MPhil in Biotechnology

Bringing together world-leading academics and industry champions to deliver state-of-the-art education at the interface of biology with the physical sciences and technology.

Image © Martin Bond

Image © Martin Bond

About the programme

Interdisciplinary training for the biotech sector and beyond

Some of the most important frontiers of biology are at the interface with the physical sciences and technology.

Our MPhil in Biotechnology programme aims to respond to major talent needs in academia and industry by teaching students who have strong analytical skills how to apply them in biotechnology and allied sectors. The programme is particularly suited to those with a degree in engineering, physics, chemistry, maths or computer sciences, but it is also open to candidates with other backgrounds wanting to combine numerical and biological reasoning.

This is an 11-month full-time programme, running from October to August, which combines taught and research elements and delivers a very interdisciplinary curriculum. 

World-renowned interdisciplinary expertise

The programme draws on the world-class research and teaching expertise in biotechnology-related areas at the University of Cambridge. It is primarily based at the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (CEB) but is tightly coupled to other departments within the University, including EngineeringPhysics, Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, ChemistryMaterials Sciences and Metallurgy, Plant Sciences, Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Genetics, which contribute to teaching and/or host research projects in the respective areas of expertise. The programme also relies on close links with industry champions.

Programme content

The four key learning areas of the programme are explored through six complementary elements with taught, practical and research formats.

The four key learning areas of the programme are explored through six complementary elements with taught, practical and research formats.

1. Core biotechnology course 

At the start of the programme, students take a compulsory taught course on principles of biotechnology. This is a broad-spectrum course that progresses from the fundamentals of molecular and cell biology to more advanced topics on synthetic biology, transgenic animals, plant biotechnology, biological warfare, forensic molecular biology and environmental biotechnology.

The aim of this course is to equip students with the biological language and reasoning necessary for them to effectively apply their analytical skillset in biology-related areas.

2. Practical course

The practical module complements the core lecture course in giving students a strong foundation in modern biotechnology. Over approximately 50 hours, students learn essential and state-of-the-art techniques in biology research, developing practical skills through both taught and hands-on elements. 

The course involves both computer-based sessions, covering DNA design and analysis software, and wet-lab sessions, where students have the opportunity to execute a range of molecular and cellular biology protocols as well as attend demonstrations on specific tools.

Examples of techniques covered in the practical course include:

  • molecular cloning,
  • CRISPR-Cas9,
  • bacterial transformation,
  • DNA sequencing and analysis,
  • recombinant protein expression and purification,
  • cell culture,
  • mammalian cell transfection
  • and fluorescent lifetime imaging microscopy.

3. Elective advanced courses 

The programme offers students the possibility of tailoring their studies to their educational needs and career goals. In addition to the foundational biotechnology modules, students take six elective courses, which they can choose from a list of subjects taught at CEB and at other departments across the University. These courses allow students to acquire advanced knowledge and skills in specific fields close to their interests. 

Students can select their advanced courses along three axes – analysis, application and business – with the following options being normally available*:

* Please note that the courses on offer may change slightly from year to year, subject to, for example, student numbers and academic staff availability.

 Analysis-oriented courses

Biophysics (CEB) 

The aim of this course is to provide an understanding of how to model biological systems and make them amenable for quantitative exploration. The course introduces the students to quantitative biology and leads them through the process of examining life from a biophysicist’s perspective applying thermal and statistical models to living systems. In the course, the students also learn the principles behind various biophysical and optical techniques and explore specific applications of those techniques in living systems.

Mathematical biology of the cell (Department of Engineering)

The course covers topics in stochastic processes and statistical mechanics with application in biology. It introduces the students to sub-cellular processes and the role of thermal fluctuations, addresses the shift from the classical biology approach to a more physical description of the relevant processes, and illustrates the use of mathematical/computing approaches to study regulatory networks and biomolecular dynamics.

Cellular and molecular biomechanics (Department of Engineering) 

This course deals with the relation between the microstructure of soft biological materials and their mechanical properties. In the course, the students get a working understanding of the various components within plant and animal cells, cytoskeletal components in particular, explore key mechanical properties of cells and tissues, and study muscles as actuators at the tissue, cell and protein length scales. 

Computational neuroscience (Department of Engineering)

This course covers basic topics in computational neuroscience and demonstrates how mathematical analysis and ideas from dynamical systems, machine learning, optimal control and probabilistic inference can be applied to gain insight into the workings of biological nervous systems. The course also highlights a number of real-world computational problems that need to be tackled by any ‘intelligent’ system as well as the solutions that biology offers to some of these problems.

Materials and molecules: modelling, simulation and machine learning (Department of Engineering)

This course introduces the concept of computer simulation of material and molecular properties on the atomic scale, teaching basic techniques of molecular dynamics and data analysis and providing hands-on experience with commonly used software packages. The students are first guided through fundamental modelling concepts, ranging from quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics to the practicalities of numerical simulation, multiple length and time scales and error control. Then, they learn about specific models for materials and molecules that facilitate calculation of basic properties of matter, allowing both a deeper understanding of experimental observations and first principles prediction of new phenomena. The final section of the course addresses machine learning and how it allows breaking previously established limitations of numerical approaches, both for direct first principles dynamical simulations and using statistical ‘data mining’ methods.

Systems biology (Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics)

This course covers kinetic design principles in cells, deterministic rate equations, stochastic processes, master equations, the Gillespie algorithm, linear noise approximation, performance bounds and trade-offs in control and biological model systems (e.g. bacterial gene expression, plasmids). Single cell and single molecule experiments and synthetic biology are also covered.

