Introduction

How do animals and humans decide what to do and when to do it? How much of this is driven by free will and how much by unconscious processes? Find out by studying behavioural biology.

Study Information

At a Glance

Learning Mode
On Campus Learning
Degree Qualification
BSc
Duration
48 months
Study Mode
Full Time
Start Month
September
UCAS Code
C859
Pathway Programme Available
Undergraduate Foundation Programme
Degree marketing image

Behavioural Biology is an interdisciplinary degree and field of science that examines the bidirectional interactions between behaviour and biology. An organism’s genetic, physiological and immunological processes drive behaviour, just as an individual's behaviour will impact on its physiological and immunological state.

Our Behavioural Biology degree differs from our Animal Behaviour degree as the focus is predominantly on Tinbergen’s questions on the mechanisms and functional significance of behaviour, and less on the evolutionary and development principles.

What You'll Study

Each year you take a selection of compulsory courses and optional courses that can be chosen from those on offer across the institution. The first two years lay a foundation for the more specialised third and fourth years.

Year 1

Year 1

All students take eight courses in the first year. On this degree you will take six compulsory courses and two electives. The two electives can be selected from any discipline in the university.


Compulsory Courses
Getting Started at the University of Aberdeen (PD1002)

This course, which is prescribed for level 1 undergraduate students (and articulating students who are in their first year at the University), is studied entirely online, takes approximately 5-6 hours to complete and can be taken in one sitting, or spread across a number of weeks.

Topics include orientation overview, equality and diversity, health, safety and cyber security and how to make the most of your time at university in relation to careers and employability.

Successful completion of this course will be recorded on your Enhanced Transcript as ‘Achieved’.

View detailed information about this course
Frontiers in Biological Sciences (BI1009)

15 Credit Points

Five themes, critical to understanding biology and life, will be explored – Developmental Biology, Microbiology and Disease, Evolution and Behaviour, Immune Systems and Environmental Physiology. Each theme is structured to provide you with core knowledge, insight into how science is practiced, an introduction to current research topics and skills that are useful for investigating, recording and analysing information. The course will be delivered using a blended learning approach and can be taken by students who will be on campus in first semester, or those who may choose to stay at home

View detailed information about this course
Introductory Psychology I: Concepts and Theory (PS1009)

15 Credit Points

PS1009 introduces you to major concepts and theories in psychology to provide you with a strong understanding of the human mind and behaviour. You will attend lectures on biological, social and cognitive psychology and participate in workshops where you will work both individually and as part of a team to write about and present topics related to the lecture materials. Studying psychology is beneficial to a range of careers including management, finance and counselling, to name a few. Psychology regularly tops employers' lists of producing the most employable graduates.

View detailed information about this course
Chemistry for the Life Sciences 1 (CM1020)

15 Credit Points

This course covers the foundations of chemistry that underpin the life sciences at a molecular level. The course aims to consolidate a general background in chemistry by putting chemical concepts into a life sciences context. The basic concepts of chemistry will be covered, along with organic molecules, acids and bases, and the basic principles behind the driving forces of reactions.

Laboratory classes introduce important practical techniques, with experiments that reinforce and complement the taught material.

The course will allow students to continue with other chemistry courses as part of their enhanced study by providing discipline breadth.

View detailed information about this course
The Cell (SM1501)

15 Credit Points

  • cells are the fundamental unit of life – without them life could not exist, and as such understanding how they function is crucial to our understanding of biology and medical science;
  • this course provides theoretical knowledge in a diverse range of topics covering the fascinating world of cells, from molecules like DNA, to how different cell types function within our bodies;
  • all practical classes are research based and will provide theoretical knowledge and skills training in many areas of molecular and cell biology;
  • employability skills will also be explored through a highly interactive session run by the Scottish Institute for Enterprise
View detailed information about this course
Diversity of Life 2 (BI1512)

15 Credit Points

• A walk through the evolutionary tree of life, examining the amazing diversity of advanced invertebrates and vertebrates. • Learn about how each group of organisms arose, their characteristics, and how they achieved success. For example what are the key evolutionary steps enabling life away from the water? How do birds fly? • Practical activities provide hands on experience of materials demonstrating the features of invertebrates, amphibians, fish, birds and mammals. • You will be assessed by a combination of laboratory reports, on which you will get detailed feedback to help you develop your skills, and an exam .

