MRes Synthetic Biology
Application and next steps
Students are advised to apply as early as possible due to competition for places. Those applying for scholarship funding (particularly overseas applicants) should take note of application deadlines.
Who can apply?
The programme aims to attract students from a wide range of science backgrounds in both the physical, engineering, chemical and mathematical sciences as well as graduates from biology based science degrees and train them in this new field, enabling them to transfer these skills to further research, industry and teaching.
- End July 2017
Why study this degree at UCL?
UCL is recognised as one of the world's best research environments within the field of biochemical engineering and synthetic biology as well as biological and biomedical science.
UCL Biochemical Engineering is in a unique position to offer tuition and research opportunities in internationally recognised laboratories and an appreciation of the multidisciplinary nature of synthetic biology research.
Students on this new MRes programme undertake a major research project where topics can be chosen spanning the expertise in six departments across UCL.
Department: Biochemical Engineering
Student / staff ratios › 51 staff including 31 postdocs › 49 taught students › 121 research students
Research Excellence Framework (REF)
The Research Excellence Framework, or REF, is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The 2014 REF was carried out by the UK's higher education funding bodies, and the results used to allocate research funding from 2015/16.
The following REF score was awarded to the department: Biochemical Engineering
74% rated 4* (world-leading) or 3* (internationally excellent)
Learn more about the scope of UCL's research, and browse case studies, on our Research Impact website.
(Student / staff ratio correct as of current prospectus)
This is a list of titles of research projects available to students on the MRes Synthetic Biology programme in 2015/2016
- Engineering the human microbiota: design and construction of robust therapeutic delivery devices
- Direct cell reprogramming using microfluidic chips
- Design of calcineurin variants containing unnatural amino acids to determine how the phosphatase is targeted during synaptic plasticity
- Directed evolution of functional XNA molecules
- Establishing a high-throughput tRNA charging assay
- Properties of electron transfer in a spin labelled phage
- 'Design and construction of rigid phage and viruses of different lengths and widths as molecular wires'
- Making nanorings with toroidal currents from Ouroboros phage
- Engineering Phaeodactylum for biocatalyst production
- Design and use of de novo pathways for alkaloid biosynthesis
- Design of an artificial signaling system
- Repurposing a versatile genetic payload delivery system through refactoring studies
- Expression of firefly luciferace in CHO cells to act as a reported for transcriptional activity of recombinant proteins
- Engineering Synthetic Biology workflows with Antha-Lang
- A DNA-based synthetic channel for the ligand-controlled transport across bilayers
- Genome engineering to intensify productivity of a stable lentiviral ‘super-packaging’ cell line
- Rewiring the Pichia pastoris genome to maximise industrial production of chiral amino alcohols
- Combinatorial directed co-evolution of two enzymes in a novel pathway
- Aminoacylases: the final step in a de novo pathway to antibiotics
- Synthetic genes for modified Honey Bee silk
- Designing and constructing phages for opto-electronic applications
The MRes in Synthetic Biology is composed of 4 parts; a major research project and 3 taught modules. The taught modules run from the end of September through to March with the research project beginning in January. The choice of research project is made in November. These projects are offered from our own department and other groups spread across UCL which exemplifies the multidisciplinary nature of Synthetic Biology.
The three taught course modules and the research project add up to a total of 180 credits.
Henry de Malmanche, Graduate
(pictured right in photo)
"UCL is one of the few universities in the world offering a Synthetic Biology masters course.
I found the Research masters to be challenging and stimulating - the taught component got me up to speed with the latest development in the field, and the research component allowed me to hone my skills in the laboratory. I was very impressed with the diversity of projects available for the research component of the course. To be able to conduct high-tech research right in the centre of the vast metropolis of London was icing on the cake.
Since finishing the program I have received several offers for various PhD programmes, and I will shortly be beginning a PhD split between New Zealand and Australia working on virus bioprocessing using a synthetic biology approach. Without a doubt the MRes from UCL has opened doors for me whether applying for further postgraduate study or jobs in science and research. Recently I completed an internship at a NZ-based biotechnology company working on a very exciting project involving synthetic biology."
Synthetic biology is a fast growing area of research and will have a major economic and social impact on the global economy in the coming decades. The involvement of engineers, physical scientists, chemists and biologists can create designed cells, enzymes and biological modules that can be combined in a defined manner. These could be used to make complex metabolic pathways for pharmaceuticals, novel hybrid biosensors or novel routes to biofuels. A future integration of biological devices and hybrid devices as components in the electronic industry might lead to a whole new high value industry for structured biological entities.
Recent career destinations for this degree
- Science Technician, King Richard's School
- Scientific consultant, Labcitec
- PhD Synthetic Biology, UCL
- PhD Biochemistry, University of Oxford
- PhD Bioenergy and Industrial Biotechnology, University of Cambridge
The Synthetic Biology MRes will qualify students to go on to work in the growing number of small companies engaged in synthetic biology both here in London and across the UK and the world. There are many large companies that are building their own synthetic biology potential and some of students are already working with these groups. Our students often go on to do further research in PhDs and EngDs globally. Our graduates have practical experience in unique facilities of generating novel research that makes them of great value to employers and collaborators.
Careers data is taken from the ‘Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education’ survey undertaken by HESA looking at the destinations of UK and EU students in the 2012–2014 graduating cohorts six months after graduation.
What is your background?
I did my undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science at the Peninsula School of Medicine and Dentistry at Plymouth University.
I became interested in Synthetic Biology following a module on the final year of my degree on DNA sequencing technology. I was more interested in taking a course that would give me experience in a laboratory than focus on an exam. I think I’ve learned more over the past few weeks working on my project than I did over my degree, especially due to having no experience in Molecular Biology techniques.
What is your research project?
My project aim is to link the Transaminsae and Transketolase Enzymes via a flexible linker and express this fusion enzyme in the yeast Pichia Pastoris. If accomplished it will increase the efficiency of the two step pathway these enzymes are involved in that produces chiral amino alcohols; which is present in 40% of pharmaceuticals.
What inspired you to become a biochemical engineer?
The ability to make things, to be creative. We all consume so much that it’s a great opportunity to actually create something.
What is your aim after graduation?
I am considering studying for a Phd in Biochemical Engineering and then studying medicine.