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Course content

Engineering organisms and processes to generate the products of the future

Many everyday products are generated using biological processes. Foods such as bread, yoghurt and beer rely upon microscopic organisms to generate their structure and flavour. Many drugs are made using cells, such as insulin used to treat diabetes and many anticancer chemotherapy drugs. In the future, more products will be made using biological processes as they are typically ‘greener’ than traditional chemical processes – they are less energy intensive and generate fewer harmful chemical by-products. Biological processes are also responsible for many environmentally-friendly biofuels, which aim to reduce fossil fuel use.

Biological processes are key to many UK companies, from small contract manufacturers of protein and DNA drugs to large companies making fuels, commodity chemicals, foods and plastics. Biochemical engineering is an area that is essential to UK, European and Worldwide industrial development.

This is a highly multidisciplinary subject, requiring the integration of engineering and bioscience knowledge. If you are interested in pursuing a career in industrial biotechnology, biochemical engineering, biotechnology or bioprocessing, then this programme will provide you with the basic knowledge and skills required. Optional modules expand your horizons to include specific product areas (such as pharmaceuticals) and other skills required for a career in the area (such as business skills).

Birmingham is a friendly School which has one of the largest concentrations of chemical engineering expertise in the UK. The School is consistently in the top five chemical engineering schools for research in the country.

It has a first-class reputation in learning, teaching and research, and is highly placed in both The Guardian and The Times league tables. 

Course details

Biochemical Engineering concerns the use of biological organisms or processes by manufacturing industries. It is a multidisciplinary subject, requiring the integration of engineering and bioscience knowledge to design and implement processes used to manufacture a wide range of products; from novel therapeutics such as monoclonal antibodies for treating cancer, vaccines and hormones, to new environmentally-friendly biofuels. It is also essential in many other fields, such as the safe manufacture of food and drink and the removal of toxic compounds from the environment..

This course will provide you with the skills you need to start an exciting career in the bioprocess industries, or continue research in the area of bioprocessing or industrial biotechnology.

Industry involvement

Academics working at Birmingham have strong links with industry, through collaborative projects, so allow students to make contact with companies. Graduates from the MSc programme have gone on to careers in biochemical engineering world-wide, in large and small companies working in diverse areas.

There are also guest lectures from academics working at other institutions.

Practical experience

You will gain practical experience of working with industrially applicable systems, from fermentation at laboratory scale to 100 litre pilot scale, in the Biochemical Engineering laboratories. Theory learned in lectures will be applied in practical terms. In addition, theoretical aspects will be applied in design case studies in a number of modules.

All MSc students complete a summer research project, working on a piece of individual, novel research within one of the research groups in the school. These projects provide an ideal experience of life as a researcher, from design of experimental work, practical generation of data, analysis and communication of findings. Many students find this experience very useful in choosing the next steps in their career.

Special Features

The lecture courses are supplemented with tutorials, seminars and experimental work. Industrial visits and talks by speakers from industrial and service organisations are also included in the course programme.

Pilot Plant

The Biochemical Engineering building houses a pilot plant with large-scale fermentation and downstream processing equipment. The refurbished facility includes state-of-the-art computer-controlled bioreactors, downstream processing equipment and analytical instruments

Course structure

The MSc is a 12-month full-time advanced course, comprising lectures, laboratory work, short experimental projects and a research project. You will take an introductory module, four core modules, and then choose 50 credits of optional themed modules. The course can also be taken on a part-time basis. The Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) lasts for 8 months from the end of September until June. 

For the first eight months you have lectures, tutorials and laboratory work. Core module topics include:

  • Fermentation and cell culture
  • Bioseparations
  • Process monitoring and control
  • Systems and synthetic biology approaches

There are numerous optional modules available across three themes: 

  • Biopharmaceutical development and manufacture
  • Food processing
  • Business skills for the process industries

From June to September you gain research training on your own project attached to one of the teams working in the bioprocessing research section.

Related links

Learning and teaching

The MSc is a 12-month full-time advanced course, comprising lectures, laboratory work, short experimental projects and a research project. You will take an introductory module, four core modules, and then choose 50 credits of optional themed modules. The course can also be taken on a part-time basis. The Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) lasts for 8 months from the end of September until June.  

For the first eight months you have lectures, tutorials and laboratory work. Topics include:

  • Fermentation and cell culture
  • Bioseparations
  • Process monitoring and control
  • Systems and synthetic biology approaches
  • Biopharmaceutical development and manufacture

You also have practical experience of working in the newly-refurbished pilot plant of the Biochemical Engineering building

From June to September you gain research training on your own project attached to one of the teams working in the bioprocessing research section.


Visit the Biochemical Engineering - MSc/PGDip page on the University of Birmingham website for more details!

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