Optical microscopy (CEB)

This course focuses on the fundamental principles of optical microscopy, covering image formation, the physical concepts that affect image resolution and contrast, and quantitative image data analysis in the presence of noise. Modern microscopy technologies that are used in research and industry are described, and students learn about the process of conceptually designing advanced instrumentation that meets the requirements of a given application.

Application-oriented courses

Bionanotechnology (CEB) 

This course explores bionanotechnology, an interdisciplinary field at the interface of nanotechnology and bioscience, and looks into bionano hybrid design and applications. In the course, the students learn about the fundamental principles of nanoengineering, including nanomaterial preparation, assembly and characterisation, get an overview of the scales of biomolecular systems, and explore strategies to join biointerfaces with engineered components. DNA nanotechnology, bioinspired catalysts, biosensors and nanomedicine are embedded throughout the course to give an overview of the potential, advantages and challenges that need to be overcome in bionanotechnology.

Biomimetics (Department of Engineering)

This course explores the idea of adopting and adapting ideas from nature to make new engineering entities, putting a strong emphasis on the interdisciplinary communication between engineers and biologists. In the course, the students learn how to plan and conduct biomimetic research by having the opportunity to examine a number of projects and applications, namely bioinspired legged locomotion, biomimetic adhesion and adhesives, orthotic design and assessment, biomimetic flight dynamics, and biomimetic materials for mechanical support and for visual appearance.

Biomaterials (Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy)

This course starts by addressing the relationship between structure and properties in soft natural materials, including proteins, polysaccharides, and composites of proteins and polysaccharides. Then, it explores the issues involved in the design of a material to replace a failed natural material in a medical context. Emphasis is put on soft tissue replacement, including spinal disc replacement, vascular grafts, skin grafts and tissue engineering scaffolds. Drug delivery systems, particularly those for controlled delivery, are also covered in the course.

Chemical biology and drug discovery (Department of Chemistry) 

In this course, key biological systems are used to explain ideas about the interplay between structure, function and inhibition in chemical biology. The course also highlights chemical strategies that allow for site-selective protein modification and how these are being used to provide biological insight and for the construction of protein conjugates for therapeutics. The science behind the different approaches adopted by academia and the pharmaceutical industry in the early stages of drug discovery are also discussed.

Biosensors and bioelectronics (CEB and Department of Engineering)

This course covers the principles, technologies, methods and applications of biosensors and bioelectronics. The first part of the course gives an overview of biosensing and the application of principles of engineering to the development of biosensors, electrochemical and optical biosensors in particular. In the second part of the course, students are introduced to bioelectronics and learn about implantable electronic medical devices and wearable devices.

Medical physics (Department of Physics)

This course gives an overview of the use of physics in medicine. Particular attention is given to medical imaging, and contrast mechanisms, data acquisition hardware and the general principles of image reconstruction are covered for a range of clinically applicable techniques. Clinical applications of physics, including in diagnosis, patient monitoring and treatment of diseases, are also described. 

Pharmaceutical engineering (CEB) 

This course aims to give students an understanding of the fundamentals of pharmaceutical engineering. It introduces the subject and builds on established concepts from general chemical engineering to highlight specific applications and requirements of this industrial sector. The students learn about the design of solid dosage forms and modified released technologies and explore current trends in pharmaceutical processing.

Healthcare biotechnology (CEB)

This course aims to lay a foundation in the prevalence, pathologies, diagnosis and treatment of the major diseases afflicting humans in the 21st century. The course covers the challenges encountered in drug discovery and development, drug delivery, regulation and the newer approaches involving gene, protein, cell-based and bionic therapies. Key developments for the future, including AI, stratified and personalised medicine, and digital health applications, are also discussed.

Business-oriented courses

Strategic management (Department of Engineering; Judge Business School)

This course provides students with an opportunity to discuss the strategic challenges faced by managers in today’s business environment and to develop a facility for critical strategic thinking. Students become familiar with key strategic analysis models, understanding their application and limitations, and explore some of the current hot topics in strategic management. 

International business (Department of Engineering; Judge Business School)

This course aims to provide future managers with an enhanced understanding of international business by covering globalisation, socio-cultural and political variation in business environments, and international business strategy. The course moves beyond the analysis of market opportunities and industry competitiveness by paying extensive attention to the social, political and cultural differences that businesses need to consider when their activities cross borders. An appreciation of this broader ‘institutional’ environment is essential for managers in order to accurately identify international opportunities and threats. 

Management of technology (Department of Engineering; Institute for Manufacturing)

This course addresses the ways in which technology is brought to market by focusing on key technology management topics from the standpoint of an established business as well as new entrepreneurial ventures. Emphasis is placed on frameworks and methods that are both theoretically sound and practically useful. Through the course, students will not only understand the core challenges of technology management, but also acquire practical means of dealing with them.

Innovation and strategic management of intellectual property (Department of Engineering; Institute for Manufacturing)

This course builds on the state of the art in strategic IP management thinking for maximising appropriation value from technological innovations. While the course emphasises a management perspective on intellectual property, it also includes concepts from engineering, law and economics. 

4. Individual research project

The MPhil in Biotechnology is a taught programme with a strong research component, which includes an individual research project and a team research project.

From the start of the programme until early summer, students undertake an individual research project, which allows them to extend their specialised knowledge by exploring a topic of their choice, develop practical skills in wet-lab and/or computer-based environments, and acquire a range of technical and transferable skills that will set them up for independent research. 

Depending on the student's specific interests, the individual research project may be based at CEB, other participating University departments and/or a site of one of our industry partners. All projects have a supervisor who is an academic at the University of Cambridge. Co-supervisors, from academia or industry, may also be involved. 

