possible.

Core Topics in Developmental Biology

Cohort focused, interactive, seminar-based teaching that is complemented by student-led literature review sessions ("journal clubs"), designed to foster critical analysis and presentation skills via discussion of recent discoveries in the field. Currently scheduled topics* include:

  • Symmetry-breaking & Polarity
  • Epigenetics & Chromatin
  • Cell Fate & Signalling
  • The mechanics of morphogenesis
  • Strategies of Nervous System Development
  • Genome Inheritance: Germ Cells & Mitochondria
  • Evolution & Development

Experimental Approaches in Developmental Biology

Detailed exploration into some cutting-edge experimental approaches that are instrumental to advancing the field, interactive, encouraging discussion. Currently scheduled topics* include:

  • Molecular Biology
  • Marking Cells
  • Advanced Imaging Techniques
  • Genetic Screening
  • Transgenesis
  • CRISPR Technologies
  • Genomic Strategies
  • Measuring Forces
  • Modelling Developmental Systems

Skills Courses, Workshops and Seminars

Throughout the year including*:

  • Introduction to confocal microscopy
  • Introduction to super-resolution microscopy
  • Statistics using R
  • Analysis of bulk RNA Seq data
  • Impacts and communication

Review Essay and Research Proposal

As part of the skills training, students identify a topic they are interested in; to then write a literature review, and, building on this, a research proposal to take the field further. This is guided in discussion with a scientist working in this or a related field, and will be assessed for the MPhil.


* Note: these are illustrative examples based on current provision and details might change.