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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

1520 MRes Big Data Biology (1 year)

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This course is running in September 2020. Find out how we’re safeguarding our students and staff during coronavirus.

The Masters by Research in Big Data Biology is designed to meet the needs of the emerging data-driven quantitative biological sciences. Rapid advances in the growth and rate of accumulation of large-scale “big data” are enabling new data-driven approaches to biomedical and biological questions requiring new approaches in data science and artificial intelligence.

Introducing your degree

In this programme you will undertake an in-depth research project with colleagues from across the spectrum of the life sciences, including experimental biologists, computer scientists, mathematicians and engineers. You will also develop your research skills in areas of your choice, ranging from taught modules in programming, statistics, machine learning to specific modules focused in areas of biological or biomedical science.

This MRes programme is for graduates of biological science programmes who are seeking to develop skills in quantitative and computational biology as well as graduates of quantitative or computational disciplines who wish to develop and apply their quantitative skills in the area of large-scale biology. Recognizing that many of the advances in the life sciences are now coming from interdisciplinary teams of scientists, students on this programme will interact and learn from colleagues from across the spectrum of the life sciences, including experimental biologists, computer scientists, mathematicians and engineers.

Distinctive features of this course:

  • Four taught modules at postgraduate level to enable you to enhance your data science and quantitative skills as well as to broaden your scientific knowledge in your chosen area 
  • Carry out an original independent research project supervised by a leading academic in the specialism.  
  • Gain transferable skills that will be invaluable later in your career whether you are aiming for academia, industry or non-traditional science careers.

To Apply

To register interest or to be sent more information please contact:

Postgraduate Admissions Office: +44(0)23 8059 4348/

Key Facts

  • Our students benefit from £50 million investment in our purpose built Life Science building
  • 100 percent of our research has been rated world leading or internationally excellent for its impact on society (REF2014)
  • The University of Southampton was awarded Silver for teaching by the Teaching Excellence & Student Outcomes Framework Panel (TEF, 2018)
  • We are a diverse multicultural community and throughout your degree you will be supported by an integrated support system of tutors and students

Typical entry requirements

Honours degree

Upper second class honours degree (2:1 or equivalent) or first class honours degree
Non-UK applicants will usually have completed 4 years or more in higher education.
Students who have achieved a lower second honours degree will only be admitted onto this programme in exceptional circumstances.


Your application to Biological Sciences will include your specification of the area of research you wish to work in. It is assumed that this expression of interest implies that you have an academic and experience background that is suitable for Masters level research in this area. Our admissions process will seek to confirm that this is the case prior to offering you a place.

English Language requirements

If your first language is not English, we need to ensure that your listening, written and spoken English skills would enable you to enjoy the full benefit of your studies. For entry onto our courses, you will need an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score of 6.5 or an equivalent standard in other qualifications approved by the University. We are happy to offer guidance as to the courses available to improve the standard of English before the MRes course commences.

Selection process

The MRes in Big Data Biology is designed for graduates of either biological/biomedical sciences or of quantitative disciplines such as computer science, engineering or mathematics.

This page contains specific entry requirements for this course. Find out about equivalent entry requirements and qualifications for your country.

Typical course content

The course is research focussed with the addition of taught courses by academic staff  in Biological Sciences, Medicine, Computer Sciences and Mathematics.

The larger research component consists of a novel, independent (supported) research project. The smaller taught component is composed of four courses that will broaden your skills in appropriate areas related to the research project. The exact portfolio of courses is selected with the advice of the academic supervisor of the research project. This course will provide you with an education and training suitable for a wide variety of careers and also will prepare you for higher degrees.

By the end of your MRes degree you will have extended your subject-specific and employability skills beyond the level of your undergraduate degree. A Master of Research course differs from a conventional MSc course in the balance between teaching and research. As an MRes student you will spend more time on the research project and correspondingly less time will be devoted to formal teaching.