This element of the programme requires students to plan and execute their own work, and analyse, interpret and critically discuss their results, which are submitted in the form of a final report. Normally, students also write a review paper and deliver oral and poster communications as part of the individual research project.

Candidates are not required to identify their topic of research at the time of application for the MPhil in Biotechnology. Each year, students are provided with a list of projects to choose from. The list of projects is put together in the summer before the start of the programme and includes titles proposed by academics from departments across the University as well as our industry champions. If candidates have specific research interests, we are happy to discuss those during the admission process.

Examples of individual research project titles in previous years:

  • Lab-on-chip sensor for electrochemical biosensing of bone health (CEB)
  • Enhancing a locally manufacturable CRISPR-Cas12a based assay for typhoid fever diagnostics (CEB)
  • Transcriptional response to amyloidogenic proteins in mammalian cells (MRC Toxicology Unit)
  • DNA origami nanostructures for the targeted destruction of bacteria (CEB)
  • Kinetic modeling of Chinese hamster ovary metabolism (GSK and CEB)
  • Visualising tumour vascular microenvironment (Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and Department of Physics)
  • 3D-printed microfluidic structures towards exosome-based point-of-care diagnostics (Mursla and Department of Physics)
  • Novel approaches to increase high-value compounds in microalgae (Department of Plant Sciences)
  • Drugging the undruggable: combining large scale omics data with machine learning techniques to identify novel E3 ligases for PROTAC drug discovery (Milner Therapeutics Institute)
  • Measuring action potentials with nanopipettes in photoactivated neurons (CEB)
  • Classification of plant diseases through combination of image analysis and environmental data (NIAB and CEB)
  • Development of graph-based computational methods for the design of custom organic chemical syntheses (AstraZeneca and CEB)
  • How do bacteria age? Studying senescence and death in microbes (Department of Engineering)
  • Developing a toolbox for probing protein homeostasis in naked mole-rats (Department of Pharmacology)
  • Antagonism of TLR4 as a novel therapy for inflammatory diseases (Department of Veterinary Medicine and CEB)
  • Influence of calcification and heparin coating on polymeric prosthetic heart valves (CEB)
  • Design of robust multivariate predictive models for process analytics in the biopharmaceutical industry (GSK and CEB)
  • Synthetic biology for diterpenoid metabolic engineering in the marine diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum (Department of Plant Sciences)
  • Modelling FRET to estimate bacterial dynamics in vivo (Department of Veterinary Medicine)
  • Scaling the production of pluripotent stem cell-derived skin organoids (STEMCELL Technologies and CEB)
  • Exploring the multivalent nature of CTPR proteins to study liquid-liquid phase separation (Department of Pharmacology)
  • Contractility measurements in tissue engineered constructs (CEB)
  • Nanodiamond probes for characterisation of P-granules (Department of Physics and CEB)
  • Using computational biology to identify novel therapeutic targets for ion channels-related disease (LifeArc and Milner Therapeutics Institute)
  • Engineering of imine reductases to elucidate sequence-structure-function relationships (Johnson Matthey and CEB)
  • Machine learning for phage protein classification and de novo design (Nemesis Bioscience and Department of Genetics)

5. Team research project

Over the summer, the whole class works collectively in the team research project, which is a distinctive feature of the MPhil in Biotechnology. Often, the team research challenge is organised in collaboration with one of our industry partners; sometimes we set it in an applied context of sustainable development, working with NGOs. Students plan and deliver the project together, supported by an academic supervisor and experts from industry and/or other external organisations. Strong emphasis is put on team-driven and peer-to-peer learning. The class is required to manage and effectively capitalise on the individual technical and management strengths of each student to complete the challenge.

In this element of the programme, students have the chance to further develop technical and practical competences in biotechnology as well as transferable skills. The team research project is also key to the acquisition of business-relevant knowledge as students work on a problem that is motivated by the needs of a contributor from industry or other external organisation. Students rely on leadership competences, effective project management, multilingualism to understand a range of different stakeholders, and commercial awareness to successfully complete the exercise.

The team research project culminates in the delivery of a report and an oral presentation to the project sponsor. 

Titles of the team projects completed by previous cohorts:

2018-2019: Predictive development of complex biopharmaceuticals. The cohort spent the summer at MedImmune/AstraZeneca.

2019-2020: A systems biology approach to investigate the role of cholesterol in neurodegenerative diseases. The cohort produced a business plan for a software start-up in addition to tackling the scientific challenge.

2020-2021: Circular design of a CRISPR toolkit for the SDGs. The cohort designed a manufacturing toolkit for CRISPR-based biosensors for improved access and capacity building in low-resources contexts. Additionally, the students worked with end-user researchers and educators from Kenya, Ghana, Cameroon and Ethiopia to produce educational materials for HE providers and governmental research institutions in these countries.  

2021-2022: Design of devices for procurement and preservation of organs for transplantation. The cohort worked in collaboration with the Royal Papworth Hospital, which is one of the world's leading cardiothoracic hospitals and the UK's main heart and lung transplant centre. In addition to the technical development of new systems, the students produced a whitepaper on ethical considerations around heart transplantation and assessed the commercial viability of one of the new products they worked on. 

6. Professional and career skills module

In addition to providing strong scientific and technical training in biotechnology, the programme intends to help students to develop competences and a mindset that ensure a smooth transition from university education to the workplace. Transferable and business skills training is central to various elements of the programme and further promoted by a dedicated module running throughout the year. 

This module covers professional skills all the way from the lab bench to the market. At the start of the module, emphasis is put on research skills in areas such as research management, academic writing and presentations, and the publishing process. Then, students are guided through the journey of turning lab research into marketable products and have the opportunity to hear about a range of aspects relevant to the development of new biotech products (e.g. intellectual property, regulatory affairs, science diplomacy and bioethics). The module also includes sessions on careers, addressing careers advice, entrepreneurship and biotech contributions to UN Sustainable Development Goals.

