• Four Master students in a typical molecular biology laboratory during their course.
    Hands-on research into algal biotechnology

Algal Biotechnology, Biology and Ecology MRes

Why study algal biotechnology?

Exploitation of the marine environment, specifically the application of Blue Biotechnology will be pivotal to sustainable global development over the next 20-30 years. Algae, the major primary producers in aquatic ecosystems, are of increasing importance to the biotechnology sector as they can provide a sustainable source of a wide range of products without the need to compete for space with terrestrial crops. 

What will you learn?

This demanding Master of Research programme is built on the student choosing and carrying out a full-time one-year research project that culminates in the submission of a written thesis. This develops the student's critical evaluation and problem-solving skills relating to theoretical and practical knowledge in biotechnology. Students leave not only with knowledge but with substantial laboratory and research skills and experience.

The course provides the underpinning knowledge and skills needed by all biotechnologists including: isolation, culturing and enumeration of algae, protistan physiology, microbial biodiversity, state-of-the-art molecular biological skills and bioinformatics, statistics and experimental design, as well as critical business, management and communication skills. Students explore micro- and macro-algal taxonomy, systematics, and physiology, in specific relation to the biotechnological exploitation of these organisms focussing on their use as: human/animal food; hydrocolloids; fine chemicals; green fertilizers and as feed-stock to produce algal biofuels.

Who teaches the programme?

The Algal Biotechnology, Biology and Ecology Master by Research is delivered by a team of research-active scientists with considerable expertise in the field, including researchers from the Culture Collection of Algae and Protozoa (CCAP), one of the world’s largest collections of algae.

Students are based at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) and join an existing graduate student community of approximately 40 students.

SAMS is at the forefront of algal biotechnology research, leading and contributing to a diverse range of multi-disciplinary applied projects including those exploring the application of algae/ algal systems to:

  • >Develop future biofuels (oil, biomass, alcohol, methane)
    >Future functional foods
    >Pigments and antioxidants
    >Pollution control and bioremediation
    >High value materials

The course leader for this programme is Dr David Green (E: David.Green@sams.ac.uk).


  • >Exploring and maximising the potential of astaxanthin production by Haematococcus pluvialis


  • >Upgrading kelp to an omega three fatty acid rich feedstock using Thraustochyrids
  • >Assessment of the suitability of different Pleurochrysis strains for simultaneous biofuel production and carbon capture
  • >Saccharification enzymens from newly discovered Pseudoalteromonas species
  • >Alkene prodution by haptophytes: production and variation analysis of a putative biofuel resource


  • >An investigation into establishing a successful Palmaria palmata hatchery


  • >Alien invasion: a looming threat to microalgal culture

The programme is open to both UK/EU and international students.

Typical entry requirements will be based on possession of a BSc (Hons) in a relevant biological or life science subject (and depending on the candidates related course work, may include degrees in chemistry and engineering) at 2:2 or above. Third or ordinary degree holders will be considered if they have relevant experience and can demonstrate their knowledge at interview. Candidates with appropriate Recognised Prior Learning (RPL) will be considered for entry and accepted based on a face to face interview (or via Skype interview for non-UK candidates). Students holding other international qualifications should contact us to discuss if the qualification adequately prepares them to study this MRes course.

Applicants whose first language is not English must have attained a satisfactory standard on an approved test in English (e.g. a minimum IELTS score of 6.5) or be able to demonstrate that they have adequate command of both written and spoken English to follow the programme before an offer of admission will be made. Read about international student matters.

While students are based and taught at SAMS, the course is adminstered and awarded by the University of the Highlands and Islands. You can read about it on their website.

To apply for the Algal Biotechnology Master, please download and complete this UHI Graduate School Postgraduate application form 2016 and return it by email to Masters@SAMS.ac.uk.

For further information, please email or call +44 (0)1631 559427.

For information on course fees, please visit the University course website.

This course begins in the autumn semester.