Bioinformatics & Computational Biology

University College Cork

Bioinformatics & Computational Biology

Course Outline
Our MSc in Bioinformatics & Computational Biology is a one-year full-time (or two years part-time) taught masters course commencing in September.

Bioinformatics is a fast-growing field at the intersection of biology, mathematics, and computer science. Bioinformatics seeks to create, advance, and apply computer/software-based solutions to solve formal and practical problems arising from the management and analysis of very large biological data sets. Such applications include genome sequence analysis, such as the human genome, the human microbiome, analysis of genetic variation within populations, and analysis of gene expression patterns.

Major research efforts in the bioinformatics field include sequence alignment, gene finding, genome assembly, protein structure alignment, protein structure prediction, modelling of DNA and protein evolution, analysis of genetic variation in populations, and analysis of gene expression, protein-protein interaction and protein mass spectrometry data.

Another emerging area within bioinformatics is systems biology, which examines how individual biological components (e.g. metabolic pathways, genes, proteins, organelles, cells, physiological systems, organisms) interact in a network to produce observable phenotypes of a whole organism or body system.

As part of our MSc programme, students carry out a three-month research project in a research group in UCC or in an external university, research institute, or industry. The programming and data handling skills that you will develop, along with your exposure to an interdisciplinary research environment, will be very attractive to potential employers.

Course Practicalities
On successful completion of this programme, students should be able to:

Have a solid background in the theory behind bioinformatics methods and tools so that they can critically evaluate research in bioinformatics;

Use existing bioinformatics methods and tools and rapidly learn to apply new methods and tools;

Organise and analyse large data sets generated by genomics and systems biology approaches;

Understand the role of modelling and simulation of biological systems;

Have a deep knowledge of the aspect of bioinformatics in which they carried out their three-month research project. This experience will prepare them for a future research career in the bioinformatics field.

Staff on this programme include programme coordinator Dr Marcus Cleeson, from the School of Microbiology, and associated staff from the Schools of Mathematics, Applied Mathematics & Statistics, Biochemistry & Cell Biology and the Department of Computer Science.

Why Choose This Course
Working in the field of bioinformatics is both a challenging and satisfying job, which often involves problem-solving, programming, statistical analyses of large data sets and mathematical modelling of biological phenomena. It is possible for a bioinformatician to work on many different biological questions and types of data sets, making this an interesting and exciting field to work in.

A bioinformatician's day-to-day work can involve studying many different fascinating and important biological questions, such as:

What are the genetic differences between the DNA of humans and chimpanzees?

How many genes are there in the human genome, and can we identify them all?

What differences exist in the DNA of different people, and how does that affect their health, appearance & behaviour?

Is it possible to create a computer program to analyse the DNA sequences of 1000 different individual humans, and to reconstruct their genetic history? (see The International Genome Sample Resource.)

What are the differences between cancer cells and healthy cells?

How do new drug-resistant strains of malaria evolve from existing strains, and can we predict what strains will emerge in the future?

What bacteria are present in different environments, such as different parts of the human body in people of different ages, populations, and health?

How are different animal groups (e.g. humans, flies, jellyfish, earthworms, etc.) related to each other, and when and where did they evolve from a common ancestor?

And so on!

Placement or Study Abroad Information
As part of the MSc programme, students carry out a three-month research project in a research group in UCC or in an external university, research institute or industry. This will provide the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in bioinformatics to a cutting-edge research question. In principle, placements abroad to execute the research project can be facilitated subject to approval.

Subjects taught

Programme content
This programme may be taken full-time over 12 months or part-time over 24 months from the date of first registration for the programme.

The part-time option will be taught during weekday working hours over two years.

This MSc programme has four different streams and students take 90 credits from their allocated stream.

Stream for Biological Science Graduates
Stream for Computer Science Graduates
Stream for Mathematics Graduates
Stream for Statistics Graduates

For a complete list of stream content see the University Calendar.

Further details on the modules listed above can be found in our book of modules. Any modules listed above are indicative of the current set of modules for this course but are subject to change from year to year.