This module was created to complement the core, advanced and practical biotechnology knowledge that is acquired in the other elements of the programme, and it is tightly integrated with the programme’s research component, with some research skills sessions being specifically designed to support students with aspects of the individual and team projects.

Infographic showing how the professional and career skills modules envelop the core, advanced and practical knowledge in biotechnology you will gain from the programme, giving you complete training from the lab bench to market.

Teaching and assessment

In line with the programme structure, teaching is delivered through a combination of formal lectures, practical classes, supervised research in one-to-one and group settings, and a range of other means supporting the development of practical and transferable skills (e.g. training workshops, seminars, formal and informal presentations). 

The taught courses are assessed through a combination of some or all of the following:  individual or group coursework, class participation, formal written examination, and individual or group presentations.

The programme’s research component is examined by appraisal of reports and oral presentations taking place during the MPhil in Biotechnology Symposium at the end of the programme.

In order to be awarded the MPhil degree, the students need to pass satisfactorily both the taught and research components of the programme.


Programme management

Gabi Kaminski Schierle

Gabriele Kaminski Schierle, Programme director

Gabi is a lecturer in Molecular Biotechnology, the head of the Molecular Neuroscience Group, and co-director of the Cambridge Infinitus Research Centre. As the director of the MPhil in Biotechnology, she is devoted to providing the best training for the future biotech leaders. Gabi studied biology at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland and did her PhD in Medicine on neural transplantation in Parkinson's disease at Lund University in Sweden. She has since set-up a centre for the application of modern biophysical methods for the study of the molecular mechanisms causing neurodegenerative diseases. Gabi loves to ski with her family, is very European, enjoys art, neuroscience and theatre.

Raquel Costa

Raquel Costa, Programme manager

Raquel gained her PhD from the University of Cambridge working with Professor Geoff Moggridge in the Structured Materials group. She was then a researcher and a lecturer at the University of Coimbra before relocating to Cambridge in 2015. In her research, Raquel merged her background in chemical engineering with biological and environmental sciences to focus on the problem of invasive biofouling bivalves. She also has a longstanding interest in the interface between higher education and the labour market, and has been involved with the EFCE in efforts to develop chemical engineering education in the face of new employment challenges. Prior to joining the MPhil in Biotechnology, Raquel worked at the University's Institute of Continuing Education as an analyst supporting the development of new programmes. She loves to travel and read, but when she is not at work, she will probably be with her two little rascals baking with too much brown sugar or crafting with too much glitter (and hopefully not the other way round).

Teaching and project supervision

Somenath Bakshi

Somenath Bakshi

Department of Engineering

Sarah Bohndiek

Sarah Bohndiek

Department of Physics

Lisa Hall

Lisa Hall


Jim Haseloff

Jim Haseloff

Department of Plant Sciences

Florian Hollfelder

Florian Hollfelder

Department of Biochemistry

Chris Howe

Chris Howe

Department of Biochemistry

Laura Itzhaki

Laura Itzhaki

Department of Pharmacology

Janet Kumita

Janet Kumita

Department of Pharmacology

Ross King

Ross King


Kathryn Lilley

Kathryn Lilley

Department of Biochemistry

Ben Luisi

Ben Luisi

Department of Biochemistry

Gos Micklem

Gos Micklem

Department of Genetics

Olivier Restif

Olivier Restif

Department of Veterinary Medicine

Steve Russell

Steve Russell

Department of Genetics

Alison Smith

Alison Smith

Department of Plant Sciences

Graham Treece

Graham Treece

Department of Engineering

Strategic Committee

A committee composed of academics and industry representatives with varied expertise and research interests contributes to the strategic management of the programme. Below is a list of the current members of the programme’s Strategic Committee, where the Programme Director and the Programme Manager also sit:

Alison Smith: She is Professor of Plant Biochemistry and Head of the Department of Plant Sciences. Alison's research group focuses on several aspects of the metabolism of plants, algae and bacteria, in particular vitamin and cofactor biosynthesis, using synthetic biology approaches to develop algae as novel production platforms for high value products. She is the Director of the Algal Innovation Centre, a facility that allows growth of algae at scale under natural conditions in collaboration with industry.
Andy Sederman. He is Reader in Magnetic Resonance in Engineering and the Deputy Head of Department for teaching matters at CEB. Andy's research interests lie in the development and application of magnetic resonance methods to process and reaction engineering, in particular the understanding of multi-component reaction, diffusion and flow processes.

Annette Alcasabas: She is a Lead Scientist at Johnson Matthey. She has a background in microbial genetics and is interested in technologies that improve commercial enzyme production, enzyme discovery and protein engineering.
Chris Howe. He is Professor of Plant Biochemistry and Group Leader at the Department of Biochemistry. His group's overall research theme is the biochemistry and molecular evolution of photosynthetic organisms. One of the group's achievements has been the discovery of a novel cytochrome in plants and green algae (cytochrome c6A), whose function they are still investigating. Their research interests also extend to the manipulation of algae photosynthetic machinery for the production of renewable energy as well as chloroplast genome and its evolution.

Clemens Kaminski: He is Professor of Chemical Physics and Head of Department in CEB. His group develops advanced photonic technologies for the study of molecular mechanisms of disease. He has published more than 200 papers, serves on numerous scientific advisory boards, and is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America.  

Gos Micklem: He is Director of the Cambridge Computational Biology Institute, based in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics. Gos is also a member of the Department of Genetics where his group is based, with interests in integrative genomics, through the InterMine project, and in synthetic biology.

