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Postgraduate Study

The MPhil in Biological Sciences provides students with an opportunity to undertake a period of study and research in Developmental Biology, one of the Faculty’s key research pathways.

Developmental biology is a remarkably cross-disciplinary area of biomedical research that spans traditional departmental boundaries and many different technologies, such as molecular biology, genetics, epigenetics, cell and stem cell biology, imaging and bioinformatics. This field is increasingly significant in the era of readily available genome sequences, because functional studies of development are essential to decipher the roles of many genes, and will be invaluable if we are to reap the benefits of this wealth of new information. A major challenge now is to find more powerful, systematic and quantitative ways of investigating how this genetic information is translated into morphogenetic instructions, and to analyse how these instructions generate and are modulated by the forces that shape tissues and organs. This course embraces the challenge and offers a powerful opportunity to explore processes and mechanisms across a range of developmental model systems.

The course will draw upon the breadth and international strengths in developmental biology within the University of Cambridge and associated research institutes; notably the Departments of Biochemistry, Genetics, Pathology, Physiology Development and Neuroscience, Plant Sciences, Zoology, the Gurdon Institute, the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit, the Sainsbury Laboratory and the Wellcome-MRC Stem Cell Institute.

The MPhil is offered by the Faculty of Biology as a full-time period of study and research and introduces students to research skills and specialist knowledge in Developmental Biology.

The MPhil course adopts interactive and discussion-based teaching, much of which is seminar-style where student participation and discussion are strongly encouraged. This is complemented with extensive lab-based training during a research project (up to 32 weeks + 6 weeks writing up time) with students integrated into one of the many participating research groups (selected after starting the MPhil, having been introduced to projects and groups). 

The main aims are to give students with relevant experience at first-degree level the opportunity:

  • to carry out focussed research in the discipline under close supervision; 
  • to acquire or develop skills and expertise relevant to their research interests; 
  • to be introduced to the skills of experimental design, project management and time management that are needed in research; 
  • to become familiar with the practicalities of laboratory research, including record keeping, data handling and professional laboratory practice; 
  • to learn analytical techniques needed to understand and contextualise their research; 
  • to familiarise themselves with scientific writing and presentation skills. 

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, students will be able to demonstrate:

  • advanced knowledge and understanding of the biological and biomedical sciences relevant to the study of their specialisation; 
  • in-depth knowledge of an aspect of their specialisation; 
  • a broad understanding of modern research techniques and thorough knowledge of the literature, applicable to their research topic; 
  • knowledge of the theoretical approaches relevant to their specialisation and training in critical thinking in the area; 
  • expertise in research methods and analysis of research data; 
  • originality in the application of knowledge, together with the practical understanding of how research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the field. 


Students wishing to progress to the PhD after completing this MPhil course must apply via the University's online portal.  They will be required to pass the MPhil degree at a sufficient level to satisfy the Postgraduate Education Committee for the Faculty or Department they are applying to in order to demonstrate that they have the skills and ability to achieve the higher degree.

Open Days

The Postgraduate Virtual Open Day usually takes place at the end of October. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions to admissions staff and academics, explore the Colleges virtually, and to find out more about courses, the application process and funding opportunities. Visit the Postgraduate Open Day page for more details.

See further the Postgraduate Admissions Events pages for other events relating to Postgraduate study, including study fairs, visits and international events.

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Key Information

11 months full-time

Master of Philosophy

Faculty of Biology

Course - related enquiries

Application - related enquiries

Course on Department Website

Dates and deadlines:

Michaelmas 2024

Applications open
Sept. 4, 2023
Application deadline
April 24, 2024
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2024

Some courses can close early. See the Deadlines page for guidance on when to apply.

Course Funding Deadline
Jan. 4, 2024
Gates Cambridge US round only
Oct. 11, 2023

These deadlines apply to applications for courses starting in Michaelmas 2024, Lent 2025 and Easter 2025.

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