Synthetic Biology MRes

London, Bloomsbury

This MRes programme trains students in the fast-growing area of synthetic biology, a discipline that takes the knowledge and understanding we now have of the individual parts of biological systems and uses them in a defined way to design and build novel artificial biological systems.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2024/25)
Overseas tuition fees (2024/25)
1 calendar year
Programme starts
September 2024
Applications accepted
Applicants who require a visa: 16 Oct 2023 – 28 Jun 2024
Applications close at 5pm UK time

Applications open

Applicants who do not require a visa: 16 Oct 2023 – 30 Aug 2024
Applications close at 5pm UK time

Applications open

Entry requirements

Normally, a minimum of an upper second-class UK Bachelor's degree in biochemistry, biomedical sciences, life sciences, biochemical engineering, chemical biology or any related subject area, or a medical degree (MBBS), or a physical sciences degree, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. Applicants with an appropriate professional qualification and relevant work experience may also apply.

The English language level for this programme is: Level 1

UCL Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English courses are for international students who are aiming to study for a postgraduate degree at UCL. The courses will develop your academic English and academic skills required to succeed at postgraduate level.

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

If you are intending to apply for a time-limited visa to complete your UCL studies (e.g., Student visa, Skilled worker visa, PBS dependant visa etc.) you may be required to obtain ATAS clearance. This will be confirmed to you if you obtain an offer of a place. Please note that ATAS processing times can take up to six months, so we recommend you consider these timelines when submitting your application to UCL.

Equivalent qualifications

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below. Please note that the equivalency will correspond to the broad UK degree classification stated on this page (e.g. upper second-class). Where a specific overall percentage is required in the UK qualification, the international equivalency will be higher than that stated below. Please contact Graduate Admissions should you require further advice.

About this degree

Students develop an understanding of the areas involved in synthetic biology, including engineering principles, mathematical modelling, advanced molecular biology, microbiology, biochemical engineering and necessary chemistry. Modules also provide the necessary skills for acquisition and critical analysis of the primary scientific literature and transferable research development skills. This programme includes a major research project that will provide in-depth training in synthetic biology research methods.

Who this course is for

This programme attracts students from a wide range of science backgrounds including graduates from biology-based science degrees and the physical, engineering, chemical and mathematical sciences and we train them in this new field, enabling students to transfer these skills to further research, to industry and teaching.

What this course will give you

UCL has a vibrant community of academics who are experts within the fields of synthetic biology, molecular biology and biochemical engineering as well as biological and biomedical sciences. There is an emphasis on laboratory-based work to put into practice the material covered in the taught modules of the course and students are given the opportunity to present their research to their peers and UCL academics as part of their assessment.

The foundation of your career

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 molecular biologists, biochemists, engineers, physical scientists, chemists and biologists can create designed cells, enzymes and biological modules that can be combined in a defined manner. These can be used to make complex metabolic pathways for pharmaceuticals, designed and synthetic cells, novel hybrid biosensors or novel routes to biofuels. A future integration of biological devices and hybrid devices as components in the electronics industry might lead to a whole new high value industry for structured biological entities.


This Synthetic Biology MRes will qualify students to explore work within 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 our 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 of generating novel research with our unique facilities that makes them of great value to employers and collaborators. Some of our MRes graduates have set up their own synthetic biology spin-out companies.


The Synthetic Biology MRes programme isn't just about academic growth; it's also a gateway to a world of exciting networking opportunities. Here's a short summary of the unique ways in which MRes students can connect, collaborate, and create lasting professional relationships:

  1. International Conferences and Symposia: Students may be supported to present their research or attend international forums in London. These events provide a global stage to showcase their work and connect with renowned scholars, researchers, and industry leaders from around the world.
  2. Industry Partnerships: MRes research projects may be offered in collaboration with cutting-edge industries and leading corporations. This integration offers exclusive collaborations, and even on-site visits, forging meaningful connections with professionals at the forefront of innovation.
  3. Alumni Network Access: With access to a vibrant and supportive alumni network, students can connect with accomplished professionals who were once in their shoes. These connections often lead to mentorship, collaboration, and even job opportunities.
  4. Innovation Hubs and Start-up Incubators: For those interested in entrepreneurship, UCL provide access to innovation hubs, incubators, and even seed funding. Connecting with like-minded innovators and successful entrepreneurs adds an entrepreneurial edge to the academic experience.
  5. Themed Networking Events: Themed networking events offered by UCL Careers Service may include anything from hackathons to research "speed dating," where students and professionals engage in rapid-fire discussions and collaborations around research topics.
  6. Collaborative Online Platforms: Utilizing cutting-edge online platforms, students can join virtual collaboration spaces. These digital forums allow for constant communication, collaboration, and idea-sharing with peers, academics, and industry professionals worldwide.

An MRes programme is more than a degree; it's a vibrant ecosystem teeming with opportunities to connect, learn, and grow. From the conventional to the creative, the networking possibilities are crafted to inspire, challenge, and lead you to paths unexplored. Students in the UCL Synthetic Biology MRes community become part of a network that extends beyond academia, into industries, cultures, and innovations that shape our world!

Teaching and learning

The Synthetic Biology MRes programme is designed to provide advanced research skills and knowledge, focusing on innovation, independent inquiry, and critical thinking. Below is a summary of the teaching and learning methods/strategies that are employed, including some unconventional and exciting approaches that set the programme apart.

