Mathematical Modelling in Biology

MSc, 1-2 years, full- or part-time

This is for you if... you are interested in how mathematical techniques can be used to study biological systems.

Course Description

Mathematics has long been recognised as a powerful and convenient tool for understanding biological and ecological processes. Many of the advances that have been made in recent decades in our understanding of how living matter is organised at different levels - from genes and cells to communities and ecosystems – relied on extensive use of mathematical modelling and computer experiments. Computer simulation in particular has opened up fields of study into many aspects of living systems’ dynamics, which would be very difficult or even impossible to study in the field or the lab.

This postgraduate degree will provide you with a comprehensive knowledge of the design, analysis and implementation of existing modelling approaches and contemporary methods of data analysis used in biology and ecology. The course consists of two ‘streams’, one half focusing on biomedical applications in theoretical neuroscience and brain research, the other on ecological and environmental applications.

Mathematics for Neuroscience

Neural systems are one of nature’s most impressive designs. They exhibit both computational power and the capacity to adapt to instantaneous changes in the environment. In contrast to human-made devices, neurons are non-identical, slow, and unreliable – yet when combined into a network like the human brain, they demonstrate superior performance and versatility to any existing artificial intelligence.

  • How do neural systems compute successful decisions in an uncertain and changing environment using slow, unreliable elementary processors?
  • What are the basic principles behind such computation?
  • How are these systems able to be so robust while also being extremely flexible?

These questions constitute the frontier of research in mathematical neuroscience. Understanding the principles behind computation and flows of information in neural systems has a great impact in some of the most fascinating areas of science and biology: building machine-brain interfaces; identifying possible treatments for neurological diseases such as stroke; or developing non-invasive tools for enhancing/controlling performance of human brain.

Mathematics in Ecology

Maths plays a fundamental role in contemporary population ecology and epidemiology. When dealing with ecological systems, field data may be scarce and regular experimental study is often expensive - and sometimes downright dangerous. Replicated experiments (the basis of empirical science) are sometimes simply impossible in ecology because of the problems of reproducing the same initial conditions and environment.

In these situations, mathematical modelling and computer simulations provide an effective and convenient tool to reveal the role of various natural factors, to test or verify hypotheses and thereby to significantly enhance our understanding of relevant issues.

  • How can we fight pests without pesticides?
  • How many trees in a forest can be cut without disrupting the native animals and birds?
  • How many fish are left in the North Sea?
  • Do genetically modified crops spread over long distances or remain localised?
  • How fast does an infectious disease spread through the population?

This MSc will not only introduce you to the basic ideas of mathematical ecology and ecological modelling but also bring you up to date with the latest advances in this field.

Key Facts
Start date
October each year
Mathematics, Biological Sciences

+44 (0)116 252 3896

Department of Mathematics website

Why Leicester?

The Department of Mathematics at Leicester carries out research, training and postgraduate teaching in finance, risk management, dynamical systems, computational modelling, actuarial science, data analysis, algebra, topology and associated fields.

We have more than 50 postgraduate research students, over 80 postgraduate taught students and in excess of 100 students studying by distance learning.

The Department provides a stimulating academic environment where you can develop your knowledge and skills, and contribute to a wider understanding of the subject area.

Course Structure

Additional Information

What's the difference?

If you complete the modules but not the project, you will qualify for a Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip). If you complete only some of the modules, you may qualify for a Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert).

Teaching and Assessment

Teaching is a combination of lectures, seminars, problem classes and workshops. Assessment is a mixture of continuous assessments and examinations.

Entry Requirements

2:1 (or equivalent) in Maths, Engineering, Computer Science or Physics. We will consider graduates from other subjects on an individual basis.

English Language Requirements

IELTS 6.0 or equivalent. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. If you do not yet meet our requirements, our English Language Teaching Unit (ELTU) offers a range of courses to help you to improve your English to the necessary standard.

International Qualifications

Find your country in this list to check equivalent qualifications, scholarships and additional requirements.

Countries list

Fees and Funding

  • Starting in October 2016

    • £9,310
  • Starting in October 2016

    • £17,465

Career Opportunities

The Department of Mathematics has contacts with leading organisations in the fields of agro-ecology and biomedicine, through which it may be possible to take a summer internship with a prospective employer.


Our Career Development Service is here to support you, with advice on interviews, CVs, work experience, volunteering and more. From Freshers’ Week to Graduation and beyond, they are here to help you reach your professional goals.

Course Qualification Duration Start Dates Availability
Mathematical Modelling in Biology MSc 1 year full-time September each year Apply Now
Mathematical Modelling in Biology MSc 2 years part-time September each year

Not currently available; contact admissions.

Mathematical Modelling in Biology
1 year full-time
Start Dates
September each year
Mathematical Modelling in Biology
2 years part-time
Start Dates
September each year

Not currently available; contact admissions.