How can we use gene-editing technology to understand and treat human disease or improve crop yield? What is big data and how can we use it to advance our understanding of biological systems? How are we using synthetic biology to engineer bacteria to clean up oil pollution? How does bioimaging allow us to see inside the molecular machinery of a cell?
Integrative biology brings together all the tools of modern biology to unravel the complexity of living systems. Our BSc Biological Sciences covers the breadth of biology from molecules and cells, to whole organisms and ecosystems. In our School you’ll discover how new developments in technology are driving current research, with research-based teaching delivered by leading scientists investigating global biological challenges.
The vast and diverse world of living organisms offers a huge range of opportunities for study and work, and at Essex we give you the flexibility to shape your degree to suit your interests. Your first year offers broad insights into cell and molecular biology, genetics, ecology and evolution, as well as an overview of animal, plant, and microorganism diversity. Our Integrative Biology pathway allows you to choose from a broad selection of modules across different disciplines. Alternatively you can customise your degree to specialise in an area you enjoy most, choosing from either Molecular and Cell Biology, or Ecology and Conservation Biology.
Choose to follow one of our three pathways:
- Molecular and Cell Biology
- Ecology and Conservation
- Integrative Biology
You’ll receive hands-on experience to develop important practical skills both in the lab and in the field throughout your course. In your final year you’ll carry out an independent research project allowing you to pursue your own interests and play your own part in adding to the ever-growing knowledge within biological sciences.
Visit our biological sciences subject page for more information and content.
Your education extends beyond the university campus. We support you in expanding your education through offering the opportunity to spend a year or a term studying abroad at one of our partner universities. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year abroad or employed on a placement abroad (see below).
Studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are adaptable and mature.
If you spend a full year abroad you’ll only pay 15% of your usual tuition fee that year. You won’t pay any tuition fees to your host university.
Our students currently study abroad at universities in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, Germany and Sweden.
Alternatively, you can spend your third year on a placement with an external organisation. This is usually focused around your course, and enables you to learn about a particular sector, company, or job role, apply your academic knowledge in a practical working environment, and receive inspiration for future career pathways.
Organisations our students have recently been placed with include GlaxoSmithKline, Proctor & Gamble, Aquaterra, Astrazeneca, Genzyme, Reckitt Benckiser, Thermofisher, and Isogenica.
If you complete a placement year you’ll only pay 20% of your usual tuition fee to Essex for that year.
Our expert staff
As one of the largest schools at our University, we offer a lively, friendly and supportive environment with research-led study and high quality teaching. Two-thirds of our research is rated “world-leading” or “internationally excellent” (REF 2014), and you learn from and work alongside our expert staff.
Our research covers a wide spectrum of biology – from the cell right through to communities and ecosystems. Key academic staff for this course include Dr Alex Dumbrell, who specialises in ecology and biodiversity, Dr Tracy Lawson, who researches stomata, using chlorophyll and thermal imaging to measure plant productivity, and Dr Phil Reeves, who works on the molecular mechanism of vision loss.
The University of Essex has a Women’s Network to support female staff and students, and our School was awarded the Athena Swan Silver Award in October 2020, which reflects the work carried out by staff in our School to continue to improve equality, including a mentorship scheme, support for postdoctoral research staff, and financial help towards childcare costs for academics who wish to attend conferences.
Our School has leading research facilities for cell and molecular biology, genomics, and ecology. Depending on your choice of pathway and research project you have the opportunity to use these facilities, which include:
- Receive training in your first year on using the Oxford Nanopore MinION, a portable handheld device that can sequence genomes in real time
- A high performance computing cluster with 368 CPUs, 5.4Tb of RAM and 700Tb of storage for analyses of large biological data sets
- An advanced bioimaging suite to visualise and process images of biological processes in real time
- An X-ray Crystallography and Macromolecular Interactions facilities for the biophysical characterisation of proteins and other macromolecules
- Fully automated laboratories with robotic liquid handling systems and equipment for cell culture, molecular biology and gene editing
- A fleet of remote-sensing drones for carrying out remote field surveys
- Aquariums, mesocosms and other facilities for ecology and behaviour studies
Demand for qualified biologists continues to grow and our course will equip you with the analytical and computational skills that are in high demand by employers. Recent graduates have gone on to work in a range of different careers in organisations which include GlaxoSmithKline, the Sainsbury Laboratory (University of Cambridge), ALS Laboratories, the National Health Service, Suffolk County Council, Essex Wildlife Trust and Natural England. Others have chosen to enhance their career opportunities by studying for MSc, MSD (Masters of Research) or PhD degrees.
We also work with our University’s Student Development Team to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.
Why we’re great
- Study in our brand new £13.2m STEM Teaching Centre which is equipped with cutting-edge facilities including modern teaching laboratories and an IT-rich exploratory learning space.
- You have the opportunity to carry out your own unique ten-week research project under the supervision of our leading academics.
- We are ranked top 25 for overall student satisfaction for Biology in the National Student Survey 2021.
We offer a flexible course structure with a mixture of core/compulsory modules, and optional modules chosen from lists.
Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore all modules listed are subject to change. Please note from the academic year 2019-20 we are upgrading our course structure to offer a modern, integrated approach to biology and the inclusion of pathways of specialism. This will result in the removal of some of the current optional modules and the introduction of some new, contemporary modules (subject to approval). To view the compulsory modules and full list of optional modules currently on offer, please view the programme specification via the link below.
Teaching and learning disclaimer
Following the impact of the pandemic, we made changes to our teaching and assessment to ensure our current students could continue with their studies uninterrupted and safely. These changes included courses being taught through blended delivery, normally including some face-to-face teaching, online provision, or a combination of both across the year.
The teaching and assessment methods listed show what is currently approved for 2022 entry; changes may be necessary if, by the beginning of this course, we need to adapt the way we’re delivering them due to the external environment, and to allow you to continue to receive the best education possible safely and seamlessly.
On a placement year you gain relevant work experience within an external business or organisation, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.
On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.
- Learn through a combination of lectures, laboratory sessions and coursework
- Gain experience collating and interpreting data, and reporting findings clearly and concisely
- Participate in specialist field trips
- Degrees are awarded on the results of your written examinations together with continual assessments of your practical work and coursework