Biological Sciences

Biological Sciences

Postgraduate Taught

January 2023

Arriving in Aberdeen - Important Information

We look forward to meeting you in Welcome Week, Mon 16-20 January 2023. During this week you will attend introductory sessions about our MSc teaching, your MSc programme and academic expectations. We also offer an academic orientation session for students who are new to the UK education system. See Academic Induction, below.

Course teaching begins on Monday 23 January 2023. Our courses are only 6 weeks long and are intensive, so it is important that you are in class on campus right from day one. It is very difficult to catch up if you start late.

Academic Induction

You will attend the following activities in Welcome Week:

Wednesday 18 Jan, 10:00-13:00, ZB18, Zoology Building 

Led by Sarah Woodin (SBS Coordinator of Postgraduate Teaching) and Vasilis Louca (MSc Environmental Science Programme Coordinator)

  • Introduction to postgraduate teaching and to your MSc programme
  • Walking tour of local area (wear a warm jacket, hat etc and comfortable shoes)

Thursday 19 Jan, 10:00-12:30, ZB18, Zoology Building

Led by Sarah Woodin (SBS Coordinator of Postgraduate Teaching)

  • Academic orientation for students new to the UK education system
  • Coffee break!
  • Academic writing

Friday 20 Jan, 10:00 - 12:00, ZG18 Zoology Lecture Theatre, and 14:00 – 16:00, Zoology Building basement rooms.

Led by Justin Travis (SBS Coordinator of MSc projects)

  • MSc Project Fair
Key Contacts

Dr Sarah Woodin
SBS PGT Coordinator

Dr Vasilis Louca
Programme Coordinator, MSc Environmental Science

Biological Sciences Admin Team

Reading Lists

If you would like to do some background reading/study before starting your MSc (this is not compulsory) you may find the following recommendations helpful. We do not require you to buy any textbooks but would encourage you to complete your online registration early as once you have your University of Aberdeen login, you will have free online access to these and many other online books (search via the Library website).

A good introductory book is Quinn GP, Keough MJ (2002) Experimental design and data analysis for biologists.
There are also useful free introductory statistics MOOCs available online.
Familiarise yourself with R software. You could use excellent material produced by our SBS statisticians or other freely available material eg: ,

Environmental topics
Singh Y.K. (2006) Environmental Science. New Delhi: New Age International P Ltd.
Spellman F.R., Stoudt M.L. (2013) Environmental science principles and practices. Lanham, MD : Scarecrow Press, Inc.Duarte, A.C., Cachada, A., Rocha-Santos, T.A.P. (Eds.), 2017. Soil Pollution: From Monitoring to Remediation. Academic Press.
Blume, H.-P., Brümmer, G. W., Fleige, H., Horn, R., Kandeler, E., Kögel-Knabner, I., et al. (2016) Scheffer/Schachtschabel Soil Science. Berlin: Springer Verlag


Our PGT assessments are mainly coursework, such as reports, presentations, essays, research proposals etc. There are some online tests within courses, but no formal exams.

Practicals and fieldwork

Many courses include practicals in either laboratories or computer classrooms and some also include day field trips. MSc Environmental Science has a residential field course in the Spring vacation 2023.

For laboratory practicals you will need your own lab coat and safety glasses. Your lab coat should be ‘Howie’ style, with elasticated cuffs and popper fastening all the way up to the neck. Safety glasses should have side shields, a suitable safety rating (EN 166), and if you wear spectacles you should get safety glasses that will fit over them. You can purchase online, and lab coats are available from Bear Essentials in the Student Union Building.

Fieldwork takes place at all times of year, so you will need warm, waterproof clothing (jacket and trousers) and sturdy, waterproof footwear, preferably walking boots.

Things to do in Aberdeen

We are excited to be welcoming our new students to Aberdeen over the next couple of months. We are aware that you might arrive in Aberdeen before the start of the Semester and would like to share our handy Nature on our Doorstep guide for information on things to do and see in and around Aberdeen.


September 2022

Academic Induction

During Welcome Week we will have the following academic inductions for our new UG students:

Wednesday 14th September, 10:00 – 11:00, School Welcome and Orientation Talk, ZG18 Zoology Building (new level 1 students)

Wednesday 14th September, 11:00 – 12:00, Meet your Programme Coordinators, Zoology Building, (new level 1 students)

Wednesday 14th September, 11:00 – 12:00, School Welcome and Orientation Talk (direct entry students), ZG18 Zoology Building, (direct entry students level 2 and 3)

Wednesday 14th September, 13:00 – 14:00, Meet your Programme Coordinators (BSc Animal Behaviour and Welfare), Zoology Building (new BSc Animal Behaviour and Welfare students)

Friday 16th September, 11:00 – 11:30, Personal Tutor Meetings (direct entry students) Zoology Building (direct entry students level 2 and 3)

Friday 16th September, 11:30 – 12:00, Personal Tutor Meetings, Zoology Building (new level 1 students)

Friday 16th September, 12:00 – 14:00, Welcome BBQ, Cruickshank Gardens, (new level 1 and direct entry students)

Key Contacts

Professor Michelle Pinard
Director of Education

Biological Sciences Admin Team


Programme Coordinators

BSc Animal Behaviour
Dr Lesley Lancaster

BSc Animal Behaviour and Welfare
Mrs Cath Dennis

BSc/MSci Biological Sciences
Dr John Baird
Prof Sam Martin

BSc Biology
Dr John Baird

BSc Conservation Biology
Dr Clare Trinder

BSc Ecology
Dr Clare Trinder

BSc Environmental Science
Dr Gareth Norton

BSc Marine Biology
Professor Michelle Pinard

BSc Plant and Soil Science
Dr Martin Barker

BSc Zoology
Dr Alan Bowman

Reading Lists

Reading lists for individual courses will be available through MyAberdeen later in the summer. In the meantime, you can brush up your study skills and learn more about the University at our award-winning Toolkit website.

