Course Overview

This MSc programme provides relevant, hands-on training in a research setting and is aimed at life science and medical graduates who wish to specialise in the field of cancer research. The purpose of the programme is to provide these graduates with a broad and deep theoretical foundation of cancer biology, on top of which the key research laboratory skills and practical experiences are built. This knowledge and skillset will enable them to pursue a career as a research scientist in academia, in the medical field or in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector.

The MSc (Cancer Research) is a modular course consisting of 30% taught material and a 70% research element. The taught modules will be developed with an input from a number of academic disciplines and structured in a way that ensures that students will be provided with a comprehensive and overarching knowledge in cancer biology. The research element will encompass two full semesters. After an induction phase, the students will work on one research project throughout the two semesters, allowing them to acquire a broad range of research skills including use of state-of-the-art technology, experience in experimental design, data interpretation, and data presentation.

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Applications and selection information

Applicants will submit an online application online via comprising of a CV (of maximum three pages) and personal statement (maximum one page) describing career plans and reasons for applying for this programme. Applicants will be shortlisted according to their third level degree, relevant experience and motivation. All shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview either in person or by telephone/Skype. Shortlisted applicants will be encouraged to attend the interview in person if possible and meet the course co-ordinator and take a site tour. Those who cannot attend will be interviewed by telephone/Skype. During the interview scientific knowledge and suitability of the applicants will be assessed. Places will be offered on the basis of the written applications as well as the interview.

Closing date

Please refer to the review/closing date website.

Programmes Available

Structured MSc. Applications are made online via the NUI Galway Postgraduate Applications System
Helpful step-by-step application guide here.


Learning Outcomes

Entry Requirements

Graduates who have a Level 8, honours BSc degree (First class or second class honours, H1, H2.1, H2.2) in a relevant biological, biochemical or biomedical science field (e.g., pharmacology, biotechnology, biochemistry, microbiology, genetics) will be eligible to apply for this programme. Medical graduates with honours grade will also be eligible to apply for the programme. Where an applicant has a lower than honours grade BSc degree qualification (i.e., a Level 7 BSc), but at least three years’ relevant work experience (e.g., molecular biology/cell biology/biochemistry laboratory technician,
biotechnology industry research laboratory staff, etc.), a special case for admission will be considered. International students, whose first language is not English will be required to prove their English competency through their school leaving or matriculation examination or by achieving the minimum standard in a recognised English language test, as outlined in the NUI Galway entry requirement documentation.

Who’s Suited to This Course

Current research projects

1. Study of Death receptor oligomerisation on the cell surface and its role in regulating tumour cell apoptosis

2. The role of endoplasmic reticulum stress in chemoresistance of multiple myeloma

For further examples of ongoing projects, please visit: or


Current funded research opportunity

Work Placement

Related Student Organisations

Career Opportunities

Find a Supervisor / PhD Project

If you are still looking for a potential supervisor or PhD project or would like to identify the key research interests of our academic staff and researchers, you can use our online portal to help in that search

Course Outline

Curriculum Information

Curriculum information relates to the current academic year (in most cases).
Course and module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Glossary of Terms

You must earn a defined number of credits (aka ECTS) to complete each year of your course. You do this by taking all of its required modules as well as the correct number of optional modules to obtain that year's total number of credits.
An examinable portion of a subject or course, for which you attend lectures and/or tutorials and carry out assignments. E.g. Algebra and Calculus could be modules within the subject Mathematics. Each module has a unique module code eg. MA140.
A module you may choose to study.
A module that you must study if you choose this course (or subject).
Most courses have 2 semesters (aka terms) per year.

Year 1 (90 Credits)

Required BI462: Cancer Research: Technologies and Skills

Semester 1 | Credits: 10

The module gives students the opportunity to gain advanced understanding of fundamental as well as sophisticated research technologies and statistical analysis. The research technologies described during the module are the ones that analyse cancer cell behaviour at the molecular and cellular level. The module will provide in depth information on the current technologies to detect and analyse biomolecules (DNA, RNA and proteins), activity and regulation of signal transduction pathways, cell morphology as well as cell growth, migration and cell death. The module also covers the research approaches to study gene expression and genetic alterations followed by description of the state of the art approaches to carry out mechanistic studies, such as gene silencing (knockout, knock-in, knock down) and regulated gene expression. Finally, the module introduces the students to the process of high content screening and drug discovery.