The aims of the course are to:

  • Provide the means to carry out an extensive scientific research project utilising the concepts, tools and techniques of data science in biology and biomedicine
  • Provide advanced, and in-depth knowledge in a specific area of research
  • Provide an opportunity to work in a research environment with state of the art computational resources and laboratories and computational resources
  • Provide a stimulating, informed environment through a range of courses;
  • Provide an opportunity to develop a range of highly transferable skills (written and oral communication, time management, project management, team working, information and communication technology, data collection and analysis);
  • To develop skills and aptitudes for working in interdisciplinary teams of scientists
  • Provide a sound and suitable qualification that would enable you to proceed to a more specialist higher degree at the PhD level or a career in areas such as biological/biomedical sciences, bioinformatics or data science

The MRes in Big Data Biology is a one-year course. The research component features throughout this period while the taught part of the programme is confined to two teaching semesters (Oct to Jan followed by Feb to June). Each semester includes twelve weeks of study followed by an examinations period (2 weeks). The exam for the end of module assessments will take place during this period. The compulsory research module (BIOL6068) provides two-thirds of the content. Each student undertakes an extensive research project. In addition to the research project you will take two skills-based compulsory modules and choose to additional optional modules in consultation with your supervisor.

BIOL6013 Mres Big Data Biology Project

MEDI6227 Quantitative Cell Biology

BIOL6053 Current Research

Recommended Optional Computational / Quantitative Modules

BIOL6074 Bioinformatics and Systems Biology

MATH6140 Structure and Dynamics of Networks

MATH3014 Design and Analysis of Experiments

MEDI6215  Bioinformatics, Interpretation and Data Quality Assurance in
Genome Analysis

MEDI6215 Bioinformatics, Interpretation and Data Quality Assurance in Genome Analysis

MEDI6131 Omics Techniques and their application in Genomic Medicine

COMP6245 Foundations of Machine Learning (to be confirmed)

BIOL6055 Computational methods for Biological Data Analysis

MATHS6168 Machine Learning 

Optional Level 6 Biological Sciences Modules – (Selected Examples from >30 modules)

BIOL3064 Cancer and Chromosome Biology

BIOL6073 Critical Thinking in Biological Research

BIOL3021 Cellular & Molecular Neuroscience

BIOL3020 Systems Neuroscience

BIOL3014 Molecular Cell Biology

BIOL3013 Molecular Recognition

BIOL3003 Plant Cell Biology

BIOL3006 Cellular and Genetic Aspects of Animal Development

Please note: This specification provides a concise summary of the main features of the programme and the learning outcomes that a typical student might reasonably be expected to achieve and demonstrate if s/he takes full advantage of the learning opportunities that are provided. More detailed information can be found in the programme handbook (or other appropriate guide or website).

Tuition fees

Fees for postgraduate taught courses vary across the University. All fees are listed for UK, EU and international full-time and part-time students alphabetically by course name.

View the full list of course fees


Scholarships, bursaries, sponsorships or grants may be available to support you through your course. Funding opportunities available to you are linked to your subject area and/or your country of origin. These can be from the University of Southampton or other sources.

Explore funding opportunities

Costs associated with this course

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In some cases you'll be able to choose modules (which may have different costs associated with that module) which will change the overall cost of a programme to you. Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

To develop your knowledge and understanding of Data Sciences in Biological Sciences a wide range of teaching methods will be used. You will be taught through a combination of lectures, tutorials and coursework to help develop your core knowledge and understanding. You will undertake an extended research project in one of the specialisation areas and will be supervised throughout by a tutor with leading research experience in that area. Four taught modules will be chosen with the help of your supervisor to provide a solid foundation of knowledge. Throughout the programme you will undertake independent reading both to supplement and consolidate taught material and to broaden your knowledge and understanding.

Join the data revolution in Biological Sciences!

The Masters by Research in Big Data Biology is designed to meet the needs of the emerging data-driven quantitative biological sciences. Rapid advances in the growth and rate of accumulation of large-scale “big data” are enabling new data-driven approaches to biomedical and biological questions requiring new approaches in data science and artificial intelligence.

Study locations

The Life Sciences Building

Biological Sciences Building, Highfield Campus

The Life Sciences building is a £50 million state-of-the-art laborator...Find out more

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