Infectious Diseases - MSc

Open Event - 23 February

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Gain an advanced education and training in the biological sciences, within the context of a range of human diseases that affect a significant proportion of the global population.

Overview

The programme provides training in the modern practical, academic and research skills that are used in academia and industry. Through a combination of lectures, small-group seminars and practical classes, you apply this training towards the development of new strategies to combat the spread of infectious diseases.

You learn skills in experimental design using appropriate case studies that embed you within the relevant research literature. You also gain experience of analysis and statistical interpretation of complex experimental data.

The programme culminates with a research project under the supervision of faculty that currently perform research on disease-causing microorganisms.

About the School of Biosciences

The University of Kent’s School of Biosciences ranks among the most active in biological sciences in the UK. We have recently extended our facilities and completed a major refurbishment of our research laboratories that now house 40 academic staff, 56 research, technical and support staff devoted to research, and a flourishing community of more than 100 postgraduate students.

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 allows us to exploit technology and develop groundbreaking ideas in the fields of genetics, molecular biology, protein science and biophysics. 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.

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.

Entry requirements

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You are more than your grades

For 2022, in response to the challenges caused by Covid-19 we will consider applicants either holding or projected a 2:2. This response is part of our flexible approach to admissions whereby we consider each student and their personal circumstances. If you have any questions, please get in touch.

Entry requirements

Minimum 2:2 honours degree in a biosciences-related subject.

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and relevant experience may also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information. Due to visa restrictions, students who require a student visa to study cannot study part-time unless undertaking a distance or blended-learning programme with no on-campus provision.

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.

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Course structure

Duration: 1 year full-time, 2 years part-time

The MSc in Infectious Diseases involves studying for 120 credits of taught modules (compulsory and optional), as indicated below. The taught component takes place during the autumn and spring terms. You will undertake a period of advanced training in research, technical and transferable skills with application in medical microbiology area, including an extended practical training in cutting-edge genome editing. This training will be harnessed with a range of modules specialising in advanced studies of infectious disease. A 60-credit research project takes place over the summer months.

The assessment of the course will involve a mixture of practical classes, innovative continuous assessment to gain maximum transferable and professional skills, and examinations.

In addition to traditional scientific laboratory reports, experience is gained in a range of scientific writing styles relevant to future employment, such as literature reviews, patent applications, regulatory documents, and patient information suitable for a non-scientific readership.

Modules

The modules listed below are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  All modules listed below are compulsory – this programme does not have any optional modules.  

You take all compulsory modules and chose one optional module from the list below.

Compulsory modules currently include

The module aims to develop understanding and practical skills in molecular biology, based around interactive workshops, practical sessions and group work. The module will involve practical sessions covering key practical and transferable skills in molecular biology and biotechnology. The module will feature an extended mini-project focused on CRISPR-Cas9-based genome editing - a cutting-edge technology with wide application in the biological sciences – alongside presentation of findings in extended written report format to provide experience of the dissemination platform widely used in biological research.

This module will develop the advanced research skills that are required in modern biological research and transferable across biological research disciplines. This will include the development of skills in bioinformatics, statistical analysis, research publication and peer review through a combination of online exercises, seminars and group work. These skills will be discussed, enhanced and contextualised in tutorials that consider their application of these skills through consideration of literature and case studies drawn from the field of infectious disease research.

Science has a profound influence on public life. This module considers the ways in which different professional and public groups interact with science and scientists, and how this influences the work that scientists do. It considers the social roles and responsibilities of scientists beyond their own scientific research, the context in which science operates, and the careers that exist for scientists outside of the traditional laboratory environment. In considering specific scientific developments in light of ethics, policy, media and public perception, the module will develop a range of academic skills that support learning in more specialised modules. It also provides transferable skills valued in the science sector, particularly science communication.

As microbial pathogens pose an increasing threat to human health it is imperative to improve our fundamental understanding of how these organisms survive during infection and cause disease. This module will cover the molecular pathogenicity of a variety of globally important microbial pathogens, and will provide students with the ability to critically analyse the molecular mechanisms that enable certain key pathogens to cause disease. Examples may be drawn from bacteria, fungi, viruses and/or eukaryotic parasites.

As COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated, there is an urgent need to improve our understanding of disease outbreaks and how to mitigate their impact upon human health. This module will cover the fundamentals of epidemiology, including the theory and practical approaches to study disease outbreaks. High profile examples will be analysed in terms of their human impact and disease tracking, and aspects of public health strategies and policy will be addressed.

