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MBiol Biological Sciences

The purpose of the MBiol programme is to produce graduates with the knowledge, understanding and skills to undertake a career in research particularly in the area of human health and disease.

Why choose this course?

  • Overall student satisfaction level is 92% (2014 National Student Survey)
  • Biological Sciences at Aston are currently ranked top 5 in the UK regarding Student Satisfaction (2015 Complete University Guide)
  • Research in the School ranked 3rd out of 63 universities in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE)
  • 6-month final-year research project working in the laboratory of one of Aston’s highly-rated research teams
  • Biology at Aston is ranked Top 10 in the UK regarding Satisfaction with Teaching, Overall Student Satisfaction, and Career Prospects in the 2014 Guardian University Guide
  • Biology at Aston is ranked 11th in the UK regarding Teaching Excellence according to the latest Sunday Times University Guide.

4 years full-time or 5 years full-time with integrated placement

UCAS Codes: C114

Typical offers: 
A Levels: ABB-BBB 
IB: 33 points (Biology Higher Level 6 points, plus another science subject at Higher Level)

BTEC, Access & other: 
Contact the admissions tutor for further information

Specific subject requirements: 

A level: Biology or Human Biology A Level at Grade B or above. Chemistry at A/AS level welcomed but not essential.
GCSE: English Language and Maths Grade C.
The purpose of the MBiol programme is to produce graduates with the knowledge, understanding and skills to undertake a career in research particularly in the area of human health and disease.  The first two years of the MBiol programme are the same as BSc Biological Sciences.  Students must obtain a mark of ≥ 60% at the end of their second year to stay on the MBiol programme if not they transfer to Biological Sciences.  The highlight of the programme is a 6-month final year laboratory research project. 


Subject Guide & Modules

Details of the first and second year modules are listed below. Each one of these modules typically comprises approximately 100 learning hours which include lectures, tutorials, practical classes, directed student-centred learning and preparation for coursework assignments and examinations.

In the third year a Literature Research Project, Immunology, Applied Molecular Biology, Bioethics, and a Practical Key Skills module are compulsory with two other modules chosen from the list of third year modules given below.

In the final year a Research Skills module and Laboratory Research Project are compulsory with four other modules chosen from the list below.

Year 1

  • Microbiology I - provides the student with an introduction to bacterial physiology, pathogenicity, infectious diseases and clinical microbiology.
  • Biochemistry - provides the student with an overview of the structure of biological macromolecules and the small molecules from which they are assembled.
  • Physiology - provides students with a theoretical and practical approach to the physiology of nerves and the nervous system, muscle, brain, endocrine glands, cardiovascular system, respiratory system, blood, kidneys, gastro-intestinal tract and digestion.
  • Inheritance and Population Genetics - examines the modes of inheritance of the gene. This module also introduces students to some of the underlying principles of population genetics.
  • Development and Human Anatomy - reviews the principles and foundation elements of embryology and the study of human anatomy.
  • Cell Biology - provides a basic introduction to cellular components and processes involved in the birth, life and death of cells.
  • Molecular Biology - provides students with a basic introduction to the nature, properties, structure, function and replication of genes.
  • Introductory Immunology - provides the student with an understanding of the immune system as an integrated system of tissues, cells and molecules.  This module also explores the cellular and molecular basis of immunity and examines how these may be controlled.
  • Key Skills - comprises a series of academic tutorials with a personal tutor and a series of workshops on career management and IT skills. 

Year 2

  • Microbiology II - covers microorganisms of medical importance including Gram-positive, Gram-negative and intracellular bacteria from the perspective of clinical manifestations, microbial pathogenesis; infection control and prevention.
  • Metabolism - provides the student with an understanding of major pathways of intermediary metabolism and their integration and regulation.
  • Molecular Genetics - describes the molecular basis for the regulation of gene transcription and presents the key techniques in gene manipulation. 
  • Biotechnology - provides an insight into the importance of biotechnology and commercial biology including fermentation, large scale microbial culture, antibiotic production and tissue culture.
  • Nutrition and Dietetics - provides the student with the basic concepts in human nutrition and dietetics including macronutrients, obesity, vitamins and minerals, food allergy and diabetes.
  • Endocrinology - provides a detailed study of the endocrine system, extending and developing information covered in earlier parts of the course.
  • Molecular Pathology - examines some of the molecular mechanisms involved in cell growth, differentiation, maturation and senescence.
  • Immunology II - provides the student with an understanding of the immune system as an integrated system of tissues, cells and molecules.
  • Key Skills II - focuses on personal and professional development, group work, scientific communication and preparation for the placement year.

Year 3

Core 

  • Research Project - Literature-based, using advanced techniques such as systematic review and meta-analysis
  • Key Practical Skills - three extended laboratory courses plus problem solving exercises
  • Immunology - explores the cellular and molecular basis of immunity and examines how these may be controlled.
  • Applied Molecular Biology - provides in-depth explanation of genetic engineering techniques and their applications.
  • Bioethics - considers ethical issues related to social factors, healthcare and research in the biological arena.

