Postgraduate Programs 2019/20
Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy Programs in Life Science
Award Title

Master of Philosophy in Life Science
Doctor of Philosophy in Life Science

Program Short Name


Mode of Study

Both full- and part-time

Normative Program Duration


Full-time: 2 years
Part-time: 4 years


Full-time: 3 years (with a relevant research master’s degree), 4 years (with a bachelor’s degree only)
Part-time: 6 years

Program Advisor

PG Programs Coordinator:
Prof Zilong WEN, Professor of Life Science

The Master of Philosophy (MPhil) Program aims to train qualified students by providing research training in major areas of life science. It enables students to acquire the knowledge, skills, and experience required for research. A candidate for an MPhil degree is expected to demonstrate knowledge in the discipline and to synthesize and create new knowledge, making a contribution to the field.

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Program aims to cultivate doctoral graduates who are capable of the design, initiation and execution of original research, who can independently conduct advanced research projects, who possess both a broad knowledge of modern life science and an in-depth knowledge of specialized areas, and who can also contribute original knowledge to the field of life sciences by publishing their findings in peer-reviewed international journals.


The programs are offered by the Division of Science with the following research foci and state-of-the-art facilities, providing students with an inspirational environment for learning and tackling the challenges in modern life science.


Research Foci

  • Cellular Regulation and Signaling

  • Cancer Biology

  • Developmental Biology

  • Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience

  • Macromolecular Structure and Function

  • Biotechnology and Medicinal Biochemistry

Faculty members working in these areas form a coordinated research team. Such coordination takes full advantage of the faculty’s expertise in generating innovative development and productive research. At the same time, it creates a stimulating atmosphere in which students experience the challenge of modern research through direct participation.



The Division is excellently equipped for research in a broad range of areas. The Animal Care and Plant Care Facility provides a centralized and modern facility for animals and plants. Centralized state-of-the-art facilities for biochemical and cellular studies are provided by the Biosciences Central Research Facility. The Division also has the following facilities:

Cell Culture

Facilities for the cultivation, maintenance, characterization and cold storage of animal and plant cells.

Molecular and Cellular Biology

Major equipment includes fluorescence-activated cell sorters, real-time PCR machines, ultracentrifuges, spectrophotometers and spectrofluorimeters, MALDI-TOF/ TOF and LC-MS mass spectrometers, GC, optical tweezers, patch clamp, gamma and liquid scintillation counters.

Modern Microscopy

The Division has an array of state-of-the-art imaging facilities including several fluorescence microscopes, confocal laser scanning microscopes, atomic force microscope, total internal reflection fluorescence microscope, STED and STORM superresolution microscopes.

Marine/ Environmental Biology

The University is bordered by an extensive shoreline of various habitats and a wet laboratory of circulating sea water. A high-quality marine laboratory has been built on the campus waterfront.

Biomolecular Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrometers

Our state-of-the-art NMR facility consists of 500, 750 and 800 MHz NMR spectrometers equipped with cryoprobes for structure-function studies. NMR is used to study structure, dynamics and function of proteins, nucleic acids and other bio-molecules in solution. In addition, NMR can also facilitate drug screening and design.

  1. Minimum Credit Requirement

    MPhil: 11 credits 
    PhD: 18 credits 

  2. Credit Transfer 

    No credit transfer will be allowed for MPhil students. 

  3. Required Courses

MPhil: 6 credits
PhD: 9 credits

ENVS 6012
LIFS 4060
LIFS 4090
LIFS 4140
LIFS 4150
LIFS 4190
LIFS 4360
LIFS 4370
LIFS 4380
LIFS 4540
LIFS 4550
LIFS 4580
LIFS 4620
LIFS 4630
LIFS 4760
LIFS 4950
LIFS 5001
LIFS 5070
LIFS 5120
LIFS 5240
LIFS 5260
LIFS 5710
LIFS 6170
LIFS 6660
LIFS 6800
OCES 5320

No more than 3 credits of 4000-level courses can be used to fulfill the requirement.

Students with a first degree in an area not directly related to life science may be required to take additional courses.

  1. Professional Development Course Requirement
PDEV 6770

Students are required to complete PDEV 6770. The 1 credit earned from PDEV 6770 cannot be counted toward the credit requirements.

PhD students who are HKUST MPhil graduates and have completed PDEV 6770 or other professional development courses offered by the University before may be exempted from taking PDEV 6770, subject to prior approval of the School.


LIFS 6410

Students must complete LIFS 6410 throughout the residency. The maximum number of credits to be earned from this course is 2 for MPhil students and 4 for PhD students.


  1. English Language Requirement
LANG 5000

Full-time RPg students are required to take an English Language Proficiency Assessment (ELPA) Speaking Test administered by the Center for Language Education before the start of their first term of study. Students whose ELPA Speaking Test score is below Level 4, or who failed to take the test in their first term of study, are required to take LANG 5000 until they pass the course by attaining at least Level 4 in the ELPA Speaking Test before graduation. The 1 credit earned from LANG 5000 cannot be counted toward the credit requirements.

LANG 5010

Students must complete LANG 5010 in the first year of study.

