MSc by Research in Biochemistry | University of Oxford
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MSc by Research in Biochemistry

About the course

This programme aims to train you in cutting-edge laboratory research applying techniques in bionanotechnology, biophysics, computational biology, microscopy, molecular biology, structural biology and systems biology to a broad range of fields including cell biology, chromosome biology, drug discovery, epigenetics, host-pathogen interactions, membrane proteins, ion channels and transporters, and RNA biology.

Applicants are strongly advised to visit the Medical Sciences Graduate School website to help them identify the most suitable course and supervisors.

You will be admitted directly to a particular research area led by departmental members who will be appointed MSc by Research supervisors. Students who have been admitted to a particular research supervisor will not normally do laboratory rotations. You will be based in a research lab and undertake research on a subject agreed with your supervisor.

There are no taught courses examined by written papers, but you will have access to a wide range of lecture courses at a taught master’s level and foundation or preliminary level, as appropriate. If you have changed fields, this will enable you to fill in gaps in your background knowledge. There is also a wide range of courses and workshops which you can attend to acquire skills that will be necessary for the prosecution and presentation of your research, as well as your professional development as a research scientist.

You will begin your course as a probationary research student and near the end of your first year you will transfer to a MSc by Research status. To transfer your status, you must apply formally, submit a research report and statement of future research plans, and take an independent assessment by two assessors. Continuation in the programme is subject to the student passing the transfer of status exam.

If you wish, you may attempt to transfer to DPhil status instead of MSc by Research status at the end of your first year. To transfer to DPhil status, you are required to follow the same procedure as probationary research students on the DPhil in Biochemistry and must have supporting statements from your supervisor(s) and college. The length of the programme depends on the following factors as judged by your supervisor(s) and assessors (2):

  • focus and rate of student researcher development and progress
  • achievement of acceptable focus and scope of thesis
  • publication quality research
  • length of available funding.

The MSc by Research in Biochemistry is normally a two year course, though if you have an appropriate background in research, you may complete it in one year.

Research areas for the MSc by Research in Biochemistry currently include:

  • molecular biochemistry and chemical biology
  • structural biology of cell surface and nuclear signal transduction processes, cell adhesion, cell cycle, membrane proteins, receptors and ion channels, drug design, protein folding and dynamics
  • modelling and simulation of biological membrane systems
  • bionanotechnology and its application to cancer
  • targeting viral morphogenesis in antiviral strategies
  • integrative systems biology (dynamics of molecular regulatory networks, multidimensional optical proteomics)
  • bacterial and parasite respiratory proteins
  • bacterial cell biology, protein transport
  • control of eukaryotic gene expression
  • kinase signalling to gene induction
  • mRNA localisation in drosophila
  • epigenetic control of chromatin and gene expression
  • developmental epigenetics
  • DNA recombination and repair
  • bacterial chromosome dynamics
  • sister chromatid cohesion
  • genetic modelling of human disease
  • genetics of nematode immunity and development
  • cell biology of innate immunity in drosophila
  • genetic defects of mitochondrial energy metabolism
  • cell proliferation and cell fate determination during C. elegans development.

Graduate destinations

91% of alumni completing in the years 2008 to 2015 have gone on to pursue a career within academic or industrial research. Other graduates hold positions within a variety of sectors including patent law, scientific publishing and teaching.

The Department of Biochemistry has an active alumni network, with regular events held in Oxford and London where past and current members of the department have the opportunity to meet and share ideas.

Related courses

Changes to the course

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2017-18

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in biochemistry, chemistry, biology, cell biology, molecular biology, biophysics, physics, mathematics or computation.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.

However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a GPA of 3.7, a first-class degree or the equivalent. 

A previous master's degree is not required in order to be considered for the programme.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.  

Applications are reviewed by a panel of academics associated with the course. A short-list of applicants is confirmed, based on assessment of achieved or predicted undergraduate degree grade, academic references, personal statement and CV.

Interviews are in person or by video link/Skype, take approximately 30 minutes, and are conducted by a panel of two or more interviewers. Applicants are asked to talk about any research project(s) that they may have pursued and questioned on aspects of their research training to date, understanding of the proposed area of study and motivation for undertaking a research degree. 

Publications

Whilst not required, publications demonstrating previous research success in a relevant field is likely to advantage your application.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Research or working experience in an area related to your proposed DPhil project would be an advantage.

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the standard level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the Department of Biochemistry to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Department of Biochemistry and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. 
  • Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Department of Biochemistry.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.

It would be expected that you would be familiar with the recent published work of your proposed supervisor.

Resources

You will have access to:

  • experimental facilities, as appropriate to your research
  • IT support from both the Department of Biochemistry and University IT Services
  • library services such as the Radcliffe Science Library and the Cairns Library.

The provision of project-specific resources will be agreed with the relevant supervisor during the planning stages for the research project.

The Department of Biochemistry has in-house research facilities, such as NMR, X-ray diffraction, crystallisation, biophysical analysis, analytical ultracentrifugation, FACS analysis, imaging microscopes. There is the possibility to use facilities in other departments across the division and to access remote facilities at the Rutherford Appleton LaboratoryDIAMOND Light Source and Harwell Science and Innovation Campus.

You will be able to use the cafeteria at the Department of Biochemistry, encouraging interaction between research groups in the department. Departmental seminars and colloquia will bring you together with academic and other research staff in the department to hear about ongoing research, and provide an opportunity for networking and socialising.

Funding

There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.

Full funding opportunities are available for all Medical Sciences Graduate School programmes, whatever your nationality. The Medical Sciences Graduate School website provides further details of these, as well as information about external funding opportunities.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
c. £4,250£3,021c. £7,271
Overseas£19,335£3,021£22,356

The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; for courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Tuition and college fees are payable each year for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay tuition and college fees).

Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.

For more information about tuition fees, college fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details on the impact of the result of the UK referendum on its membership of the European Union.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this programme that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs.  However, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Living costs

In addition to your tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2017-18 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between £1,002 and £1,471 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our Living costs page.

How to apply

Before you apply, please refer to the list of research group leaders to identify areas of research that interest you and make contact with the potential supervisor(s) in the department to discuss the possibility of joining the research group, as well as research projects that you could undertake. 

Once decided, you should name up to three potential supervisors in your application.

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

CV/résumé

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
Up to 1,000 words

The personal statement should be written in English and should focus on your interest in, and experience of your intended research field (rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations).

In your statement, please include:

  • details of up to three potential supervisors affiliated with the programme whose research is of interest to you;
  • in brief, the research areas and experimental approaches that you would wish to explore in a MSc by Research research project; and
  • how your academic/research background relates to your proposed study and career plans.

This will be assessed for your reasons for applying, evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study, and ability to present a reasoned case in English.

Please note that you are not expected to outline the intended research project in your personal statement.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally academic

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

References should generally be academic though a maximum of one professional reference is acceptable where you have completed an industrial placement or worked in a full-time position. Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and your ability to work in a group.