MRes Students

Information, guidelines and regulations for the MRes in Modelling Biological Complexity.

Programme Information and Overview

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.  

  • Foundation courses (unweighted)
  • Mini-Projects (weighted 40%)
  • Summer projects (weighted 40%)
  • Transferable skills (weighted 20%)

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

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. 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 SciencesThe 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.

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


Students are required to undertake three Mini-Projects during the MRes year. The Mini-Projects are designed to describe an active interdisciplinary problem, which forms the basis of the research for the project. The basis of Mini-Projects 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 Mini-Projects to pursue and if they choose a particular presentation then tutorial discussions with the presenters help students to consolidate their understanding.
Each Mini-Project 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, and the remaining two are based on topics chosen from a series of set presentations.
Mini-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 current students' page. During the Mini-Project element of the course, it may be possible to undertake a short practical project to replace one of the essays. 

Summer Project

Students will undertake a summer research project which will run from late May/early June onwards for about 11 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

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:

  • Web Development
  • Poster Presentation
  • Oral Presentations (project proposal and post summer project)
  • Refereeing Papers
  • Reflective Essay
  • Computer Programming Task
  • Biological Database Task

Attendance Compulsory:

  • Statistics in Biology
  • Journal Club

Support documents and advice can be found on the current studnets' page.


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 Mini-Projects that they have completed, and their submitted Summer Project.

Dates and Deadlines
9th October 2017Start of lectures
6th November 2017ITPL practical week
15th December 2017End of lectures
8th January 2018Start of Mini-project 1
21st February 2018Mini-project 1 deadline
26th February 2018Start of Mini-project 2
11th April 2018Mini-project 2 deadline
16th April 2018Start of Mini-project 3
30th May 2018Mini-project 3 deadline
4th June 2018Start of Summer Project
2nd  July 2018Summer Project presentation 1
24th August 2018Summer Project deadline
28th August 2018Summer Project presentation 2
14th September 2018MRes Vivas
Coursework Penalties

Late Submission

These penalties apply to all Mini-Projects, Transferable Skills and Summer Project work.

The mark will be reduced by 5 percentage marks for the first 24 hours (working day) after the deadline. The mark will be reduced by a further 10 percentage marks if the coursework is submitted during the following six days. Coursework received more than seven days after the deadline will receive a mark of zero.

Where there are extenuating circumstances that have been recognized by the Board of Examiners, these penalties will not apply until the agreed extension period has been exceeded. A form must be completed to document extenuating circumstances, along with corresponding evidence; you should notify the Centre Administrator and submit the form at the time of or as soon as possible after the incidence of the circumstances concerned, and in any case no later than seven days after the deadline for the affected assessment.

Students are expected to plan their time sensibly, and take appropriate precautions to back-up and safe-guard their work. In most cases, computer failures, virus infections or similar will therefore not be regarded as an extenuating circumstance.

Over-length Coursework

You must strictly adhere to the word count limit set for each element of assessed work; this is a maximum of 5,000 words for Mini-Projects and 15,000 words for the Summer Project. This will avoid including extraneous information; it is also good practice for journal writing, for example.

Assessed work with a stated word count above the prescribed word count will not be accepted for submission, but will be immediately returned with instructions to reduce the word count. The work may then be resubmitted but the original deadline for submission still applies and penalties for late submission will be applied as above.

If submitted coursework does exceed the word limit but by less than 10%, the mark will be reduced by 10 percentage marks; but the penalised mark will not be reduced below the pass mark, assuming the work merited a pass. For work that exceeds the word limit by 10% or more, a mark of zero will be recorded.

The word count does not include figures, tables, displayed equations or references. If you've produced material that cannot be compressed into the word limit, we suggest that the best of the material is put into the report, and any additional material can be placed into an appendix. Please note that marks will not take the appendix into account, but this gives you the opportunity to archive any additional work you have done.

Plagiarism and Research Misconduct

UCL expects all researchers to act in a professional manner. Research misconduct in any form cannot be tolerated. Regulations concerning plagiarism, including self-plagiarism, and other forms of research misconduct are set out in the Examinations Section of the Academic Regulations and Guidelines for Research Degree Students.

Please consult the UCL Plagiarism Statement for further information.

Award Criteria - Pass, Merit, Distinction


Module Code 

% of MRes marks 

Credit Value 




Foundation CoursesCPLXG001 P
Mini-Projects (average mark of all 3 mini-projects)CPLXG004 40 72 50 50 50 
Summer ProjectCPLXG099 40 72 50 60 70 
Transferable and Generic Skills CPLXG003 20 36 50 50 50 
Overall Mark  180 50 60 70 

Note: For an award of a Masters degree a maximum of 25% of the taught element (i.e. excluding the Projects) may be condoned at 40 - 49%.

Marking Guidelines

A copy of the marking guidelines that are distributed to supervisors relating to Mini-projects and the Summer project can be found below. 

