Biological Sciences

Biological Sciences at Oxford involves a lecture and practical course organised by the Departments of Plant Sciences and Zoology, which are a short walk from Wadham, plus tutorial work arranged by the College

  • Height-coded image of microtubule arrays in leaf epidermis imaged by fluorescence microscopy. Image: N. Irani, Dept. Plant Sciences.

  • Microscopic view of tissue to reveal the cellular structure. Picture by CK-12 Foundation via Wikimedia Commons

The Course: BA (Hons) in Biological Sciences

The course combines traditional topics, such as plant and animal evolution and systematics, with modern developments and techniques in all spheres of biology from the molecular to the organismal and ecological.

Biological Sciences at Oxford Course Homepage

In the first year, students take courses in Organisms, Cells and Genes, and Ecology. There is also a one-week residential field course and a non-examined Data Handling course.

In the second year, all students study courses in Evolution & Systematics and in Quantitative Methods. They also select from six other themes: Adaptations to the Environment, Animal Behaviour, Cell & Developmental Biology, Disease, Ecology, and Plants & People. Lectures are usually timetabled so that students can attend any combination they choose and we recommend that each student chooses approximately 80% of the themed lectures.

In the third year the course diversifies into 20 or so specialist options of 16 lectures each, most of which are available to all students. Consequently, undergraduates can either maintain a balance of disciplines or bias their degree towards either whole organism biology or the more molecular aspects of the subject such as cell biology, biochemistry, or developmental genetics. College tutors are on hand to help with these decisions.

An important part of the assessment in the third year is a research project, which involves independent novel research undertaken in the lab or in the field. There are also two examined pieces of coursework, one of which is an extended essay and the other is a presentation. The final degree class is based on a combination of second year examinations, coursework, and the final examinations.

There is a one-week field course attended by all students in their first year and, in the third year, students have the opportunity to attend either botanical or tropical ecology field courses in the Canary Islands or Borneo respectively. Students also have the opportunity to join a University expedition and Wadham encourages students to submit applications for funding of vacation projects that benefit either their studies or some other aspect of their personal development.

Teaching Structure
In addition to the lecture and practical courses organised by the Departments of Zoology and Plant Sciences, students generally receive one tutorial per week in their first year, normally in groups of two or three. Thereafter they have a variety of weekly assignments, including at least one tutorial or seminar class.

The Tutors
The College has recently increased its commitment to Biology with two Tutorial Fellows devoted to teaching across the breadth of this subject. Dr Ian Moore is a plant cell biologist studying the genetics and evolution of plant cell organisation and Dr Nathalie Seddon is an evolutionary ecologist studying the origins and maintenance of biodiversity in South America. Dr Cedric Tan is a conservation biologist studying the ecology of clouded leopards in Malaysia and the effectiveness of various teaching methods. This provision means that Wadham is able to admit one of the largest cohorts of biology students and can offer tutorials and guidance on all aspects of the degree. Furthermore there is frequent interaction with the tutors and students in Human Sciences at Wadham. The Biology tutors also arrange research seminars, presentations, and other activities that go beyond the confines of the degree course and introduce students to the research activities of Oxford biologists.

A student's perspective

Current Fellows and Lecturers

Dr Ian Moore, (Tutorial Fellow)

Dr Nathalie Seddon (Tutorial Fellow)

Cedric Tan (Lecturer and tutor)