Postgraduate study
Life & Physical Sciences

MSc Microbiology

The MSc Microbiology develops comprehensive knowledge and understanding of microbial science in the 21st century, and its contribution to solving global challenges facing humanity. As such it focuses on applying techniques and methods related to molecular biology, microbial culture and classification and in the functional analysis of microbial genomes and microbiomes associated with disease, the biotechnology industry and the environment. These subject areas are developed in great depth depending on your interest or desired career aspirations.

Course information


  • September enrolment: 1 year, January enrolment: 16 months, including a summer break

More full-time details

2019 entry


  • September enrolment: 2 years, including a summer break, January enrolment: 28 months, including two summer breaks

More part-time details

2019 entry

Contact details

Further information


The course provides the theoretical knowledge, understanding and practical skills to ensure a solid grounding in core and applied microbiology, along with the transferable skills which are essential to enhance your employability options. This aims to prepare you for a broad range of careers within industrial, commercial, government and environmental settings and further postgraduate study.

You are introduced to some of the contemporary issues facing the industry and the course provides hands-on practical experience of both laboratory and bioinformatics techniques. Staff can offer expertise in medical, industrial and environmental microbiology, molecular, cell and system biology, recombinant DNA technology, protein biochemistry, structural biology, fermentation, bioengineering and many other areas. During the course, you have the opportunity to investigate diverse areas of microbiology which are of concern to the healthcare, environmental, ecological and biotechnological sectors. You also have the chance to undertake research in relation to medical, environmental or industrial microbiology, which can further enhance your knowledge, skills and career options.

The course will be delivered at the Darlington Campus, utilising both the facilities provided by the nearby National Horizons Centre (NHC) and the University’s Centre for Professional and Executive Development. The NHC is a £22m research, teaching and training facility which addresses the growth needs of the bio-based industries set to transform the UK economy, including biologics, industrial biotechnology and bio-pharmaceuticals.

Next to CPI’s National Biologics Manufacturing Centre, the NHC is at the heart of an ecosystem of life science excellence. Our extensive links with NHS and private laboratories, ensure course content is kept up to date and relevant to employers. The centre’s imaginative design includes a blend of teaching, learning and collaboration spaces, hi-tech laboratories and a state-of-the-art computing suite. Open innovation spaces provide students and businesses with the tools for project development using data analytics, modelling and simulation, visualisation and process improvement and control.

The NHC also offers analytical and digital infrastructure supporting basic and applied research in the biosciences and across disciplinary boundaries, aligned to academic excellence and industry needs. The NHC will expose you to a significant internationally- competitive research and innovation capability that is responsive and engaged with industry needs in the bioscience sector.

Facilities within the National Horizons Centre enable students to engage with a range of advance and innovative research themes including:

• provision of a comprehensive genomic, proteomic, metabolomics data acquisition, processing and
modelling capability with internationally competitive instrumentation, software and technical
• studies of disease pathways including biomarker discovery, treatment monitoring, development of
diagnostics and screening. Supported by bioinformatics modelling and development of predictive
• biopharmaceutical research including product characterisation, metabolism and drug interaction studies
• protein structure/function studies including aggregation, modification, activation and inhibition
• use of advanced cellular imaging capabilities, including live cell imaging, using light, confocal and
Raman microscopy.

This will enable the study of, among other topics;
o molecular interactions
o conformational changes
o drug interactions with living cells
o tissue characterisation.

For an MSc award you must successfully complete 120 credits of taught modules and a 60-credit master's research project.

Course structure

Core modules

Analytical Techniques

You focus on a range of analytical instrumentation used in bioscience research applications. Emphasis will be placed upon chromatography, mass spectrometry and spectroscopy instrumentation. The importance of these practical instrumentation techniques to modern investigations, including proteomics, metabolomics and genomics, will be explored. You will learn advanced laboratory skills for sample extraction, sample preparation, instrumentation methodology and how to interpret spectra. You will develop essential data handling skills, including the use of a range of statistical programmes.

Fermentation Biotechnology

You explore the fundamentals of fermentation technology, a multi-disciplinary area of biotechnology which involves skills in science and engineering. Fermentation technology is ubiquitous – it ranges from the production of food in a kitchen to the synthesis of sophisticated, extremely high-value, cutting-edge therapeutics. The principle of bioprocess technology involve the use of cells as micro-factories to manufacture the product of interest. The cellular products can be directly utilised or, alternatively, the cells can be engineered to produce products of interest.

Genomics and Bioinformatics

You gain an in depth understanding of advances genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics knowledge and their applications in specific disease state. You learn about the most recent technologies including next generation gene sequencing, genome editing, genomic and bioinformatics analyses. This module also explores the genomic application for disease treatment and prevention (pharmacogenomics), personalised medicine as well as ethical challenges in this field.

