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Structural Molecular Biology (MSc): 2-year, part-time

Our distance learning programme provides you with a grounding in the structure of proteins, and the main techniques that are used to study protein structure.

Structural biology allows you to understand how macromolecules work at the atomic level of detail. This is important, particularly in designing drugs that act at the molecular level to affect macromolecules.

Increasingly, research uses a range of complementary biophysical and structural techniques to study protein-protein interactions. This requires that researchers have some understanding of what all these techniques can achieve. This programme is designed to give the theoretical background required to use this range of methods.

Highlights

  • In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), in a joint submission with UCL, Biological Sciences at Birkbeck were ranked 11th in the UK, with a research environment supporting world-leading and internationally excellent research.
  • Part of the Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology, a joint initiative with University College London.
  • Birkbeck houses state-of-the-art equipment for X-ray crystallography, cryo-electron microscopy and tomography and associated image processing and access to protein NMR and mass spectrometry facilities at UCL. We have excellent facilities for UV and CD spectroscopy, calorimetry, fluorescence spectroscopy, ultracentrifugation, and protein expression and purification in the biochemical and molecular biology laboratories. We have high-performance computing for data analysis. All areas have specialised computer equipment for data analysis, molecular graphics and molecular modelling and programming.

    Course structure

    You must successfully complete modules worth 180 credits.

    You take two 30-credit modules in each year and complete a 60-credit project over two summers; we also offer a three-year programme in which you normally complete the project in Year 3. The project can either be purely web based or involve coming to Birkbeck for a two-week laboratory session, along with planning and write-up.

    Please note you may take any four of the option modules but not all three of Protein Structure Determination, Protein Crystallography and Macromolecular Electron Microscopy. For advice on module selection please contact the .

    Alternatively you may graduate with one of the following Postgraduate Certificates by taking two 30-credit modules:

    • Postgraduate Certificate in Protein Crystallography: Protein Crystallography plus one other module
    • Postgraduate Certificate in Macromolecular and Cellular Electron Microscopy: Macromolecular and Cellular Electron Microscopy plus one other module
    • Postgraduate Certificate in Structural Molecular Biology: any two modules

    A Postgraduate Diploma in Structural Molecular Biology can be awarded for any completed 120 credits.

    Module groups

    • Entry Requirements

      Entry requirements

      Our standard postgraduate entry requirement is a second-class honours degree (2:2 or above) from a UK university, or an equivalent international qualification.

      We will review every postgraduate application to Birkbeck on its individual merits and your professional qualifications and/or relevant work experience will be taken into consideration positively. We actively support and encourage applications from mature learners.

      On your application form, please list all your relevant qualifications and experience, including those you expect to achieve.

      Apply now to secure your place and allow enough time for the application and enrolment process. You do not need to have completed your current qualification to start your application.

      Course specific entry requirements

      A second-class honours degree in science, computing or mathematics, or equivalent qualification, or relevant work experience.

      International Entry Requirements

      Our standard postgraduate entry requirement for international students is a second-class honours degree (2:2 or above) from a UK university or an equivalent international qualification.

      Find details of entry requirements and equivalencies for over 120 countries worldwide.

      If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, our usual requirement is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 6.5, with not less than 6.0 in each of the sub-tests. Some courses may require higher scores, particularly in the following subject areas:

      • arts management
      • cultural studies
      • development studies
      • film and media
      • geography
      • history
      • law
      • organizational psychology
      • psychology.

      Please carefully check the Course-Specific Entry Requirements on your chosen programme for details of higher English language entry requirements.

      If you don't meet the minimum IELTS requirement, we offer pre-sessional English courses, foundation programmes and language support services to help you improve your English language skills and get your place at Birkbeck.

      Visa requirements

      If you are not from the European Economic Area (EEA) and/or Switzerland and you are coming to study in the UK, you may need to apply for a visa.

      The visa you apply for varies according to the length of your course:

      • Courses of more than six months' duration.
      • Courses of less than six months' duration.
      • Pre-sessional English language courses.

      International students who require a Tier 4 visa should apply for our full-time courses (with the exception of modular enrolment certificates of higher education and graduate certificates), as these qualify for Tier 4 sponsorship. If you are living in the UK on a Tier 4 visa, you will not be eligible to enrol as a student on Birkbeck's part-time courses (with the exception of some modules).

      For full information, read our visa information for international students page.

      Credits and Accredited Prior Learning (APL)

      If you have studied at university previously, you may have accumulated credits through the modules you studied. It may be possible to transfer these credits from your previous study to Birkbeck or another institution. You should discuss this with the Programme Director when you are making your application.

      Find out more about credits and Accredited Prior Learning (APL).

    • Fees

      Fees

      To be confirmed

    • Teaching and assessment

      Teaching

      At Birkbeck, almost all of our courses are taught in the evening and our teaching is designed to support students who are juggling evening study with work and other daytime commitments. We actively encourage innovative and engaging ways of teaching, to ensure our students have the best learning experience. In the 2017 Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the government’s system for rating university teaching, Birkbeck was allocated a Silver award.

