Molecular Biology and Pathology of Viruses

Learn through in-depth coverage of the fundamental nature of viruses as cellular parasites and their importance in human, animal and plant diseases.

Your Autumn term and academic year 2020–21

This course will begin on schedule in the Autumn and we plan to reopen our campuses. We are looking forward to seeing you in person, if travel and visa arrangements allow. If you can’t travel to campus in time for the start of term, we want to reassure you that your academic Department has made plans which make it possible to offer  you  a  high-quality remote educational experience during the Autumn term.

Your teaching will be a combination of on-campus (in-person) and remote learning (online). We call this ‘multi-mode’ delivery. Depending on official government guidance throughout the entirety of next academic year, the ‘multi-mode’ balance may be subject to change. We hope to be able to offer you increased on-campus teaching and learning activities throughout the year.

For more information about multi-mode delivery, your learning experience and the steps we’ll be taking to keep you safe on campus if you are able to join us, please see our COVID-19 information for applicants and offer holders.

Key information

Duration: 1 year full-time
Start dateOctober 2020
Campus: St Mary's
Register your interestApply now


You will engage with experts from many areas of virology and molecular biology in a wide range of topics.

These areas have seen recent major advances in the understanding of the structure of viruses, molecular mechanisms of virus replication, virus disease pathogenesis, the emergence of novel viruses and the diseases threats that they pose.

This course aims to equip you with the knowledge and skills to pursue a career in academic or industrial research, providing a solid foundation to go on to study at PhD level.

By the end of the programme, you will develop the ability to critically evaluate the scientific literature. You will enhance your written and oral communication skills and the and the ability to present scientific ideas.

You will acquire proficiency in a range of important research techniques during the Mini-Research project and will build on these in the 6-month research project.

Under the supervision and guidance of senior academics, you will investigate an important research problem. You will choose your subject from those be available in one of the laboratories in Imperial College or an associated external institution.

Study programme

The programme is comprised of two parts:

  • Taught component: lectures and seminars given over the first two terms (5 months)
  • Research project: full-time laboratory based research project completed in the last term (6 months)

The taught component is comprised of lectures, laboratory practicals, tutorials and student presentations and covers the most important aspects of viruses and viral diseases.


Many graduates proceed to PhD study, or if medically qualified, to clinical practice or research. As well as scientific training, this course expands your transferable skills, allowing you to enter a variety of other careers including, industry, finance, management and various types of consultancy.


Modules shown are for the current academic year and are subject to change depending on your year of entry.

There are limited circumstances in which we may need to make changes to or in relation to our courses. See what changes we may make and how we will tell you about them.

Find out more about potential changes


Taught modules

You take all of the core modules below.

Module 1: Molecular Biology of Viruses

Main topics: Structure of virus particles, capsids, nucleocapsids and membranes; virus assembly; cell receptors and entry mechanisms; intracellular transport and virion release; virus transmission; effects of viruses on host cells; virus genome structures and coding strategies; transcriptional and post-transcriptional control of gene expression; the virus replication cycle in RNA viruses, DNA viruses and retroviruses; the role of virus non-structural proteins in genome replication.       

Module 2: Viral Pathology and Evolution

Main topics: Innate and adaptive immune responses to virus infection; evasion of host defences by viruses; mechanisms of cell injury; virus-related diseases; acute, persistent and latent infections; viruses and cancer; diagnostics; vaccines; antiviral therapy; gene therapy strategies; epidemiology; vectors and routes of transmission; genetic variation and evolution of viruses; emergence and re-emergence of viruses; virus-like agents and the origins of viruses.

Module 3: Mini-Research Project

You will be provided with research methods, material and expertise to safely perform laboratory based experimental work and to analyse and interpret your data to address the objectives of the project.

Module 4: Research Evaluation and Communication

You will develop your critical judgement and communication skills. You will learn and develop techniques and strategies to study the structure of research publications and the functions of the different elements; carry out critical analysis of propositions and findings based on detailed evaluation of the evidence presented; optimise literature reference searches; compile bibliographies; write effectively; produce reviews on specific topics;  design research projects; write applications for funding support. 

Module 5:  Laboratory Based Research Project

During the 6-month research project you will be working in one of the research laboratories at Imperial or external institutions to experimentally address one specific scientific project. You will be allocated a project based on several criteria: project availability, students’ choice and prospective supervisors’ comments. You will meet with the prospective supervisors to discuss their projects before you state their preferences for specific projects. You will also attend and participate in the Annual Conference of the Microbiology Society.