Learning Outcomes
  1. Understand the history and the development of molecular biological, biochemical and cell biological techniques used in cancer research.
  2. Identify what is a suitable methodology to address a given scientific question
  3. Understand the potential as well as the limitations of a given technology
  4. Identify what type of statistical analysis is suitable to analyse a given data set and carry out the analysis
  • Continuous Assessment (100%)
Module Director
Lecturers / Tutors
The above information outlines module BI462: "Cancer Research: Technologies and Skills" and is valid from 2019 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Required BI460: Molecular and Cellular Biology of Cancer

Semester 1 | Credits: 10

The module aims to give students the opportunity to gain in depth and advanced understanding of the causes of tumour formation and the molecular mechanism behind cancer development (tumourigenesis) in line with the current state of the art. Through the module, the students can attain a comprehensive understanding of the molecular and cellular processes relevant to tumour development, growth and survival, including the processes that lead to genetic instability, drive tumour growth, cause resistance to therapeutics or help the tumour cells to escape from detection by the immune system.
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Describe the mechanism and steps of tumour formation and understand the difference between the processes that drive the development vs. survival of a tumour
  2. Discuss the signal transduction pathways and molecular processes that drive tumour formation, growth and survival
  3. Analyse how aberrations in a molecular pathway may influence tumour development/growth
  4. Source and analyse information from the literature and relay the gained knowledge to their peers through a seminar presentation
  • Continuous Assessment (100%)
Module Director
Lecturers / Tutors
The above information outlines module BI460: "Molecular and Cellular Biology of Cancer" and is valid from 2019 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Required BI461: Clinical Oncology, Haematology

Semester 1 | Credits: 5

The module aims to give students the opportunity to gain in depth and advanced understanding of the • basic clinical aspects of cancer. • diagnosis and treatment of cancer. • applied molecular pathology of cancer. • pathophysiology of tumours of different organs including blood cancers and their current treatment methods.
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Describe the pathology of tumourigenesis and transition from benign to malignant phenotype
  2. Understand how tissue origin determines clinical features of tumours
  3. Understand the current treatment strategies and their limitations, advantages or disadvantages
  4. The histological structure of the different tumours and how pathological characterisation of tumours determines treatment strategies
  • Continuous Assessment (20%)
  • Department-based Assessment (80%)
Module Director
Lecturers / Tutors
The above information outlines module BI461: "Clinical Oncology, Haematology" and is valid from 2017 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Required BI463: Introduction to Research and Experimental Design

Semester 1 | Credits: 5

The aim of the module is to introduce the basic concepts of laboratory research to the students. Specifically, the module discusses: 1. health and safety in biochemical laboratories 2. buffers and pH 3. calculations 4. cell culture

Learning Outcomes
  1. Work safely in a biochemistry/cell biology laboratory or equivalent
  2. Prepare solutions, buffers and their various dilutions
  3. Lead a clear and comprehensive laboratory note book
  4. Carry out basic data analysis, e.g. generate standard curves or other graphs in Excel
  • Department-based Assessment (100%)
Module Director
Lecturers / Tutors
The above information outlines module BI463: "Introduction to Research and Experimental Design" and is valid from 2017 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Required BI465: Research Project Part II

Trimester 3 | Credits: 30

  • Continuous Assessment (100%)
Module Director
Lecturers / Tutors
The above information outlines module BI465: "Research Project Part II" and is valid from 2018 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Optional BI5106: Applied Biomedical Techniques

12 months long | Credits: 30

This module gives students the opportunity to acquire knowledge of and develop laboratory and research skills necessary for successful careers in the field of biological science technologies. The module is a structured research project where the students follow a sequence of molecular biology and cellular biology techniques to detect the presence and activity of biomolecules (DNA, RNA and proteins) as well as cellular behaviour (proliferation, cell motility and cell death). Through the module the students will learn and practice a broad range of biomedical experimental techniques, understand the process of formulating a research question and justify the suitability of an experimental method, measure, analyse and interpret data. Skills taught in this module will be further developed during research project or work experience.
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Demonstrate ability to culture mammalian cell culture.
  2. Apply technical skills how to monitor cell proliferation.
  3. Explain how to monitor cell viability.
  4. Demonstrate how to monitor cell motility.
  5. Explain and demonstrate how to determine the expression of a gene at mRNA and protein level.
  6. Use Excel to quantitatively analyse and present data.
  7. Use standard immunostaining techniques to detect a specific protein in situ.
  8. Evaluate the theoretical knowledge and describe the biomedical technological methodologies acquired.
  9. Explain verbally, visually and in written reports on methodologies in biomedicine.
  10. Apply the basic skills for bioinformatical analysis of large datasets and omics data.
  • Continuous Assessment (100%)
Module Director
Lecturers / Tutors
The above information outlines module BI5106: "Applied Biomedical Techniques" and is valid from 2019 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Optional BI464: Research Project Part I

Semester 2 | Credits: 30

This module aims to enable students to develop and acquire a range of generic and specific, state-of the-art research skills and gain an understanding of their practical application to the research process. The module will be delivered over one semester of the MSc programme in a research laboratory (semester 2 of programme).
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Demonstrate a basic ability to identify, access and critically evaluate the requisite specialised skills, technical training, and specialised diagnostic or other equipment required to carry out their research project
  2. Demonstrate an ability to evaluate their research activity against the relevant scientific literature
  3. Demonstrate an ability to communicate their data or findings in the form of oral presentation and progress reports.
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of the importance of a notarised notebook as a record of their original contributions to research
  5. Be able to carry out data analysis to generate figures of results and carry out statistical analysis.
  • Continuous Assessment (50%)
  • Oral, Audio Visual or Practical Assessment (50%)
Module Director
Lecturers / Tutors
The above information outlines module BI464: "Research Project Part I" and is valid from 2017 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Research Areas

Cancer research is one of the main thematic research areas in the Discipline of Biochemistry and the other academic units associated with the MSc in cancer Research programme. The over 200 researcher in Biochemistry and the adjacent National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science (NCBES) work on developing a comprehensive approach to cancer research and treatment, from basic, translational and clinical research, through to the ultimate goal of discovery-led improved patient care. The Centre for Chromosome Biology (CCB) led by Prof. Noel Lowndes and the Apoptosis Research Centre led by Prof. Afshin Samali (ARC, focuses on basic cancer research. 

