MRes course overview and modules

The CoMPLEX MRes is designed to give students a broad overview of the cutting edge research at the interface of the life and mathematical and physical sciences.  Students are strongly encouraged to select projects from a wide range of research topics, to gain a full understanding of the field. 

Course Percentage
Foundation courses
The foundation courses are essential for background knowledge, but also for students to gain an overview of the range of science covered in CoMPLEX to help choose their future research.
Case presentations
Three assessed essays on interdisciplinary work.  Projects are set by two scientists: one from life sciences and the other from the mathematical/physical sciences.
Summer projects
Four month interdisciplinary project.  The project may be theoretical or practical and will involve original research.
Transferable skills
Training in statistics in biology, computer programming, web design, poster and oral presentations, bibliographic software and online bibliographic databases, writing research proposals, refereeing papers and safety in the laboratory.

Please note that attendance at all courses, seminars, and Case Presentations is compulsory.

During the first few weeks of the MRes course students are asked to meet with the graduate tutors who will be able to suggest a range of courses, which they may wish to undertake. Many students sit through undergraduate courses in mathematics and basic modern biology covering; genetics, molecular biology, cell biology, physiology and ecology. The need to attend these courses is based on individual needs and does not contribute towards the overall MRes score.

To demonstrate the students' understanding of interdisciplinary research, an oral examination viva will take place at the end of the year.

Foundation courses

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The foundation courses are essential for background knowledge, but also for students to gain an overview of the range of science covered in CoMPLEX to help choose their future research.

Students from a mathematical or physical sciences background are encouraged to take undergraduate courses in basic modern biology covering genetics, molecular biology, cell biology, physiology and ecology.  Students from the life sciences may take courses in mathematics based on individual need. All students take four courses developed specifically for the programme:

  • ABMB:  Advanced Biological Modelling and Bioinformatics
    Lectures on dynamical systems, reaction diffusion equations, cellular automata, stochastic modelling, curve fitting, Markov chains and coalescent theory as applied to biological systems. There will be a computer laboratory practical course which run in parallel with ABMB.
  • ITPL:  Introduction to Physical Techniques in the Life Sciences
    The ITPL course introduces optical probe, scanning probe and nanoelectrochemical techniques.  The course includes lectures and time in laboratories across UCL.
  • ABC Course: Analysis of Biological Complexity
    The ABC course moves rapidly from basic biology to the analysis of core biological concepts and systems within the framework of modern complex systems theory.
  • MBA course
    Collection and analysis work in the Laboratory of the Marine Biological Association (MBA), Plymouth for one week. Work includes ecological data collection and analysis, long term changes in speciation in the English Channel.

Students are not required to sit written examinations in these foundation courses.

Case Presentations

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Students are required to undertake three Case Presentations during the MRes year. The Case Presentations are designed to describe an active interdisciplinary problem, which forms the basis of the research for the project. The basis of Case Presentations is most usually a pair of lectures, one given by a life scientist and one by a mathematical/physical scientist.
In each presentation the life scientist first sets out the biological/medical background to a particular research challenge, and discusses the specific focus for collaborative work. The mathematical/physical scientist then explains how mathematical, computational or physical techniques can be applied to gain insight into the biological issues. Students have a choice of Case Presentations to pursue and if they choose a particular presentation then tutorial discussions with the presenters help students to consolidate their understanding.
Each Case Presentation typically takes 6 weeks to complete; these projects form a major part of the assessment. Usually the first of these is based on a topic selected from the foundation courses (typically the ABC course), and the remaining two are based on topics chosen from a series of set presentations.
Case projects are essentially extended essays, where students should demonstrate that they have understood both the life sciences issue and the mathematical/physical science techniques used to address it. In addition, students should provide some original input into the topic, whether by way of suggested future research directions, new applications of existing techniques, or even novel analysis. General guidance and advice can be found on the Case Essay Guidelines Section. During the Case Presentation element of the course, it may be possible to undertake a short practical project to replace one of the essays. 

Summer project

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Students will undertake a summer research project which will run from late May/early June onwards for about 12 weeks. The project may be theoretical or practical and will involve original research. A list of potential topics and supervisors will be circulated to students, but they are free to suggest a topic of the students' own choosing, provided that suitable supervisors can be identified.
Summer projects must demonstrate evidence of substantial original interdisciplinary thinking. Work that merely describes a biological model, or develops a technique from the mathematical, computational or physical sciences but draws no biological conclusions is not sufficient.

Transferable skills

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This is provided through selected tasks and fixed components organised by CoMPLEX.

There are ten transferable skills tasks and components during the MRes year; eight are equally weighted marked assessments, which together make up the transferable skills module mark of the MRes year. However, attendance is strictly compulsory for the remaining two components, in addition to the seminar series.

The transferable skills module accounts for 20% of the overall mark of the MRes year.

Marked Assessments:

Attendance Compulsory:

Support documents and advice can be found on the MRes Guidelines Section.


During the MRes, students do not undertake any written examinations. However students will need to complete a viva (oral examination), to demonstrate their understanding of interdisciplinary research. The viva will cover any element of the taught course including; Generic and Transferable skills, all three Case Presentations that they have completed, and their submitted Summer Project.

Page last modified on 04 oct 13 14:53