Master in Biology


Program Description

Master in Biology

Studies overview

The Master of Science in Biology offers a program that permits students to select their area of specialization and acquire a diverse range of transferable skills. This Master begins with a core of courses that covers key topics in biology, with particular emphasis on methodological and quantitative aspects. The Master program extends into courses in seven specialized areas representing the research topics for which the Institute of Biology at UniNE is particularly renowned. Students choose two of the specializations, of which one corresponds to the topic of their Master thesis.

Structure of the program

The 1st semester of the Master program consists of a common core that focuses on fundamental concepts and methods in biology. Particular emphasis is placed on laboratory methods (molecular, chemical), quantitative tools (statistics, modeling, bioinformatics), scientific writing, and ethical aspects. Students also have the opportunity to participate in field excursions (alpine, marine, Mediterranean and tropical ecosystems) or to do internships to obtain work experience.

The 2nd semester of the Master program involves coursework, mini-research projects and internships in two of the areas of specialization. Students develop a research plan in one of these areas, which forms the basis of their Master thesis during the 2nd year of the program. The Master thesis research project (60 ECTS) allows students to develop their abilities in critical thinking, their organizational skills, and their intellectual and scientific independence.

Fields of specialization

Chemical Ecology

Chemical signaling is the most ancient form of communication among living organisms. This multidisciplinary area explores how organisms, from bacteria to primates, use chemical substances to interact with each other and with their environment. This field is at the interface between ecology, behavior, animal and plant physiology, analytical chemistry and molecular genetics. Applied areas include agriculture, parasitology, and the fragrance and flavor industry.

Ecology and Environment

This module focuses on the interactions between environmental factors and biological populations/communities from an ecosystems perspective. The practical consequences for conservation, ecosystem restoration, and ecosystem services are addressed using a variety of model organisms (protists, bacteria, fungi, plants, or soil fauna) and ecosystems (mainly terrestrial with a strong emphasis on the soil as a dynamic interface between biology and geochemistry).

Evolution and Biodiversity

The evolution of organisms is the fundamental process that gives rise to biodiversity. Concepts such as natural selection, speciation, phylogeny, and conservation of biodiversity are discussed in a wide range of organisms. Teaching includes classroom theory and mini-research projects that are linked to ongoing research by the groups involved in this module as well as to institutions that are active in the study and conservation of biodiversity.

Biology and Ethnology

This interdisciplinary specialization tackles a wide range of topics: analysis of the agro-food sector, projects of developmental aid in relation to sustainable agriculture and development, management of insect pests, and further, alternative movements advocating for a sustainable and environmentally respectful agriculture. The program offers tools and skills for understanding the relationships between human societies and their environments, in a holistic manner, studying their impacts on all the concerned actors: from the farmer to the consumer and from the researcher to the politician.

Animal Behaviour

This specialization studies the ultimate causes and the proximal (physiological and cognitive) mechanisms in the evolution of animal behavior. We study the emergence and evolution of a wide range of animal behaviors such as cooperation, the establishment of social hierarchies, the resolution of social conflicts, sexual behavior, and parental behavior. Our focus is on vertebrates, in particular primates, tropical fish, and birds.


Parasites represent a major public health problem. They also drive sexual selection and the evolution of the genome and immune systems of their hosts, and they have been linked to the evolution of sexual reproduction. Parasitology thus addresses many important questions in biology, in addition to having obvious links to human and veterinary medicine, agriculture, and the pharmaceutical industry. We discuss and study aspects of parasitology ranging from molecular genetics and physiology to epidemiology and evolution.

Sustainable Agriculture

Attaining global food security with minimal impact on the environment is a major challenge. This specialization presents approaches to agriculture that aim at sustainability in agricultural ecosystems. We discuss how studying the interactions between plants and herbivores or pathogens can help to develop ecologically friendly strategies to protect crop plants against such enemies.

Degree awarded

Master of Science in Biology with two chosen fields of specialization


120 ECTS, 4 semesters

Career opportunities

  • Research
  • Teaching
  • Public administration (environmental protection, public health, agricultural and forestry sectors)
  • Media
  • Industry and other enterprises (environmental consulting, urban planning)
  • Non-governmental organizations focussing on the environment and sustainable development
Last updated Jan 2018

Keystone Scholarship

Discover the options our scholarship can give you

About the School

The University of Neuchatel (UniNE) is an internationally recognised institution as well as a university on a human scale. With 4380 students from Switzerland and beyond (nearly 20% of students from a ... Read More

The University of Neuchatel (UniNE) is an internationally recognised institution as well as a university on a human scale. With 4380 students from Switzerland and beyond (nearly 20% of students from abroad), it provides high quality teaching and support. Bachelor and Master degrees are compatible with most other European universities and are in line with society’s expectations in a variety of innovative and cutting-edge fields. Read less