Master in Environmental Biology
Major environmental problems, in particular global change and its consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, are intimately interconnected and pose a threat to our future. Solving these problems requires an integrative and synergistic approach in terms of both fundamental and applied research.
The Department of Biology of the Faculty of Science and Medicine offers a multidisciplinary Master of Environmental Biology. The program ranges from fundamental concepts in ecology and evolution, molecular aspects of plant and microbial sciences to applied solutions for environmental policies and sustainable development. It provides students with state-of-the-art training and background in conceptual, technical, and applied aspects of environmental biology, from genes to ecosystems.
Master students are integrated into active research teams and can thus gain extensive experience in basic and applied academic research in environmental biology. Students will have the opportunity to choose between four options. English is the official language for all activities.
- Ecology and Evolution | 120 ECTS
- Plant and Microbial Sciences | 120 ECTS
- Applied Environmental Biology | 120 ECTS
- Teaching | 90 ECTS
Master of Science in Environmental Biology
Language(s) of Study
120 ECTS credits
90 ECTS credits
3 semesters full-time
September or February
The master students in this program will acquire cutting-edge knowledge and skills in basic and applied aspects of environmental biology, from genes to ecosystems.
The program emphasizes the development of both scientific and soft skills, e.g., independent analytical thinking, problem-solving, critical evaluation and analysis of data, oral and written communication, and the ability to work in a team. Courses are accompanied by discussions, student presentations and project writing exercises.
The master thesis is carried out in one of the research teams, possibly in collaboration with other research institutions, giving students the opportunity to experience all aspects of the daily life of a research scientist. Students also have the opportunity to present their work during a research seminar. An agreement with the Universities of Bern and Neuchâtel (BeNeFri convention) allows students to take elective courses in these institutions and to have them credited for the study program in Fribourg.
For each option, the Master in Environmental Biology offers a series of obligatory (O), recommended (R), and elective (E) courses. The courses are divided into research skills and core scientific courses. The research skill courses aim at developing skills in biostatistics and modelling, experimental and laboratory work, bioinformatics, as well as literature study and scientific writing. The core scientific courses provide fundamental and advanced scientific knowledge in environmental biology.
The students follow the obligatory courses (O) according to the options they have chosen. They then complete their list of courses with recommended (R) and elective (E) courses. It is advised to choose courses from the list of recommended (R) courses, but elective (E) courses can be chosen as well. Note that some courses require prerequisites, which are explicitly stated in the study plan. Some courses are also given in alternance every two year (biennially) with another course. It is recommended to attend the courses given annually during the 1st year of the master.
The master thesis is a scientific project carried out by the student under the supervision of a group leader with research activities related to environmental biology within the Department of Biology.
Students must choose a research group and be accepted during the first semester of their master studies. The group leader will be their supervisor for the master thesis. To facilitate this choice, students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the research carried out in the different research groups either before starting their studies or during the first weeks of their master study, e.g., by following the Research seminars in Environmental Biology, or by talking to the group leader or to the group members. If students wish to carry out their master thesis in an external research institute (e.g. Agroscope, FiBL, CABI), they need to be co-supervised by a group leader form the Department of Biology.
In general, students are expected to establish a research strategy, plan the project, carry out the research, analyse the results, write a report (which can be in the form of a scientific publication), and make an oral presentation of their thesis. The master thesis is evaluated with a grade, which includes the practical work, the written report, and the final oral presentation.
Master thesis related activities
The master thesis related activities include the Research group meetings in environmental biology, the Research seminars in environmental biology, and the Seminars in biology. The Research group meetings are an immersion into the daily life of the research group chosen by the students for their master thesis. The Master in Environmental Biology organises a weekly Research seminar. This is an internal seminar where researchers (including the master students, PhD students, post-doctoral researchers) present their research progress. During the Seminars in biology, which is shared with the Master in Molecular Life and Health Sciences, national and international speakers are invited to present their research.
The acceptance to a Master program in Environmental Biology may be granted provided the following two conditions have been met by the applicant:
• Satisfying the University admission requirements as defined in the Règlement concernant l’admission à l’Université de Fribourg.
• The student possesses a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Fribourg, a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from the University of Fribourg (provided they have chosen the necessary courses in their BSc curriculum), or an academic degree judged equivalent by the Faculty of Science and Medicine.
For candidates with degrees that are not judged equivalent by the Faculty of Science and Medicine,the Commission for Students’ Requests will decide on eligibility.
Based on the candidate’s academic qualification, the Commission for Students’ Requests can accept the application on the condition that additional requirements are fulfilled, provided they are of a minor scope and can be completed simultaneously with the Master studies. Otherwise, access is denied, or applicants can be admitted to a pre-master programme and can begin the Master programme only after having fulfilled the requirements initially set for the pre-master. Final acceptance to the Master programme for a qualifying student depends on the successful completion of the additional requirements.
Academic and professional openings
Graduates of this program will be well prepared for careers inside and outside academia, e.g., in university research and higher education, teaching, agroindustry, federal research institutes and offices (including institution such as Agroscope, FIBL, HAFL, HEPIA, BAFU, BLW, WSL), cantonal offices, private foundations or small-scale businesses. The Master's degree in Environmental Biology also paves the way to doctoral studies (PhD).