Entry requirements

Entrants to the programme must be holders of a minimum Second Class Honours Grade I in a primary honours degree (NFQ, Level 8), or equivalent qualification, in a discipline with a significant element of Mathematics, Statistics, Engineering, Computer Science or Biology.

In addition, candidates with Second Class Honours Grade II in a primary honours degree (NFQ, Level 8) may also be considered under
Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) for places, following assessment by the Programme Director, if they are also proficient in mathematics as evident from grades in Higher Leaving Cert maths or Undergraduate maths modules, and have at least one year of proven and relevant Biological, Mathematical or Computational work or Postgraduate experience.

The number of places is limited and selection will be made on the candidate's performance in his/her primary degree and experience.

It is not necessary to have prior knowledge of computer programming or bioinformatics to take the course. All the necessary computer skills will be taught as part of the programme.

English Language Requirements
Applicants that are non-native speakers of the English language must meet the university-approved English language requirements. Please visit our PG English Language Requirements page for more information.

For applicants with qualifications completed outside of Ireland
Applicants must meet the required entry academic grade, equivalent to Irish requirements. For more information see our Qualification Comparison page.

International/Non-EU Applicants
For full details of the non-EU application procedure visit our how to apply pages for international students.

In UCC, we use the term programme and course interchangeably to describe what a person has registered to study in UCC and its constituent colleges, schools, and departments.

Note that not all courses are open to international/non-EU applicants, please check the fact file above. For more information contact the International Office.

Application dates

The closing date for non-EU applications is 30 June 2023

How Do I Apply
1. Check Dates: Check the opening and closing dates for the application process in the fact file boxes at the top of the page.

For Irish and EU applicants we operate a rounds system and you can check the rounds closing dates here.
Note that not all our programmes are subject to the rounds system so check the opening and closing dates for your specific programme in the fact file boxes above.

2. Gather Documents: Scanned copies of supporting documents have to be uploaded to the UCC online application portal and include:

Original qualification documents listed on your application including transcripts of results from institutions other than UCC.
Any supplementary items requested for your course if required.

3. Apply Online: Apply online via the UCC online application portal. Note the majority of our courses have a non-refundable €50 application fee.

Any questions? Use our web enquiry form to contact us.

Additional Requirements (All Applicants)
Please note you will be required to provide additional information as part of the online application process for this programme. This will include the following questions:

You may enter the details of professional or voluntary positions held. We strongly encourage you to complete this section with all relevant work experiences that will support your application.

Please describe your motivation and readiness for this programme.

Please upload your CV.

Assessment Info

There are exams for most of the taught modules, usually in December and May, of each of the two Semesters, while certain modules also have a continuous assessment element. The research project starts in June and finishes towards the end of September, followed by an oral thesis presentation in the middle of October Part-time students will carry out their research project during the summer of their second academic year.


1 year full-time, 2 years part-time.

Enrolment dates

Start Date: 7 September 2020

Post Course Info

Skills and Careers Information
Our graduates offer a unique set of interdisciplinary skills making them highly attractive to employers at universities, research centres and in industry. Many research institutes have dedicated bioinformatics groups, while many 'wet biology' research groups employ bioinformaticians to help with data analyses and other bioinformatics problems. Industries employing bioinformaticians include the pharmaceutical industry, agricultural and biotechnology companies. For biology graduates returning to 'wet lab' biology after completing the MSc course, your newly acquired skills will be extremely complementary and useful.

Non-biology graduates seeking non-biology positions will also find that having acquired interdisciplinary skills is of great benefit in getting a qualified job in many sectors due to being able to adapt knowledge across a broad range of disciplines.

Where have our graduates gone?

As this MSc qualification is recognised worldwide our graduates work across the globe including the Netherlands, Austria, the USA, and New Zealand. Graduates in Ireland work with Teagasc, tech multinationals, and BioPharma. Since there is a shortage of bioinformaticians there are many opportunities for bioinformaticians both locally and internationally.

More details
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  • Qualifications

    Degree - Masters (Level 9 NFQ)

  • Attendance type

    Full time,Part time,Daytime

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