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.


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 projects are currently on offer. Please contact individual supervisors, in the first instance, to discuss.

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

Analysis of historical climate data for Ireland and its impact on Late Blight of potato.

The project will utilise data from a new reanalysis of Irish weather data over a 35-year period. This will provide valuable historical information on potato blight risk by location in Ireland and contribute to assessing risk to Irish growers from the Late Blight pathogen Phytophthora infestans. The project would suit a student with an aptitude for data analysis and its use in biological systems.
More details on this project: MRes MERA Project

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.
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 cli mate 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 investigatehow 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. Her laboratory specifically addresses the role of the Target of Rapamycin (TOR) signaling pathway in integrating growth regulation with environmental perception.

In order to understand this regulation, her group investigates how the circadian clock modulates the transcript and protein amounts of several components of this pathway.

In addition, Dr Henriques laboratory aims at understanding the biological relevance of non-protein coding transcripts, particularly long non-coding RNAs. These new regulators have been widely studied in animals where they were shown to participate in specific developmental programs and their imbalance has been associated with various diseases. Dr Henriques group has identified hundreds of oscillating lncRNAs that are also natural antisense transcripts to certain protein coding genes and is now characterizing their function in plants.

These combined approaches aim at identifying and characterizing specific regulators of plant growth. This strategy will resort initially to plant models such as Arabidopsis and Brachypodium, with the ultimate goal of translating these findings to crops.

Available projects:

TOR signaling pathway projects

- Phenotypical characterization of plants expressing a circadian-deregulated S6K
- How the circadian clock regulates the TOR pathway - identification and characterization of new targets

LncRNA project

- Oscillating lncRNAs within the CDF family of transcription factors - more functions beyond flowering regulation
- Circadian lncRNAs in the regulation of metabolism

Applied projects

- Identification of ryegrass orthologs for TOR pathway components, flowering time and circadian regulators and establish a reproducible protocol to detect their expression
- Phenotypical evaluation of in vitro grown ryegrass


School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

An Scoil Eolaíochtaí Bitheolaíocha, Domhaneolaíocha agus Comhshaoil

University College Cork, Distillery Fields, North Mall, Cork, Ireland T23 N73K