Marking Criteria

Mini-projects and the Summer Project report should be marked against all of the following:

i) The candidate understands the biological background of the project and has clearly formulated the biological problem they have addressed.

ii) The candidate has chosen appropriate methods from the mathematical, computational or physical sciences for the biological problem to be examined and understands them.

iii) The candidate is aware of the relationship between the biological and mathematical parts of the subject.

iv) The candidate has provided original new research. In assessing this aspect, examiners should bear in mind the time available for the summer project and that negative results are as valuable as positive results.

v) The candidate has presented their work in a clear and logical fashion, has indicated its relationship to the existing body of published work and has given appropriate credit to relevant sources. (Please note - plagiarism, or any other form of research misconduct, cannot be tolerated no matter what the intention.)

Please use the full range of marks. As a guide we suggest the following:

<50 Unacceptable, a fail at Masters level. In this situation, the candidate's report may contain a number of important misunderstandings about the mathematical, computational or physical sciences or the biology, or the integration of the two. The report will probably also provide a poor review of the literature perhaps with serious omissions and no original contribution of merit.

50-59 The candidate's work clearly has merit. However, work at the lower end of this range will probably contain significant errors with regard to either the mathematics/physical sciences or the biology. At any point in this range we would expect the report to be essentially a literature review where there is little original contribution or where the candidate may have significant difficulties formulating any type of biologically realistic model.

60-69 This work will be of good quality. We expect these reports to be well researched and to show a reasonable understanding of how mathematical and physical analysis relates to the biological problem.

It will also clearly contain some worthwhile, original work or ideas for marks at the higher end of this range.

70-79 This should only be awarded where the project is deemed of very high quality in the way it meets the above criteria, containing no substantive errors and showing a strong original contribution.

80-89 This should only be awarded where the project is deemed outstanding as judged against all of above criteria and clearly contains an exceptionally strong original contribution.

>90 This is reserved for work of very exceptional quality in all aspects listed under the marking criteria. Few students would normally meet this standard and it should be reserved for very exceptional individuals who have clearly made a significant contribution to their area of study.

Academic Guidelines

Extenuating Circumstances

The Extenuating Circumstances regulations define how UCL can support students who experience sudden, unexpected difficulties which may affect their performance at assessment. Click here for more information

Interruption of Studies


 Interruption of Study is for students who require a temporary break from their studies and plan to resume their studies at a future date. Students who want to interrupt because of a disability, illness or other Extenuating Circumstance should also consider other options available to them. Click here for more information

Tier 4 Visa Students Responsibilities

A Tier 4 visa is issued for study in the UK. To maintain your visa rights in the UK you must continue at all times to meet the terms and conditions of your visa. If we become aware that you are not complying with the conditions of your visa, we are under an obligation to report this to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). Click here for more information

Non-academic Guidelines

Student Academic Representatives

StARS (Student Academic Representatives) are elected to represent students' views to UCL. StARS sit on various committees at a programme, faculty and University level, at which they act as the voice of the students, ensuring that UCL takes into account the needs of students in its decision-making processes. StARS achieve this through liaising with UCLU and UCL staff to resolve issues. More Information about the StARS can be found here.

The current list of CoMPLEX StARS can be requested from the CoMPLEX office: complex.admin@ucl.ac.uk

Careers Guidance

UCL Careers is a UCL department and is part of The Careers Group, University London. 

They provide a wide variety of careers information, one-to-one guidance and events to current UCL students and staff and to recent UCL graduates. They are there to support you at all stages of your career journey during and after your time here at UCL. 

They also provide a wide range of recruitment solutions for employers or other organisations who are targeting UCL students and graduates. 

Their website can be found here.

Role of Graduate Tutor

Prof Geraint Thomas is the Departmental Graduate Tutor for CoMPLEX. Often referred to by the acronym DGT, each department has an experienced member of academic staff from whom you can seek advice if you need to talk to someone beyond your immediate supervisory team.

Prof Geraint Thomas can be contacted by email: g.thomas@ucl.ac.uk

Student Support and Wellbeing

UCL team of expert wellbeing, disability and mental health advisers provide a safe, confidential and non-judgemental space, in which you can discuss any issues that may be affecting your ability to study.

Their website can be found here.



DEOLOs (Departmental Equal Opportunities Liaison Officers) are a local resource within the department to whom students and staff can come for information and advice, distributing and drawing attention to new equality developments and legislative change and ensuring students and staff are familiar with the relevant UCL equality and diversity policies and procedures.

CoMPLEX DEOLO is Gemma Ludbrook, email: g.ludbrook@ucl.ac.uk

Teacher Training and Support

Arena One offer a range of workshops and training for staff and any students who are hoping to get involved in tutoring or teaching. Further information on the courses available can be found here. To register for any of the Gateway Courses please use the official registration form.