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Research degrees
Research areas
Life, health and chemical sciences
Laboratory specimens

Life, Health and Chemical Sciences

The School of Life, Health and Chemical Sciences brings together world-class researchers from the disciplines of neuroscience, psychology, cell and molecular biology, immunology, medicinal chemistry, materials chemistry and genetics.

The School undertakes to develop internationally recognised interdisciplinary research within key areas of the biomedical sciences, analytical sciences and materials chemistry. Our research focuses on the design of novel therapeutic agents and diagnostic tools, the molecular and cellular processes underlying diseases with significant impact in society, and the fundamentals of neurobiology and behaviour. Research in the School into novel materials is linked to multiple industrial applications, for example, healthcare technologies and sensor applications.

The School has a vibrant research culture that facilitates collaborative alliances across scientific disciplines. It provides a nurturing scientific home for doctoral and post-doctoral researchers at the outset of their careers and those seeking to achieve success in their fields. We are committed to providing an integrated research support system of laboratories, and highly skilled technical staff in order to meet our scientific aims: to continue to forge technological and translational development partnerships and to train the next generation of scientists. The additional value we can offer to candidates in these areas is the increasingly integrated approach taken by The Open University across STEM subjects. Cross-faculty collaboration provides unique opportunities for interdisciplinary research, science outreach and science communication.

Key facts

  • The School aims to establish an international reputation for pioneering research. Our submission as part of Unit of Assessment 3 to the University Research Excellence Framework in 2014 was rated as 16 per cent 4* and 62 per cent 3* overall.
  • Our success in attracting external research income is evidenced by our wide portfolio of sponsors including BBSRC, MRC, EPSRC, Nuffield, Wellcome Trust, MS Society, EU FP programmes and a number of industrial partners (e.g. MedImmune, Midatech, TAP Biosystems).
  • The School hosts a wide range of laboratories and facilities managed by experienced laboratory managers, and underpinned by support from dedicated technical staff.
  • We regularly publish high-quality articles in journals with high-impact factors such as Science, Advanced Materials, Nature, Neuroscience and PLoS journals.
  • All publications are deposited in Open Research Online (ORO) – the OU’s repository of research publications – to encourage an open access approach to the dissemination of research findings.
  • The School participates in an extensive network of collaborations with research centres, universities and commercial/charitable sector organisations both nationally and internationally across Europe, USA and Africa.


  • Fully serviced histology suite with paraffin wax processing, section staining, vacuum embedding and cryostat sectioning.
  • A light and fluorescence microscopy suite, including confocal microscopes and 3D image processing packages.
  • A specialist core facility, which houses three transmission electron microscopes (JEOL 100kV, 120kV and 200kV) and a Zeiss FEG scanning electron microscope.
  • Cell biology work is supported by a fluorescence-activated cell analyser, time-lapse video imaging and confocal systems, a cell micro-injection system and a MBF Neurolucida system.
  • Specialised cell and tissue culture laboratories providing containment up to level 3 to work with primary or established animal and human cells or tissues.
  • A specialist electrophysiology laboratory which uses both intracellular and extracellular recording techniques to record and manipulate neuronal tissue.
  • Behavioural suite enabling the assessment of learning, memory, attention and motor ability in rodents. • Facilities for studies in human participants, including testing rooms for cognitive studies, Qualitative EEG, and the Biomedical Online Research Network (BORN) comprising an online data collection facility and a research volunteer register.
  • Facilities for chemical analysis including NMR (300 MHz and 400 MHz – solid state and MAS), Faraday susceptibility balance, X-ray (powder) diffraction, Mössbauer spectroscopy, TPR, FT-IR, fluorescence and UV spectrophotometry, GC-MS, and HPLC.

Our centralised research facilities also include support for microbiology, biotechnology, protein preparation, DNA sequencing, real-time PCR, a gel documentation system for quantitative nucleic acid detection and other fluorescent studies, cryopreservation, scintillation and gamma counting, fluorescence and luminescence cell-based assays, photographic facilities (print and X-ray) and digital image processing. Experiments involving radiochemical work are performed in both ‘controlled’ and ‘supervised’ areas to comply with current legislation.

The laboratory complex has a purpose-built seminar room for research seminars, meetings and journal clubs.



Research topics

Explore specific areas of research, current and prospective projects, entry requirements, available supervisors and contact details for advice.

Cell and molecular biomedicine

Chemical biology and bio-medicinal chemistry

Healthcare technologies – diagnostics

Materials chemistry

Neuroscience and behaviour

Research in STEM education