Research in Biosciences
Research in Biosciences is highly collaborative across campuses and themes. The themes below represent some of the key areas we specialise in.
- Ranked top 10 in the world for Ecology research in the ShanghaiRanking's Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2020
- Ranked 11th in the world and 1st in the UK in the most recent Life and Earth Sciences Leiden Ranking (2015-2018), based on the proportion of outputs that are top 10% in the field
- 24 independent Senior Research Fellows within the faculty
13 staff members currently hold European Research Council (ERC) grants
Interdisciplinary research collaborations
Alongside our discipline-specific work, Biosciences academics contribute to research across the University's campuses in Devon and Cornwall, playing key roles in groups including:
The University of Exeter is at the forefront of human knowledge about the marine environment: its ecology, biodiversity, conservation, and its impact on our health and wellbeing. Our marine research spans the humanities, physical, social and natural sciences and works with industry partners to deliver real-world change.
Conscience: The Conservation Science Hub
Conscience is a collective of inter-disciplinary researchers based at or working with the University of Exeter, working to reduce biodiversity loss through socially just and evidence-based conservation.
Living Systems Institute (LSI)
The Living Systems Institute pioneers research into complex biological systems on all scales, from the molecular to the whole organism and populations. LSI merges research in biology and medicine with ground breaking physical sciences technologies and powerful mathematical modelling capabilities. This integrated approach enables us to develop fundamental knowledge and generate new tools for improving health and treating disease.
Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI)
The ESI brings diverse perspectives together to shed light on some of the major challenges facing our planet. In looking for solutions to problems of environmental change, our researchers tackle an extensive range of topics: some solutions are technological, others might relate to land use, and sometimes they depend on a change in human behaviour. Most involve combinations of all three. We combine multiple, in-depth local and regional studies to provide insights into how environmental growth can be achieved more broadly, and work in partnership with an array of stakeholders to deliver practical solutions for them.
Earth System Science Group
The Earth System Science Group focuses on understanding the Earth as a whole system, comprising life and its environment, including the atmosphere, ocean, sea-ice, land surface, ice sheets, and crustal rocks.
Collaborative Centre for Resilience in Environment, Water and Waste (CREWW)
CREWW is a collaboration between the University, industry, government and NGOs to undertake research into some of the most pressing environmental challenges in our time - namely how we can manage our precious natural resources in ways which are sustainable and resilient in the face of climate change and population growth. It is funded by Research England and South West Water.
Collaborative Centre for Sustainable Aquaculture Futures (SAF)
Sustainable Aquaculture Futures (SAF) is a collaboration between the University and CEFAS, with an ambition of bringing together world-leading scientists to ensure the key challenges facing sustainable growth of the aquaculture industry are better understood. SAF global partners include academic centres in India, Bangladesh, Malawi and Thailand.
The University of Exeter AFGrica Unit
The Universities of Exeter and Cape Town (UCT) have joined forces to create the world’s first international research centre for tackling fungal infections: the AFGrica Unit, which is based at UCT’s Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine in Cape Town.
A world-class teaching and research facility that includes 16 aquaria rooms, a 3000-tank zebrafish unit, a Wolfson Imaging Unit with specialist microscopes, video and imaging equipment, together with several preparation and laboratory rooms that contain automated respirometry, dosing and gas control systems that allow for sophisticated developmental, physiological and behavioural research.
This centre has a large array of light microscopes to support all key bioimaging techniques, including FRAP, FLIM, FCS, photoactivation.
Our Ar 72 m2 BSL2 laboratory is approved by the Home Office and the US NIH for select agent work.
Part of the Living Systems Institute, this facility for protein structure includes sample preparation and a 120 keV cryo-capable EM (FEI Tecnai 12) with automated data collection. This is supported by extensive protein purification and crystallisation systems.
The recently-established Exeter Centre for Cytomics houses a range of instruments for flow cytometry-based cell sorting and imaging.
The Exeter Sequencing Service houses Illumina HiSeq 2500, Illumina MiSeq and PacBio Sequel (for long reads). supports a wide range of applications for genomics, transcriptomics and epigenetics.
The MS facility houses two LC-MS systems along with a GC-QToF MS/MS and HPLC with diode array, fluorescence and refractive index detectors. The facility supports custom targeted small molecule analysis and untargeted metabolite profiling plus data analysis pipelines.
Vertical-Looking Radar (VLR) is used to investigate the abundance and behaviour of insects flying at high altitudes. Harmonic radar enables individual tagged low-flying insects to be tracked continuously. We are one of only two institutions in the UK and three in the world that currently possess such technology, facilitating research into animal navigation and animal cognition in a field setting.
This facility is equipped with two isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) instruments: a Sercon Integra 2 system and a Sercon 20-22 isotope IRMS.
Streatham Campus: Lunchtime seminar series
In our weekly seminar series we host guest speakers from other institutions, who share their research on topics across the spectrum of biosciences.
