Introduction

Human Embryology and Developmental Biology is the study of the fascinating process in humans and animals that turns a single fertilised egg into a whole new individual with all the many specialised cell types.

This programme is studied on campus.

Developmental Biology is the modern synthesis of biological and medical sciences that looks at how the tissues and organs of our bodies are built.

This degree programme will provide a broad and multifaceted training in modern biology, ranging from traditional morphology and experimental embryology to the latest molecular and bioinformatics approaches in genetics, cell biology, stem cell biology and biotechnology.

Research in Developmental Biology is central to the search for cures for many human genetic diseases, including cancer, and is at the forefront of recent advances in modern medicine, which includes stem cell maintenance regeneration and tissue repair.

5 year MSci degree

This degree offers you the opportunity to undertake a year's placement in an industrial, commercial or research environment and graduate after five years with an MSci (an undergraduate Masters degree) instead of a BSc. Find out more.

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Key Programme Information

At a Glance

Learning Mode
On Campus Learning
Degree Qualification
BSc
Duration
48 months
Study Mode
Full Time
Start Month
September
UCAS Code
CC71

What You'll Study

A degree in Human Embryology & Developmental Biology is taught via a selection of compulsory and optional courses to enhance your learning and prepare you for a future career or further study. In each year you will take courses adding up to 120 credits. Depending on the number of compulsory and optional courses offered by your degree, you can also choose other eligible courses which fit your timetable.

Year 1

Year 1

In year 1 you will take courses in Medical Sciences (including a first taster of Developmental Biology and a closer look at the cell) and Chemistry for Life Sciences. You will also take courses selected from science and other areas.

Compulsory Courses

Introduction to Medical Sciences (SM1001) - 15 Credit Points
  • Topics covered in this course span medical science through the ages; from ancient civilizations to the modern day science of genomics and synthetic biology.
  • Alongside lecture material, in depth practical classes will cover biomedical measurement techniques, forensic science and a research-based mini project.
  • Also included in the course is a trip to the Institute of Medical Sciences where you will gain access to cutting-edge laboratories and equipment.
  • Overall, this course is a journey through some of the key milestones that underpin the discipline of medical science we see today.

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

Chemistry for the Life Sciences 2 (CM1512) - 15 Credit Points

Chemistry plays an important role in the life sciences, explaining the shapes and properties of biomolecules, and helping to provide an understanding of how biological processes work at a molecular level.

The shapes and function of important biomolecules will be covered. Organic molecule reaction mechanisms will give insight into how different types of molecules can be synthesised. The energetics and importance of equilibrium in driving reactions will be covered.

Methods of chemical analysis and measurement introduce other important topics linking the chemical and life sciences.

Workshops and labs complement lectures by consolidating learning and developing problem-solving and hands-on practical skills.

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

Professional Skills Part 1 (PD1001)

This course, which is prescribed for level 1 students and optional for level 2 students, is studied entirely online and covers topics relating to careers and employability, equality and diversity and health, safety and wellbeing. During the course you will learn about the Aberdeen Graduate Attributes, how they are relevant to you and the opportunities available to develop your skills and attributes alongside your University studies. You will also gain an understanding of equality and diversity and health, safety and wellbeing issues. Successful completion of this course will be recorded on your Enhanced Transcript as ‘Achieved’ (non-completion will be recorded as ‘Not Achieved’). The course takes approximately 3 hours to complete and can be taken in one sitting, or spread across a number of weeks and it will be available to you throughout the academic year.This course, which is prescribed for level 1 students and optional for level 2 students and above, is studied entirely online and covers topics relating to careers and employability, equality and diversity and health, safety and wellbeing. During the course you will learn about the Aberdeen Graduate Attributes, how they are relevant to you and the opportunities available to develop your skills and attributes alongside your University studies. You will also gain an understanding of equality and diversity and health, safety and wellbeing issues. Successful completion of this course will be recorded on your Enhanced Transcript as ‘Achieved’ (non-completion will be recorded as ‘Not Achieved’). The course takes approximately 3 hours to complete and can be taken in one sitting, or spread across a number of weeks and it will be available to you throughout the academic year

View detailed information about this course

Optional Courses

  • Select a further 60 credit points from courses of choice
Year 2

Year 2

In year 2 introduce the broad foundation for Human Embryology and Developmental Biology, in addition you will be taught core research skills and complete a project on a developmental disease or embryological topic of your choice.

