• Four Master students in a typical molecular biology laboratory during their course.
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    Prepare for a career in Algal Biotechnology

Algal Biotechnology & Bioeconomy MSc

 “The algae sector in the UK and internationally is rapidly expanding, there is an increased demand for skilled staff in this sector and courses such as this will start to deliver experienced and knowledgeable personnel into these academic or industrial positions.”

- Professor Saul Purton, Director of UKRI BBSRC Algae-UK and Professor of Algal Biotechnology, University College London, 

REGISTER FOR OUR NEXT EVENT: Online Seminar - Why Study Algal Biotechnology? With Dr Matt Davey Tuesday 26th March, 2024 - 12pm to 1pm (GMT) 

Course details: 

Course leader: Dr Matthew Davey

Full-time: 1 year

Campus: Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), Oban, Scotland, PA37 1QA.

SAMS is an academic partner of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

About Algal Biotechnology

Algal Biotechnology is a rapidly expanding discipline that seeks to understand and harness the resources from some of the most diverse groups of organisms on the planet. Algae are comprised of microscopic photosynthetic organisms and macroscopic seaweeds. They are key to human life on earth, producing much of the oxygen that we breathe and underpin the base of freshwater and marine food chains. Furthermore, algae and their natural products have a huge range of current and potential applications for humans. For example, developing applications include pharmaceuticals, pigments, nutraceuticals, biofuels, enzymes, fertilisers and bioremediation materials on earth and even for space applications.

About our course

The aim of this new and unique full-time one-year programme is to produce highly motivated and trained scientists in the sphere of Algal Biotechnology with the skills, knowledge and abilities to compete effectively within the employment market of this rapidly expanding area of research and commercial application. The course is delivered by scientists from the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), a leading institute in algal research, the wider UHI and other experts in the sectors. The course comprises of six taught modules and a research dissertation module, all of which are delivered by lectures, practical sessions, seminars and a residential trip to Algal Innovation Centre at the University of Cambridge in the UK in semester two.

- Learn from experts in the algal biotechnology field 

- Theory and practical sessions including residential excursion  

- Training using latest equipment at SAMS and CCAP  

- Small class size with networking across courses and modules 

- Spectacular beachside location on the west coast of Scotland 

- Opportunities to carry out research abroad


Semester 1:

Key skills for Algal Biotechnologists: (Dr Callum Whyte, SAMS). 20 credits.

Students of this module will learn the research approaches (biological, statistical and management) essential for becoming an expert phycologist.

Managing Biological Lifecycles – Micro and Macroalgae: (Puja Kumari, SAMS). 20 credits. Students gain extensive, detailed and critical knowledge of the main features, techniques and current research and policy on micro and macroalgal cultivation globally.

Introduction to R and Data Visualisation, online only (Dr Andrew Duncan, Inverness): 20 credits. Analysing data often begins with visualising it, observing the relationships that appear and discovering anything unexpected. This module will teach students how to use the open source statistical software R to visualise data including cleaning, preparing and summarising the data sets.

Semester 2:

Blue Biotechnology: (Prof Michele Stanley, SAMS) 20 credits.

Topics to be covered include the taxonomy, systematics, and physiology of micro and macro-algae. The emphasis will be on the biotechnological exploitation of these organisms focusing on: their use as human/animal food; hydrocolloids; fine chemicals; green fertilisers and as feed-stock to produce algal biofuels.

Genomics and Metabolomics in Algal Biotechnology: (Dr David Green, SAMS) 20 credits.

The module will provide theoretical and practical skills in the use of genomics and metabolomics. Knowledge in both areas is highly sought after across a wide range of research and commercial/industrial biotechnological settings, not least in algal biotechnology.

Algal Scale up and Processing: (Dr Matthew Davey, SAMS). 20 credits.

Topics to be covered through lectures and practical sessions include the process of microalgal scale-up from cells on small agar tubes or liquid vials to 70+L algal bioreactors in the SAMS-CCAP ARIES system. An off-site visit to the University of Cambridge Algal Innovation Centre (AIC) will expose the students to different ways of growing and harvesting algae in larger settings.

Dissertation module: January – August 12-16 weeks - 60 credits.

This module aims to provide students with an opportunity to undertake a sustained and independent investigation or project on one area or topic within Algal Biotechnology under academic and/or industrial supervision. The project can either be at SAMS, SAMS Enterprise, anywhere at the wider UHI institutes by agreement or at an external academic group or industrial partner in the UK or internationally. Extra independent funds to cover non-SAMS placements will be investigated by the student and course leader during the year.

The programme is open to both UK/EU and international students and there are spaces for a maximum of 10 students.

Entry requirements for this course will be based on possession of a BSc (Hons) in a relevant biological or other biology related STEM subject at 2:2 or above. Third or ordinary degree holders will be considered on application and based on interview.

International Students

International students must possess comparable entry requirements. Assessment of international qualifications will be provided by certification from the UK ENIC – the UK National Information Centre for the recognition and evaluation of international qualifications and skills. Applicants whose first language is not English must have attained a satisfactory standard on an approved test in English as recommended in the link below (e.g. a minimum overall IELTS score of 6.5) before an offer of admission will be made as per UHI recommendation and regulations:

Useful links for international students:



When does the course start?

This course will start in September 2024 and will last one year.

How many hours per week does this course require?

Students should expect to dedicate 35-40 hours per week to the course which includes time spent in lectures and their own time spent on individual study and research.

How will I study this course?

You will learn through a combination of face-to-face lectures and tutorials for all the modules apart from the Introduction to R modules which is held online via Inverness UHI. The modules at SAMS will all contain a mix of theory and practical classes. There will be a field trip to other algal growth facilities such as the Algal Innovation Centre at the University of Cambridge in the UK in semester 2. The research dissertation can be hosted at SAMS or other external industry or academic sites in the UK or abroad if funding allows.

What can I do with an MSc in Algal Biotechnology?

Once you have successfully completed this course, you might like to consider careers in:

 - PhD research in algal biology and/or biotechnology

 - Companies growing algae at scale for high value products or aquaculture

 - Starting your own company

 - Scientific research assistant


Interested in applying for this course? 

> Applications for the 2024/25 programme are NOW OPEN.

> The closing date for all applications is 12pm (BST) Monday 3rd June 2024.  

To apply, please visit the UHI website:

APPLY via the University of the Highlands and Islands website 

For more information about this course please contact:

Admissions: MScAlgalBiotech@sams.ac.uk 

Dr Matt Davey - Matt.Davey@sams.ac.uk




SAMS Algal Biotechnology and Bioeconomy MSc