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PostGraduate UK   Pure and Applied Sciences




Why Study Pure and Applied Sciences at postgraduate level?

World-class ratings in research and established excellence in teaching mean that there has never been a better time to study Science at British Universities! Building on a long standing experience of the core (pure) sciences of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics, UK Universities offer a huge range of exciting and challenging postgraduate courses (programmes) in the pure and applied sciences.

These science programmes may lead directly to your chosen career or perhaps, after graduating at undergraduate level, to a one year MSc or MA postgraduate taught course in a specific subject in which you wish to specialise. This may be to extend your understanding of a narrow aspect of that topic in order to target a particular job, or perhaps just to add further expertise to your list of abilities to increase your opportunities in the job market.

Equally, graduating with a good degree from one of the many excellent UK undergraduate and postgraduate taught programmes in science will give you the opportunity to undertake supervised research for a postgraduate research based award (MPhil or PhD) as part of a major research group on a 3 or 4 year project of direct

What can I study?
Postgraduate programmes at UK universities fall into two main groups: postgraduate taught programmes which are usually one full year of study and lead to an MSc or MA degree and Postgraduate Research based awards which are usually a minimum of 2 to 3 years of study and research, and lead to the award of MPhil or PhD degrees. In all cases you will need to be a graduate in an appropriate subject or in some cases a diplomat with several years appropriate experience in an industrial or commercial setting

Links between UK universities and major industrial and commercial concerns are strong. This leads to contributions from industry based research scientists to our taught and research programmes and to specific research projects of common interest. Taking the form of both specialist lecture provision, research sponsorship, supervision and, in some cases, access to company facilities may give an applied twist to even the purest science topic.

Postgraduate Taught Programmes (MSc or MA)
Most Science departments offer at least one of these wide ranging and intensively taught, one year programmes which are available with two main intentions:

  • Advanced or specialist programmes are those which aim to extend your knowledge and depth of understanding of your degree subject. This will enable you to specialise in a narrow aspect of your subject. For example a biochemistry or chemistry graduate might consider specialising in Analytical or Medicinal Chemistry (drug design) by extending the depth of understanding of topics already included in their initial qualifications.
  • Conversion programmes are those which intend to add completely new, but often related, topics to your range of academic experience so that you may enter careers for which your first degree did not really qualify you. They aim to broaden your horizons! For example a chemist might wish to change careers and become a specialist in ergonomics (human factors and environment control) or drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics (molecular changes and drug distributions occurring within living systems) for which new understandings of human physiology and biochemistry are required in addition to the chemist’s existing analytical skills.

An additional one year taught masters programme type is the MRes or MSc (Research). These are usually aimed at those intending to embark on a future research programme or career and should provide the skills and appreciation of the subject appropriate techniques underlying a well planned and researched project.

Postgraduate Research Programmes (MPhil, PhD and New Route PhD / PhD plus)
If you already have a good undergraduate or postgraduate degree in a science based subject, your opportunity to be part of world class science research teams begins here!
The backbone of funding for research in the UK is provided by seven research councils: the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Medical Research Council , the Natural Environment Research Council and the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council.

British contributions to our scientific understanding of ourselves and the world in which we live extend from the very principles on which our science (and engineering) is based to their applications in the modern world. So, whether your interests lie in furthering our understanding of an aspect of the pure sciences, designing a new material or new drug entity, understanding a disease process or developing a supercomputer process, a new analytical technique for a specific molecule or a malignant cell– whatever aspect of science research interest you, UK universities will have established project groups interested in you and the expertise to provide appropriate supervision and training. Before applying, get your research thoughts onto paper in the form of a short research proposal indicating the area within which you would like to undertake research, the current position and literature background to your ideas and how you would like to extend this knowledge and why.

Short research projects of 1-2 years duration lead to MPhil (Master of Philosophy) degrees, whilst a greater depth of understanding and novelty of thinking and application with an inevitably extended research period (typically 3 years) lead to PhD degrees. In all cases, structured training in literature searching and in appropriate research techniques is included. In the special case of New Route or PhD plus programmes these formal training elements comprise much of the first year and about half of the second year of a 4 year package. These extended PhD programmes are not available in all subjects as yet.

Some Web links
The British Computer Society
The British Psychology Society
Education UK
The Ergonomics Society
The Forensic Science Society
Institute of Biology
Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining
Institute of Physics
London Mathematical Society
National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA)
Research Councils UK (RCUK)
The Royal Society
The Royal Society of Chemistry


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