School of Biological and Marine Sciences

BSc (Hons) Environmental Biotechnology

Biotechnologies are now replacing traditional technologies with cleaner, greener alternatives. You will study ‘white’ (industrial) and ‘green’ (agricultural) biotechnology in depth, without the focus on ‘red’ (medical) biotechnology that dominates similar courses. With a strong foundation in biology and the technologies, plus the means to commercialise research, you will graduate with the skills to be the future of clean technologies, in a range of industries from biofuels to food production

You will keep up-to-date with a programme that covers the very latest innovations in biotechnology and updates to reflect the demands of the sector. You will gain practical skills hands-on with intensive laboratory-based teaching to give you workplace-ready skills in areas ranging from analytical biochemistry to electron microscopy. You will also gain insight into the workplace with an optional placement year, taking advantage of our links with industry.

Bornite, also known as peacock ore, is a major source of copper and has been mined biologically using Bacteria and Archaea since the 1970s - these organisms thrive at pH 1 and at high temperatures found inside leaching heaps in South America.

Key features

  • Study a broad base of environmental biotechnologies from brewing and food production to bioremediation, biofuels and waste-water treatment.
  • Underpin your studies in biotechnology with a strong foundation in animal and plant physiology, microbiology, evolution and molecular biology.
  • Keep up-to-date with a programme that covers the very latest innovations in biotechnology and updates to reflect the demands of the sector.
  • Take a flexible course that allows you to specialise in your area of interest, such as plant or microbial biotechnology.
  • Gain practical skills hands-on with intensive laboratory-based teaching to give you workplace-ready skills in areas ranging from analytical biochemistry to electron microscopy.
  • Understand the implications of biotechnology with modules in patent law and bioethics.
  • Gain the valuable business and commercialisation skills critical to taking any biotechnology to market.
  • Be inspired by academic staff that are leading biotechnologists in their fields, with active research portfolios linked to companies around the world.
  • Gain insight into the workplace with an optional placement year, taking advantage of our links with industry.

Course details

  • Year 1
  • In your first year, you will take an introductory module aimed at all students in the school covering key skills that you will need throughout your degree, underpinned with pastoral support from a dedicated personal tutor. You will build a foundation of core knowledge across the underpinning fields of biology, covering everything from the physiology and biochemistry of plants, animals and microbes through to evolution. You will undertake intensive an intensive practical module to gain key skills in analytical biochemistry and in the high standards of laboratory science needed in this sector. 

    Core modules
    • BIOL119 Introduction to Biology

      This module is designed to give you some fundamental basic skills and information to help you start to become an independent biologist. The module will cover data and information gathering, analysis, evaluation and presentation. Much of the module will be based around field/lab activities providing you with data for analysis and presentation.

    • BIOL127 Evolution

      This module introduces students to the core concepts of evolution, from the basic structure and inheritance function of DNA, to other units of change, from genome to individual to population to species and other taxonomic groupings. The latter part of the module explores the patterns of biodiversity that evolutionary processes have given rise to, from both historical and extant perspectives.

    • BIOL128 Analytical Biochemistry

      This module focuses on the key practical and data handling skills required by biochemists and biotechnologists in the workplace. It is increasingly critical that biochemical analyses are done to high levels of scrutiny using precise and accurate methods such as ion selective electrodes, spectrophotometry etc ¿ these will be included alongside other methods in widespread use in the biochemistry laboratory.

    • BIOL111 Animal and Plant Physiology

      This module is an introduction to the fundamental principles of comparative physiology, and the structure and function of the body systems of plants as well as animals. The module also introduces the concept of environmental physiology; how organisms respond to their environment.

    • BIOL120 Cell Biology and Microbiology

      This module introduces the fundamentals and principles of cell biology. The second part explores the ecophysiology and importance of microbes in the living world, including their role in global processes and interactions with other organisms.

    • BIOL129 Professional Development in Biological Sciences 1

      Skills in fieldwork, e.g. in identification, or in the laboratory, e.g. in liquid handling, are an important aspect of any biology degree, and can contribute to the employability of graduates. The purpose of this module is to track the progressive acquisition of a range of basic field, laboratory and transferable skills of relevance to each degree programme, and delivered in the other Level 4 modules.

    Optional modules
    • BIOL125PP Scientific Method and Ethics in Biology

      This module explores how modern scientific research is conducted; the importance of professional ethics in science, based on principles of rigour, respect and responsibility; the essential elements of effective science communication; and the development of critical scientific thinking involving graphical, numerical and statistical approaches. It includes examples of reliable (`good') and unreliable (`bad') science.

    • GEES1002PP Climate Change and Energy

      This module provides a scientific evaluation of climate change and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It introduces climate change policy, renewable energy options and societal challenges over GHG reduction measures. Students engage in literature searches and review climate change policy options.