View detailed information about this course
Introductory Psychology II: Concepts and Theory (PS1509)

Optional Courses

Select a further 30 credit points from courses of choice.

Year 2

Year 2

In year two six courses are compulsory and two are electives.


Compulsory Courses
Biological Enhanced Skills Training (BEST) (BI2018)

15 Credit Points

The course will help you consolidate and develop skills in experimental design, sampling, analysis, presentation, and interpretation of data. You will be encouraged to seek to improve your academic writing and develop other transferable skills.

Each week, there is one 1-hour introductory lecture. In two 2-hour sessions when will work through a series of computer-based data tasks, using relevant and realistic biological and environmental themes.

Teaching is informal and friendly. During sessions, staff will chat to you about your progress and provide help where necessary.

Assessments are two online multiple-choice tests (each 25%) and an individual project (50%).

View detailed information about this course
Advanced Psychology A - Concepts and Theory (PS2017)

15 Credit Points

The course builds on the material covered in the 1st-year courses expanding on psychology’s concepts and theories. The course covers three core areas of psychology: cognition & language, personality & social psychology, and perception. Social Psychology will cover topics such as leadership and group processes. The perception part of the course will examine the visual and intentional systems.

View detailed information about this course
Genes and Evolution (BI2017)

15 Credit Points

  • look at how instructions in genes are transformed by natural selection to produce the diversity of life on Earth;
  • learn how species evolve, how we determine evolutionary relationships;
  • why populations change, understand why humans (and other organisms) must carry genetic diseases;
  • meet enthusiastic staff; each teach about areas we are expert on;
  • take 3 Genes & Evolution Practicals to gain hands on experience of approaches used by researchers to map genes,estimate rates of evolution, and determine evolutionary relationships;
  • keep up to speed with in-course tests, understand basic statistics, see why mutations are not the only evolutionary currency
View detailed information about this course
Ecology (BI2020)

15 Credit Points

This course builds on themes from introductory ecology courses. You will develop your abilities to interpret data by applying theory discussed in classes to real-life data sets using short problem-solving exercises linked to each topic. Feedback will help you improve writing and interpretation skills. Extended problem-solving exercises will improve your communication skills, scientific writing and introduce you to valuable approaches to summarising complex datasets in Excel. A series of tutorials will allow you develop critical thinking as you explore specific themes in more detail. You will also consider issues around experimental design.

View detailed information about this course
Advanced Psychology B - Concepts and Theory (PS2517)

15 Credit Points

This course builds on the material covered in the 1st-year courses, expanding on psychology’s concepts and theories. The course covers four core areas of psychology: organisational & clinical, behavioural neuroscience and developmental psychology. The first strand covers organizational culture, occupational stress, motivation, leadership and team work. The clinical psychology section of the course will give you grounding in the key ideas within current Clinical Psychology practice and is taught by a practicing Clinical Psychologist. The third strand within this course is focused on Neuroscience, and will cover topics such as localisation of brain function and the neuroscience of emotion.

View detailed information about this course
Principles of Animal Physiology (BI2510)

15 Credit Points

Physiology is the study of the normal functions of living systems. This course will introduce you to the basics of invertebrate and vertebrate physiology.

Lectures will guide you through the various body systems and their interactions that maintain homeostasis in animals. Associated practicals allow you to explore particular systems in further detail and to develop relevant lab skills.

Through the study of examples from across different phyla, you will gain an appreciation of processes fundamental to all animals, and of differences across groups.

