Research in the School of Biosciences revolves around understanding systems and processes in the living cell. It has a strong molecular focus with leading-edge activities that are synergistic with one another and complementary to the teaching provision.
Our expertise in disciplines such as biochemistry, microbiology and biomedical science allow us to exploit technology and develop ground-breaking ideas in the fields of genetics, molecular biology, protein science, biophysics and computational biology. Fields of enquiry encompass a range of molecular processes from cell division, transcription and translation through to molecular motors, molecular diagnostics and the production of biotherapeutics and bioenergy.
Our research degrees are based around lab-based and computational research projects. PhD study is based around 3-4 year research projects, full time, or 5-6 years part time. In all our research degrees you undertake a single, focused, research project from day one, and attend only certain components of our transferable skills modules. Our research degree students are supervised by supervisory teams which comprise their main supervisor(s) as well as supervisory chairs that give independent advice on progression.
Applicants who have private or other funding are welcome to apply at any time provided that the interests of the applicant are in line with the interests and capabilities of the prospective research group. To establish whether a suitable research opportunity exists within the supervisory capabilities of the School, we ask applicants to first consider whether their interests are compatible with one or more areas of our current research. Applicants should clearly identify the areas of our current research in which they are interested. Applicants are welcome to contact supervisors directly to enquire about PhD opportunities.
Please note that, due to the technical requirements of certain laboratory-based research projects, some projects additionally incur additional research costs to support consumable requirements. Additional research costs are typically in the range of £500-£2,000, though exceptionally these can be as high as £5,000 for resource-intensive research projects.
About the School of Biosciences
The School of Biosciences is among the best-funded schools of its kind in the UK, with current support from the BBSRC, NERC, MRC, Wellcome Trust, EU, and industry. It has 34 academic staff, 56 research staff (facility managers, research fellows, postdoctoral researchers and technicians), approximately 100 postgraduate research students and 20 key support staff. The school's vibrant atmosphere has expanded to become a flourishing environment to study for postgraduate degrees in a notably friendly and supportive teaching and research environment.
In addition to research degrees, our key research strengths underpin a range of unique and career-focused taught Master’s programmes that address key issues and challenges within the biosciences and pharmaceutical industries and prepare graduates for future employment.
In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Biosciences was ranked 7th for research intensity and in the top 20 in the UK for research output.
An impressive 93% of our research-active staff submitted to the REF and 100% of our research was judged to be of international quality, with 88% of this judged world-leading or internationally excellent. The School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development research of international excellence.
A postgraduate degree in the School of Biosciences is designed to equip our graduates with transferable skills that are highly valued in the workplace. Our research-led ethos ensures that students explore the frontiers of scientific knowledge, and the intensive practical components provide rigorous training in cutting edge technical skills that are used in the modern biosciences while working in areas of world-leading expertise within the School.
Destinations for our graduates include the leading pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies within the UK and leading research institutes both at home and abroad.
The School is well equipped, with excellent general research laboratories, together with a range of specialised research resources including facilities for growing micro-organisms of all kinds, extensive laboratories for animal cell culture and monoclonal antibody production and an imaging suite providing high-resolution laser confocal and electron microscopy. Additionally, the macromolecular analysis facility provides resources for protein and mass spectrometry, CD and fluorescence spectroscopy, surface plasmon resonance, and HPLC and FPLC systems for all aspects of biochemical and microbiological research. Notably, the School has a new state-of-the-art Bruker Avance III four-channel 600 MHz NMR spectrometer equipped with a QCI cryoprobe. Our NMR spectrometer was upgraded to this status via an equipment research award from the Wellcome Trust.
All research students are supervised closely and are regularly monitored online using the University progression and monitoring system. All postgraduate students have access to electronic and other resources providing information regarding technical issues relevant to their degrees, as well as subject-specific and transferable skills training. All research students are allocated a Postgraduate Supervisory Team, consisting of one or more day-to-day supervisors, and one or more members not involved in day-to-day supervision whose task it is to serve as independent monitors of progress.