Microbial Diversity and Environmental Microbiology

You examine the scale of microbial diversity, its ubiquitous nature and biogeographic patterns. This will be followed by analysis of how environmental variables can impact on microbial diversity and ultimately ecosystem function with the use of case studies. You critically discuss modern methodologies used for studying microbial diversity within varied environmental samples.

Pathobiology of Infectious Diseases

You gain a deep understanding of infectious disease and will cover a wide range of medically-important human pathogens. Key aspects of pathobiology will be taught including pathogen genomics and evolution, bioinformatics, and the cellular and molecular biology that underpin these host pathogen interactions. Subversion of key mammalian cell biological processes, including immunology, that are targeted by pathogens will also be described. Advanced laboratory techniques and bioinformatics will be introduced that are commonly used to uncover mechanisms of pathogenesis.

Research Project

Investigate an area of engineering or science for an extended period through a research project or design project, working independently at a level recognised as at the forefront of the discipline. You develop key research skills, applying and creating your knowledge through keynote lectures and self-managed independent study. You will demonstrate your capacity for comprehensive and objective analysis, and for developing innovative and constructive proposals as a solution to the project topic. We support you through tutorials and/or one-to-one guidance but you require a high degree of autonomy.


Optional modules

Clinical Biochemistry and Diagnostic Techniques

You explore advanced topics in biochemistry with special focus on clinical applications and diagnostic techniques. This involves the study of clinical analysis of bodily fluids and other biological materials to aid in the diagnosis, therapy and monitoring of a variety of diseases. You will acquire the knowledge necessary for understanding the essential concepts of clinical biochemistry and of the associated diagnostic techniques.

Omics and Systems Approaches in Biology

You gain an extensive, critical and integrative understanding of how modern ‘omics’ analysis approaches are used to make inferences about biological functions. ‘Omics’ includes genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics. In addition, you gain a detailed overview of the use of ‘omics’ data in analysis at a systems level - systems biology - and of the relationship between protein structure analysis and the proteome. You cover experimental design and the practicalities of analysing large ‘omics’ datasets. You will put these analysis concepts into practice during extensive computer lab practicals.


Modules offered may vary.

How you learn

Making the transition to postgraduate-level study can be challenging. Support with making this transition is seen as an important element of this programme. 

The Analytical Techniques and Fermentation Biotechnology modules help you understand the requirements of academic study at postgraduate level, to enhance your skills in academic writing and referencing, and to help you develop the skills necessary to operate professionally and ethically in planning and implementing a master’s-level research project.

By including work-based problem-solving projects and case study exercises this programme emphasises real-world working. This helps to blend theory and knowledge in the context of business, allowing you to develop the skills employers are seeking to set you on a successful career path. 

A significant feature of the programme is the opportunity to gain experience of working in state-of-the-art biomedical research facilities within the National Horizon Centre.

Our expertise in disciplines such as biochemistry, microbiology and biomedical science allows us to exploit technology and develop ground breaking ideas in the fields of genetics, molecular biology, and protein science.

How you are assessed

You are assessed on subject knowledge, independent thought and skills acquisition through formative and summative assessment. 

Modules are assessed by a variety of methods including examination and in-course assessment with some utilising other approaches such as, oral presentations, technical interviews and technical reports alongside literature surveys, evaluations and summaries.

You are presented with an assessment schedule providing details of the submission deadlines for summative assessments.

Work placement

There may be short-term placement opportunities, particularly during the project phase of the course.

Career opportunities

The MSc Microbiology programme provides you with the academic, analytical and practical skills to assist you in to many careers.

Many of our graduates choose to continue in research careers and begin PhDs or become research scientists (research assistants or technicians). Our scientists have obtained posts in universities, industry (including oil and gas), biotechnology and hospital diagnostic and pathology laboratories.

More generally, microbiologists can use their training in education, working in schools, colleges of further education and in Universities. Further opportunities are available to apply microbiology training in scientific publishing, in patent offices working on biological patents, in science outreach and contributing to the public understanding of microbiological issues.

Entry requirements

Applicants are normally expected to have at least a UK 2.2 honours degree, or equivalent, in a subject with significant biosciences content.

Examples of acceptable first degree subjects include biomedical science, biochemistry, biological sciences, human biology, forensic biology and animal science.

In addition, international students normally need at least a 6.0, with no component below 5.5, in the International Language Testing System (IELTS) test.

If your first degree is not in one of the subject areas listed above please contact our admissions team for guidance and advice on how you might become eligible. We may be able to offer you alternative access routes.

For additional information please see the entry requirements in our admissions section

International applicants can find out what qualifications they need by visiting Your Country

Course information


  • September enrolment: 1 year, January enrolment: 16 months, including a summer break

More full-time details

2019 entry


  • September enrolment: 2 years, including a summer break, January enrolment: 28 months, including two summer breaks

More part-time details

2019 entry

Contact details

Further information