View detailed information about this course

Optional Courses

Select a further 30 credit points from second half-session courses of choice.

Year 3

Year 3

At level 3 you will take eight courses: six compulsory and two electives. The electives can be selected from the range of courses offered in the university and include Animals in Captivity, Life History Evolution and Environmental Physiology.


Compulsory Courses
Statistical Analysis of Biological Data (BI3010)

15 Credit Points

You will utilise a robust approach to statistical analysis, a skill highly valued by employers and researchers. Lectures provide context, background and step-by step guidance on how to conduct and interpret a selection of statistical analyses. Through a series of exercises, you learn to explore data, to specify appropriate linear models for your research question and to interpret their results. A set of online tests structured around the exercises and the lecture content allow you to demonstrate your achievement of course learning outcomes. With a group of students, you complete tasks and strengthen your understanding of applications of statistics.

View detailed information about this course
Animal Evolution and Biodiversity (ZO3011)

15 Credit Points

This course emphasises how evolution has shaped the patterns of biodiversity we see around us, and how we can use molecular genetic tools to gain a better understanding of what biodiversity means and how we can measure it. In lectures you are guided through the theory of evolution, complementing your other biological sciences courses and helping you make sense of the diversity in the living world. In practical sessions, you gain insight into the processes of evolution and some tools used to study biodiversity. Through a poster presentation you gain specialised knowledge and experience communicating complex ideas and synthesizing information.

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Biological Psychology (PS3014)

15 Credit Points

This course aims to provide students with a good understanding of the biological basis of behaviour and cognition. The course is split into two sections, each featuring 6 lectures. Section 1 focuses on psychopharmacology, which is the investigation of the effect of medication on normal and abnormal brain function. Section 2 examines brain function and memory, with a specific focus on the application of this knowledge within the criminal justice system.

Specific topics that will be covered include: neurotransmitters; drug effects; Alzheimer's disease; memory and psychedelic drugs.

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Behavioural Biology (BI3505)

15 Credit Points

Fundamental concepts of animal behaviour are introduced through a series of lectures and practicals, essential knowledge for those interested in better understanding animal behaviour as well as potentially undertaking an animal behaviour Honours project.

During the practicals students are encouraged to reflect on the theoretical knowledge learned during the lectures and apply that in explaining the observed behaviour of animals.

Students will have the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of animal behaviour by producing an innovative multimedia presentation on the observed behaviour of a species of their choice.

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Neuroscience and Neuropharmacology (BM3502)

15 Credit Points

  • during this course, you will start to appreciate why the diagnosis and treatment of various neurological and psychiatric disorders is both an art and a science;
  • students will use real-life examples from case studies to help develop and demonstrate their knowledge and understanding;
  • practical classes will enhance students understanding of why developing new neuropharmaceuticals is challenging and will improve their laboratory and analytical skills;
  • this course will help students understand why multidisciplinary teams are essential in improving our understanding and treatment of neurological and psychological disorders;
  • this course will improve your problem-solving, scientific writing, practical and data handling skills
View detailed information about this course
Consciousness (SX3504)

15 Credit Points

The mystery of consciousness is one of the most exciting and challenging fields in human endeavour. Consciousness provides a truly inter-disciplinary topic with relevance across both the sciences and the humanities. This Sixth Century course aimed at level 3 and level 4 students will present cutting-edge research using a clear inter-disciplinary perspective. The course brings together the disciplines of divinity, psychology, and medicine, with a particular focus on the clinical and health-based aspects of consciousness studies. The assessment is a mixture of non-traditional (e.g. Self-reflective journal) and a traditional (essay).

View detailed information about this course
Field Skills in Animal Behaviour (BI3810)

15 Credit Points

Weekly field trips will provide opportunities to observe wildlife and develop an understanding of the adaptive value of animal behaviour.