Compulsory Courses

Physiology of Human Cells (BI20B2) - 15 Credit Points
  • Physiology is the science of understanding life. It allows you to explore and understand why your body does what it does and how it does it;
  • This introductory physiology course explores living processes at the level of cells and molecules;
  • The course lays down many of the fundamental concepts of physiology required to appreciate advanced study of many of the medical science disciplines;
  • You will gain practical experience and understanding of electrophysiological techniques required for the study of electrically excitable tissues, like nerves and muscle;
  • You will also gain valuable experience in the key skill of writing formal scientific reports

View detailed information about this course

Molecular Biology of the Gene (BI20M3) - 15 Credit Points
  • this course will provide a comprehensive understanding of how genetic information is stored, how it is accessed by the cell to form functional proteins and how the release of this information is controlled to produce a healthy human child;
  • understanding this process is essential to understanding the basis of human disease and the course will examine how genetic differences affect disease susceptibility;
  • this popular, comprehensive and cutting edge course will equip students with the essential knowledge, skills and confidence in molecular biology required to progress on all courses undertaken in the School of Medical Sciences

View detailed information about this course

Foundation Skills for Medical Sciences (SM2001) - 15 Credit Points
  • this course is the cornerstone to all the advanced science courses in later years and provides you with key skills for success in science;
  • feedback from employers drove the course design to give specific and focused science skills to enhance your employability;
  • analytical, professional, data interpretation, experimental design and problem solving skills are core elements that are essential for any graduate career portfolio;
  • this course and the additional specifically developed online resources have been commended by employers and students alike.

View detailed information about this course

Physiology of Human Organ Systems (BI25B2) - 15 Credit Points
  • the digestive, cardiovascular, respiratory, renal and reproductive systems are covered using a variety of innovative teaching methods;
  • you will participate in practical classes where students act as subjects and investigators. These will reinforce lecture material, develop scientific acumen and build team working skills;
  • focussed and interactive problem solving sessions apply knowledge to clinical scenarios, and begin developing fundamental skills critically required in the final years of the degree;
  • informal teaching sessions allow one-to-one staff-student interaction and encourage discussion in a non-threatening environment;
  • a low stakes in-course mock exam is included to prepare you for the high stakes degree exam

View detailed information about this course

Energy for Life (BI25M7) - 15 Credit Points
  • understanding the fundamental workings of cells is important to a wide range of scientific disciplines;
  • this course integrates the key metabolic and biochemical processes that underpin human, animal and plant life in relation to health and disease;
  • this core knowledge prepares you for more advanced study in all areas of life sciences and has wide ranging applications;
  • you will also participate in an award winning practical series focussed on drug discovery which will build essential employability skills in experimental design, data analysis and practical laboratory skills

View detailed information about this course

Research Skills for Medical Sciences (SM2501) - 15 Credit Points
  • this course cultivates literature research skills, building confidence in team-working and communication through scientific writing and seminar presentation;
  • it encourages student-led learning and organisation in researching a topic on human health or disease of your own choice, with tutors providing guidance;
  • you will learn to use online and library resources to search for information from primary research articles and relay that information in the form of a written report and a Powerpoint presentation to peers and academic tutors;
  • these are all fundamental skills for scientific researchers, but are also transferrable talents for many other career pathways

View detailed information about this course

Optional Courses

  • Select a further 30 credit points from courses of choice
Year 3

Year 3

In year 3 you are provided with an in depth study of Embryology, Birth Defects and Developmental Biology.

