Top UK universities for interdisciplinary life science research
Source: University of Sussex

Today, many universities are choosing to include interdisciplinary research projects and courses in their programmes – a move that has numerous benefits. Interdisciplinary programmes combine two or more academic disciplines into one course or research project, allowing students to explore different areas and address a particular research theme.

After all, we are living in an increasingly interconnected world where subject areas often overlap, especially in the sciences.When students graduate and enter the world, they will most likely have to engage with other departments to collaborate on compelling ideas. Starting interdisciplinary research early on helps them become analytical and dynamic thinkers.

Taking part in interdisciplinary research also provides students with valuable learning strategies and the chance to apply their knowledge within the different disciplines. For example, students get to develop their critical thinking skills as they are required to look across disciplinary bounders to consider other viewpoints, as well as learn how to compare and contrast different concepts.

By drawing on other disciplines, students’ research and learning experience gets richer as they delve deeper into diverse subjects. This can also help spark their creativity and get them to think ‘outside of the box’.

Here are some UK universities that set the bar high for profound interdisciplinary research within life sciences.


This School is renowned for the breadth and depth of its research, known to foster cross-disciplinary studies when addressing key global issues.

Most research within the School encompasses two key themes: biosciences underpinning health and biodiversity conservation. The school has internationally-recognised strengths in the fields of genome sciences, neurosciences and ecology.

Source: University of Sussex

Building critical mass in key areas such as biomedicine, drug discovery and chemistry, the School of Life Sciences develops links between these different fields with global research priorities in mind, including agriculture and biomedicine. For example, scientists here are currently working to develop therapies for diseases like sepsis, cystic fibrosis, cancer and neurodegeneration, and their research has led to bans on pesticides harmful to bees, combatting the trade of endangered species, and confronting emerging infectious diseases.

For further information about their research, visit the School’s subject group websites: Biochemistry & BiomedicineChemistryEvolution Behaviour & EnvironmentGenome Damage & Stability Centre (GDSC), NeuroscienceSussex Drug Discovery Centre (SDDC).


Here, research is focused on nine key themes within biology, medicine and health. These domains bring together researchers from different disciplines for an integrated approach to making advances in each respective area. The faculty has a reputation for extensive research ranging from molecules, cells and whole organisms to populations and healthcare. The school is structured to encourage researchers to work across different areas, supporting a multidisciplinary approach to biomedical and health science discoveries.

Research activities are organised into three schools, each with six divisions, focusing on specific areas of expertise. These include the School of Biological Sciences, the School of Medical Sciences and the School of Health Sciences. Biomedical research here has made a positive impact on societies, business and individuals across the globe, addressing health care challenges and creating innovative research in clinical care.

Facilities here are set up to encourage collaboration, many of them set within the Michael Smith Building, the AV Hill Building and the Core Technology Facility – all physically-linked.


The areas of expertise at this College spans the Biosciences, Geography, Psychology, and Sport and Health Sciences. It has made a name for itself for being a vibrant community, supported by excellent research and teaching across a number of related disciplines.The college is committed to pursuing high quality research with a positive impact worldwide, embracing disciplines within and outside of the college, while combining expertise from across the humanities, social sciences and sciences, on top of collaborating with other world-leading researchers from around the globe.

Through various programmes and associated opportunities, the college equips students with both discipline-specific and generic skills to help them succeed professionally and academically.

Source: University of Exeter

Playing a significant role in contributing to the University’s Science Strategy, research conducted here focuses on three of the five constituent key research themes: climate change and sustainable futures; systems biology; and translational medicine, personalised healthcare and public health.


With an aim to make exciting scientific discoveries that make a real difference in the world, this school’s research ranges from fundamental cell and evolutionary biology through to biomedical and industrial applications. Placing strong emphasis on interdisciplinary research, the empirical work done here links complementary approaches in theoretical and experimental science with physical sciences, engineering, medical and veterinary sciences. Research is focused around four main themes to bring diverse research interests together, addressing fundamental questions about life and creating solutions to global problems.

These themes are: cell and structural biology and epigenetics; evolutionary biology, infection and immunology; systems and synthetic biology; biotechnology and bioinformatics; and stem cell biology.

Supporting these themes and providing an underlying structure, there are six institutes housed under the School of Biological Sciences, including the Institute of Cell Biology, the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, the Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences, the Institute of Immunology & Infection, the Institute for Stem Cell Research (Centre for Regenerative Medicine) and the Institute of Quantitative Biology, Biochemistry and Biotechnology.


With a goal to establish the school as a leading European Centre for integrative biology, research here aims to explore and understand the processes that drive change from evolutionary and environmental perspectives at levels ranging levels ranging from the molecular and genetic to the individual, ecosystem and landscape. The school does so by conducting research across a wide range of complementary disciplines, tackling global challenges from a multi-disciplinary perspective. By using integrated science, the school underpins environmental policy and sustainable management, supporting industries that depend on natural resources, including agriculture, forestry, freshwater and marine fisheries.

Research conducted here goes towards creating novel methods, theories and tools to address these challenges, as well as generating advances in cell and molecular biology with direct bio-medical applications, exploring and harnessing the world’s biodiversity through a multi-disciplinary perspective.

Research currently focuses on three interlinked themes: Environmental Change & Sustainability: Informing Policy & Practice, Genetics and Evolution: From Genome to Biome, and Cellular and Molecular Biology: From Genes to Biotechnology.

These schools are stellar examples of successfully integrating life science disciplines to create novel solutions and ground-breaking research. Students graduate with an enriched learning experience, armed with skills that further develop in the working world.

*Some of the institutions featured on this article are commercial partners of Study International

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