Biological Sciences - Research


The School of Biological Sciences aims to enhance the way we use technology in research, food security, microbiology, ecosystem biology, sustainability and many other related areas.

The Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's University Belfast is a key partner in national and global efforts to provide the world's growing population with a sustainable, safe and secure supply of high quality food.

There are three research themes within the School

- Ecosystem Biology and Sustainability
- Microbes and Pathogen Biology
- Food Safety and Nutrition

Ecosystem Biology and Sustainability (PhD/MPhil)
You'll contribute to a high level of research activity involving academic staff, postdoctoral scientists and postgraduate research students, and covering topics such as animal behaviour/communication, biodiversity and ecosystem services, coastal and deep-water marine biology, ecological management, water quality, ecosystem ecology, freshwater biology, invasive species and their impact, sustainable aquaculture of shellfish and algae, urban land use, biodiversity, and wildlife ecology.

Microbes and Pathogen Biology (PhD/MPhil)
You'll work across a diverse array of research interests with a broad ethos that encompasses research in molecular biosciences from molecules to ecosystems.

These interests range from biochemistry, food safety, microbiology and parasite control to plant and soil sciences – linked by common approaches within the molecular biosciences that are aimed at exploiting the ongoing genomic, transcriptomic/proteomic revolution.

You'll also enjoy a range of strong international links across Europe, Asia, North and South America.

Food Safety and Nutrition
Research opportunities offered by this programme cover the entire food chain from farm to fork with a strong emphasis on improved food safety and nutrition, public health and food security.

You will conduct research under the supervision of leading scientists based in the Institute for Global Food Security and will benefit from integration with business experts, helping you gain leadership positions nationally and internationally.

Biological Sciences Master's highlights
Industry Links
•The School has a wide range of strong, international links with governments, academia and industry

World Class Facilities
•Students will be based in modern, world-class laboratory facilities equipped with state-of-the-art, highly advanced analytical instruments.

•Students studying in the Food Safety and Nutrition stream will gain excellent practical experience of advanced technology and bioanalytical techniques for food safety analysis and monitoring, including: GC, HPLC and UPLC separation platforms ICP, IR, qToF and QqQ mass spectrometers Microbiological research facilities Antibody production and biomolecule binder development Cell culture suite and bioanalytical assay detection systems NMR, NIR and Raman spectrometers Proteomic and metabolomic profiling tools RT-PCR, transcriptomic profiling, Next-generation sequencing Multiplex biosensor platforms and LFD development

Key Facts

•Over 80% of science jobs are in areas of Biological Sciences

Entry requirements

The normal minimum requirement for admission to a research degree programme is an Upper Second Class Honours Degree from a UK or ROI Higher Education Provider or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University.

Specific entrance requirements for individual programmes are available via the online Course Finder and we recommend that you also visit School webpages and contact potential supervisors to discuss your proposed research.

Factors taken into consideration by School selectors will include an assessment of an applicant's academic background and research proposal (if applicable). Relevant publications, professional research experience or other achievements by the applicant may also be considered.

Further information is available on Higher Doctorates and PhD by Published Works.

English Language Requirements

If your first language is not English, evidence of an acceptable level of proficiency will be required. In addition, applicants who are non-EEA nationals must satisfy the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes. Further information is available on the UK Government website.

The evidence should be in the form of a Secure English Language Test (SELT), or another English language qualification acceptable to the University which examines all four elements of language learning – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. IELTS Academic and TOEFL internet based tests should be taken within the last two years. Further information is available here.

Details of the English language requirements for entry to each postgraduate taught and research programme can be found in the individual Course Finder pages.

If you have not yet obtained an acceptable English Language qualification at the required level before sending us your application, your formal offer for postgraduate admission will include an English language condition which you must satisfy before the start of your programme.

INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a wide range of English language courses designed specifically for international students.

International applicants

For more information please visit the international section of our website.

Applicants who require assistance with the application process should email the International Admissions team at

Careers or further progression

Queen's postgraduates reap exceptional benefits. Unique initiatives, such as Degree Plus and Researcher Plus bolster our commitment to employability, while innovative leadership and executive programmes alongside sterling integration with business experts helps our students gain key leadership positions both nationally and internationally.

Employment after the Course
Graduates have gone on to be professional research scientists, consultants, or hold technical and junior executive positions in commerce and government.

Further enquiries

People teaching you
Mr Peter Millar
Postgraduate Research Administrator
School of Biological Sciences


Learning Outcomes
A research degree offers students an opportunity to foster their capacity for independent research and critical thought. It also allows students to explore an area of interest and so understand and solve theoretical and practical problems within the field. Undertaking a research degree can enhance a student's written and oral communication skills and a PhD is almost always a formal requirement for an academic post.

Assessment method

Assessment processes for the Research Degree differ from taught degrees. Students will be expected to present drafts of their work at regular intervals to their supervisor who will provide written and oral feedback; a formal assessment process takes place annually. This Annual Progress Review requires students to present their work in writing and orally to a panel of academics from within the School. Successful completion of this process will allow students to register for the next academic year.

The final assessment of the doctoral degree is both oral and written. Students will submit their thesis to an internal and external examining team who will review the written thesis before inviting the student to orally defend their work at a Viva Voce.

Application date

How to Apply
Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.

Find a supervisor
If you're interested in a particular project, we suggest you contact the relevant academic before you apply, to introduce yourself and ask questions.

To find a potential supervisor aligned with your area of interest, or if you are unsure of who to contact, look through the staff profiles linked here.

You might be asked to provide a short outline of your proposal to help us identify potential supervisors.

Postgraduate Research
There is no standard closing date. You should however check both the University's website and refer to the relevant School/Institute webpage for information on deadline dates for postgraduate funding applications, as these will also determine when your application for admission should be submitted.

Research areas

Research information
PhD Supervisors
Information on the research interests and activities of academics in Biological Sciences can be accessed via the School website.

Research Projects
Biodiversity analysis: a student studied the fundamental construction of biodiversity in terms of structural, genetic and functional diversity, using data from Irish coastal community surveys. Their work established that of the many tens of biodiversity metrics, three main axes of variation were necessary and sufficient to explain and describe variation in biodiversity. This work was published in two international journals and is used by biodiversity scientists all over the world. The student is now a professional researcher in an Irish university.

Enrolment and start dates

Entry year 2020

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