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Microbiology Logo Microbiology & Immunology
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MSc / PhD in Microbiology and Immunology

The Department of Microbiology and Immunology offers two options for further study beyond 400-level:

Why undertake postgraduate study?

Postgraduate students play an important role in our departmental culture and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology has a very active postgraduate research programme. At any given time we have approximately 35 PhD students and 10 MSc students working in the department. 

Many of our postgraduate students present their research at local, national and international conferences, and many are supported by funds from the Department. Postgraduate students also present their work at department Postgraduate Colloquia and department seminars.

If you are considering study at Masters or PhD level, we recommend that you take a look at the research lab pages and start thinking about finding a suitable supervisor and research project idea. Some specific project opportunities are listed here.

Prospective postgraduate students

If you are interested in undertaking postgraduate study, you should first check out the University of Otago Postgraduate Office.

If you are interested in postgraduate study in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, do you know which area are you most interested in? Is anyone there doing that type of research? Depending on what stage you are at with your decision-making, your first step will be to make contact with either:

  • the leaders of the research laboratories you are interested in, OR
  • our Head of Department, Professor Gregory Cook, OR
  • our Postgraduate Student Coordinator, Professor Peter Fineran, OR
  • our MSc coordinator, Professor Alex McLellan.

Who can do postgraduate study?

Entry to postgraduate Microbiology degrees is based on your grades and generally you will require at least a B average or above in four Microbiology 300-level papers to enter the courses.

Postgraduate scholarships

A number of scholarships are available for PhD and MSc students. The University of Otago Doctoral and Scholarships Office is the best place to start.  

International students 

You should first contact the University of Otago International Office for admission requirements and financial support information.


Why do MSc?

The Master of Science (MSc) is an advanced postgraduate research degree with a major research project that you undertake and develop. This is one step down from a PhD and an excellent option for those wanting an advanced research degree before joining the workforce. You may enter a PhD degree after an MSc if you achieve sufficiently high grades. A Master of Science is a research degree where a significant research project is undertaken in a research laboratory and is completed by the writing and assessment of a thesis. The degree usually takes 2 years.  There are two MSc options – MSc by papers and thesis and MSc by thesis only.

Who can do MSc?

MSc by papers and thesis: anyone who has completed a BSc in Microbiology or closely related subject with an average of B in their four best Microbiology or closely related papers at 300-level. You must find a supervisor as a first step.

An MSc can take two full years, starting at 400-level, and progressing to an additional year of study.

Provided you have completed the equivalent of 400-level requirements, the MSc can be taken by a one-year thesis only: anyone who has completed a BSc(Hons) or PGDipSci with a B average or higher. This takes one full year (12 months).

How do you get into MSc?

Contact the leaders of the research laboratories.

Papers year (4th year):

The series of tutorial-based 20 point 400-level papers:

The project paper MICR 495 / IMMU 495 will see you undertake preliminary research for your thesis within one of the research labs in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

Thesis year (5th year):

The research project course MICR 5 / IMMU 5. Note, students that have completed PGDipSci or BSc(Hons) with a B or higher average may also apply for entry into the MSc programme as a "thesis only" degree.

This year is spent undertaking research and writing your thesis. The expectation is that this can be completed in 12 months.

Students taking the IMMU495 / IMMU5 option (or are expecting to carry out research within an immunology research laboratory) are expected to have achieved a B+ average in MICR334 'Advanced Immunology' and three other relevant 300-level papers (MICR332 Health Microbiology highly recommended). Students may also enter IMMU5 from other disciplines or backgrounds, subject to HOD discretion.

Master of Biomedical Sciences (MBBiomedSc)

The Master of Biomedical Sciences (MBiomedSc) is a one-year thesis-only postgraduate degree normally available in your 5th year of study (e.g., following completion of BBiomedSc Hons). Admission to the MBiomedSc programme requires candidates to have successfully completed an honours degree (or similar post-graduate degree) in a biomedical subject, where the research dissertation comprised at least one-third of the programme.

Applicants will normally be expected to have achieved an average grade of at least B+, with a B+ or better in their 4th year research component. This degree provides an excellent foundation for an academic or research career and an internationally recognized steppingstone for entry into a PhD programme. For further information, see:


If you are interested in studying towards a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), please see our research lab pages and contact a lab PI to discuss potential research topics.