Mathematical Biology, Ph. D.

  • N/A
    Application Deadline
  • 36 months
  • Tuition
    Tuition (Year)
    Tuition (Year)
  • English (take IELTS)
University rank #301 ,
Our PhD Mathematical Biology uses novel mathematical and computational techniques to solve problems in the biological, ecological and environmental sciences. At Essex, we currently supervise projects in the areas of animal movement and behaviour, population dynamics, plankton ecology, fisheries and natural resource management, and bioinformatics techniques.


Holders of a such a PhD are ideally placed to continue a scientific research career as there is currently a shortage of mathematical expertise in biological, ecological and environmental research.

We also offer an MPhil in this subject.

Please note, part-time research study is also available.

Why study PhD Mathematical Biology at Essex?

Our Department of Mathematical Sciences has an international reputation in many areas like such as semi-group theory, optimisation, probability, applied statistics, bioinformatics and mathematical biology.

Our staff are strongly committed to research and teaching. They have published several well-regarded text books and are world leaders in their individual specialisms, with their papers appearing in learned journals like Communications in Algebra, Studia Logica, International Journal of Algebra and Computation, SIAM Journal in Optimization, IEEE Evolutionary Computation, Computers and Operations Research, Ecology, Journal of Mathematical Biology, and Journal of Statistical Applications in Genetics and Molecular Biology.

Our facilities

Within our Department of Mathematical Sciences, we have our own computing laboratories and our research students are provided with their own desktop PCs. We also have a kitchen that our students are welcome to make use of. The close-knit “collegiate” environment of our Department fosters close relationships between our staff and students.

Career destination

Many of our former PhD students have gone no to work as academics in prominent institutions across the world, such as ITAM in Mexico, the University of Lagos (Nigeria), the University of Nottingham, the University of Cambridge (UK) and Sindh University in Pakistan.
Other graduates have joined organisations like the Met Office, the Ministry of Defence, and companies based in the City of London. There is a high demand for those with a numerate background in all sectors of the economy, so our graduates are sought after in the UK and abroad.

Support for postgraduates

Our University of Essex has a range of support services designed to help you to achieve your full potential and get the most out of your studies. These form a co-ordinated network of support, and are an important part of your overall student experience at Essex.
Our staff operate an 'open door' policy so are available to discuss any concerns with you throughout the year.

Detailed Programme Facts

  • Full-time duration 36 months
  • Study intensity Part-time, Full-time
  • Languages
    • English
  • Delivery mode
    On Campus

Programme Structure

Your research degree gives you the chance to investigate your chosen topic in real depth and reach a profound understanding. In communicating that understanding, through a thesis or other means, you have a rare opportunity to generate knowledge. You develop new high-level skills, enhance your professional development and build new networks. A PhD can open doors to many careers.

Your supervisor

If you are undertaking your research within our Department of Mathematical Sciences, then joint supervision across other Essex departments and schools (particularly with our Department of Biological Sciences, and with our School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering) is possible. Some of our current students have a supervisor based in our Department and another in one of the departments or schools mentioned above.

You will be expected to meet with your supervisor at regular intervals and have a formal supervisory board meeting every six months (or once-a-year if studying part-time) to review progress.

How you will study

Within our Department, our PhD students are usually encouraged to undertake our taught module, Research Methods, in the first year of study, so you are well equipped with the necessary skills to undertake effective research. A PhD (taking at least three years) typically involves wide reading round the subject area in your first year, then gradually developing original results over your second and third years, before writing them up in a coherent fashion. The resulting thesis is expected to extend the understanding of a specialist topic, and should not exceed 80,000 words in length.

We offer an MPhil programme for those who wish to make an original contribution to mathematics, though of a less substantial nature than required for the award of a PhD. The minimum period of registration for our MPhil is six terms (two years) which is awarded on the basis of a thesis with a maximum length of 50,000 words.

All our students wishing to study for a PhD enrol on a combined MPhil/PhD pathway. In your second year of study, depending on progress, a decision is made by our Department on whether to proceed with either an MPhil or a PhD. There is no taught element although you may attend course modules on an informal basis.

It is possible to pursue your PhD via a Doctoral Programme (MPHP) in a wide variety of areas. If you are undertaking this Doctoral Programme you will, in your first year, complete a comparable programme to that of our Masters students but then continue for a further two years undertaking research in the general area studied during the summer of your first year. Your final degree will be a PhD.

Our MSc by Dissertation involves a minimum of one year of full-time research. There is no taught element, although you may attend course modules on an informal basis. The resulting thesis must contain an element of novelty and should not exceed 30,000 words in length. Award of this depends on an oral examination of you and your thesis. There is an option to upgrade to an MPhil/PhD if you make good progress.

Finalising your PhD

Within our Department of Mathematical Sciences, our full-time research students have a supervisory board to review their progress every six months. The recommendations of this are considered by our Departmental Research Students’ Progress Committee, which make decisions on your registration status.

If you progress well, you should be confirmed as a PhD student in the first term of your second year of study. We expect you to have all of your experimental work completed after two-three years and to have completed and submitted your thesis within three-four years.

Seminars and conferences

Within our Department of Mathematical Sciences, we have a seminar series that runs throughout the year and to which outside, as well internal, speakers are invited. Our graduate students are encouraged to attend these seminars and to contribute when they are at an advanced stage in their own research.

In addition, our PhD students are encouraged to go to external conferences and, recently, some of our PhD students’ contributions won a “Best Paper of the Conference” award.

English Language Requirements

You need the following IELTS score:

  • Minimum required score: 6

    The IELTS – or the International English Language Test System – tests your English-language abilities (writing, listening, speaking, and reading) on a scale of 1.00–9.00. The minimum IELTS score requirement refers to which Overall Band Score you received, which is your combined average score. Read more about IELTS.

    Take IELTS test

    StudyPortals Tip: The UK government has confirmed new English-language testing requirements for visa and immigration purposes. Learn more

Academic Requirements

For research study within our Department of Mathematical Sciences, we normally require a good Masters degree, or equivalent, in a relevant discipline. A well developed research proposal is also essential.

If English is not your first language, then we will require you to have IELTS 6.0 or equivalent.

Tuition Fee Per Year

  • GBP 12950 International
  • GBP 4120 National


For up-to-date information on funding opportunities at Essex, please visit:

StudyPortals Tip: Students can search online for independent or external scholarships that can help fund their studies. Check the scholarships to see whether you are eligible to apply. Many scholarships are either merit-based or needs-based.