Students on taught programmes are assigned a personal academic tutor to provide additional support in their postgraduate study. Throughout the course, you are fully embedded in the research culture of the School by attending research seminars and careers guidance sessions, and also participating in our vibrant outreach programme within the local community. In addition to taught modules, an in-depth research project takes place during the summer under the guidance of members of academic staff. These projects benefit from our outstanding research environment and first-class facilities.
An active school
Every week, Biosciences runs school seminars where external guest speakers or staff, talk about recent research. In addition, the department runs FIREBio (Forum for Innovation, Research and Enterprise in Biosciences), which is a weekly informal meeting for staff, postdocs and postgraduates involving short presentations and discussions. Postgraduates can use the opportunity to present unpublished research findings and discuss them in a supportive environment.
Staff in the School of Biosciences not only collaborate extensively with other universities in the UK (Cambridge, Cardiff, King’s College London, University College London, Newcastle, Oxford, Sussex, York, Manchester, Durham and Sheffield), but also have a wide-ranging network across the world with institutes including: the Boston Biomedical Research Institute; University of Hanover; Monash University Melbourne; Harvard; University of California, Davis; Université Claude Bernard – Lyon 1; Goethe-Universität Frankfurt; University of Queensland, Australia; University of Utah; Texas A&M University; and Braunschweig University of Technology. We also collaborate with organisations such as the Marie Curie Research Institute, Cancer Research UK, National Institute for Medical Research, MRC London, GlaxoSmithKline and the European Union Framework 5 CYTONET.
The School currently receives funding from: BBSRC; Biochemical Society; British Heart Foundation; E B Charitable Hutchinson Trust; the EC; EPSRC; Kent Cancer Trust; The Leverhulme Trust; National Institutes of Health (USA); Nuffield Foundation; Royal Society; Wellcome Trust. It also receives funding on specific projects from a number of industrial organisations and collaborators.
Dynamic publishing culture
Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: Nature Chemical Biology; Journal of Biological Chemistry; Cell; Molecular Cell; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA; PLOS One; and Journal of Cell Science.
Researcher Development Programme
Kent's Graduate School co-ordinates the Researcher Development Programme for research students, which includes workshops focused on research, specialist and transferable skills. The programme is mapped to the national Researcher Development Framework and covers a diverse range of topics, including subject-specific research skills, research management, personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking and teamworking, and career management skills.
Minimum 2.1 degree in a relevant subject.
All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, and professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications.
Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country.
English language entry requirements
The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.
For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages.
Need help with English?
Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.
Research in the School of Biosciences is focused primarily on essential biological processes at the molecular and cellular level, encompassing the disciplines of biochemistry, genetics, biotechnology and biomedical research.
In the most recent REF (2014) 100% of the research submitted for Biological Sciences by the School was judged to be of international quality.
The School houses a dynamic research community with five major research themes:
- industrial biotechnology
- infection and drug resistance
- cancer and age-related diseases
- cellular architecture and dynamics
- reproduction, evolution and genomics
Each area is led by a senior professor and underpinned by excellent research facilities. The School-led development of the Industrial Biotechnology Centre (IBC), with staff from the other four other schools in the Faculty of Sciences, facilitates and encourages interdisciplinary projects. The School has a strong commitment to translational research, impact and industrial application with a substantial portfolio of enterprise activity and expertise.
Kent Fungal Group
The Kent Fungal Group (KFG) brings together a number of research groups in the School of Biosciences that primarily use yeasts or other fungi as ‘model systems’ for their research. One strength of the KFG is the range of model fungi being exploited for both fundamental and medical/translational research. These include Bakers’ yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and Fission yeast (Schizosaccharomyces pombe) and yeasts associated with human disease, specifically Candida albicans and Cryptococcus neoformans.
