Accessibility statement

Masters by Research in Biology

Funding: Fully-funded (A tax free annual stipend at the standard UKRI outside London rate, currently £16,062, research costs and tuition fees at UK rate)

Length: 12 months

Open to: UK students only, with a 2:1 undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject area and with widening access eligibility (see below)

Academic Year: 2022/23

Please note that the application process is now CLOSED. 

Students thinking about a career in science have many routes available to them, involving further education (PhD), technical roles, the pharmaceutical industry, animal technology, lab and contract management, and grant funding to name just a few.  A Masters by Research degree can be a great starting point for these careers, giving a one year hands-on, research-intensive experience. However, access to this degree can be challenging for some individuals due to social or economic constraints. Here we offer a fully-funded opportunity to students with widening access eligibility.

How to apply

Before you apply:

  • Read the project descriptions below. Think about which options interest you. You will be asked to indicate a preference for one project.

The application form asks for the following information:

  • PART A: Student details, project choice, special category data (special category data will be used to rank students for interview, but will not be shared with the panel at the interview stage)
  • PART B: Three short questions on enthusiasm for your subject, motivation for applying, and contextual statement
  • PART C: Submit CV 

If candidates wish to withdraw, please email 

The application process is now CLOSED. 

How we allocate

Shortlisting will take place as soon as possible after the closing date and successful applicants are normally notified promptly. 

Candidate interviews: 

  • Candidates will be selected for an interview based on their widening access eligibility criteria, CV, and answers to PART B. 

Interviews will take place July/August.

You'll be notified as soon as possible after the interview dates whether your application has been successful, placed on a reserve list or unsuccessful.

Available projects

Understanding heterogeneity in systemic lupus erythematosus to improve care

Location: Department of Biology, University of York and Hull York Medical School (HYMS)

Length: 12 months (full time UKRI stipend, £6,000 consumables)

Project supervisors:  Dr Jillian Barlow, Professor Alison Layton, and VISFO

Project description

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is characterised by widespread inflammation and tissue damage and is incurable with few treatment options. The disease is estimated to affect approximately 5 million people globally. Patients have significant unmet clinical needs, due to the heterogeneous and dynamic nature of the biological and clinical presentation of the condition. Several attempts have been made to subtype patients, but with limited success.

To our knowledge, no study has yet combined a matrix of biological, clinical and patient-reported quality-of-life factors together for multifactorial stratification or validated its impact in streamlining clinical care. This project offers a unique collaboration between the health tech consultancy, VISFO, and the University of York to develop support applications for both healthcare professionals (HCPs) and SLE patients, relating this directly to the investigation of biological samples.

The student would therefore work with data scientists to analyse large clinical datasets, work on a patient-focussed decision support application, and generate biological data from human samples in the lab.

A perfect sunrise: modulating dawn light for greater yield and quality in vertical farms

Location: University of York

Length: 12 months (full time UKRI stipend, £6,000 consumables)

Project supervisors: Dr Daphne Ezer and Professor Katherine Denby

Project description

Controlled environment agriculture, such as indoor vertical farming, is a rapidly growing horticultural sector, reducing water, fertiliser and pesticide use and producing food on non-arable land. A key drawback is energy use, hence increasing yield (per energy input) and reducing losses are critical factors for environmental impact.

In vertical farms plants experience dawn as a sudden change whereas a natural sunrise is gradual and variable. We have identified an Arabidopsis gene network that responds to light in the early morning and is predicted to impact photosynthesis and fungal disease resistance. In this project we will investigate the impact of different sunrise regimes on this network, determining whether the network is conserved in lettuce and how morning gene expression in lettuce changes as a result of different sunrise conditions. We will also assess how different sunrises influence the yield of microherbs in a vertical farm.

The successful student will work in the lab (using techniques such as RNASeq and qPCR) and at Grow It York, (University vertical farm) in collaboration with Vertically Urban. using their low energy, tunable LED lighting.

New approaches to grow stem cells for regenerative medicine

Location: Department of Biology, University of York

Length: 12 months (full time UKRI stipend, £6,000 consumables)

Project supervisors: Dr William Grey and Dr David Kent

Project description

The engineering of stem cells for regenerative medicine is a rapidly developing field. One of the most well-known stem cell therapies is bone marrow transplantation (BMT) which relies on extracting haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) from donors, and successful engraftment of these cells long-term in recipients to treat diseases such as blood cancers.

HSCs reside in the bone marrow of adults and umbilical cord blood (UCB) during pregnancy. Whilst bone marrow biopsy is invasive and harsh, UCB represents a less invasive, clinically important source of HSCs. UCB is readily available after pregnancy without extra treatment of donors and can be extensively banked. Further to this, UCB has a lower incidence of graft versus host disease, with less stringent donor cross-matching required compared to classical sources.

Unfortunately, limited progenitor cell dose, delay of engraftment and immune reconstitution and the cost of double UCB transplantation in adults, underline a need to improve expansion and potency of UCB for transplantation.

The student will work alongside scientists at York, the Francis Crick Institute, the Anthony Nolan Trust (the largest transplant provider in the U.K.) and Plasticell inc. to develop new approaches to grow HSCs from UCB for improved transplantation purposes. The project will cover a range of new techniques, novel drug combinations and extensive training in haematological research, with the student working across disciplines.

Contact us

If you have any questions please contact