Research project

You begin your research project in the Spring term and continue to work on your project for six-months. You complete a 10,000 word thesis and give an oral presentation at the end of the academic year.

Most projects are carried out at the St Mary's campus, with the option to conduct your project at other Imperial campuses or at external research institutions and companies in the UK.

Teaching and assessment

Teaching methods

You will be an active participant in a variety of learning and teaching approaches. These focus on the knowledge, skills and abilities required by working scientists. You will be required to study independently and in teams prior to face to face sessions.

These will be in the form of:

  • Seminars
  • Group tutorials
  • Lectures
  • Journal clubs
  • Data interpretation sessions
  • Group work sessions
  • Laboratory skills sessions

You will have the opportunity to attend a conference (registration fees, accommodation and transport costs are covered by the programme). Here you will gain insight into the forefront of the discipline from the conference speakers.

During your laboratory based project, you will learn from interacting on a daily basis with researchers, presenting in lab meetings, attending seminars, observing others and receiving feedback on your work.

Assessment methods

Summative assessments will be in the form of:

  • Short abstract or summary of scientific writing
  • Written examinations
  • Production of a poster and an oral poster presentation
  • Individual written project report  (Mini-Research Project)
  • Literature review
  • Research grant proposal
  • Research project thesis and oral exam (viva voce)

Entry requirements

We welcome students from all over the world and consider all applicants on an individual basis.


Minimum academic requirement

Our minimum requirement is a 2.2 degree in biological science, medicine or veterinary science.

International qualifications

We also accept a wide variety of international qualifications.

The academic requirement above is for applicants who hold or who are working towards a UK qualification.

For guidance see our Country Index though please note that the standards listed here are the minimum for entry to the College, and not specifically this Department.

If you have any questions about admissions and the standard required for the qualification you hold or are currently studying then please contact the relevant admissions team.

English language requirement (all applicants)

All candidates must demonstrate a minimum level of English language proficiency for admission to the College.

For admission to this course, you must achieve the standard College requirement in the appropriate English language qualification. For details of the minimum grades required to achieve this requirement, please see the English language requirements for postgraduate applicants.

How to apply

How to apply

Making an application

All applicants to our Master's courses must apply online.

For full details on the online application process, please visit the admissions website.

ATAS certificate

An ATAS certificate is not required for overseas students applying for this course.

Tuition fees and funding

The level of tuition fees you pay is based on your fee status, which we assess based on UK government legislation.

For more information on the funding opportunities that are available, please visit our Fees and Funding website.

Tuition fees

Tuition fees (Home and EU students)

2020 entry

£12,000 per year

Fees are charged by year of entry to the College and not year of study.

Except where otherwise indicated, the fees for students on courses lasting more than one year will increase annually by an amount linked to inflation, including for part-time students on modular programmes. The measure of inflation used will be the Retail Price Index (RPI) value in the April of the calendar year in which the academic session starts e.g. the RPI value in April 2020 will apply to fees for the academic year 2020–2021.

Tuition fees (Overseas and Islands students)

2020 entry

£35,600 per year

Fees are charged by year of entry to the College and not year of study.

Except where otherwise indicated, the fees for students on courses lasting more than one year will increase annually by an amount linked to inflation, including for part-time students on modular programmes. The measure of inflation used will be the Retail Price Index (RPI) value in the April of the calendar year in which the academic session starts e.g. the RPI value in April 2020 will apply to fees for the academic year 2020–2021.

Postgraduate Master's loan

If you are a Home or EU student who meets certain criteria, you may be able to apply for a Postgraduate Master’s Loan from the UK government.

For 2019-20 entry, the maximum amount was of £10,906. The loan is not means-tested and you can choose whether to put it towards your tuition fees or living costs.


We offer a range of scholarships for postgraduate students to support you through your studies. Find out more about our scholarships to see what you might be eligible for.

There are a number of external organisations also offer awards for Imperial students, find out more about non-Imperial scholarships.

Accommodation and living costs

Living costs, including accommodation, are not included in your tuition fees.

You can compare costs across our different accommodation options on our Accommodation website.

A rough guide to what you might expect to spend to live in reasonable comfort in London is available on our Fees and Funding website.

Further information


Got a question?

Alicja Pastuszek (Course Administrator)
T: +44 (0)20 7594 5873

Read more about the Department and our research in the Department of Infectious Disease.

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