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The Master of Science in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry (M.Biochem) is a four-year undergraduate course, with an intake of up to 6 students each year at Trinity.
Trinity has especially strong links with the subject of Biochemistry. The Tutorial Fellow in Biochemistry, Professor Louis Mahadevan, studies the intracellular signalling circuitry that controls genes. Undergraduates are also taught by our two Lecturers, Dr John Stanley and Dr James Larkin.
Trinity has two Professorial Fellows in Biochemistry: Professor Kim Nasmyth, the Whitley Professor of Biochemistry, studies chromosome segregation during cell division; Professor Francis Barr, Professor of Mechanistic Cell Biology, studies mechanisms regulating the cell cycle. Professor Sir Ed Southern, former Whitley Professor of Biochemistry at Oxford University, is an Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, and two Nobel Laureates, Professor Sir Hans Krebs and Professor Rodney Porter, were also Fellows of this College, reflecting the strong tradition of research and teaching in Biochemistry at Trinity.
We regularly admit postgraduate students in Biochemistry who are reading for a DPhil, and we also offer associate status to postgraduate researchers who work in the labs of our Tutorial and Professorial Fellows in Biochemistry.
Our tutors welcome applications from prospective undergraduate students committed to hard but rewarding work, who have thought carefully about why they want to study Biochemistry, and who have a genuine interest in scientific research and writing. In addition, time-management skills and motivation are important, as at Oxford, you will be expected to work independently and be responsible for organising your own time.
The College’s central location means that students are only a five-minute walk away from the resources of the Biochemistry Department and the Radcliffe Science Library.
The Biochemistry Department organises lectures, classes and lab-based practicals; the College organises the small-group teaching (tutorials), so your College tutors play a key role in your course. Biochemistry students at Trinity have tutorials in College once or twice each week in small groups (2-4 students). Our students thrive on discussion and debate. Most tutorials are based on essays prepared by students during the preceding week. In the first year the tutorials mirror the lecture course closely, to ensure that all students achieve a good background level of knowledge. In the second and third years, tutorials are more wide-ranging, and often address topical issues such as genetic modification, biotechnology and the biochemistry of diseases. Our tutors set practice exams at the beginning of most terms so that students can consolidate their learning and prepare for their University examinations.
The course is divided into three components, the contents of which are reviewed and updated as the subject evolves (for more details, see the Departmental website). In the first year, five subjects, Molecular Cell Biology, Biological Chemistry, Biophysical Chemistry, Organic Chemistry and Mathematics and Statistics for Biochemistry are studied at a foundational level, leading to the Preliminary Examination at the end of the year. In the second and third years, the course comprises more advanced study of Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Structural Biology and Genetics, with emphasis on both molecular and cellular biology and on structural and biophysical aspects of molecules in order to understand precisely how each works. Most background coursework is obtained from specialist textbooks, but many topics are taught at research level and students are expected to read original research papers. There is no examination at the end of the second year; Part I of the Final Exam, consisting of written examinations, is taken at the end of the third year. For the 2020 intake onwards, it is proposed that in addition to these written papers, termly assessments of progress during years 2 and 3 will contribute a proportion of Finals marks.
The fourth year, comprising Part II of the Final Exam, is often regarded as the most rewarding as it consists of an entire year of guided laboratory research, study of critical literature and scientific writing. Each student spends 23 weeks in a research lab, undertaking original research on which they write a dissertation. Results obtained from such original research may contribute to publications in which students have shared authorship. In addition, students independently survey current scientific literature and write an original, critical review of a specific area of research. The laboratory project, examined by dissertation and oral presentation, plus the review article, constitutes the Finals Part II assessment.
At Trinity, we strongly encourage and provide support for our Biochemistry students to pursue independent laboratory research in the UK and abroad during the vacations, or in their final year. Students can apply for grants to provide financial support for these summer research projects. Research laboratories all around the United Kingdom, and abroad in places such as Holland, Germany, Austria, Italy, the USA, Hong Kong and Australia, have hosted Trinity undergraduate Biochemists for summer research.
Many of our recent graduates have gone on to postgraduate research, leading to doctoral degrees in the UK or abroad, reflecting their continued enthusiasm for the subject! Biochemistry graduates are highly valued by employers, and also go on to work in industry, commerce, finance and law.