Compulsory Courses

Human Embryonic Development (AN3301) - 15 Credit Points
  • this course provides a broad overview of the fundamental processes underpinning transformation of a single fertilised egg into a fully functioning individual;
  • you will gain in depth and cutting edge knowledge on the major patterning and morphogenetic processes essential for establishing the body plan, major organ systems and causes of birth defects;
  • this core knowledge is directly relevant and will prepare you for more advanced studies in all areas of Life Sciences, including Anatomy, Developmental Biology, Physiology and Neuroscience;
  • wide transferable and employability skills, including problem solving and presentation practice, are a core component of the course

View detailed information about this course

Development of Organ Systems (DB3804) - 15 Credit Points
  • the business end of embryogenesis – turning a bundle of cells into a functioning baby;
  • the course addresses the development of the major organ systems – where do the lungs, the pancreas, the liver, the blood, the heart etc. come from? How does the nervous system develop?;
  • we show that the processes are not ‘magic’. There are accessible principles and systems that enable us to begin to understand how tissue development happens;
  • the course investigates the roles of stem cells in embryology, adult life and cancer;
  • practical classes in working laboratories study the roles of cell proliferation and cell death in embryogenesis

View detailed information about this course

Principles of Developmental and Reproductive Biology (DB3006) - 15 Credit Points
  • course covers many of the core concepts and processes which are essential for advanced study in Biomedical and related sciences;
  • you will gain cutting edge, in depth and focussed knowledge of embryological techniques, tools and their practical applications, and the fundamental principles of reproductive biology delivered in a research-driven environment;
  • this course will prepare you for advanced study of developmental biology and human embryology;
  • practicals are designed to provide a 3D understanding of embryology as well as an in-depth study of a model organism, providing transferrable skills as problem solving and web page/blog design,further developing graduate attributes and employability

View detailed information about this course

The Early Embryo (DB3503) - 15 Credit Points
  • this course takes us back to the very beginning of embryonic development and explores the fascinating process of how the fertilised egg develops into the complex multicellular embryo;
  • we will explore the embryology of axis induction and germ layer formation and the cellular processes driving morphogenesis;
  • we will illustrate fundamental molecular mechanisms that regulate early embryonic development; and how many of the same mechanisms are now found to regulate also organ development and stem cells during regeneration;
  • we will also discuss which scientific experiments gave us this knowledge and what tools and methods are used to study early embryos

View detailed information about this course

Genetics (GN3502) - 30 Credit Points
  • this is a comprehensive course, providing an essential foundation for all advanced studies in Genetics and Molecular Biology;
  • the principles of molecular genetics and population genetics will be covered, with an emphasis on their application to the understanding of human biology. The teaching material will integrate information arising from the recent explosion of genome sequence data, equipping students with the necessary skills to engage with this rapidly developing field;
  • a wide range of transferable skills are embedded within the course, including problem-solving, critical analysis of research material, oral and written presentation and subject-specific laboratory and computational skills

View detailed information about this course

Optional Courses

  • Select a further 30 credit points from courses of choice
Year 4

Year 4

In your Honours year the focus of taught courses is on special aspects of Developmental Biology. An important feature is the ten-week research project, carried out in research laboratories at the University or in local research institutes.