    • ENT1001PP Entrepreneurial Thought and Action

      The module will provide participants with an introduction to the theme of Entrepreneurial Thought and Action, allowing students to explore theory associated with Entrepreneurship before putting it into action through a practical exercise. It will develop a range of academic and professional skills around this theme including: consulting, research; feedback and reflection; professional presentation skills; team working, leadership and project management.

  • Year 2
  • You will build on the foundation in biology from the first year with modules in food microbiology, agricultural biotechnology, plant and cell physiology, molecular biology and microbial physiology and biochemistry. Central to this year is a module in biotechnological commercialisation in which you will begin to understand the process of taking research to patent and into industry and will gain skills essential to the job market.

    Core modules
    • BIOL223 Methods in Biotechnology

      This module will equip students with core statistical, methodological and transferable skills needed in the biotechnology market. Through the platform of experimentation in molecular biology, students will learn how to undertake, record, analyse and communicate a short piece of research conducted in an intensive `boot camp¿ style setting.

    • BIOL220 Molecular Biology

      Starting from the central dogma of molecular biology, this module will introduce the theoretical underpinning of the structure of DNA, its replication, transcription into RNA and translation into protein. The module will also focus on the theory behind the techniques used in recombinant DNA technology and the modulation of gene expression in a range of organisms from different domains, for industrial and research use.

    • BIOL211 Microbial Physiology and Biochemistry

      Diversity, lifestyles, taxonomy and physiology of organisms within the Bacteria and the Archaea, as well as training students in key research and transferable skills through an intensive team laboratory research project. The module focuses on recent developments in microbiology and is highly research-oriented, looking primarily at terrestrial, freshwater, plant and animal host-associated organisms.

    • BIOL212 Environmental Cell Physiology

      Organisms are affected by environmental factors that ultimately induce changes at the molecular and cellular level. This module looks at cellular responses to environmental factors including oxidative stress, hypoxia, exposure to xenobiotics and seasonality. Changes during hibernation/aestivation and development, and induced by semiochemicals are examined, as well as underlying differences in cell physiology.

    • BIOL217 Environmental Plant Physiology

      This module looks at plant-environment interactions in specific habitats, including those affected by human activity. In all cases the challenges associated with the particular environment or biotic interactions are examined as well as the stress responses which may occur in the plants growing there. The features of plants which are well adapted to exploit the opportunities provided by particular habitats are explored.

    Optional modules
    • BIOL222 Food Biotechnology

      Understanding of the ecology of food systems has increased steadily, moving a long way from artisan food fermentations to current and emerging applications of biotechnology. In this module, case studies will consider the efficiency of bio-transformations and bioprocessing, functional materials and food production in relation to quality, safety, traceability, healthiness, industrial relevance and consumer acceptability.

    • BIOL228 Applied Plant Cell and Molecular Biology

      The quality and availability of plant products relies on well trained practitioners with detailed knowledge of relevant biological processes. This module examines the practical use of plant cell biology and discusses methods to visualise and modify aspects of plant metabolism critical to industrial and agronomic applications.

  • Year 3
  • An optional work placement may be taken after your second year, applying your knowledge and expertise in a real world context. Lasting at least six months, this placement with an approved company will help you fine-tune your thinking around possible careers and equip you with the skills and techniques being used on the frontline of biotechnology.


    Core modules
    • APIE303 Biology:Placement

      This module provides an opportunity for professional training of at least 26 weeks duration with an approved company or host organisation between Stage 2 and 4. While on placement, students will gain work experience related to their degree programme, be able to apply their biological knowledge and expertise, and learn further skills and relevant techniques.

  • Final year
  • You will focus on key areas of your interest by selecting from a variety of option modules including biological pest control; environmental hazard assessment; microbial biotechnology; plant biotechnology, and natural products and bioprospecting. You will also take core modules in businesses, ethics and law and an advanced skills module that allows you to select from a range of specialist practical ‘podules’ to really customise your degree to suit your interests. Alongside this, the main focus of the year is your research project, supervised by a member of academic staff and focuses on an area of research of mutual interest.

    Biotechnology is one of the most expanding areas within the biological sciences and green technologies movements. Biotechnologists support industries including agriculture (animal breeding, livestock vaccination, crop manipulation), mining (biohydrometallurgy, biorefinery), energy (biofuels - biohydrogen, biodiesel, biobutanol, bioethanol; nuclear waste reprocessing), food production (brewing, baking, fermented food production), health supplements (vitamin production, Quorn production) etc. As our graduates are equipped with strong business and legal skills within the framework of their biotechnology degree, they can anticipate strong prospects in what is one of the most exciting and expanding fields in biology at present.



    Core modules
    • BIOL318 Business, Commercialisation, Ethics and Law

      This module will equip students for the workplace with a fundamental understanding of the commercialisation of research with focus on start-ups, spin-outs, the basics of the business world, marketing research to different audiences and creation of business cases, along with the legal and ethical frameworks that govern such practices.