Tasks involving the design of simple experiments to address cause and function of animal behaviour will develop skills in experimental design and hypothesis testing.

Training in the use of a field notebook allows students to demonstrate competence in record keeping.

Written report and oral presentation on a field based experiment supports the develop of communication skills.

Short weekly lectures will reinforce concepts, outline expectations and provide a framework for the practical work in the field.

View detailed information about this course
Gateway to Honours Project (BI3511)

This non-credit bearing course will facilitate your preparation for your Honours project.

Lectures and workshops will clarify expectations for project work and provide training in risk assessment, consideration of ethical issues, environmental impacts and project planning.

Resources to help you define and plan your project will be made available through MyAberdeen, helping you to be confident that your project planning is sufficiently advanced by the end of your Programme Year 3.

Submission of an agreed (with your supervisor) project outline, completed checklists and preliminary risk assessment will allow you to demonstrate engagement with your project.

View detailed information about this course

Optional Courses

Plus 15 credit points from courses of choice at level 3.

Year 4

Year 4

In year 4, the honours year, you will carry out a research project as well as writing an extended essay and completing advanced courses of your choosing.


Compulsory Courses
SBS Honours Project (BI4016)

45 Credit Points

This independent research project develops your skills in scientific inquiry and critical analysis, as well as important generic skills, including presentation and time management.

Projects are field-, lab- and/or desk-based, developed on a topic of your interest under the direction of a supervisor.

Training in skills needed to perform your project is provided by world-leading researchers and their teams.

Workshops and drop-in sessions provide training in data analysis and thesis production.

This skill set will be appropriate for advanced study in the field of biological science or other careers where the generic skills that you will develop are highly valued.

View detailed information about this course
Cognitive Neuroscience (PS4510)

15 Credit Points

The human brain is one of the most complex structures known to us. What does the brain do that makes possible the wide range of activities that humans engage in? This course will provide an in-depth introduction to the state-of-the-art developments in cognitive neuroscience that address such fundamental questions. The last two decades have led to an explosion of experimental techniques and theories that have provided substantial insights into the neural mechanisms of normal and abnormal cognitive processing in the brain. This course will be a window into that exciting field.

View detailed information about this course

Optional Courses

Plus 60 credit points from courses of choice, at least 30 of which must be from courses delivered by the School of Biological Sciences at level 4.

We will endeavour to make all course options available; however, these may be subject to timetabling and other constraints. Please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

How You'll Study

Combine practice and theory

Typically, one third of your class time is practical and many courses include full-day practical classes and field visits. Most students take at least one residential field trip during their degree; these trips bring the subjects to life and provide the opportunity to make great friendships and get to know staff members.

Research experience

You are actively involved in scientific research throughout your degree. In Year 4, you conduct independent research which can be pivotal to your career choice whether it be in dolphins, water voles, rare plants, tropical forest ecology, climate change in the Arctic, or any one of a diverse range of other exciting topics!

Engaging and inspiring teaching

Our teaching methods are diverse, innovative and based on research on how students learn. For example, we use problem-based learning approaches, creative presentations, peer and self-assessment, presenting posters in public meetings, writing and editing wikis, writing grant proposals, science writing for publication, and the creation of portfolios using multi-media.

Opportunities for Study Abroad and work-related learning

You can take advantage of an optional year-out on a work placement in any of our degree programmes. Study Abroad is encouraged for students in their second year; we have established partnerships with institutions in the USA, Canada, Australia, China and numerous countries in Europe.

Learning Methods

  • Field Work
  • Group Projects
  • Lab Work
  • Lectures
  • Research
  • Tutorials

Assessment Methods

Students are assessed by any combination of three assessment methods:

  • coursework such as essays and reports completed throughout the course;
  • practical assessments of the skills and competencies gained on the course; and
  • written examinations at the end of each course.

The exact mix of these methods differs between subject areas, years of study and individual courses.

Honours projects are typically assessed on the basis of a written dissertation.

