MRes Structural Biology

At Birkbeck College | Incorporating the MRC’s Advanced Course Masters Studentships

Overview, course objectives and structure
MRes studentships
Key information for applicants
Lectures and practicals
Research project

Research project

Once assigned, you will spend a considerable amount of time on your research project, while fitting in lectures and coursework as necessary.

Selection of project: November

At the start of the year students may view previous MRes and PhD projects to get an idea of our research areas. Usually, a few references are provided with the project descriptions for further information. Students should consider several projects, read up on them, and talk to the respective supervisors before giving their first and second choices to the Course Administrator. The number of projects is large enough so that most students normally get their first choice. As soon as your project topic is confirmed, you should start planning your literature review with your project supervisor.

There are two phases of assessment for the research project:

  • Literature review and oral presentation
  • Thesis and viva

Literature review and oral presentation

The literature review

  • The literature review will require a nominal 100 hours of work. The topic should be chosen in consultation with your project supervisor so that it is relevant to your project work and can eventually be incorporated into your thesis. It might, for example, be a literature review or a survey of relevant computational or experimental techniques.
  • It should contain a maximum of 10,000 words (about 25 pages) and should conclude with a plan for your research project.
  • You should commence your literature review, in consultation with your project supervisor, as soon as your project choice is confirmed.

Detailed guidelines for preparing the literature review and project thesis available here.

Deadline for submission of literature review: January

Please hand in 3 copies, as well as the text in electronic form (Word or pdf file) tothe Course Administrator. Your text may be submitted for checking by a plagiarism server.

Oral presentations: February

You will be required to give a short oral presentation (10 min talk + 5 min questions) of your work to the Department.

The purpose of the oral presentations is to give the members of the Department and the Examiners an overview of the scientific background and methodology you are using in your project, and to demonstrate your understanding of the subject area in response to the questions.

Your presentation may contain a maximum of 8 slides in total, including title slides and acknowledgements. The schedule is strict and you will be stopped if you go over 10 minutes. After the oral presentations, the Board of Examiners will assign a combined mark for the literature review and oral presentation, taking into account the marks of two independent assessors on the literature review. The final decision is made by the External Examiner.

Students should load their presentations on to the local hard drive (d:) of the PC in the seminar room, and ensure well before the start of the talks that it runs correctly. You are not permitted to use any other computer, due to time constraints.

Project thesis and viva

Project thesis

  • The thesis is comparable to an MPhil thesis, and should contain a maximum of 40,000 words of text, plus figures, tables and references.
  • This is equivalent to about 100 pages of double spaced text. It should be written in grammatically correct English, with Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion sections.
  • It should be illustrated with figures, with appropriate figure legends, and supported by citations to literature references. You should use name and date citations in the text, with an alphabetically ordered reference list at the end.

The reference format should include the title and use standard journal abbreviations, as in:

Smith, A., Brown, B. & Jones, C. (2008) Title of paper. J. Struct. Biol. 100, 1-99.

The corresponding text citation would be Smith et al (2008). The pages should be numbered and line spacing should be 1.5 or double. Detailed guidelines for preparing the literature review and project thesis available here.

Deadline for submission of thesis: September

You must submit 3 copies of your project thesis to the Department office, along with the text in electronic form (Word or pdf file), which may be submitted to a plagiarism server for checking. After assessment, one copy will be retained by the Department, and one by your supervisor. The copies must be submitted by the stated deadline. If you submit late, or miss the viva, you may have to wait an extra year to be examined and to complete the MRes degree. Late submissions may also incur a penalty of deducted marks.

MRes Viva

Please note: once confirmed this date cannot be changed for individual students, since all the examiners need to be present.

MRes viva date: September




Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology, University of London
ucl logospacerbirkbeck logo