  1. Interactive Workshops. Students engage in hands-on workshops where they actively experiment, brainstorm, and innovate with their peers. This encourages a collaborative learning environment, promoting the exchange of ideas.
  2. Research Mentorship. A unique one-on-one mentorship programme pairs students with experienced researchers in their field. This personalised approach helps students gain insights into real-world research methodologies and offers tailored guidance.
  3. Global Research Collaborations / Hackathons and Innovation Challenges: Periodic challenges and competitions foster a competitive yet collaborative spirit. These exciting events push students to think outside the box and provide a platform to showcase their innovative research ideas. Each year we support a team of MRes Synthetic Biology students to participate in an international synthetic biology competition, such as GoGec. This enables the building of networks across borders, widens perspectives, and opens doors to global opportunities.
  4. Seminars and Guest Lectures: Regular seminars with industry experts and leading researchers provide insights into cutting-edge research. This exposure to leading professionals in the field helps students stay ahead of the curve.
  5. Self-Directed Learning and Reflection: Encouraging independence, students are given the freedom to discuss the shape of their research path, guided by periodic self-reflection. This fosters a sense of ownership and personal growth.

By intertwining traditional academic rigour with unconventional approaches, the MRes Synthetic Biology programme offers a vibrant, engaging, and highly personalized learning experience. It's a platform for the curious, the innovative, and those willing to push the boundaries of conventional research education. Students and staff on the MRes Synthetic Biology programme are together as part of an exhilarating academic adventure.

The programme is delivered through lectures, seminars and tutorials, combining research-led and skills-based modules. The taught modules are assessed by assignments and coursework. The research project is assessed by an oral presentation, submission of a dissertation and is subject to oral examination.

The Synthetic Biology MRes programme offers a stimulating blend of contact hours and self-directed study that promotes both academic guidance and intellectual independence. Here's a glimpse of what to expect, including some unconventional approaches that redefine the traditional study experience:

Contact Hours:

  1. Interactive Lectures and Workshops: Around 4-8 hours per week, focusing on lively discussions and active participation.
  2. Mentorship Meetings: Regular sessions with research mentors, providing personalized guidance and insight into real-world applications.
  3. Collaborative Research Projects: Regular team meetings fostering collaboration with peers, industry professionals, and international scholars.
  4. Flip Lectures: A proportion of lectures are offered in a flipped format for ease and convenience of access.
  5. Guest Lectures and Seminars: Occasional special sessions with renowned researchers, industry leaders, and global experts.
  6. Self-Directed Study

Independent Research:

  1. Around 10-20 hours per week, depending on the stage of the programme. This time is invested in reading, experimentation, data analysis, and writing, allowing students to deeply explore their chosen field.
  2. Innovative Learning Platforms: Access to online libraries and AI-powered webtools that facilitate self-paced learning and exploration.
  3. Global Collaborations: Flexibility to connect with international peers and researchers, transcending time zones and geographical boundaries.
  4. Personal Growth and Wellness: MRes students are encouraged to practice mindfulness, creativity, and to proritise their well-being within the self-study regimen, ensuring a balanced and holistic learning journey.

The Synthetic Biology MRes programme structure is meticulously designed to inspire curiosity, nurture creativity, and foster innovation. It's more than just attending classes and reading textbooks; it's about immersing oneself in a Synthetic Biology research environment that encourages thinking beyond conventional boundaries. Whether collaborating with a team or engaging in solitary contemplation, each moment is an opportunity to grow, explore, and redefine Synthetic Biology research. Students and staff on the UCL Synthetic Biology MRes programme together embark on an educational adventure that transcends the ordinary!


You will undertake modules to the value of 180 credits.  The MRes Synthetic Biology programme is one calendar year long.

The 9-month research project is 120 credits, the Synthetic Biology taught module is 30 credits and the transferrable skills modules are 15 credits each.

The taught modules start at the beginning of the academic year and the research project starts in November and continues till the end of August.

The taught module in Synthetic Biology spans over Term 1 and Term 2. 

The Transferable Skills in Bioprocess Research and Development is in Term 1 and the Research Skills spans Term 1 and 2.

Please note that the list of modules given here is indicative. This information is published a long time in advance of enrolment and module content and availability are subject to change. Modules that are in use for the current academic year are linked for further information. Where no link is present, further information is not yet available.

Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits. Upon successful completion of 180 credits, you will be awarded an MRes in Synthetic Biology.


Details of the accessibility of UCL buildings can be obtained from AccessAble Further information can also be obtained from the UCL Student Support and Wellbeing team.

Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time
Tuition fees (2024/25) £19,300
Tuition fees (2024/25) £37,500

The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Where the programme is offered on a flexible/modular basis, fees are charged pro-rata to the appropriate full-time Master's fee taken in an academic session. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Students website:

Additional costs

There are no additional costs for this programme.

For more information on additional costs for prospective students please go to our estimated cost of essential expenditure at Accommodation and living costs.

Funding your studies

For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.

UCL East London Scholarship

Deadline: 20 June 2024
Value: Tuition fees plus £15,700 stipend ()
Criteria Based on financial need
Eligibility: UK

Next steps

When we assess your application, we would like to learn:

  • why you want to study Synthetic Biology at graduate level
  • why you want to study Synthetic Biology at UCL
  • what particularly attracts you to the chosen programme
  • how your academic and professional background meets the demands of this challenging programme
  • where you would like to go professionally with your degree

Together with the essential academic requirements, the personal statement is your opportunity to illustrate whether your reasons for applying to this programme match what the programme will deliver. Applicants who have a portfolio are strongly recommended to submit it when they apply.

Please note that you may submit applications for a maximum of two graduate programmes (or one application for the Law LLM) in any application cycle.

Choose your programme

Please read the Application Guidance before proceeding with your application.

Year of entry: 2024-2025

Got questions? Get in touch

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