MRes Biosystematics

Leaf-cutter ants

A one year research-based postgraduate course run by the Natural History Museum and Imperial College London.

Course description

This course is aimed at students who plan to undertake a PhD prior to a career in biodiversity and systematics research.

You carry out three 15-week research projects during the year, each based in a different research group, at the Museum and Imperial’s Silwood Park Campus.

Projects will take a molecular approach to systematics and genomic approaches to understanding evolution.

Examples of previous projects

Students may have the opportunity of undertaking their subsequent PhD at either of the host institutions.

Aims and objectives

After completing the MRes course, students will have:

  • a good understanding of the state of knowledge of the field, together with relevant practical experience in three areas of biosystematic science in which the student has expressed an interest
  • a broad appreciation of the scientific opportunities in biosystematics and associated fields and the many exciting developments in phylogeny reconstruction, bioinformatics, genomics and biodiversity research resulting from novel computer technology, molecular biology and theoretical advances
  • where applicable, the ability to contribute to the formulation and development of ideas underpinning potential PhD projects in areas of interest, and to make an informed decision on the choice of potential PhD projects
  • knowledge of a range of specific research techniques and professional and transferable skills.

Course content

Research projects

Students are required to complete three 15-week research projects covering:

  • molecular systematics
  • bioinformatics
  • morphology.

At least one project must be carried out at each of:

  • the Natural History Museum
  • Imperial College London Silwood Park campus.

Training in scientific methods

  • theory and philosophy of phylogenetic reconstruction
  • morphological character analysis
  • microscopy and image analysis
  • molecular systematics
  • taxonomic revisions
  • phylogenetics computing
  • genomics
  • bioinformatics
  • statistical approaches to biodiversity
  • GIS
  • population and conservation genetics
  • specimen handling and collection management.

Where applicable, there is also protected time for PhD project discussion and development.

Other components

Students can attend any of the lectures and practicals of the associated MSc course, and are encouraged to participate in:

  • group discussions
  • seminars
  • work-in-progress lab meetings
  • journal clubs
  • selected lectures and seminars
  • key lectures of the MSc course in Advanced Methods in Taxonomy and Biodiversity.

They are also required to undertake a number of transferable skills courses run by Imperial College London:

  • scientific writing
  • presentation skills
  • experimental design
  • statistics
  • science and ethics
  • computing
  • science career guidance
  • time management.


The course is completed with a viva voce covering all three research projects.

How to apply

Applications are processed through Imperial College London.

Course director

Prof Alfried Vogler

Entry requirements

The minimum qualification for admission is an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) degree in any area of biology or related science-based subject (palaeontology, geology, marine biology, anthropology, environmental sciences) from a UK academic institution, or an equivalent overseas qualification.

Extensive relevant work experience with a lower degree will be considered in special cases

Non-UK applicants

Advice on the academic requirements from overseas institutions can be found on Imperial's postgraduate website.

Key information

Duration: 1 year full-time
Start date: October 2021
Location: South Kensington

Tuition fees for 2021 entry

Home and EU students

Full-time (1 year) £12,700 per year

Overseas and Islands students

Full-time (1 year) £25,200 per year


Students in the past have gained funding from additional sources.