PhD students who are HKUST MPhil graduates may be considered for exemption from this requirement, subject to prior approval from the Division Head and PG Coordinator.

  1. Postgraduate Seminar

MPhil: 2 credits
PhD: 4 credits

  1. MPhil students are required to complete one of the courses listed below in each regular term throughout the residency.

    PhD students admitted without an HKUST MPhil degree in Life Science are required to complete one of the courses listed below in each of the first four regular terms of study.

LIFS 6112
LIFS 6113
LIFS 6114
LIFS 6115
LIFS 6116
LIFS 6117

Each course can be taken repeatedly in different terms. Students who fail a course are required to retake the course in a subsequent term. LIFS 6111 taken before the 2017/18 academic year can be used to replace any of these courses.

  1. PhD students admitted without an HKUST MPhil degree in Life Science are required to complete LIFS 6111 starting from the fifth term in each regular term throughout the residency. PhD students admitted with an HKUST MPhil degree in Life Science are required to complete LIFS 6111 in each regular term throughout the residency.

LIFS 6111

Students with research focus in Marine and Environmental Science may take ENVS 6011 to substitute LIFS 6111/LIFS 6112/LIFS 6113/LIFS 6114/LIFS 6115/LIFS 6116/LIFS 6117.

ENVS 6011


  1. PhD Qualifying Examination

PhD students are required to pass a comprehensive qualifying examination.

  1. Thesis Research

LIFS 6990
LIFS 7990



  1. Registration in LIFS 6990; and

  2. Presentation and oral defense of the MPhil thesis.


  1. Registration in LIFS 7990; and

  2. Presentation and oral defense of the PhD thesis.


Last update: 14 June 2019

  1. Molecular Medicine Concentration

In addition to the existing program requirements, students who opt for the Molecular Medicine concentration are required to:

  1. MPhil:
    Take LIFS 6660 as part of the 6 credits of required coursework.
    Take LIFS 5260 and LIFS 6660 as part of the 9 credits of required coursework.

LIFS 5260
LIFS 6660


  1. Conduct research in the area of molecular medicine.

  1. Scientific Computation Concentration

In addition to the existing program requirements, students who opt for the Scientific Computation concentration are required to:

  1. MPhil:
    Complete a minimum of 7 credits from the following course lists.
    Complete a minimum of 10 credits from the following course lists.

    The credits earned under the concentration will be counted toward the total credit requirements of the programs.

    Core Courses
    MPhil: at least 3 credits
    PhD: at least 6 credits

    All students must take MATH 6915, which can be repeated for up to 2 credits.

COMP 5112
CIVL 5390
orMECH 5930
CSIC 5001
CSIC 5011
CSIC 5031
MATH 5311
MATH 6915


Elective Courses

CHEM 5210
CHEM 5220
COMP 5212
COMP 5213
COMP 5331
COMP 5421
CSIC 5190
ELEC 5810
ELEC 5140
MATH 5350
MATH 5411
MATH 5431
MECH 5230
MECH 5280
PHYS 5120
PHYS 5410


  1. Give a one-hour seminar on computation related research within their first four regular terms of study.

  2. Conduct research in the area of scientific computation.


Last update: 19 September 2018

To qualify for admission, applicants must meet all of the following requirements. Admission is selective and meeting these minimum requirements does not guarantee admission.


1. General Admission Requirements of the University
  • Applicants seeking admission to a master's degree program should have obtained a bachelor’s degree from a recognized institution, or an approved equivalent qualification;

  • Applicants seeking admission to a doctoral degree program should have obtained a bachelor’s degree with a proven record of outstanding performance from a recognized institution; or presented evidence of satisfactory work at the postgraduate level on a full-time basis for at least one year, or on a part-time basis for at least two years.

2. English Language Admission Requirements

Applicants have to fulfill English Language requirements with one of the following proficiency attainments:

  • TOEFL-iBT: 80

  • TOEFL-pBT: 550

  • TOEFL-Revised paper-delivered test: 60 (total scores for Reading, Listening and Writing sections)

  • IELTS (Academic Module): Overall score: 6.5 and All sub-score: 5.5

Applicants are not required to present TOEFL or IELTS score if

  • their first language is English, or

  • they obtained the bachelor's degree (or equivalent) from an institution where the medium of instruction was English.

Apply online before the application deadlines.


Application Fee


Application Deadlines

For Hong Kong PhD Fellowship (HKPFS) Application (for PhD studies only):

The application is now closed. Successful candidates will be notified by RGC via email in March 2019. For more details, please click here.

For 2019/20 Fall Term Intake:

Non-local Applicants*
Full-time: 1 Jun 2019
Part-time: 1 Jun 2019

Local Applicants
Full-time: 15 Jul 2019
Part-time: 15 Jul 2019

For 2018/19 Spring Term Intake:

The application is now closed. To check the application status, please click here.

* Applicants are considered as non-local students if they hold (i) student visa/ entry permit; or (ii) visa under the Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates (IANG) (from 2019/20 Admissions); or (iii) dependent visa/entry permit who were 18 years old or above when they were issued with such visa/ entry permit by the Director of Immigration (from 2019/20 Admissions). For details on student visa/ entry permit requirements, please click here.