      Teaching may include formal lectures, seminars, and practical classes and tutorials. Formal lectures are used in most degree programmes to give an overview of a particular field of study. They aim to provide the stimulus and the starting point for deeper exploration of the subject during your own personal reading. Seminars give you the chance to explore a specific aspect of your subject in depth and to discuss and exchange ideas with fellow students. They typically require preparatory study.

      Our distance-learning and blended-learning courses and modules are self-directed and we will provide you with interactive learning opportunities and encourage you to collaborate and engage via various learning technologies. These courses involve limited or no face-to-face contact between students and module tutors.

      In addition, you will have access to pastoral support via a named Personal Tutor.

      Methods of teaching on this course

      All teaching is internet-based. The course material is released in several sections on a dedicated, password-protected website.

      Contact hours

      On our taught courses, you will have scheduled teaching and study sessions each year. Alongside this, you will also undertake assessment activities and independent learning outside of class. Depending on the modules you take, you may also have additional scheduled academic activities, such as tutorials, dissertation supervision, practical classes, visits and fieldtrips.

      On our taught courses, the actual amount of time you spend in the classroom and in contact with your lecturers will depend on your course, the option modules you select and when you undertake your final-year project.

      On our distance-learning and blended-learning courses, discussion, collaboration and interaction with your lecturers and fellow students are encouraged and enabled through various learning technologies, but you may have limited or no face-to-face contact with your module tutors.

      Timetables

      Timetables are usually available from September onwards and you can access your personalised timetable via your My Birkbeck Profile online (if you have been invited to enrol).

      Indicative class size

      Class sizes vary, depending on your course, the module you are undertaking, and the method of teaching. For example, lectures are presented to larger groups, whereas seminars usually consist of small, interactive groups led by a tutor.

      Independent learning

      On our taught courses, much of your time outside of class will be spent on self-directed, independent learning, including preparing for classes and following up afterwards. This will usually include, but is not limited to, reading books and journal articles, undertaking research, working on coursework and assignments, and preparing for presentations and assessments.

      Independent learning is absolutely vital to your success as a student. Everyone is different, and the study time required varies topic by topic, but, as a guide, expect to schedule up to five hours of self-study for each hour of teaching.

      On our distance-learning and blended-learning courses, the emphasis is very much on independent, self-directed learning and you will be expected to manage your own learning, with the support of your module tutors and various learning technologies.

      Study skills and additional support

      Birkbeck offers study and learning support to undergraduate and postgraduate students to help them succeed. Our Learning Development Service can help you in the following areas:

      • academic skills (including planning your workload, research, writing, exam preparation and writing a dissertation)
      • written English (including structure, punctuation and grammar)
      • numerical skills (basic mathematics and statistics).

      Our Disability and Dyslexia Service can support you if you have additional learning needs resulting from a disability or from dyslexia.

      Our Counselling Service can support you if you are struggling with emotional or psychological difficulties during your studies.

      Our Mental Health Advisory Service can support you if you are experiencing short- or long-term mental health difficulties during your studies.

      Assessment

      Assessment is an integral part of your university studies and usually consists of a combination of coursework and examinations, although this will vary from course to course - on some of our courses, assessment is entirely by coursework. The methods of assessment on this course are specified below under 'Methods of assessment on this course'. You will need to allow time to complete coursework and prepare for exams.

      Where a course has unseen written examinations, these may be held termly, but, on the majority of our courses, exams are usually taken in the Summer term, during May to June. Exams may be held at other times of the year as well. In most cases, exams are held during the day on a weekday - if you have daytime commitments, you will need to make arrangements for daytime attendance - but some exams are held in the evening. Exam timetables are published online.

      Find out more about assessment at Birkbeck, including guidance on assessment, feedback and our assessment offences policy.

      Methods of assessment on this course

      Each 30-credit module has coursework and an examination. The project modules consist of a plan, bibliography and literature background, an experiment or data analysis and a written report.

    • Careers and employability

      Careers and employability

      Graduates go on to careers in research, science writing, teaching and academia. The course is particularly suitable for staff already working in industry as graduates, to enlarge their theoretical background and to complement their practical experience. Possible professions include higher education lecturer, research scientist, or science writer. This degree can also be useful in becoming a secondary school teacher or physical scientist.

      We offer a comprehensive Careers and Employability Service to help you advance your career, while our in-house, professional recruitment consultancy, Birkbeck Talent, works with London’s top employers to help you gain work experience that fits in with your evening studies.

    • How to apply

      How to apply

      You apply directly to Birkbeck for this course, using the online application link. Please note that online application will open in September.

      You will need to prove your identity when you apply - read more about suitable forms of identification.

      When to apply

      You are strongly advised to apply now, to ensure there are still places on your chosen course and to give you enough time to complete the admissions process, to arrange funding and to enrol.

      You don't need to complete your current programme of study before you apply - Birkbeck can offer you a place that is conditional on your results.

      You will also receive information about subject-specific induction sessions over the summer.

      Help and advice with your application

      Get all the information you need about the application, admission and enrolment process at Birkbeck.

      Our online personal statement tool will guide you through every step of writing the personal statement part of your application.