Research project : First-Step & Master research project

  • Develop the ability to understand a biological system

  • Learn to develop a research question, formulate a hypothesis and define an appropriate experimental approach to answer the question

  • Develop analytical and critical thinking

  • Be part of a research group

  • Communicate results orally and in writing

  • Develop autonomy in conducting a research project

To achieve its objectives, the Master in Behaviour, Evolution and Conservation offers two research projects:

The First step project (15 ECTS credits) takes place in the first semester and provides an introduction to the individual Master project.

The Master project (45 ECTS credits) begins during the second semester and ends during the fourth one. It is a major research project that provides students with the opportunity to work at the frontiers of knowledge in their field.

To achieve this objective, each student is supervised by a project director who proposes the research theme and is responsible for monitoring the project. The project director may also appoint a “direct supervisor” who is usually a member of the laboratory and is responsible for closely supervising the project and the student. For both practical projects, the three following aspects are assessed:

  • The practical work performed throughout the project
  • The preparation of a report for the First step project or a thesis for the Master project 
  • The oral defence

The Master thesis reports are kept in the Library of Biology of UNIL.

Project selection & registration (for students)

First step and Master projects are offered by the UNIL project Directors. The project registration is compulsory and is made via a SylviaAcad database.

Outside the following periods, the access to the database is not possible. 

Research projects Projects consultation Projects registration Choices to make
First step From September 19 to October 1st, 2023 From September 19 to October 1st, 2023

3 in order of preference

Master From September 19 to November 15, 2023 From November 1st to November 15, 2023 3 in order of preference


WARNING: for a Master projects outside of UNIL the deadline is November 1st.

* We strongly recommend students to contact and visit different host laboratories to help them to make their choice.

First step projects and the Master projects must be undertaken in two different laboratories.


Consultation and registration to research projects :

Procedure : Research project consultation and registration tutorial available below!

Acces to the database :


The School of Biology, in agreement with the Head of the Masters and the Directors of selected Master projects, subsequently assign topics to students until the 30th November.

More information in the Guide to research work for the Master of Science in Biology in the last tab of this section.



Project submission (for teachers)

The School of Biology has a SylviaAcad database for First step and Master projects. Teachers who would like to offer projects can use it, following the procedure.

To ensure a good balance between proposed First step and Master projects, teachers must offer a First step project to be able to propose a Master project. 

Also, students are not permitted to perform their First step and Master projects under the same director.

Please, look at our Guide to research work for the Master of Science in Biology in the last tab of this section.


Consultation and submission of research projects :

Procedure: Step by step procedure for directors

Acces to the database :

Deadline for submission : September 4th 2023, 11:59pm


Your Master thesis project outside of UNIL (Switzerland or abroad)

Administrative procedures

For students who want to do the Master thesis project in another institution, the deadline for the registration is November 1st, so as to enable the Council of the School of Biology to approve your proposal.

The application file, done by the student, must include:

The project description must enable members of the Council of the School of Biology to judge the scientific content of the proposed project and to determine if it corresponds to the expected level for a Master thesis project.

The CV of the external Director must enable members of the Council of the School of Biology to evaluate if the person, according to his skills, experience and work environment will be able to support the student in the achievement of the practical work, the analysis of the results, the writing of the report… while offering satisfactory work conditions.

The choice of the UNIL Director is also important to consider because he/she will guarantee that the work done conforms to the requirements of a UNIL Master thesis project. We invite you to discuss this issue with your head of the Master.

For Master projects proposed in a public or nonprofit organization, the student may receive limited financial support (eg. for field trip fees). To apply, the student must complete his·her application with a detailed budget, emitted and signed by the external Director stating that the fees mentioned cannot be supported by the host organization. This document must also be approved by the co-Director UNIL.

Kindly note that you will also have to make your 3 choices of Master thesis projects on the database online offered by UNIL. In case your external Master project is not accepted by the Council of the School of Biology, your UNIL project choices will be considered.

Additional information for projects abroad only

Please note that if you do your Master thesis project abroad, you will have to plan to leave only after the summer exam session, which means around the beginning of July. This will necessitate a request for an extension of the duration of your Master (4 semesters instead of 3) and the oral presentation of your Master research project will be at least August 31 of the following year.

Finally, we would like you to pay attention to the fact that for a Master thesis project abroad, students are responsible for all the administrative steps and no financial support can be granted outside of the agreements that UNIL has with some foreign universities (agreements).

Assistance and insurance while abroad

Information on assistance and insurance while abroad.

Guide to research work for the Master of Science in Biology


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