MRes Plant Biology

The MRes (Masters of Research) in Plant Biology is a full-time programme running over 12 months from the date of first registration for the programme. Applications will be accepted for a start date in October or January. The programme consists of (a) a major research thesis and (b) taught modules on generic and transferable skills, with an emphasis on scientific writing, oral presentations, and general research skills. Part-time study for this programme is not available.

Prospective students should also consult the following guide to procedures relating to applying for the MRes Animal and Plant Science:

MRes Plant Biology - Student guide to application process before entry

Students should consult the Fees office website for information on College and Bench Fees

Programme Requirements

Students undertake a total workload equivalent to 90 credits over the 12-month programme, the principal element of which is the completion of a major research thesis of approximately 10,000 words. In parallel, students must take and pass taught modules to the value of 20 credits.

Students take 20 credits from the following available modules1:

BL6019 Ecological Applications of Geographical Information Systems (5 credits)

BL6024 Quantitative Skills for Biologists using R (10 credits)

BL4004 Frontiers in Biology (5 credits)

BL4005 Research Skills in Biology (5 credits)

BL4006 Food Production (5 credits)

PS6001 Plant Genetic Engineering (5 credits)

PS4024 Crop Physiology and Climate Change (5 credits)

PS4021 Environmentally Protective Management of Plant Pests and Pathogens (5 credits)


• 1Students may elect to take other, relevant modules (subject to availability) that are offered by the University that are not listed above to fulfil the elective requirement with approval from the MRes coordinator, research supervisor and Head of School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Students will also undertake independent research towards completion of a research thesis to a student workload equivalent of 70 credits on a selected topic in Plant Biology. 

See also Regulations for Submission and Examination of Research Masters Degrees. (PDF)

Entry requirements:

Applicants must have at least a 2.1 in a relevant discipline and must contact the proposed MRes supervisor to discuss and agree a research proposal prior to application. In addition, applicants will be interviewed with the proposed supervisor and Head of Discipline prior to application via (PAC code: CKS81)

Programme Learning Outcomes for MRes (Master of Research) Plant Biology (NFQ Level 9, Major Award)

On successful completion of this programme, students should be able to:

  • Carry out an independent and original research project to address an emerging question in Plant Biology. 
  • Prepare and write a dissertation of their research project in a critical, logical and systematic manner, in keeping with the standards of postgraduate research.
  • Display advanced theoretical knowledge and practical understanding within a research area of Plant Biology.
  • Understand the basis and application of field and laboratory methods used in Plant Biology and a knowledge of their limitations
  • Avail of relevant workshops or modules to increase scientific technical skills (e. g. biostatistics).
  • Source, review, critically assess and evaluate relevant primary literature and summarize material for presentation to peers and for inclusion within the research dissertation.
  • Design, write and defend a scientific research proposal based on their current research topic or a proposed topic.
  • Evaluate their skill set and identify skills that should be acquired.
  • Develop professional practice skills including team-work, negotiation, time-management, scientific writing and oral communication

The following give an indication of the type of projects that will be considered. Not all of these projects will still be available but will indicate some of the research areas individual supervisors will consider. Please contact individual supervisors, in the first instance, to discuss these and other projects. More details on Plant Science staff and their research interests are available on the Plant Science Research page. 

Supervisor Project
Dr Barbara Doyle Prestwich Ongoing MRes project opportunities are available in the ares of biotechnology and sustainable agriculture.  Barbara has a particular interest in the use of biotech tools for crop improvement, and has recently been invloved in research methods using CRISPR.  She also has an interest in plant-microbe interactions.
Dr Eoin Lettice The role of biochar as a sustainable soil amendment. 
Used as a soil amendment, there is evidence that biochar can benefit soil biology, control soil-borne pathogens and increase crop yields by making nutrients available for plant growth.  Utilising a long-term biochar experimental system at BEES, this project will assess the impact of biochar on plant growth and soil diversity.
Dr Eoin Lettice

Quantifying the benefits of urban trees

There are many claims made regarding the benefits of urban trees: from carbon sequestration to biodiversity, aesthetic and public health benefits. The aim of this project is to develop a set of tools to assess the key benefits of trees in an urban setting. The project will make use of existing study sites including the UCC Arboretum and the South Parish, Cork city as well as surveying new sites and adding to existing data.