Some specific suggestions for readings are as follows: 

Level 2

  • (For BI2020 Ecology) Schilthuizen, M (2008) The Loom of Life:  Unravelling Ecosystems.  Springer-Verlap, Berlin
  • (For BI2017 Genes and Evolution) Carey N (2012) The Epigenetics Revolution:  How Modern Biology is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease and Inheritance.

Level 3

  • (Animal Behaviour, Behavioural Biology) Budiansky, B (1999) The Convenant of the Wild:  Why Animals Chose Domestication.  Yale University Press. 
  • (Zoology, Biology, Biological Sciences, Ecology, Conservation Biology) Coyne, J (2010) Why Evolution is True.  Oxford University Press, Oxford.  (For ZO3011 Animal Evolution and Biodiversity)
  • (Marine Biology) Kaiser, M.J., et al. (2011) Marine Ecology: processes, systems, and impacts. 2nd edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford. (For ZO3306 Marine Ecology and Ecosystems)
  • (Environmental Science) Blume, H.P. et al. (2016). Soil Science. Berlin: Springer Verlag. (For EV3001 Global Soil Geography)
  • (Plant and Soil Science) Gregory, P.J. and Nortcliff, S. 2013. Soil Conditions and Plant Growth. Wiley-Blackwell, 472 pp. SBN: 1405197706 (Pl3009 Soils for Food Security)

Level 4

Your project supervisor can provide you with suggestions.


In SBS, the majority of assessments will be through coursework including online tests.  A very few courses will have an end of course on campus exam.

Practicals, fieldwork and placements

Many courses include practicals in either laboratories or computer classrooms and some also include day field trips. There will be opportunities to take residential field courses throughout your degree.

Guidance on choice of laboratory coat and safety glasses

Please note that all new Science Teaching Hub students should possess a clean, white, Howie laboratory coat to use in laboratory classes. This should be a ‘Howie’ style laboratory coat – elasticated cuffs, fastening all the way up to the neck with popper fastenings. Press stud fastenings are integral for Howie style coats to enable the coat to be removed quickly should contamination occur.  Older lab coats that are open at the collar or those with button fastenings are not suitable and should be avoided. Fabric · Polyester Cotton approximately [65%:35%]. Coats made from this fabric are light weight [195g/coat] and easily laundered.

If a practical has a special exemption where a laboratory coat is not required, students will be informed. However, you should always assume you need your lab coat for practicals and bring it with you. If you do not bring a laboratory coat, you will not be admitted to a laboratory class.

Students must also bring their own safety glasses.

You will be responsible for cleaning and maintaining your own laboratory coat and safety glasses throughout the term.

New students can pick up a lab coast and safety glasses pack on Tuesday 13 September from 10am to 5pm at the Science Teaching Hub. Alternatively, you can purchase a lab coat on campus from Bear Essentials in the Student Union Building. 

For Safety Glasses, there are many options available online. They should have side shields. The examples below all have a suitable safety rating (EN 166) and  If you wear spectacles, you should look for styles of safety glasses that will fit over them.

Things to do in Aberdeen

We are excited to be welcoming our new students to Aberdeen over the next month. We are aware that many of you might arrive in Aberdeen before the start of term and would like to share our handy Nature on our Doorstep guide for information on things to do and see in and around Aberdeen.


Postgraduate Research

As well as being a Postgraduate Research Student in the School of Biological Sciences you are also part of a wider PGR community through the Postgraduate Research School


We are looking forward to welcoming you to campus to start your research journey with us. As a Postgraduate Research student you will have the opportunity to attend a University wide induction in addition to your school induction.

The University of Aberdeen Orientation programme has been designed to take you through all of the essential information you will need for your student life. You can get started now by working through the interactive modules.

There are a series of modules that you can work through before you arrive. Once you have registered you can access the remaining modules and complete your mandatory training programme through your bespoke PGR training platform on our virtual learning environment.

There will be a school welcome event for Postgraduate Research students. This will provide an opportunity to meet Postgraduate coordinators and PhD supervisors. There will also be time to answer any questions you may have. Further details regarding the welcome event will follow in due course.

Audit Master‘s Courses

As a PGR student you may have the opportunity to audit Master‘s courses to augment your research training. Please discuss this with your supervisor and check out the postgraduate taught pages above.

The PGR School also offers a comprehensive training programme to support your research journey.

Timelines and Milestones

The PGR School training and development programme offers academic, professional, and personal development through a number of training workshops, resources and opportunities, all intended to support the PGR community at the University of Aberdeen.

Find out more here.