Over the last six years, more than 50% of our biochemists have graduated with first-class Honours!
The M.Biochem Course
Master of Science in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry (M.Biochem) is a four-year undergraduate course which is well represented at Trinity College, with an intake of up to 6 students each year. 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 a more advanced treatment of Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Structural Biology and Genetics, with equal emphasis on molecular and cellular biology as on structural and biophysical aspects of molecules 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, literature review 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 on 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.
Our tutors welcome applications from 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). Our students thrive on discussion and debate. Most tutorials are based on essays prepared by students during the preceding week. In the first year they 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. Our students reach very high standards over their course.
Summer Research Projects
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. In most cases, students can apply for grants to provide financial support during these summer research projects. Research laboratories all around the United Kingdom and as well as 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 graduates in the past few years have gone on to undertake postgraduate research leading to Doctoral degrees in the UK or abroad, reflecting their continued enthusiasm for the subject!
Biochemistry at Trinity
Trinity College has an especially strong link with the subject of Biochemistry. Apart from the Fellow in Biochemistry, Professor Louis Mahadevan, who studies the intracellular signalling circuitry that controls genes, the college has two subject tutors, Drs John Stanley and James Larkin. Other biochemists at Trinity College include Professor Kim Nasmyth, Whitley Professor of Biochemistry, who studies chromosome segregation during cell division and Professor Francis Barr, Professor of Mechanistic Cell Biology who studies mechanisms regulating the cell cycle. Professor Sir Ed Southern, recently Whitley Professor of Biochemistry at Oxford University, is presently an honorary fellow of Trinity College. Two Nobel Laureates, Professors Sir Hans Krebs and Rodney Porter, were also Fellows of this college, reflecting the strong tradition of research and teaching in this subject at Trinity.