Graham Christie: He is a Senior Lecturer at CEB, where he also leads the Molecular Microbiology Group. As a microbiologist, Graham is particularly interested in bacterial spore germination processes, which his group investigates at the molecular level using a range of approaches, including genetic, biochemical, crystallographic and advanced imaging techniques. 

Jim Haseloff: He is a Professor at the Department of Plant Sciences and Head of the Synthetic Biology and Reprogramming of Plant Systems Group. With a history of research in plant viroids, RNA enzymes and engineering approaches to plant development, Jim is currently interested in simple open systems for plant synthetic biology. Jim is Chair of the Steering Committee of the Synthetic Biology Interdisciplinary Research Centre.

Kathryn Chapman: She is the Deputy Director of the Milner Therapeutics Institute. Prior to joining the Institute, Kathryn was Head of Innovation and Translation at NC3Rs. She holds an honorary professorship with the University of Coventry, where she sits on the Vice-Chancellors Advisory Group for industry/academic engagement. As a researcher at the University of Manchester, Harvard Medical School, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and GlaxoSmithKline, she focused on the genetics of osteoarthritis and transgenic models for drug development and disease modelling.

Kathryn Lilley: She is the Professor of Cellular Dynamics at the Department of Biochemistry, where she also directs the Cambridge Centre for Proteomics. Her research programme aims to create and apply technology to measure the dynamics of the proteome and transcriptome in high throughput in space and time during critical cellular processes. Her group has also contributed with many open-source informatics tools to efficiently mine and visualise the complex data produced by spatiotemporal proteomics studies. She has published more than 250 peer reviewed papers. In 2017 she was the recipient of the Juan Pablo Albar Proteome Pioneer Award from the European Proteomics Association, and in 2018 she received the HUPO Distinguished Achievements in Proteomics award. She was elected as a member of EMBO in July 2020.

Ljiljana Fruk: She is a Reader in BioNano Engineering at CEB. With a background in chemistry, biospectroscopy and nanotechnology, Ljiljana leads the BioNano Engineering Group, and she is interested in the use of bio and nanoelements to design materials for catalysis, drug delivery and tissue engineering.

Namshik Han: He is the Head of Computational Biology and Artificial Intelligence at the Milner Therapeutics Institute. After obtaining a PhD in Machine Learning and Computational Biology from the University of Manchester, Namshik has been a researcher at Samsung, back at the University of Manchester, and at the University of Cambridge, where he is now leading the computational biology and artificial intelligence strand at the Milner Therapeutics Institute.

Rob Clemmitt: He is Vice President, Head of Cell & Gene Therapy (CGT) Medicine & Process Delivery (MPD) in Medicinal Science & Technology (MST) in R&D at GlaxoSmithKline. In this role, he leads the CMC/supply chain leaders responsible for global projects from candidate selection to commercialisation. He also supports the development of the vector, cell, formulation and testing approaches and the autologous supply chains for the TCR-T assets. He is also leader to the global MPD team for the aSARS-CoV-2 mAbs (VIR-7831 & 2, anti-spike protein mAbs) that are being developed in collaboration with VIR Biotechnology. He has 25 years experience of medicine research, development, registration and commercialisation, including cell and gene therapies, biopharmaceuticals and small molecules. He holds a PhD, an MA and a BA in Biochemical Engineering from the University of Cambridge.

Róisín Owens: She is a Professor and the Head of the Bioelectronic Systems Technology Group at CEB. Her current research interests lie on the application of organic electronic materials for monitoring biological systems in vitro, with an emphasis on the gut-brain-microbiome axis. Róisín has received several awards, including the ERC starting (2011), proof of concept (2014) and consolidator (2016) grants, a Marie Curie fellowship, and an EMBO fellowship.

Sara Serradas Duarte: She is the Research Strategy Manager of Cambridge Global Challenges (CGC). Sara has a background in life sciences – she studied biotechnology and microbiology in Portugal and France and neuroscience at the University of Cambridge. Having grown up in Mozambique, she has always had a strong commitment to advancing the contribution of University-generated knowledge to development priorities in low-income countries. This is achieved at CGC through the mobilization of academic (STEM and AHSS) and cross-sectoral (e.g. policy-making, civil society, business) expertise in research programmes co-developed with colleagues in the Global South. Prior to joining CGC, Sara founded secondGO, a social start up that extends the educational opportunities of university students to others, and worked as a Business Analyst and Educational Content Developer for WaterScope, a Cambridge-based start-up that combats water inequality through a 3D printed water-testing microscope. 

Steve Russell: He is a Professor and Head of Department in the Department of Genetics. Steve's lab explores aspects of transcriptional regulation and chromatin architecture at a genome wide scale in Drosophila. His group has a long-standing commitment to the provision of community resources for the fly, and they have contributed to several resource projects including DrosDel, FlyChip and modENCODE. Steve is involved in the Grand Challenges in Global Health programme to develop novel methods of controlling the malaria vector Anopheles gambiae.

Meet our students and alumni

The MPhil in Biotechnology puts together a group of highly capable and motivated students from a range of academic and career backgrounds, from all over the world. Many wish to merge their expertise in engineering, physics, chemistry, maths or computer sciences with biotechnology. Others have research and/or employment experience in the bioscience sector. They all are committed to become highly regarded players in biotechnology research and industry. The class size varies from year to year but is typically between 14 and 18 students.

Diversity at entry and a very interdisciplinary programme mean even more diversity at departure – since they left the MPhil in Biotechnology, our alumni have been pursuing a very wide range of careers in academia, large multinationals, small start-ups or the consultancy sector, among others.

