Course overview

Neuroscience for Drug Discovery is a specialised field within the field of neuroscience and pharmacology that focuses on using insights from neuroscience research to discover and develop novel pharmaceutical interventions for the treatment of neurological and neurodevelopmental disorders such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s and auto-immune diseases. 

It represents an interdisciplinary approach that combines the knowledge of how the nervous system functions with treatment targets and drug development strategies. Once potential drug targets are identified, researchers work on identifying compounds or drugs that can modulate these key elements and restore normal function or alleviate symptoms. This includes repurposing of existing approved drugs for use in new disease areas or new patient populations. 


“We want our students to become active members of academic and industrial research communities in the field of neuroscience and drug discovery, learning state-of-the-art approaches in our facilities and joining us in pursuit of new understanding and treatments that make a difference.”

Professor Gavin Woodhall
Neuroscience for Drug Discovery MSc
Professor of Neuroscience for Drug Discovery and Co-Director of Aston Institute for Health and Neurodevelopment

Why Neuroscience for Drug Discovery at Aston University?

Internationally recognised research
Train with leading brain researchers. We are ranked 10th in the UK for research in Allied Health Professionals in terms of Research Power (REF, 2021)
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Research active staff
Learn from active neuroscience researchers who specialise in areas such as epilepsy, Parkinson's, dyslexia, autism, learning and development specialist areas of bioscience research
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Specialist equipment and knowledge
Study in research-level laboratories with expert researchers in neuroscience and pharmacology

Course description

Neuroscience for Drug Discovery MSc

As a Neuroscience for Drug Discovery student you will join an innovative programme integrating fundamental neuroscience with translational medical research, encouraging you to bridge the gap between fundamental research and the development of novel therapeutic interventions. 

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What we will provide
As a postgraduate student and active researcher in this field, you will join an exciting body of scientists aiming to enhance our understanding of neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders. During your year at Aston, you will study specialist modules that combine theory and practice through small group tutorials, lectures, and hands-on laboratory sessions in bespoke, highly equipped teaching and research laboratories. You’ll complete a core curriculum of four taught modules which will provide you with a detailed understanding and critical analysis of the contemporary research and analysis methods used in neuroscience and drug discovery: 

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What you will provide
Postgraduate students are required to balance academic work and research projects. You will be expected to engage with teaching materials, online lectures, and in-person sessions. It is important you learn how to adapt a growth mindset to your studies - understand that intelligence and success come from applying yourself, you must be able to demonstrate critical thinking and have ambition and drive to excel. 

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What skills we teach
In addition to core neuroscience theory and advanced neuroscience laboratory skills, the Neuroscience for Drug Discovery course emphasizes professional development and research-related communication skills, with a dedicated Professional Development for Neuroscientists module. Here you will develop your abilities in areas such as oral and written presentation, personal promotion and employability, intellectual property, scientific writing, systematic review and meta-analysis, and research ethics. 

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Career prospects
Our teaching is research-led and prepares graduates for careers across a variety of sectors including academic research, pharmaceutical, medical, and clinical roles, and wider scientific professions.

How you will learn

During your year at Aston, you will study specialist modules that combine theory and practice through small group tutorials, lectures, and hands-on laboratory sessions in bespoke, highly-equipped teaching and research laboratories. You’ll complete a core curriculum of four taught modules which will provide you with a detailed understanding and critical analysis of the contemporary research and analysis methods used in neuroscience and drug discovery.

You will access theoretical learning materials for general study, revision and assessment through our virtual learning platform blackboard. This platform allows you to access a comprehensive range of study materials, recorded lectures, online tutorials, scientific journals, e-journals, databases and much more. 

What you will learn

You will have the opportunity to complete research practical’s using some of the advanced technologies of Neuroscience, including real-time recording of brain cells using research-grade in vitro setups, receptor pharmacology experiments, molecular neuroscience techniques and EEG and EMG. These sessions are supported by training in core research skills such as formulating a scientific research question, scoping and implementing research designs, and advanced programming and data analysis. 

The major practical component of the course is the research dissertation project, which will provide you with the opportunity to develop, implement and communicate an original piece of research. This project is completed with the support of a research mentor in neuroscience, pharmacology and related fields. 


You will have access to state-of-the-art research laboratories which are equipped with multiple neuroscience recording set ups to allow real-time recording of brain cells in vitro, EEG and EMG, as well as advanced instrumentation for molecular biology, cell culture, neuroimaging, and drug screening. 

At Aston University, enjoy full access to all the facilities including the university’s library, labs, study spaces, cafes and more. 