    • BIOL315 Personal Research

      The largest component of the module comprises a research study element that incorporates the design, collection, analysis and interpretation of data. Other elements include a conduct of study component and a communicating science element. Students will also complete a comprehensive introduction to the research report that incorporates a brief literature review of the topic that addresses wider issues of relevance to their field of research study.

    • BIOL307 Advanced Skills and Concepts

      Students will select from a catalogue of short, intensive courses relating to biology, developing skills and concepts to an advanced level. The courses offered will be focused on developing the students¿ skills sets and career aspirations, enhancing student employability.

    Optional modules
    • BIOL3313 Environmental Microbiology and Biotechnology

      Explores the many important activities of micro-organisms in a range of environments and aspects of their metabolic processes. For each activity and process covered, the parallel subject of biotechnological exploitation will be explored, drawing entirely from real-world examples of microbial biotechnology, linking back to the underpinning theory.

    • BIOL316 Integrated Pest Management

      Integrated pest management (IPM) uses tactics which cause minimal disruption to the natural processes that limit pest populations. This module focuses on aspects of IPM that involve the use of biotechnology in crop protection, ranging from the use of viral and bacterial insect pathogens through to the breeding of resistant crop varieties.

    • BIOL311 Ecotoxicology

      This module provides a detailed analysis of the concepts and principles of ecotoxicology, with an emphasis on evaluation of ecotoxicological techniques and methods for assessment of impacts of pollutants on the aquatic environment.

    • MBIO325 Marine Algae: Eco-Physiology and Utilization

      This module provides a comprehensive coverage of selected topics on the inter-relationships between marine macroalgae and their environment, with particular emphasis on physiological and cellular responses to natural and anthropogenic stresses. It also introduces the global importance of marine algae as a resource utilized by humans and presents a critical overview of the methods used in seaweed aquaculture.

    • BIOL301 Plant Biotechnology

      Despite the increasing importance of 'food security' in a changing world, plant biotechnology has had much negative publicity. This module will give students an appreciation of the science and also the ethical and social issues that surround the subject and show why these techniques are so important to secure our food supply.

    • BIOL317 Natural Products and Bioprospecting

      Organisms produce a wide range of diverse compounds, which may be involved in defence or may help in competition against other species. Many of these Natural Products (NPs) have been found to be useful to humans in a variety of ways. This module will introduce the biological and chemical diversity of NPs; the strategies used to identify, characterise and extract them; and the organisms that produce them.

Every undergraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the course aims, the course structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest course structure and may be subject to change:

BSc Environmental Biotechnology Programme Specification September 2017 5471

The modules shown for this course are those currently being studied by our students, or are proposed new modules. Please note that programme structures and individual modules are subject to amendment from time to time as part of the University’s curriculum enrichment programme and in line with changes in the University’s policies and requirements.

Entry requirements

UCAS tariff

112-128

Please note that we usually interview all applicants for this programme.

112-128 points, to include A levels at grade B in Biology and grade B in either Mathematics, Physics or Chemistry, plus a third science subject. Please note that we do not ordinarily consider General Studies, psychology or geography for the third science subject.

18 Unit BTEC National Diploma/QCF Extended Diploma in Applied Science or Forensic Science - 128-144 points (DDM-DDD) - note that this is subject to the exact modules you have studied - please contact admissions@plymouth.ac.uk, stating explicitly the full list of modules within your qualification.

International Baccalaureate 30 diploma points overall, to include 5 diploma points in Biology (Higher Level) plus 5 diploma points in second science at Higher Level. English and Mathematics must be included.

Science-based Access To Higher Education diplomas, 33 credits in science-based units at merit including a minimum of 12 credits in biology units. We would usually expect GCSE English and Mathematics at grade C, or equivalent.

For a full list of all acceptable qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary.

English language requirements

For candidates that do not have traditional qualifications, our BSc (Hons) Biology with Foundation Year programme provides a route onto this degree. 

Fees, costs and funding

New Student 2017 2018
Home/EU £9,250 To be confirmed
International £12,500 To be confirmed
Part time (Home/EU) Check with School To be confirmed
Part time (International) Check with School To be confirmed
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per a number of credits. Fees are correct at the time of publication and may be subject to change.

How to apply

All applications for undergraduate courses are made through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). 

UCAS will ask for the information contained in the box at the top of this course page including the UCAS course code and the institution code. 

To apply for this course and for more information about submitting an application including application deadline dates, please visit the UCAS website.

Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage or email international-admissions@plymouth.ac.uk.



Potential High Achievers Scheme

In the School of Biological and Marine Sciences we are passionate and committed to both teaching and research and we are looking for talented and motivated students to share in this passion for biology in all its forms. We know that our applicants will thrive in the hands-on environment we can provide, and we want to ensure our best applicants become our future.

The scheme is now open for students who have applied to study, from September 2017, a range of full-time undergraduate courses across the biological sciences subject areas. We will be contacting applicants who are not only on course to achieve top marks but who have an outstanding personal statement, in order to offer them a chance to receive an unconditional offer immediately.

Find out more about the scheme.