Compulsory Courses

Advanced Molecules Membranes and Cells (Stem Cells and Regeneration) (BM4010) - 30 Credit Points
  • stem cells and regenerative biology are the future of medicine. This course provides the core knowledge needed by research-level biomedical scientists, especially in fields of developmental biology, anatomy, and stem cell biology;
  • the University’s leading stem cell researchers provide a comprehensive overview of the current horizons of stem cell technology, from embryonic stem cells, through induced pluripotency (iPS cells) to the use and manipulation of adult stem cells;
  • gene therapy and human reproductive biology (including IVF) are taught to research level;
  • research scientists present in-depth material on core research techniques – transgenic animals, genome editing, biological imaging and ‘omic’ technologies

View detailed information about this course

Evolution and Development (DB4002) - 15 Credit Points
  • this is an advanced course that explores developmental processes from an evolutionary perspective;
  • the theory and practice of evolutionary biology as applied to developmental systems will be covered, focussing on the evolution of a range of developmentally important events, including vertebrate limb evolution and human-specific traits;
  • the course provide experience of problem-solving, critical analysis of research material, oral and written presentation and subject-specific computational skills

View detailed information about this course

Developmental Neuroscience (PY4302) - 15 Credit Points
  • ever wondered where your brain comes from?;
  • this course merges cutting edge developmental biology, neuroscience, and cellular physiology to describe how the nervous system arises and gets ‘wired up’;
  • the bewildering arrays of cells in the nervous system interconnect in highly specific ways. Here you will learn what dictates neuronal cell fate, how neurons find appropriate partners and how cells communicate to generate behaviour;
  • in addition to lectures from dynamic researchers this course will hone core skills for basic scientists and medics through group presentation work, independent library research and scientific writing

View detailed information about this course

Developmental Biology Honours Project (DB4501) - 60 Credit Points
  • the project offers a wonderful opportunity to carry out cutting-edge literature or laboratory-based scientific research;
  • with around 150 projects to choose from, this is a fantastic opening to follow your interests working with academic staff and leading scientific researchers;
  • the project forms the zenith of your degree and fosters further development of the scientific skills and knowledge you have gained and heightens analytical and critical thinking abilities;
  • the opportunity to be part of novel, yet-to-be published research projects can be career-defining, and provides the ideal experience to prepare you for postgraduate study and other future careers

View detailed information about this course

(BM4901)
(BM4902)

Course Availability

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

You will be taught using a variety of methods and styles and we continually seek to make the teaching engaging, exciting and responsive to the latest research in your subject area. The research we carry out in the School directly informs and guides our teaching, particularly in the final Honours year. Our commitment to teaching is recognised by the range of University of Aberdeen Student-led Teaching Awards given to staff from our School.

As a student, your learning is supported by MyAberdeen, our virtual learning environment from which you can access the lecture Powerpoint slides, online practice tests, links to related reading, and tutorial support material.

We make innovative use of 'educational voting' handsets in class, remote control 'clickers' that allow each and every student to electronically respond in class by anonymous vote to questions posed by the lecturer.

Your academic development is supported from year 1 through to year 4 by an assigned personal tutor, who acts as adviser and mentor throughout your University career.

Learning Methods

  • Lab Work
  • Lectures
  • 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 learnt on the course; and
  • written examinations at the end of each course.

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

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

Further Information

View detailed learning and assessment information for this programme

How the programme is taught

The typical time spent in scheduled learning activities (lectures, tutorials, seminars, practicals), independent self-study or placement is shown for each year of the programme based on the most popular course choices selected by students.

How the programme is assessed

The typical percentage of assessment methods broken down by written examination, coursework or practical exams is shown for each year of the programme based on the most popular course choices selected by students.

Year 1

Learning Method
scheduled: 32%
independent: 68%
placement: 0%
Assessment
written: 58%
coursework: 37%
practical: 5%

Year 2

Learning Method
scheduled: 38%
independent: 62%
placement: 0%
Assessment
written: 50%
coursework: 47%
practical: 3%

Year 3

Learning Method
scheduled: 25%
independent: 75%
placement: 0%
Assessment
written: 70%
coursework: 30%
practical: 0%

Year 4

Learning Method
scheduled: 8%
independent: 92%
placement: 0%
Assessment
written: 35%
coursework: 65%
practical: 0%

Why Study Human Embryology and Developmental Biology?