Alumni benefits

As a University of Cambridge alumnus/a you will be entitled to a range of benefits, such as the official alumni card that instantly identifies you as a member of the University (CAMCard), a free email for life exclusive for our graduates, and access for life to our Careers Service.

The CEB Alumni Relations  team works at the CEB level to further promote the connection between the Department, its current members and its alumni.

As part of your learning experience with us, you will also become a member of our own MPhil in Biotechnology Alumni Network. We value alumni as an important part of the growing MPhil in Biotechnology community. After you leave the programme, we would like to keep hearing from you, and we hope you will continue being involved in our community, follow CEB’s achievements, participate in our activities, share your experiences, support future programme editions and inspire the new students. We also hope that the MPhil in Biotechnology Alumni Network will help you keeping in contact with your classmates as well as extend your professional network.

Make up of our 2022/23 cohort. 16 students in the class, 8 nationalities represented in the cohort, backgrounds in engineering; chemical, biomedical and electrical engineering; chemistry; computer sciences; robotics; biology and life sciences


Ana Mihai (Romania, Class of 2021-2022)

Ana Mihai

My background is in Computer Science, which I studied at undergraduate level, and I had over 5 years of experience as a software engineer in industry before deciding to take a different path in my career.

I wanted to apply and augment my existing skills and experience in a new field, so I was interested in finding a course which would give me a technical understanding and grounding in the latest advances, thus enabling me to achieve this ambition. I chose the MPhil in Biotechnology firstly due to the breadth of topics it covered in its taught component, which equipped me with relevant knowledge and practical skills. Secondly, the research component was a great opportunity to experience doing research in academia, allowing me to make a more informed decision when choosing what opportunities to pursue afterwards. Lastly, Cambridge being at the heart of an important European biotech cluster offered me the chance to expand my network of connections.

Personally, one of the things I really enjoyed about the MPhil was the practical course, as it was the first time I was in a wet lab and I learned a lot. Another advantage of the MPhil is the flexibility to tailor it based on the specific topics you want to explore, by choosing the relevant electives. I really enjoyed getting to know and also work with my cohort, especially during the group research project. While Cambridge can sometimes feel quite small, the Colleges offer many opportunities for interesting activities, ranging from sports to arts. London is also just an hour away by train!

In the near future, I will continue to expand my knowledge and skills while working within a research environment, by learning new molecular biology lab techniques and applying my existing programming skills within the new context of bioinformatics.

Bhavik Kumar (Malaysia, Class of 2021-2022)

Bhavik Kumar

I graduated in mechanical engineering, and then went on to predominantly work in the energy industry with ExxonMobil and Petronas for a few years.

The MPhil in Biotechnology programme stood out to me as an avenue to leverage my engineering knowledge and converge into the biomedical sector, something I have wanted to do. Additionally, Cambridge as a city is rapidly growing as a biotech hub, and so we had access to professionals in the industry either through the course or the university's societies and outreach programmes.

I joined the course as a Chevening scholar, and had an amazing year. I enjoyed the vibrant life in Cambridge, and I am very appreciative to have been there post-Covid. The course itself is well curated and gave us exposure to a variety of subjects and ideas in the field. I enjoyed meeting with other students in the cohort from different academic backgrounds, which added so much richness and sparked enjoyable conversations with different perspectives. 

The wide range of interdisciplinary course modules gave me insight into specific concepts I am very excited about, and I hope to continue pursuing some of those branches professionally.

I also enjoyed the individual research project; apart from the opportunity to work with academics and students at the bleeding edge of science, I got a first-hand glimpse of how to navigate through a research-dominated environment, which I thoroughly benefitted from.

The next step I hope to take is to work in the research and design of medical devices.

Yicheng Liu (China, Class of 2021-2022)

Yicheng Liu

With a quantitative undergraduate degree in finance and risk management, I worked as a life science investor and advisor for four years before joining the MPhil in Biotechnology programme. During my work experience, I realised the importance of advanced scientific knowledge in translating biomedical technologies into therapeutics. This motivated me to seek structured academic training in bioscience, and the MPhil in Biotechnology was the perfect platform for me to solidify my life science knowledge base.

The half-taught, half-research approach was what made the programme intellectually challenging and rewarding. For instance, from the core module lectures, I acquired a broad spectrum of fundamental knowledge on molecular and cell biology. Such knowledge played an essential role in the subsequent individual research project, as it further deepened my understanding of cutting-edge bioscience concepts and enabled me to apply my analytical skills into the research topic. This interplay between lectures and independent research was an incredible highlight of my MPhil experience.

Meanwhile, I have also met so many lovely and smart classmates and lab mates. I absolutely enjoyed my journey at Cambridge, especially the collaborative and supportive culture within my cohort and in the research lab where I conducted my supervised research project.

After graduating, I moved to the University of Oxford to pursue further studies in integrated immunology. I look forward to further exploring the life science field using the biotechnology knowledge and skillset that I have gained at Cambridge.

Jakob Traeuble (Germany, Class of 2021-2022)

Jakob Traeuble

Before starting the MPhil in Biotechnology, I completed a Bachelor’s degree in Physics at the University of Munich. I was always fascinated by the astonishing developments and breakthroughs in biotechnology and thus wanted to apply my analytical skillset in this exciting field. The very broad range of research subjects and the interdisciplinary approach were key factors for me to choose the MPhil in Biotechnology.

Cambridge is a truly impressive place to study, and I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in college life.

In the programme, I focused on the science and computational aspects. I particularly enjoyed the computational neuroscience course. Within the individual research project, I used novel machine learning methods to study neuronal activity. This strategy can be used to investigate brain phenomena in more detail such as the mechanisms behind neurodegenerative diseases. The aspect I liked the most about this MPhil is its multidisciplinary. This shows in the incredible range of electives and research topics as well as the cohort itself.