Why Study Behavioural Biology?

  • Unique programme offering study in the parallel fields of biology and psychology: biologists, psychologists and neuroscientists focus on similar questions about the brain and behaviour but they approach the questions differently. The Behavioural Biology programme bridges these traditional fields and provides a new way of viewing an individual’s behaviour from multiple perspectives.
  • Teaching from researchers in biology, psychology and medical fields gives access to the cutting edge facilities and a diverse range of expertise.
  • The curriculum is based on popular equivalent programmes in the USA.
  • Academic and transferrable skills are built in to the learning experience to maximise employability.
  • Links with Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park provide an unrivalled opportunity to directly interact with a diverse range of animal species.
  • Cross-institutional links increases access to a wide range of resources typically used in medical sciences, such as in-vivo imaging, histology and tissue cultures.
  • You will have the opportunity to get involved in our research through summer research assistantships, project work and a compulsory final year research project.
  • At our regular careers events you will have the opportunity to listen to and meet prospective employers from outside the university, giving you excellent opportunities to get a fulfilling and challenging job in a biological field.

Entry Requirements

Qualifications

The information below is provided as a guide only and does not guarantee entry to the University of Aberdeen.


General Entry Requirements

2020 Entry
2021 Entry

SQA Highers

Standard: AABB*

Applicants who have achieved AABB (or better), are encouraged to apply and will be considered. Good performance in additional Highers/ Advanced Highers may be required.

Minimum: BBB*

Applicants who have achieved BBB (or are on course to achieve this by the end of S5) are encouraged to apply and will be considered. Good performance in additional Highers/Advanced Highers will normally be required.

Adjusted: BB*

Applicants who have achieved BB, and who meet one of the widening participation criteria are encouraged to apply and will be considered. Good performance in additional Highers/Advanced Highers will be required.

* Including good performance in at least two Mathematics/ Science subjects by the end of your senior phase of education.

More information on our definition of Standard, Minimum and Adjusted entry qualifications.

A LEVELS

Standard: BBB*

Minimum: BBC*

Adjusted: CCC*

* Including good performance in at least two Mathematics/ Science subjects by the end of your senior phase of education.

More information on our definition of Standard, Minimum and Adjusted entry qualifications.

International Baccalaureate

32 points, including 5, 5, 5 at HL*.

* Including good performance in at least two Mathematics/ Science subjects by the end of your senior phase of education.

Irish Leaving Certificate

5H with 3 at H2 AND 2 at H3 OR AAABB*, obtained in a single sitting. (B must be at B2 or above)

* Including good performance in at least two Mathematics/ Science subjects by the end of your senior phase of education.

Entry from College

Advanced entry to this degree may be possible from some HNC/HND qualifications, please see www.abdn.ac.uk/study/articulation for more details.

SQA Highers

Standard: AABB*

Applicants who have achieved AABB (or better), are encouraged to apply and will be considered. Good performance in additional Highers/ Advanced Highers may be required.

Minimum: BBB*

Applicants who have achieved BBB (or are on course to achieve this by the end of S5) are encouraged to apply and will be considered. Good performance in additional Highers/Advanced Highers will normally be required.

Adjusted: BB*

Applicants who have achieved BB, and who meet one of the widening participation criteria are encouraged to apply and will be considered. Good performance in additional Highers/Advanced Highers will be required.

* Including good performance in at least two Mathematics/ Science subjects by the end of your senior phase of education.

More information on our definition of Standard, Minimum and Adjusted entry qualifications.

A LEVELS

Standard: BBB*

Minimum: BBC*

Adjusted: CCC*

* Including good performance in at least two Mathematics/ Science subjects by the end of your senior phase of education.

More information on our definition of Standard, Minimum and Adjusted entry qualifications.

International Baccalaureate

32 points, including 5, 5, 5 at HL, with two Mathematics/ Science subjects at HL.

