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The development of advanced and super-resolution microscopy has opened a new frontier in how scientists study biological systems and develop new approaches in medicine. In recent years, Nobel Prizes have been awarded to the researchers behind super-resolution fluorescence microscopy and cryo-electron microscopy.

Whether your background is in biological science, physical sciences, medicine or engineering, MSc Biological Imaging is designed to train you to use the technologies behind these state-of-the-art techniques, and see what discoveries can be made using the highly detailed images you'll capture. You'll have access to some of the most advanced microscopy tools as you learn from the experts in optical, atomic force and electron microscopy, and from our partners in industry.

Our scientists have created a unique centre of excellence for microscopy research through the Imagine: Imaging Life project. This ground-breaking collaboration brings together physicists who have built microscopes that capture biological processes in unprecedented detail, chemists who create fluorescent probes that make the most advanced microscopy techniques possible, and biologists who use imaging to make advances in healthcare and medicine. On this course, they'll help you build a specialist set of skills that you can apply to roles in the microscopy industry or PhD study in this growing field of scientific research.

Course structure

This one-year masters course will teach you the latest microscopy techniques, which you can use to help answer biological questions ranging from how proteins interact and how cancer cells grow to how plant cells breath and how photosynthesis works at the most fundamental level. During your degree, you will be able to learn super-resolution and atomic force microscopy techniques from specialists in the University of Sheffield's Biophysical Imaging Centre and Light Microscopy Facility, and electron microscopy techniques from the scientists running our new £2 million Arctica microscope.

At the start of the course, each week is devoted to a different microscopy technique. In the first half of the week, you will learn the theory behind the technique by attending lectures and studying key scientific papers. You will then get practical training on each technique in the second half of the week, so that you can learn how to use specialist equipment to capture detailed images of biological systems. Finally, you will learn how to analyse and write up the data you have produced, often by learning to use code to programme your own analysis tools.

Once you have practiced a range of techniques, you will choose a topic for your own independent research project. The project will take up one-third of your course and you will be supported by a supervisor either based here in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, in one of the University of Sheffield's biology departments, or with one of our partners in industry. They will provide advanced training in the microscopy techniques your project is based on. This gives you the chance to develop specialist knowledge of the latest scientific technology, and a distinctive set of skills that can help you stand out to potential employers and PhD supervisors.

Your training will be supported by scientific careers skills sessions, lectures and seminars. This includes guest talks by our partners in the bioscience sector and imaging technology industry, so that you can learn about the opportunities to apply your advanced microscopy expertise in your career.

Taught modules – students take both:

  • Imaging Life (30 credits)
  • Imaging Across the Disciplines (15 credits)

Practical modules – students take all three:

  • Theory and Practical Application of Imaging (60 credits)
  • Image Analysis (15 credits)
  • Imaging Project (60 credits)

Learning and teaching

You will learn through lectures, laboratory and computing classes, seminars and your research project, supervised by one of our academic staff.


Assessments include written assignments, laboratory assignments, computing assignments, lab work, problem-solving with industry and your research project.

After your degree

We have close links with lots of companies in the microscopy industry, who are designing the latest cutting-edge technologies. These are organisations that we've collaborated with on projects, and that we've sourced state-of-the-art equipment from. They'll also support your learning on this course by giving guest lectures, designing research projects for you to tackle and providing insights into the jobs that you can be qualified for after graduation.

This course is also great preparation for a PhD.

How to apply

To apply for this course, complete the University of Sheffield's postgraduate online application form.

Postgraduate online application form

Early applications are encouraged. Any applications received after all places have been filled will be deferred for entry the following year.

Visit the MSc Biological Imaging page on the University of Sheffield website for more details!






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