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PhD | Postgraduate Research

Biological Sciences

Entry year
Entry requirements
  • Overview

    The School of Biological Sciences provides PhD and MPhil research degree programmes in areas spanning from basic biochemistry with applications in e.g. cancer research, all the way to the economic evaluation of ecosystem services and the retailing of food. The choice of project topic for a research degree is partly that of the student and partly determined by a) funding sources and their needs and b) the research interests of academic staff. In every case, a PhD or MPhil course offers the chance of being part of a cutting edge scientific research team and contributing to genuine new discoveries or the development of new methods of practical use.

    The School is organised into three research theme clusters:

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

    Ecosystem Biology and Sustainability:

    Ecosystem Biology projects include studies of biodiversity and ecosystem services in environments ranging from tropical forest to deep oceans, but including local agriculture and coastal systems. Projects range from phylogenetic analysis of rare species and exploration of species interactions in tropical systems, including using state-of-the-art genetic analysis, to the assessment of EU agri-environment schemes as conservation measures for farm bird communities, mathematical modelling for commercial fisheries management and economic evaluations of conservation measures.

    Microbes and Pathogen Biology:

    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 highlights

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

    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.

    Brexit Advice

    Information on the implications of Brexit for prospective students.

  • Course content

    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.

    Career Prospects

    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.

    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.

    Course structure



    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.


    Supervisors will offer feedback on draft work at regular intervals throughout the period of registration on the degree.


    Full-time research students will have access to a shared office space and access to a desk with personal computer and internet access.

  • Entry Requirements

    Entrance requirements

    The minimum academic requirement for admission to a research degree programme is normally an Upper Second Class Honours degree from a UK or ROI HE provider, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University. Further information can be obtained by contacting the School.

    International Students

    For information on international qualification equivalents, please check the specific information for your country.

    English Language Requirements

    Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.5, with not less than 5.5 in any component, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required. *Taken within the last 2 years.

    International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.

    For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see:

    If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.

    • Academic English: an intensive English language and study skills course for successful university study at degree level
    • Pre-sessional English: a short intensive academic English course for students starting a degree programme at Queen's University Belfast and who need to improve their English.

    INTO - English Language Course(QSIS ELEMENT IS EMPTY)

  • Fees and Funding

    Tuition Fees

    Northern Ireland (NI) £4,327
    England, Scotland or Wales (GB) £4,327
    Other (non-UK) EU £4,327
    International £20,300

    More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

    Biological Sciences costs

    Students may incur additional costs for small items of clothing and/or equipment necessary for lab or field work

    Additional course costs

    All Students

    Depending on the programme of study, there may also be other extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies . Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £100 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges. Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen. There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, and library fines. In undertaking a research project students may incur costs associated with transport and/or materials, and there will also be additional costs for printing and binding the thesis. There may also be individually tailored research project expenses and students should consult directly with the School for further information.

    How do I fund my study?

    PhD Funded Opportunities

    Find PhD funding opportunities and studentships by subject area.
    Find out more >

    Doctoral Training Centres at Queen's

    Queen's has seven outstanding competitive Doctoral Training Centres, with each one providing funding for a number of PhD positions and more importantly a hub for carrying out world class research in key disciplines.
    Find out more >

    New UK PhD loans

    The UK Government will introduce new doctoral loans of up to £25,000 for PhDs and equivalent postgraduate research programmes from 2019. Loans will be offered to English-resident students to study all types of doctorate at universities across the UK.
    Find out more >

    International Scholarships

    Information on scholarships for international students, is available at

  • Apply

    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.

    Download a prospectus

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