Irish Leaving Certificate

5H with 3 at H2 AND 2 at H3 including a minimum of H3 from two Science or Mathematics subjects.

Entry from College

Advanced entry to this degree may be possible from some HNC/HND qualifications, please see www.abdn.ac.uk/study/articulation for more details.

The information displayed in this section shows a shortened summary of our entry requirements. For more information, or for full entry requirements for Sciences degrees, see our detailed entry requirements section.


English Language Requirements

To study for an Undergraduate degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. The minimum requirements for this degree are as follows:

IELTS Academic:

OVERALL - 6.0 with: Listening - 5.5; Reading - 5.5; Speaking - 5.5; Writing - 6.0

TOEFL iBT:

OVERALL - 78 with: Listening - 17; Reading - 18; Speaking - 20; Writing - 21

PTE Academic:

OVERALL - 54 with: Listening - 51; Reading - 51; Speaking - 51; Writing - 54

Cambridge English Advanced & Proficiency:

OVERALL - 169 with: Listening - 162; Reading - 162; Speaking - 162; Writing - 169

Read more about specific English Language requirements here.

International Applicants who do not meet the Entry Requirements

The University of Aberdeen International Study Centre offers preparation programmes for international students who do not meet the direct entry requirements for undergraduate study. Discover your foundation pathway here.

Fees and Funding

You will be classified as one of the fee categories below.

Fee information
Fee category Cost
Home / EU £1,820
All Students
RUK £9,250
Students Admitted in 2020/21
International Students £19,700
Students Admitted in 2020/21

Scholarships and Funding

Students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, who pay tuition fees may be eligible for specific scholarships allowing them to receive additional funding. These are designed to provide assistance to help students support themselves during their time at Aberdeen.

Additional Fees

  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trips. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
  • For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our InfoHub Tuition Fees page.

Our Funding Database

View all funding options in our Funding Database.

Careers

Graduates in Behavioural Biology can expect employment opportunities in industries such as pharmaceuticals and applied medicine, veterinary practice, government education and research programmes and animal welfare.

Recent graduate employers include:

  • Clyde River Foundation
  • Life WolfAlps
  • RSPB
  • Shetland Islands Council

Industry Links

We have strong local, national and international links to industry, government bodies, charities and other research institutions. You will benefit from these links in several ways:

  • Exposure to policy-makers, practitioners, regulatory professionals and experts.
  • Our curriculum is informed by an employer advisory board that provides insight into changing requirements of employers.
  • You can take advantage of our collaborators' facilities and expertise for your research projects or placement.

School of Biological Sciences Showcase

Our showcase film highlights the benefits for students who choose to study here, the breadth of research carried out at the School and the superb facilities on offer.

Our Experts

Other Experts
David Lusseau
Mrs Cath Dennis

Information About Staff Changes

You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. Staff changes will occur from time to time; please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

Facilities

Fantastic facilities support our teaching and research, both on- and off-campus.

Image for Teaching laboratories
Teaching laboratories

Teaching laboratories

Students in all degree programmes carry out practical experiments in our recently redesigned teaching laboratories.

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Research facilities

Research facilities

Our research facilities on campus include animal holding facilities, greenhouses, fresh and salt-water aquaria, an insectarium, molecular and analytical laboratories, and a state of the art genomics lab.

Image for Lighthouse Field Station
Lighthouse Field Station

Lighthouse Field Station

The Lighthouse Field Station is situated on the Cromarty Firth where our sea mammal and sea bird researchers are based. In 2020 the station celebrated 30 years of teaching and research on the ecology of seals, dolphins and seabirds.

Discover Uni

Discover Uni draws together comparable information in areas students have identified as important in making decisions about what and where to study. You can compare these and other data for different degree programmes in which you are interested.

Get in Touch

Contact Details

Address
Student Recruitment & Admissions Service
University of Aberdeen
University Office
Regent Walk
Aberdeen
AB24 3FX