Course objectives

  1. To provide you with an advanced, intellectually rigorous and up-to-date education in neuroscience, including anatomical, pharmacological, physiological, molecular biological, developmental, behavioural and psychological based understandings of the structure and functions of the nervous system.
  2. To support you in developing advanced skills and abilities in research and enquiry, information literacy, personal and intellectual autonomy, ethical, social and professional understanding.  
  3. To provide you with an excellent learning experience that draws on the research of Aston academic staff and utilises the research-quality laboratory equipment.
  4. To produce graduates who can bring qualities of critical judgement and reasoning to their chosen occupation and who are capable of applying and disseminating knowledge to a variety of audiences. 
  5. To produce graduates who understand the linkage between different areas of neuroscience and are able to apply this knowledge to related areas. 


Taught stage modules

In the taught stage, you will study the following core modules, in addition to three of the optional modules:

Core ModulesCredits
Advanced Neuroscience - A comprehensive and deep dive into the science of anatomy, physiology, cellular and molecular neuroscience. Learn how our brains work from the molecular level, increasing in complexity to whole organisms.15
Essential Laboratory Skills - During this practical skills-based module students will develop a high level of competence in basic as well as advanced laboratory techniques, good laboratory practices, data analysis and interpretation of results.15
Neuroscience Research Laboratory Competencies - Explore key concepts for effective research design and implementation including safe working in the laboratory environment, health and safety risk assessments, experimental design and research planning, ethics in Neuroscience and data handling and analysis.15
Professional Development for Neuroscience - Develop the translational and transferable skills required of Neuroscience postgraduates which will equip students with the skills required to undertake advanced senior level scientific careers.30
Optional Modules 
Advanced and Applied Synaptic Plasticity - Using in-depth discussions of the latest literature in the field, learn how synaptic plasticity guides brain development, and how this can go wrong in disease states.15
Advanced Molecular Pharmacology - Using lectures and exploration of key papers, this module highlights current topics of interest in the molecular neuropharmacology. The module concentrates on G protein coupled receptors, dealing with their structures and how they signal.15
Abnormal Neuronal Networks - Using a combination of in-depth reading, journal clubs, group-presentation of journal articles and directed discussion, this module explores how changes in neuronal connectivity and synaptic function underly development of epilepsy and schizophrenia.15
Hacking the Brain - In this module, various methods to enhance cognitive function will be discussed, including an array of pharmacological interventions, genetic manipulations, neural implants, and altered states of consciousness.15
Physiology and Pathophysiology of Movements - Using the latest literature and research, learn the physiology of muscle coordination to achieve movements. The module will provide insight into the pathophysiology of movement control after stroke and spinal cord injury.15
Computational Neuroscience - Learn from in-depth lectures and discussions, as well as hands-on coding workshops, the various approaches used to model the human brain in silico, from simple neurons to large scale networks.15
Feeding the Brain - This module explores how the society perceives the health benefit of food and certain diets for our brain health. You will critically appraise recent publications and discuss ethical issues in research.15
Modelling Repair and Regeneration in the Injured Central Nervous System (CNS) - Through active reading, journal presentation and critical evaluation, investigate basic concepts of traumatic injury to the CNS; the research concept of modelling repair and regeneration following injury and future therapeutic interventions.15

Dissertation stage modules

In the dissertation stage, you will study the following core module:

Module TitleCredits
Neuroscience Research Project - This module will develop the skills required for a career that requires careful collection, critical analysis of, and clear and concise presentation of complex data to specialist and non- specialist audiences.60

We may update our courses to reflect best practices and academic developments. If we do, we’ll let you know of any changes at the earliest opportunity by updating our course webpages. If you have already received an offer, we’ll write to you directly to let you know of the changes.

Entry requirements

We welcome applications from candidates interested in this course who have the skills and desire to excel. All candidates are considered on an individual basis based on their qualifications, experience, references and motivation. 

The information contained on this website details the typical entry requirements for this course. Applicants with alternative qualifications may wish to enquire with the relevant admissions teams prior to application whether or not their qualifications are deemed acceptable. For less commonly encountered qualifications this will be judged on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the academic admissions tutor. 

All applicants require: 

  • Lower Second-class Honours degree (2:2 or equivalent) from a recognised university in a suitable science or medical science subject (e.g. Neuroscience, Pharmacology, Physiology, Biochemistry, Medicine) 
  • IELTS 6.0 minimum across all sub-bands with a 6.5 minimum overall 

International students

Aston University is a diverse, close community and welcomes international students on many of our undergraduate programmes. Students from over 120 countries choose to study with us every year. Based in the centre of Birmingham, Aston is not only a great place to study, it’s also a great place to live.

Qualifications in your country

For details of equivalent qualifications in your country, use our area pages below:

English language requirements

Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to provide evidence of an English language qualification.

English language requirements

How to apply

Aston University provides a range of opportunities for international students to join our community and study on our campus. A key part of our strategy is our relationships with teaching partners, providing multiple pathways to Aston.