Seminars take place on Thursdays at 12:30 in the LSI Building on Streatham Campus, and are followed by a shared buffet lunch.
Penryn Campus seminar series
Find out about this term’s seminar series at the Penryn Campus, in Cornwall. Seminars take place on Thursdays at 13:00 in the Chapel Lecture Theatre.
The Penryn series programme is organised by Dr Ben Longdon. Please contact Dr Longdon if you are interested in presenting or attending a seminar and would like further information.
Fellowships and PhDs
Biosciences currently has more than 20 senior research fellows and 30 junior research fellows, funded by NERC, BBSRC, the Wellcome Trust, the Leverhulme Trust, Marie Sklodowska Curie, and others. Our diverse funding portfolio supports our vibrant community of graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and independent research fellows.
Join our research community
Fellowship applicants interested in joining us at either our Exeter or Cornwall campuses should contact the member of academic staff closest to their research area or our Directors of Research in the first instance to discuss their proposed project.
Our Directors of Research are:
- At Streatham Campus: Associate Professor Eduarda Santos and Professor Ivana Gudelj
- At Penryn Campus: Professor Edze Westra and Professor Jeremy Field
Across both campuses we have a strong track record of hosting fellowships funded by both UK and international schemes (e.g. UKRI Future Leaders Fellows, NERC Independent Research Fellows, BBSRC David Phillips and Discovery Fellows, Royal Society University Research Fellows, Marie Curie Fellows, European Research Council and Wellcome schemes)
We also welcome enquiries from existing fellowship holders interested in transferring to the University of Exeter. It is always useful to include a full academic CV.
Fellowship support is offered at all stages:
- Advice on scheme suitability and proposal writing from our many successful fellows and research development staff.
- Review of draft proposals.
- Costing and submission of applications via funder portals.
- Assistance with interview preparation.
For existing fellows:
- 1:1 mentoring from senior colleagues.
- Peer support from our Early Career Researcher network.
- Opportunities (but no obligation) to gain teaching experience and to supervise BSc, MSc, MRes, and PhD project students.
- Training and personal development.
- Support for grant proposal development from senior colleagues and research support staff.
Find out more about support and funding available for research fellows:
Please contact our Research Development teams in the first instance if you have any questions:
Our PhD students benefit from:
- High-quality research supervision to develop and nurture your scientific potential
- A tailored supervision approach to suit your requirements
- Accessible supervisors who are enthusiastic about working directly with postgraduate research students
- Regular timetabled meetings with your supervisor, plus meetings with your research group
- Instant access to world-leading researchers who will share their expertise and ideas with you through our 'open door' policy for all postgraduate students
Early Career Researcher Network
The Early Career Researcher Network helps support postdocs and PhD students in their career development. Dr Helen Eyles coordinates the network alongside a steering committee of peers from across the department.
Fungal Biology: Ken Haynes bursaries
Bursaries of up to £500 are available to assist PhD students and early career stage researchers in the field of fungal biology.
Research ethics, research culture and responsible metrics
Research at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation is diverse, covering a large array of topics in animal behaviour, conservation, ecology, evolutionary biology and human and social geography. All research has the potential to raise ethical issues, which must be given due consideration during the research process.
All our research work is guided by the Ethics Policy and the Code of Good Conduct in Research, informed by the Universities UK Concordat to Support Research Integrity.
Research culture and responsible use of metrics
The University of Exeter is a signatory of the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) which commits us to improving the ways in which we assess researchers and scholarly outputs. There is also a University-wide “responsible metrics champions” group that aims to help others to become aware of, understand and improve use of DORA and the broader responsible research metrics agenda.
As a department we want to lead change in this area, and are committed to driving open, reproducible research and inclusive research assessment. Moreover, appointments and promotions committees within the department will take on board the responsible use of metrics and promote consistency and transparency - in alignment with DORA principles - and assess research and researchers on their own merits.
The general recommendation of DORA is “Do not use journal-based metrics, such as Journal Impact Factors, as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles, to assess an individual scientist’s contributions, or in hiring, promotion, or funding decisions.”
The DORA recommendations for institutions are:
- Be explicit about the criteria used to reach hiring, tenure, and promotion decisions, clearly highlighting, especially for early-stage investigators, that the scientific content of a paper is much more important than publication metrics or the identity of the journal in which it was published.
- For the purposes of research assessment, consider the value and impact of all research outputs (including datasets and software) in addition to research publications, and consider a broad range of impact measures including qualitative indicators of research impact, such as influence on policy and practice.
The full list of DORA recommendations can be found on the DORA website.
Within the CEC: if you have any questions regarding these topics, or concerns we are not adhering to the above principles, please contact the CEC responsible metrics group representative (email@example.com) and HoD (HoD-CLES-Cornwall@exeter.ac.uk).