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Posted April 1, 2015

Spotlight On: Postgrad Study in Botany

You may already have read our Spotlight On: Postgrad Study in Biology , but decided that your own academic interests were a little more (dare we say it?) - niche. At the last count, there were 14 universities in the UK offering 31 postgraduate courses in Botany, thus making it a rather specialised subject. But if the very idea of soil science, plant survival, and plant ecophysiology gives you all the warm feelings, then here's our go-to guide to help you navigate your way into the brave new world of studying Botany as a postgraduate.

Some General Advice As with all postgrad courses, it pays to do your homework in advance. Funding is always competitive, so it's worthwhile spending time now researching your options when it comes to studentships, bursaries, and other potential sources of funding. In order to write a really strong application that's likely to attract funding, you will need to make sure you've got a solid understanding of the research interest you're writing about, and you need to identify which institutions, as well as which individual members of staff, play to your strengths. Decide if a taught or research Master's is better for you.

Discover & Hone Your Botanical Interests If genes and their many functions are a source of fascination to you, you might want to pick a course with a module option in Plant Genetics, or a department where there's a potential Ph.D supervisor who shares that particular interest. If ancient plants and their fossils are something you want to work on, pick a course with an offering in Paleobotany. If environment and the living, breathing world is more for you, then a specialisation in Ecology might be right. The important thing to do is to pick an area that you genuinely find rich and rewarding to study: once you've done that, finding an appropriate course, at least one academic you want to work with, and writing a really great application will all come much more easily. If you're still studying for your undergraduate degree now, it's definitely worth taking the time to speak to academic staff in your department for their advice, and letting them know that you're interested in a postgrad career in Botany- after all, universities do like to look after their own.

Some Institutions to Consider The University of Leeds' Centre for Plant Sciences is a centre of excellence in plant cell and molecular biology, and has over 10 research groups working on areas as diverse as hormonal plant biology and crop science. Offering a Master's in Plant Science and Biotechnology, the Centre also has its own allocation of BBSRC funding to offer Ph.D studentships.

Fully funded Ph.Ds and MPhils are also available at the University of Cambridge's well regarded Department of Plant Sciences. With the 3 core areas of the Department's research focussing on global food security; synthetic biology and biotechnology; and climate science and ecosystem conservation, the Department may be a good fit if you have similar interests.

The University of Bath's postgraduate Botany courses have more of a molecular focus, with modules including Plant Biotechnology, Plant Symbiosis and Pathology, and Sensory and Signalling Networks in Plants. Bath's Department of Biology & Biochemistry was also ranked 2nd in the country by the Sunday Times University Guide in 2013, and 90% of the research undertaken in the Department is judged to be internationally recognised, excellent, or world leading, making it a prestigious place to begin your career as a botanist.

Many other institutions are also highly-regarded in both the UK and overseas for their Botany postgrad offerings: universities such as Manchester, Oxford, Kent, UCL and Edinburgh all have prestigious departments designed to make the perfect springboard into a research or professional career in botany.

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