As we face the threat of a post-antimicrobial era, it is of paramount importance that we understand the mechanisms of antimicrobial resistance in the context of infection. This module will cover the fundamentals of clinical microbiology, antimicrobials and their targets, mechanisms underpinning antimicrobial resistance, and the host:pathogen interactions that influence antimicrobial efficacy.

As recent outbreaks of infectious diseases have illustrated, it is imperative to develop rapid diagnostics, effective therapeutics and new vaccines to combat emerging infections that are difficult to treat. This module will cover the approaches used in pathogen diagnosis as well as the cutting edge therapeutics available for the treatment of infectious diseases. The module will also focus on the biotechnological aspects of vaccine development.

Optional modules may include

Recent events have illustrated the importance of ensuring that science is communicated effectively to non-scientific audiences. This module considers best practice in science communication, making use of case studies that illustrate its importance in developing an informed and empowered public, while developing skills in different modes of communication that enhance future employability.

The module aims to develop understanding and analytical skills in virology, based around interactive seminars wherein students will analyse, present, and discuss the relevant research literature. The students will gain experience in scientific design, literature analysis, scientific communication, and the analysis of experimental data.

Part A: Eukaryotic pathogens (parasites):

• Parasites and pathogenicity, transmission and diversity.

• Mechanisms of Pathogenesis and methods for studying them.

• Microbial pathogenicity: variations on a common theme.

• Definitions on parasitic lifestyle.

• Investigations on worldwide parasitic outbreaks and their socio-economical effects.

• Eukaryotic pathogens and their effect in the microbiome.

Part B: Bacterial pathogens:

• Methodology of studying bacterial pathogenesis.

• Virulence factors including toxins and adhesins.

• Applications of virulence factors in the treatment and prevention of disease.

Part C: Viral pathogens:

• Viruses and Human Disease - transmission and spread, overview of important human virus infections, mechanisms of transmission (Aerosol, Oral-faecal, Sexual etc.), epidemiology - patterns of endemic and epidemic disease.

• Mechanisms of Pathogenesis - spread in the body, disease mechanisms, mechanisms of cell killing (Herpes simplex and Polio), immunopathology and auto-immune disease.

• Virus infection – long term consequences for the host, escape through mutation and natural selection, disabling the immune system, avoidance mechanisms.

• Viruses and Cancer - mechanisms of virus transformation (EBV, Retroviruses & Papilloma), viruses and human cancer (Cervical carcinoma, Hepatocellular Carcinoma & Burkitt Lymphoma).

Part D: Human fungal pathogens:

• Fungi and Human Disease - overview of major human fungal infections, clinical picture, diagnosis and mechanisms of transmission, epidemiological aspects of fungal infections.

• Mechanisms of Fungal Pathogenesis - adherence, invasion of eukaryotic cells, morphogenesis, virulence factors.

• Host resistance to infection and antifungal chemotherapy - host defence mechanisms to fungal infections, role of the humoral and cellular immune response, antifungal chemotherapy: azoles, polyenes, echinocandines and antimetabolites, future developments for the treatment of fungal infections.

Bioinformatics Data sources & Sequence analysis: Databases and data availability. Using sequence data for analysis – sequence searching methods, multiple sequence alignments, residue conservation, Protein domains and families.

Protein Bioinformatics Methods: Protein structure and function prediction. Prediction of binding sites/interfaces with small ligands and with other proteins. Bioinformatics analyses using protein data.

Genomics: An introduction to the analysis of genomic data, primarily focussing on the data available from genome sequencing – how it can be used to study genetic variants and compare genomes (i.e. comparative and functional genomics).

Compulsory modules currently include

Students will undertake an independent research project that will be designed by the student, in consultation with an academic supervisor, to address specific research questions. Students will be trained in key techniques relating to the project, and will work independently under the supervisor's guidance to design and execute e6xperiments that will address the questions formulated earlier. The students will spend approximately 14 weeks in the laboratory and with then write up their findings in the style of a scientific report for publication in a high impact factor scientific journal. They will present a poster and an oral presentation in research symposia arranged by the School.

Teaching and assessment

Assessment is by examination, coursework and the research project.