In addition to studying key cellular processes in the fungal cell such as protein synthesis, amyloids and cell division, members of the KFG are also using yeast to explore the molecular basis of human diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases as well as ageing. The KFG not only provides support for both fundamental and medical/translational fungal research, but also provides an excellent training environment for young fungal researchers.
Industrial Biotechnology Centre
The School houses one of the University’s flagship research centres – the Industrial Biotechnology Centre (IBC). Here, staff from Biosciences, Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Computing and Engineering combine their expertise into a pioneering interdisciplinary biosciences programme at Kent, in order to unlock the secrets of some of the essential life processes. These approaches are leading to a more integrated understanding of biology in health and disease. In the Centre, ideas and technology embodied in different disciplines are being employed in some of the remaining challenges in bioscience. With such an approach, new discoveries and creative ideas are generated through the formation of new collaborative teams. In this environment, the Centre is broadening and enriching the training of students and staff in science and technology.
The Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Reproduction (CISoR)
The centre comprises several like-minded academics dedicated to the study of reproduction in all its forms. Drawing on a range of academic disciplines, CISoR's core philosophy is that the study of this fascinating field will advance further through a multidisciplinary approach. Impactful, excellent research forms the basis of CISoR’s activities including scientific advance, new products and processes, contribution to public policy, and public engagement.
Staff research interests
Kent’s world-class academics provide research students with excellent supervision. The academic staff in this school and their research interests are shown below. You are strongly encouraged to contact the school to discuss your proposed research and potential supervision prior to making an application. Please note, it is possible for students to be supervised by a member of academic staff from any of Kent’s schools, providing their expertise matches your research interests. Use our ‘find a supervisor’ search to search by staff member or keyword.
Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.
Dr Anthony Baines: Reader in Molecular Cell Biology
The proteins of the membrane-associated cytoskeleton, in particular the protein spectrin; the role of spectrin and protein 4.1 in acute heart failure.View Profile
Dr Ian Blomfield: Senior Lecturer in Molecular Microbiology
The regulation of gene expression in bacteria in response to environmental signals encountered in the animal host; phase variation in E coli and other bacteria; the regulation of bacterial adhesions.View Profile
Professor David Brown: Professor of Structural Biology
The elucidation and role of protein structure and function in molecular processes, in particular those with a potential for therapeutic intervention through drug design.View Profile
Dr Alessia Buscaino: Lecturer in Fungal Epigenetics
Genetics and epigenetics of repetitive DNA domains.View Profile
Professor Michael Geeves: Professor of Physical Biochemistry
How the mechanochemistry of the myosin motor domain is tuned to produce widely differing activities and how the motor activity is regulated.View Profile
Dr Campbell Gourlay: Senior Lecturer in Cell Biology
Investigating the role that the actin cytoskeleton and its regulation plays in cell homeostasis and mitochondrial function, with emphasis on the mechanisms of ageing and apoptosis.View Profile
Professor Darren Griffin: Professor of Genetics
The cytogenetic basis of male infertility, in particular the role of genetic recombination and changes in genome organisation; chromosomes in early human development and the application for pre-implantation genetic diagnosis; comparative genomics and genome evolution in avian species.View Profile
Dr Dan Lloyd: Reader in Pharmacology
Cellular responses to DNA damage, with particular emphasis on the repair of DNA damage in human cells induced by environmental and clinical agents; novel radiopharmaceuticals used in the imaging treatment of cancer.View Profile
Professor Martin Michaelis: Professor of Cell Biology
The investigation of anti-cancer drugs in chemoresistant cancer cells; the influence of chemoresistance development on cancer cell biology.View Profile
