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About the School of Natural Sciences

The School of Natural Sciences offers teaching and research in the areas of biological, chemical, earth and planetary sciences. We offer courses at all levels, from certificates to PhD study. You can choose from a wide range of subjects from planetary sciences, astrobiology, geology, analytical chemistry, biomedicine, bioinformatics, structural biology, microbiology, among other subjects. We offer a mixture of in-person, on-line and distance learning courses, so there is something for everyone.

Our academic staff, experts in their fields, are involved in active research projects. The range of topics is wide-ranging, built on a curiosity-driven interdisciplinary approach to make fundamental advances in our understanding of the natural world from single cells through to planetary systems.

You can keep up to date with what's happening in the School of Natural Sciences by checking our news feed or attending the annual Science Week where academics talk about their research. Our students also have the chance to attend and participate in lecture series run through our collaborations with UCL: Astrobiology and Space Exploration (APEX) meetings, Earth Sciences seminar series, and the Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology.

Business services

There are many opportunities for businesses to benefit from our expertise for consultancy projects. A selection of our teaching labs are also available for hire for teaching purposes and some of our research facilities can be hired for projects.

Equality and diversity in biological sciences

The current focus of our equality and diversity work is gender equality following the Athena SWAN Charter principles. The former Department of Biological Sciences was awarded an Athena SWAN Silver Award in 2018 in recognition of its commitment to gender equality in higher education.

Birkbeck has a long history of supporting female biologists. The former Department of Biological Sciences was formed in 2009 as part of extensive restructuring, by the merging of the School of Crystallography and the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences. An early pioneer of the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences was Dame Helen Gwynne-Vaughan, who was head of the then Department of Botany from 1909. She was an active researcher in the field of mycology and worked with Elizabeth Garrett Andersen to form the London University Women’s Suffrage Society. The School of Crystallography was founded as the Biomolecular Research Laboratory in 1948, led by J.D. Bernal, who recruited one of Britain’s first female structural biologists, Rosalind Franklin, in recognition of her crystallographic skills to investigate the structure of viruses.

In biological sciences at Birkbeck, female professors currently outnumber male professors, as they have done for over a decade. Two former staff members left to take up leading positions in national organisations: Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow as BBSRC CEO, now President of the Royal Society of Biology and Chair of the PHE Advisory Board; and Professor Dame Janet Thornton FRS, as Director of Europe's Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), Hinxton, now Director Emeritus. A current member - Professor Helen Saibil FRS – is director of a national research facility. Women at all career levels have multiple, highly successful and influential role models and receive the clear message that gender should not impede their scientific careers. Our challenge is to broadcast and build on this legacy to allow future female leaders to flourish here.