Optional (choose two) 

  • Human Physiology - provides a detailed study of the mechanisms and processes through which the body achieves and maintains homeostasis.
  • Food Microbiology - provides a study of the relationship between food and health including the scientific, technical and manufacturing factors which influence food quality and safety.
  • Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease - provides an overview of microbiology and infectious diseases within the community and hospital setting and methods of diagnosing infection.
  • Cell Biology - investigates current models of how proteins regulate and execute the cellular process of differentiation, migration, protein trafficking, synapse formation and vesicle release.
  • Medical Biochemistry - provides a detailed study of the application of chemical and biochemical methods to the study of disease.
  • Toxicology - informs the student of the basis of the toxicity of xenobiotic compounds including drugs and environmental toxins.
  • Cell Biology of Cancer Metastasis - provides an insight into the organisation of the cell cytoskeleton and how modification of this structure leads to changes in migratory properties that occur when cells become malignant.
  • Biological Basis of Human Disease - considers the basic biological principals underlying the development of diseases in man.
  • Cancer Biology - considers the causes of cancer, its detection, prevention and treatment.

Final Year

Core 

  • Research Project - 6 month laboratory project
  • Research Skills - Research proposal, critical appraisal of research seminars, reflective practice.

Optional (choose four) 

  • Neurodegenerative disease - considers the theoretical background and experimental techniques that have led to the current understanding of the cellular basis of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, motor neuron disease and demyelinating diseases.  Regeneration of the damaged central nervous system
  • Obesity and metabolic disorders - provides understanding of the biology of energy metabolism and of adipose tissue, and the epidemiology and biomedical causes and consequences of obesity and associated metabolic diseases.
  • Stem Cell Biology - develops an understanding of what a stem cell is and of how stem cells are being developed as research tools and medicines.
  • Enzyme technology - provides a state of the art description of the applications of enzymes in a variety of commercial situations.  Laboratory-based practicals will demonstrate some of the key elements of enzymatic catalysis. The module will close with a discussion of possible future technologies.
  • Oxidative stress and inflammatory disease - provides students with an understanding of the role of redox signalling and oxidative damage in inflammation and disease.
  • ABC transporters in health and disease - considers the structure and function of ABC drug efflux transporters, their roles in the body and how they are linked to diseases.

The year involves a twelve-month professional work placement (sandwich course) between the second and third years of the degree.  This offers students the opportunity to gain valuable experience and set their studies in the context of a working environment alongside professional biologists.  
Our recent placements have been with: 
  • Research institutes
  • The food industry
  • Pharmaceutical companies (e.g. AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline)
  • Clinical trials
  • Medical sales
  • Biotechnology companies
  • Overseas universities.

Find out more about placement years in the Life & Health Sciences.

We use a range of assessment methods, although the typical methods are coursework and an end of year examination.  Exams generally take the form of unseen essay, short answer and multiple choice questions.  Coursework assessments take many forms and could include essays, reports of individual and group practical assignments, oral presentations and laboratory reports.  We specifically encourage team working in some assignments in which there will be peer assessments where you will assess the contribution of your colleagues and vice-versa.

For further information, see the programme specification (PDF).

Graduate employment for Biology students mirrors the outstanding success of Aston University as a whole. 30-40% of our graduates go into research, while others enter a wide range of careers in health, welfare and the biological industries.  This new programme aims to produce graduates suitable for a career in research within Universities, Research Institutes or industry.

MBiol graduates will leave university equipped with key skills including:

  • Advanced laboratory techniques
  • Independent learning
  • Experimental design
  • Time management
  • Problem solving
  • Critical analysis
  • Communication (written/oral)
  • Presentation
  • Team working
  • Report writing
  • IT
  • Debating.
  • Modern lecture and tutorial rooms equipped with full interactive AV facilities
  • Modern laboratories with up-to-date equipment and projection facilities for demonstration purposes
  • 130-seater computer laboratory equipped with Intel Core computers linked to key networks
  • Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) using Blackboard 9 software to support learning
  • Wide range of learning resources – such as up to date key texts, scientific journals and e-journals and databases, CD-ROMs and media publications
  • Newly refurbished and extended Aston University Library open 7 days a week all year round and 24 hours a day, 6 days a week at key times of the academic year.

Biology at Aston University is part of the School of Life and Health Sciences (LHS), which also includes The Pharmacy School, Optometry, Biomedical Science and Psychology undergraduate programmes and a thriving research culture. There are over 30 teaching and research staff in Biology with other LHS staff also undertaking Biology related teaching.

Contact lhsadmissions@aston.ac.uk for further informattion, or Tel: 0121 204 4101.


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Employable Graduates; Exploitable Research