Dr Dan Mulvihill: Reader in Cell and Molecular Biology
The characterisation of myosins from the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe, which have been implicated in diverse roles in its life cycle; characterising enzymatic properties of these myosins and correlating these with established in vivo assays.View Profile
Dr Pauline Phelan: Senior Lecturer in Cell Biology
Gap junctions in nervous and immune systems; assembly, regulation and functions of innexin-based junctions.View Profile
Professor Colin Robinson: Professor in Biotechnology
Mechanisms of protein transport across biological membranes; the twin-arginine translocation (Tat) system in bacteria and chloroplasts; protein sorting in cyanobacteria.View Profile
Dr Gary Robinson: Senior Lecturer in Microbial Technology
The use of micro-organisms for biotransformations and bioremediation; microbial communication in host-pathogen interactions.View Profile
Dr Jeremy Rossman: Lecturer in Virology
The role of morphology on the influenza virus lifecycle and pathogenesis.View Profile
Dr Mark Shepherd: Lecturer in Microbial Biochemistry
Biosynthesis of haem; the structure/function of bacterial globin proteins; resistance mechanisms of bacterial pathogens to nitric oxide; disulphide folding; the use of haem precursors and derivatives as novel antimicrobials.View Profile
Professor Mark Smales: Professor of Mammalian Cell Biotechnology
Protein and cell biotechnology; animal cell engineering; proteomics and protein bioprocessing.View Profile
Dr A. Tsaousis: Lecturer in Molecular and Evolutionary Parasitology
Understanding the role and evolution of mitochondria in eukaryotic parasites.View Profile
Professor Mick Tuite: Professor of Molecular Biology
The mechanism and control of translation in yeast; yeast prion proteins; molecular chaperones.View Profile
Dr Tobias von der Haar: Senior Lecturer in Systems Biology
How the protein synthesis apparatus is regulated in cells and how it can achieve synthesis of exactly the right proteome for the right occasion.View Profile
Professor Martin Warren: Professor of Biochemistry
Metabolic and genetic engineering; protein structure and function; biosynthesis of natural products including vitamins, cofactors and prosthetic groups.View Profile
Dr Mark Wass: Lecturer in Computational Biology
The use of structural bioinformatics tools to analyse genetic variation and the functional effects that they may have in disease.View Profile
Dr Richard Williamson: Senior Lecturer in Protein Biochemistry
The structure and function of proteins that play key biological roles within the body or that are known to be important in human disease; protein folding.View Profile
Dr Wei-Feng Xue: Senior Lecturer in Chemical Biology
Investigation of the structure, the assembly mechanism, the biological and disease-associated properties, and the physiochemical properties of forms of protein known as amyloid.View Profile
Dr Peter Ellis: Lecturer in Molecular Biology and Reproduction
Reproductive functions in models of infertility, genes on the mouse Y chromosome and their roles in spermatogenesis and in genome evolution.View Profile
Professor M.D. Garrett: Professor of Cancer Therapeutics
Research is focussed on cell signalling and cell division, and how these cellular processes can be targeted for the treatment of cancer.View Profile
Dr Ben Goult: Lecturer in Biochemistry
- Cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) adhesion complexes, FERM domains
- Structural Biology: NMR Spectroscopy, X-Ray Crystallography and Small Angle X-Ray Scattering (SAXS)
Dr N.M. Kad: Lecturer in Molecular Biophysics
Key research areas are:
- DNA repair
- Single Molecule Biophysics
- Muscle Contractility
- Amyloid disease and inhibition
- Molecular Motors
Dr J.M.A. Tullet: Lecturer
Current, key research topics include;
- Understanding the roles of transcription factors in the regulation of ageing.
- Deciphering the relationship between diet and lifespan.
- Examining the role of energy balance in regulating lifespan.
Dr Tim Fenton: Lecturer in Molecular Biosciences
Wet lab and computational approaches, focusing on human papillomavirus (HPV)-driven carcinogenesis as a paradigm for understanding tumour development.View Profile
Dr Christopher Mulligan: Lecturer in Molecular Biosciences
The molecular mechanisms of transport proteins; how they recognise compounds, how they harness an energy source to pump compounds across the membrane, and how they move during transport.View Profile
The 2018/19 annual tuition fees for this programme are:
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