After finishing the programmme, I am staying in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology to pursue a PhD in Biotechnology, for which I have been awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. Based on my previous research in the MPhil, I am analysing correlatively the link between brain elasticity and neuronal activity in neurodegenerative diseases.

Michelle Silver (US, Class of 2021-2022)

Michelle Silver

After completing my undergraduate degree in Robotics and Control Engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy, I was motivated to pursue my interest in biotechnology, broaden my perspectives, and deepen my intercultural competency.

Overall, the MPhil program was both demanding and enriching. Learning from world-class professors in state-of-the-art laboratories is an invaluable opportunity unique to Cambridge. My individual research was focused on creating non-toxic antimicrobial coatings. Working with direct support from my supervisor helped me develop necessary technical and soft skills for careers within and beyond academia. Both the individual and team research projects, in addition to the taught modules, focused on solving current issues within the biotechnology sector. I appreciated the flexibility to tailor the taught modules to our own individual passions and pursuits with topics ranging from business to biomimetics. 

Having a close-knit cohort not only gives you insight to different Colleges around Cambridge, but also into different countries and cultures around the world. The town of Cambridge is big enough where there is always something to do, but small enough where it felt like home shortly after arriving. I am confident the professional and personal relationships formed with members of my cohort, supervisors, and students in and out of the department will last well beyond our time in Cambridge. Following graduation, I will begin my training to serve as a U.S. Navy Pilot.

Dillon Chew (Singapore, Class of 2019-2020)

Dillon Chew stood outside King's College Cambridge

I came into the MPhil in Biotechnology programme with a background in Chemical Engineering and the Life Sciences. During my undergraduate time, I had several opportunities to work on design and research projects focusing on the sustainable bioproduction of chemicals and biofuels, which greatly sparked my interest in the application of biology to develop technologies that would improve our everyday lives. 

Coming across the MPhil in Biotechnology at Cambridge, I was drawn to the interdisciplinary nature, half-taught half-research curriculum, and close connections that the progarmme has with the biotechnology industry. In addition, it was very hard to reject the opportunity to live the Cambridge experience.

The interdisciplinary and application-focused nature was what made the program challenging and rewarding. For instance, both the Healthcare Biotechnology and Bionanotechnology courses challenged us to develop diagnostic solutions for the pandemic. One of the most enjoyable experiences I had in the porgarmme was my individual research project under Professor Alison Smith from the Department of Plant Sciences, which really complimented my previous experiences. The project not only allowed me to further hone my wet lab skills, but also challenged me to venture into the world of bioinformatics which greatly expanded my technical skill set. In addition, the research group was also very accommodating, and I really appreciated the support and all the intellectual discussions we had.

Outside of class, I also had valuable experiences working with other undergraduate and postgraduate students in the area of biotechnology. Getting involved with the Cambridge Consulting Network, I worked with biotech startups to understand their needs and directly propose solutions for them. In addition, joining the Medical iTeams allowed me gain hands-on experience as I developed commercialisation approaches for an innovative medical invention.  

Currently, I am working as an associate scientist at Procter and Gamble where I integrate microbiology, molecular biology and bioinformatics to drive innovation in the hygiene space. Some interesting projects include developing rapid/real-time hygiene diagnostic technologies, upgrading the microbial efficacy of hygiene products, and studying the microbiomes around us through metagenomics sequencing. 

I strongly believe that my time at Cambridge has greatly exposed me to the rapidly growing field of biotechnology and prepared me well for a career in this field, and I look forward to seeing where my journey in biotechnology takes me.

Maxime Crabé (France, Class of 2018-2019)

Maxime Crabe

I decided to apply for the MPhil in Biotechnology because of its broad range of electives, close connections with the industry, and to live the Cambridge experience!

The course made me discover how broad the field of biotechnology actually is, and how diverse your career possibilities are. Working in an academic lab or becoming an entrepreneur are two very different career plans that appeal to me, and this MPhil gave me an exposure to both of them.

The most enjoyable part of the MPhil was my individual research project. I was fully integrated within my team, the Bionano Engineering Group of Dr Ljiljana Fruk, and received all the support I needed to carry out my own research project.

Throughout the course I had the opportunity to meet a lot of enthusiastic and passionate researchers working in different academic or industrial labs. I might come back to Cambridge to work with some of them in the years to come!

I am now working as a strategy consultant for the biotech/pharmaceutical industry and thus advising executives on high-level decisions covering a broad range of issues. For instance, projects I have been working on include the development of a 5-year business plan for a company developing software-assisted genetic diagnoses for precision medicine, the optimisation of a big pharma's R&D productivity, and the preparation of the commercial launch of a new cancer treatment. With its balance between scientific and business-oriented electives, the MPhil in Biotechnology definitely equipped me with all of the necessary knowledge I need in my daily practice!

Wilson Wang (US, Class of 2018-2019)

Wilson Wang

After specialising in chemistry during my last year at Williams College in the USA, I knew I wanted to see more of how science moves from theory to application. A rigorous education in the science and business of biotechnology in the innovation hub of Silicon Fen was the perfect way for me to do this.

The MPhil in Biotechnology added a new layer to what I plan to do in the future. Although I aspired to pursue medicine in an MD degree in the USA, I wanted to add an extra layer of biotechnology onto my responsibilities as a physician. I see biotechnology as a way to help future patients.