  • You will be trained in embryology, reproductive biology (including fertility/IVF science), stem cell technology, tissue regeneration, and the causes of, and cures for, human birth defects.
  • You will benefit from access to excellent facilities and receive hands-on laboratory training.
  • Teaching is delivered by world-leading researchers who are at the forefront of current research in developmental biology and stem cell technology.
  • Emphasis is put on medically-relevant developmental genetics and stem cell technology.
  • The majority of the Model Organisms used to study developmental biology are used by staff in the state-of-the-art Institute of Medical Sciences, using cutting edge techniques which genome editing as well as gene misexpression technologies.
  • Feedback from students consistently ranks the degree programme as excellent, which is reflected in the high number of 1st Class passes obtained by our students.
  • 91.8% of our students were satisfied that staff were enthusiastic about teaching their subject, and 92% were satisfied with teaching on their course (National Student Survey 2014).

Entry Requirements

You will find all the information you require about entry requirements on our dedicated 'Entry Requirements' page. You can also find out about the different types of degrees, offers, advanced entry, and changing your subject.

Qualifications

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

SQA Highers - AABB*
A Levels - BBB*
IB - 32 points, 5 at HL*
ILC - 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.

Advanced Entry - Advanced Highers ABB or A Levels ABB, or IB 34 points (6 at HL), including Biology and Chemistry, one of which must be at A-grade.

Further detailed entry requirements for Sciences degrees.

English Language Requirements

To study for a degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. Read more about specific English Language requirements here.

Fees and Funding

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

Fee Waiver

For international students (all non-EU students) entering in 2017/18, the 2017/18 tuition fee rate will apply to all years of study; however, most international students will be eligible for a fee waiver in their final year via the International Undergraduate Scholarship.

Most RUK students (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) on a four year honours degree will be eligible for a full-fees waiver in their final year. Scholarships and other sources of funding are also available.

Fee information
Fee category Cost
Home / EU £1,820
All Students
RUK £9,250
Students Admitted in 2018/19 Academic Year
International Students £18,400
Students Admitted in 2018/19 Academic Year

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

The Human Embryology and Developmental Biology degree offers particularly good prospects for research careers in academia, industry and hospitals because of its broad training in medically-relevant modern biology with many transferable skills.

Many of our graduates follow their degree with PhD research in a wide range of laboratories. Others move in to positions in hospital research, fertility sciences, diagnostic laboratories, research institutes and in administrative capacities in the civil service, pharmaceutical and related industries.

Our degree programmes are built to enhance your employability and three flagship options give our degrees a distinctively different flavour from many others. All our degrees offer:

  • A 10-week full time research project in the final year which will provide you with valuable experience of working in a medical science research environment
  • The option of an industrial placement year and graduation with an undergraduate MSci
  • Highly relevant and sought after experience in bio-business aimed at giving you an understanding of the commercialisation of scientific ideas and an opportunity to learn about the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries

Our Experts

Other Experts
Professor Martin Collinson
Programme Coordinator
Dr Neil Vargesson

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.

Aberdeen Research Makes IVF Safer

Research has played a key role in making IVF safer, increasing the chances of having a healthy baby

Facilities

Image for Library facilities
Library facilities

Library facilities

A dedicated Medical Library on the Foresterhill Health Campus and the fantastic facilities in the Sir Duncan Rice Library at King’s College, are complemented by online access to the key medical and health sciences journals and textbooks.

Image for The Institute of Medical Sciences
The Institute of Medical Sciences

The Institute of Medical Sciences

Focused on developing future effective therapies, the Institute of Medical Sciences houses nearly 400 researchers and support staff working on cutting-edge biomedical subjects aimed at understanding the human body's response to infection and disease.

Image for Dedicated teaching labs
Dedicated teaching labs

Dedicated teaching labs

Our commitment to teaching is underscored by our recent rebuild and modernisation of the teaching lab space dedicated to practical teaching at years 1, 2 and 3.

Unistats

Unistats 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