The Centre for Chromosome Biology studies chromatin structure, DNA replication and DNA damage response and the regulation of mitotic chromosome structure and segregation. Scientists within the Centre use key model organisms and cellular models of human diseases, especially cancer.

The Apoptosis Research Centre is active in both basic and clinically relevant investigation of this key biological pathway. Research areas include stress-induced apoptosis in relation to cancer and other diseases, and targeting the apoptotic machinery for cancer therapy. Significant biotechnology applications have arisen from the research of this unit through its efforts in cancer research and treatment, from basic to translational and clinical research, with an ultimate goal of discovery-led improved patient care. Inflammation and cancer research is a focus in the department of Pharmacology.

The National Breast Cancer Research Institute headed by Prof. Michael Kerin is affiliated with the Discipline of Surgery while the Discipline of Pathology is focused on both the molecular pathology of breast cancer and the identification and high-throughput validation of prognostic and predictive markers in breast cancer. The recently established Prostate Cancer Institute ) concentrates on developing better therapies for patients with prostate cancer and the pre-clinical testing of such novel therapeutics. 

The research teams have a wide range of international collaborations. These collaborators visit the University regularly in the frame of a research seminar programmes running every year. The Discipline of Biochemistry with the other Departments and Institutes associated with the MSc in Cancer Research provide a cadre of scientists with the knowledge, research training and team-working skills, which produces a creative research environment where the students participating in the MSc in Cancer Research programme can learn and develop.

Researcher Profiles


Corrado Santocanale (

Howard Fearnhead ( 


Michael Kerin (

Richard Flavin (

Sanjeev Gupta (,

Prostate Cancer Institute

Frank Sullivan (

Sharon Glynn (

Centre for Chromosome Biology

Michael Carty (

Andrew Flaus (

Bob Lahue (

Noel Lowndes (

Brian McStay (

Ciaran Morrison (

Stephen Rea (

Heinz-Peter Nasheuer (

Kevin Sullivan (

 Apoptosis Research Centre

Afshin Samali (

Adrienne Gorman (

Eva Szegezdi (

Michael O'Dwyer (

 Glycoscience Group

Lokesh Joshi (

Course Fees

Fees: EU

€7,450 p.a. 2020/21

Fees: Non EU

€20,750 p.a. 2020/21

Contact Us

Course Director:
Dr Eva Szegezdi

Course Co-ordinator:
Dr Mary Ní Fhlathartaigh
T: +353 91 495 323

What Our Students Say


Ziyanda Shologu |   MSc in Cancer Research

This course covers a great range of specialised modules which provided me with significant theoretical and practical knowledge. Modules such as molecular biology covered fundamental insights to cellular signalling pathways, gene expression, oncogenes and tumour suppressors. Specialised modules such as clinical oncology and haematology presented by pathologists and other medical specialists were quite enlightening, and also brought a different dimension to the course. There is a combination of three month interactive teaching programme and an eight month research project within a research group of your choice, furthermore gaining invaluable research experience on my own area of interest. I found both the theoretical and practical aspects of the programme stimulating and inspiring, in addition to developing my communication, critical thinking skills and understanding of the field. The small class sizes and ease of staff to student relation was one of the major elements that attracted me to the course.

Mark Watters |   MSc in Cancer Research

The Cancer Research MSc in NUIG is a well-developed and flexible Master’s programme which encompasses all areas of Cancer Research. The programme is comprised of both theory and research components, which complement nicely to ensure the students acquire an in-depth knowledge of the topics. This structure allowed me to gain the confidence from knowing the scientific basis of cancer research, and I could then apply this knowledge in the research component of the programme. The small class size is a great opportunity to make some close new friends and it allows for easy discussion of the course. My particular research project took place in the Apoptosis Research Centre in the state-of-the-art Bioscience Building on the scenic North Campus. This placement allowed me to work alongside others who are passionate about their fields of study and motivated me to gain more knowledge and work harder. It also allowed me to learn from scientists who are considered experts in their field, an experience I’m truly grateful for. The Cancer Research MSc programme at NUIG is an extremely worthwhile and rewarding experience, and I would recommend it to anyone interested.


  • Structured MSc Cancer Research

    Structured MSc Cancer Research PDF (1.57 MB)

  • Postgraduate Prospectus 2020

    Postgraduate Prospectus 2020 PDF (20.6 MB)

  • Undergraduate Prospectus 2020

    Undergraduate Prospectus 2020 PDF (18.4 MB)