Since leaving Cambridge, I have matriculated at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis as a Distinguished Student Scholar. I have recently completed my first year of medical school (virtually as per Covid) and am preparing to enter the hospitals soon to apply my knowledge practically in clinical rotations. The pandemic has only re-emphasized the importance of scientific research and its translation and application to society, and so I continue to explore new ways of adding that extra layer of biotechnology and entrepreneurship as I train as an aspiring physician.


A basis for further study or a move into industry

Some of the hottest careers in science are linked to the rapid advances in the biotech sector. The MPhil in Biotechnology will equip you with the right set of skills to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical, healthcare, agritech, or bioenergy industries, or in other sectors where bioprocesses are important.

It may also be a stepping stone to PhD level studies. With us, you will acquire core and advanced knowledge in biotechnology, explore current trends and look at the latest technologies in relevant areas, gain a wide range of practical and transferable skills, and develop business awareness.

Tailored to your personal career goals

The programme’s structure and content are flexible so that you can tailor your studies to your interests and career goals by selecting your specialised modules and the area and department within the University in which you would like to carry out your research project.

As a student at the University of Cambridge you will have access to our exceptional Careers Service. This service provides general career planning advice, organises recruitment events that attract major global companies and high-profile employers, and offers one-to-one sessions with its careers advisers. The programme's faculty and industry champions are also available to provide career advice in their area of specialisation.

Cambridge: a rapidly growing biotech hub

Our MPhil in Biotechnology incorporates the cutting-edge research being developed at the University of Cambridge, it has been designed in consultation with employers to take into consideration the workforce needs and skills gaps in the field, and it is continuously updated with the input from our industry champions.

The University of Cambridge is well known by the talent pool it generates, and its graduates are amongst the world’s most sought-after by employers.

As a natural result of its academic strength, the University of Cambridge has an enviable track record of spin-outs in biotech-related areas. Learn more about the University’s efforts to aid the transfer of knowledge through commercialisation from Cambridge Enterprise.


Throughout the programme your will have plenty of opportunities to interact with classmates and other colleagues, alumni, a diversity of world-class academics and our industry champions and visitors. University-wide events (e.g. extra-curricular entrepreneurship activities) and the fact that Cambridge is home to one of the most important biotech clusters in Europe will also create great networking opportunities.

Entry requirements

Candidate profile

The programme is designed primarily for those who intend to develop interdisciplinary skills and apply their backgrounds in engineering, physics, chemistry, maths or computer sciences in the biotech sector. A degree in these areas is normally expected, but strong candidates with other backgrounds will also be considered.

Entry to the MPhil in Biotechnology is very competitive, with the programme attracting applications from top quality students from across the world. We aim to admit highly motivated, perseverant, hard-working students, who are critical thinkers and enthusiastic about integrating scattered data and knowledge from different fields. We expect applicants to be able to demonstrate to the selection panel a high level of commitment, irrespective of formal academic qualifications.

We are committed to offering a diverse and inclusive environment, and welcome applications from under-represented groups, fully aligning with the University’s policies on equality and diversity. All applications are evaluated on the basis of academic merit.

Expected academic standard

Applicants should have achieved a UK first class or high upper second class honours degree or equivalent. If your degree is not from the UK, please consult the International section of the Postgraduate Admissions Prospectus to find the equivalent standard in your country.

Competence in English

Candidates who are not native English speakers must demonstrate that they can read, write and speak English to the standard required to fully participate in the programme. Information on the language test scores required for the MPhil in Biotechnology can be found in the International section of the Postgraduate Admissions Prospectus. Specifically, the requirements for IELTS and TOEFL are:

IELTS (Academic): minimum overall score of 7.0, with a minimum of 7.0 in the listening, writing and speaking elements, and a minimum of 6.5 in the reading element.

TOEFL (Internet Score): minimum overall score of 100, with no less than 25 in each element.

How to apply

Admissions for entry in October 2024 are open from 4 September 2023 until 25 June 2024, but we encourage candidates to apply as soon as conveniently possible. Please note that other specific funding deadlines may be in place.

Further detailed information can be found in the University’s Postgraduate Studies Prospectus. For enquiries about admissions or if you would like to get additional information about the programme before applying, please contact us.

Application process

Applications are handled centrally by the Postgraduate Admissions Office, which provides full information on the application process, including deadlines, admission criteria, colleges and funding, as well as on the post-application stage.

Upon application, you will be required to provide your transcripts, evidence of competence in English, your CV/resume, and details of two academic referees who will be contacted by the University to supply references. You will also need to provide a statement of interest (1500 characters) and explain your reasons for applying for the MPhil in Biotechnology (1500 characters). Note that additional elements may be required to apply for specific funding schemes (please refer to the Postgraduate Studies Prospectus).

After submitting an application, shortlisted candidates will be interviewed (normally by video call) before the Department formally recommends an offer of admission.

Completed applications are considered in sequence by the Department, the Degree Committee and the Postgraduate Admissions Office, and the duration of the process within each of these varies. Most of the applications are considered by the Department within 8 weeks of all required elements (including the academic references) being submitted. Many applicants receive a decision much earlier than this.

Early application is strongly recommended as we operate a continuous admission process, meaning that places on the programme are allocated on an ongoing basis throughout the year.

Finances and funding

Students enrolled in the programme must have funds available to pay fees and maintenance costs (please refer to the Finance section of the Postgraduate Studies Prospectus).

There is currently no specific funding being advertised for the MPhil in Biotechnology. Applicants may be eligible to apply for the general funding opportunities from across the collegiate University (please see the Funding section of the Postgraduate Studies Prospectus). The Postgraduate Funding Search tool will help you finding out which type of funding you might be eligible for, and how and when to apply.

Please note that the application deadline for some funding schemes may be much earlier than that advertised for the programme admissions in late June.

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