Aston’s professional work placements can improve your chance of securing a graduate job. Placements give you experience, confidence and opportunities and, as an Aston student, you’ll be better prepared for your future career. One of the great things about Aston is our focus on employability. Our close links with businesses, industries and professions make this possible.

Find out more about applying

Post-study work visa

Aston University welcomed the creation of a new Graduate Immigration Route which enables international students to remain in the UK for two years after you complete your studies to find work. This new post-study work visa applies to international students completing full-time undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

Graduate Immigration Route

Pathway Programmes

If you don’t meet our entry requirements, we have a range of pathway programmes offered by our partner, ONCAMPUS Aston, which you can complete to progress onto one of our degrees.

Masters Foundation programmes

If you don’t meet our entry requirements, we have a range of pathway programmes offered by our partner, ONCAMPUS Aston, which you can complete to progress onto one of our degrees.



Speak to our Admissions Team

If you have any questions about the application process please get in touch with our postgraduate admissions team:


Call: 0121 204 3200 (Please note this line is open Monday-Friday between 09.30am-4.30pm)

Fees and scholarships

Course fees

UK students

Annual tuition fees:£9,750

International students

Annual tuition fees:£20,700

More information on fees

The United Kingdom government has confirmed that European Union (EU), other European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals commencing academic courses in England from August 2021 will no longer be charged the same tuition rates as UK students.

Tuition fees for students are reviewed annually and may increase in subsequent years in line with inflation linked to the Retail Price Index (RPI) to take account of the University’s increased costs of delivering the Programme. Any such increase shall always be in accordance with the law. When undertaking a placement year, a placement year fee applies.


At Aston University we are committed to supporting the most talented and hardworking students to achieve their potential by providing a range of scholarships to help lower tuition and living costs.


We use various assessment types including coursework (such as essays), examinations, practical work, oral and written presentations, and a dissertation research project. 

Career prospects

Our teaching is research-led and prepares graduates for careers across a variety of sectors including academic research, pharmaceutical, medical, and clinical roles, and wider scientific professions. 

Graduates of our Neuroscience programmes develop key specialised skills sought out by employers within the fields of drug development, clinical trials, biopharmaceuticals, and clinical research, and past students have pursued careers as drug discovery scientists, neuropharmacologists, clinical researchers, academic researchers, research and development managers, consultants, pharmaceutical scientists, clinical project managers, and medical writers/science communicators. 

Employers in the United Kingdom include AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, Capgemini, Novartis, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Labcorp Drug Development, Charles River Laboratories, and many more. 


Be part of our community

Once you have joined us at Aston University, you’ll always be part of our community, even beyond graduation.

Frequently asked questions

Why study Neuroscience for Drug Discovery MSc at Aston University?

At Aston University, we are committed to driving meaningful and high-impact discoveries in science, and our researchers and teaching staff are passionate about technological and scientific innovation delivering breakthroughs in our understanding of the brain and a range of neurological conditions suffered. 

Our programme offers you the opportunity to work on cutting-edge research projects and collaborate with passionate, research-active faculty members in the fields of Neuroscience, Pharmacology and Drug Discovery. We have strong connections with local, national and international industry and academia, invaluable for students aiming to enter research or clinical settings after graduating, amongst a wide range of possibilities of career advancement offered by this degree. 

Why should international students choose Aston University?

Study at Aston University and you will be part of a multi-cultural community located at the heart of the dynamic city of Birmingham. Our courses are practical, inspired by industry and many have internationally recognised accreditations. Renowned for our employability prospects and connections to business and industry, we provide outstanding career support, advice and placement opportunities.

For those interested in working in the UK after they have graduated, the UK Government has created a new post-study work visa.

Is Birmingham a good place to study?

Our campus is based in the centre of Birmingham, the youngest major city in Europe and a great place to live, work and study.

  • Great music and entertainment with a vibrant nightlife. Bars, clubs, pubs, live music, festivals, concerts. Whatever your tastes, there's something here for everyone.
  • Fantastic food. Birmingham's diverse community means you can try anything from the famous Balti triangle, the Chinese Quarter, high street chains, halal and vegan food, and Michelin-star dining.
  • World-class shopping. The Bullring and Grand Central is a shopper's paradise. From the world's biggest Primark to luxury brands at the Mailbox.
  • Arts and culture. Museums, galleries, theatres, concerts and Birmingham's art collection is as wide as it is impressive - not to be missed.
  • Green, open spaces. One of the greenest cities in Europe, Birmingham has hundreds of publicly accessible parks and green spaces across the city.
  • Sporting action. Birmingham has some of the most exciting venues for watching or participating in sport in the UK.

Discover Birmingham

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