Prof. Astrid Wingler Use of Brachypodium sylvaticum as a model for growth regulation in perennial forage grasses.

The aim of the project is to establish B. sylvaticum as a model for growth regulation in perennial grasses. Physiological and metabolic parameters will be determined at different temperatures in a range of B. sylvaticum accessions from various geographic origins. The expression of genes involved in cold acclimation and metabolism will be determined. Dependent on the interest of the student, it is also possible to establish protocols for tissue culture and transformation. The project is suitable for students with an interest in plant science or molecular biology/genetics.
Prof. Astrid Wingler Life history variation in grass species.

Grasses have a large variety of life histories, with annuals and long-lived perennials often found in the same genus. While annuals show predominantly ruderal strategies with high investment in reproduction, grain production is lower in perennials which invest resources for survival under stress conditions. Trade-offs between growth, reproduction and survival will be explored in con-generic grass species to identify how limitations of grain production can be overcome e.g. for breeding perennial grain crops. The project is suitable for students with an interest in plant science or ecology
Prof. Astrid Wingler Autumn phenology – monitoring leaf senescence in response to climate change and light pollution.

Autumn senescence limits the extent of photosynthetic carbon fixation and thus carbon sequestration by trees. However, while extensive knowledge is available for the effect of climate change on leafing in spring, there is a lack of understanding how autumn senescence is affected by climate change. Shortening days in autumn may constrain the ability of trees to delay senescence in response to warmer temperatures. Aim of the project is to investigate how this limitation may be overcome by light pollution in urban habitats. The project is suitable for students with an interest in plant science, ecology or environmental biology.
Dr Rosanna Henriques

Dr Henriques laboratory studies the mechanisms underlying the circadian regulation of plant growth and development. She is particularly interested in understanding the biological role of specific circadian clock outputs that could control growth and/or development both in model plant species such as Arabidopsis thaliana and forage crops such as perennial ryegrass.

Circadian regulation of Arabidopsis growth controlled by the TOR signalling pathway

This project involves the phenotypical characterization of mutant and overexpressing lines affected in components of the TOR signalling pathway and the circadian clock. In parallel, students will also be involved in isolating novel single and double mutants within this pathway. This project is suitable for students interested in plant molecular biology, genetics and biochemistry.

Dr Rosanna Henriques

Biological characterization of oscillating long non-protein coding RNAs (lncRNAs) in Arabidopsis

Dr Henriques as previously identified circadian regulated lncRNAs which are natural antisense transcripts to protein coding genes. In this project students will be able to analyse lncRNA expression and generate molecular tools (overexpression lines, mutant isolation) to determine their function. Dr Henriques screen has identified oscillating lncRNAs involved in circadian regulation, light signalling, starch metabolism, among others. This project would fit students with interest in molecular biology and genetics and bioinformatics.

Dr Rosanna Henriques

Circadian regulation of perennial ryegrass growth

This project aims to understand how different photoperiods and temperature conditions affect the growth of perennial ryegrass. In this project the student would determine specific growth parameters using different perennial ryegrass varieties. This work would be complemented with the analysis of gene expression under these conditions (e.g. circadian genes, flowering time regulators). Interesting candidates could then be cloned and sequenced for further studies. Students with interest in plant science, molecular biology, and agriculture would be suited for this research project.

Dr Rosanna Henriques

Characterization of white clover development under in vitro and in vivo conditions

This project aims to establish a protocol to grow different white clover varieties under controlled in vitro conditions as well as in vivo. Growth parameters will be evaluated either in the presence or absence of perennial ryegrass seedlings/plants. There will be a special interest in correlating root development with nitrogen availability. This project is suitable for students with interest in plant science and agriculture.

Need more information?

For more details, contact the MRes Plant Biology programme coordinator, Dr. Rossana Henriques.

School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

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