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • provide an excellent quality of postgraduate level education in the field of infectious diseases, their biology and treatments
  • provide a research-led, inspiring learning environment
  • provide a regional postgraduate progression route for the advanced study of diseases that affect a high proportion of the global population
  • promote engagement with biological research into infectious diseases and inspire students to pursue scientific careers inside or outside of the laboratory
  • develop subject-specific and transferable skills to maximise employment prospects
  • promote an understanding of the impact of scientific research on society and the role for scientists in a range of professions.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain knowledge and Understanding of:

  • principles and application of key techniques in modern molecular bioscience
  • molecular, cellular and physiological basis of infectious diseases
  • virulence factors associated with infectious diseases
  • epidemiology of infectious diseases
  • current therapeutic strategies and their application in the treatment of different infectious diseases
  • how scientific knowledge is disseminated to different stakeholders: eg, media, policy-makers and public.

Intellectual skills

You gain intellectual skills in:

  • research skills: how to formulate research questions and hypotheses to address scientific issues
  • analytical skills: interpretation of data, marshalling information from published sources, critical evaluation of own research and that of others
  • information technology: use of appropriate technology to retrieve, analyse and present scientific information
  • statistical evaluation: the use of appropriate statistical analysis methods in handling scientific data.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • experimental skills: how to design experiments to address specific research questions and hypotheses
  • practical skills: key techniques in modern molecular biology and their application in molecular bioscience to solve research problems
  • data handling: how to record experimental procedures and data appropriately using good laboratory practice
  • presentation of scientific research: how to write research articles in an appropriate style in keeping with high impact factor scientific journals, and posters and oral presentation for conferences and symposia
  • science writing: how to present scientific information to scientific and non-scientific audiences
  • careers: a recognition of career opportunities for scientists outside of the laboratory.

Transferable skills

You gain transferable skills in:

  • communication: ability to organise information clearly, present information in oral and written form, adapt presentation for different audiences
  • reflection: make use of constructive informal feedback from staff and peers and assess own progress to enhance performance and personal skills
  • self-motivation and independence: time and workload management in order to meet personal targets and imposed deadlines
  • team work: the ability to work both independently and as part of a research group using peer support, diplomacy and collective responsibility.

Fees

The 2022/23 UK fees for this course are:

  • Home full-time £9300
  • EU full-time £15900
  • International full-time £21200
  • Home part-time £4650
  • EU part-time £7950
  • International part-time £10600

For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact information@kent.ac.uk.

Your fee status

The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.

Additional costs

General additional costs

Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent. 

Funding

Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both:

We have a range of subject-specific awards and scholarships for academic, sporting and musical achievement.

Search scholarships

Independent rankings

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.

Research

Research areas

Within our collaborative research community, the School offers an inspiring environment where researchers at all levels can produce their best work. 

An impressive 93% of our active research staff submitted to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework and 88% of this research was classed as 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent'.

Our research is focussed on biological processes at the molecular and cellular level and spans the disciplines of biochemistry, genetics, biotechnology and biomedical research. The five main research themes within the School are:

Each theme is supported by specialist facilities.

Associated centres

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.

Careers

The MSc in Infectious Diseases provides advanced research skills training within the context of diseases that affect significant proportions of the UK and global populations. With the UK being a world leader in infectious diseases research and pharmaceutical development, and Kent having a strong research focus in this area, there are significant opportunities for career progression for graduates of this programme in academia (PhD) and industry.

There are also opportunities for careers outside the laboratory in advocacy, media, public health and education.

To give you an idea of possible career destinations, recent graduates have gone on to the following roles: Healthcare Scientist at Public Health England, QC Microbiologist at ThermoFischer, Medical Lab Assistant at Guy’s Hospital, Environmental Health Technician in the Royal Air Force, Microbiologist at Leatherhead Food Research, and onto PhDs at the University of Kent, Lancaster University and University of Southampton.

Help finding a job

The School of Biosciences has a dedicated Placements and Employability Officer and your academic supervisor will be able to advise you and give you access to professionals in their network.

The University has a friendly Careers and Employability Service, which can give you advice on how to:

  • apply for jobs
  • write a good CV
  • perform well in interviews.

These services are available to you for 3 years after completing your course.

Professional recognition

This programme has been accredited by the Royal Society of Biology. Masters Accreditation by the Society recognises programmes that support the development of specific skill sets, competencies and training which will enhance life and health science research. Programmes submitted for accreditation must satisfy the general requirements for Advanced Accreditation, which includes a significant period of practice.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

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.

Support

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.

Worldwide partnerships

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.

Global Skills Award

All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.  

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