Biochemistry

On average four students are admitted each year to read Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry at Wadham. It is essential that applicants have a good knowledge and understanding of chemistry as well as some aptitude for mathematics. Applications from people who have studied uncommon combinations of subjects are welcome (but they must include Chemistry, plus another science or Maths to A-level or equivalent). Detailed admissions criteria are listed here.

  • Cadherin-human Endothelial
    Picture by Phaeton1 via Wikimedia Commons 

The Course: MBiochem Biochemistry, Molecular and Cellular

Details of the scope of the Oxford Biochemistry course and the organisation of university examinations are given on the Department website and in the University Prospectus.

MBiochem Course home page

Teaching Structure
Undergraduates participate in one tutorial per week. A tutorial usually consists of discussion of the undergraduate's essay together with development of the set subject. In the fourth year the pattern changes and the tutor discusses the research topic being undertaken for Part II.

The Tutors
The senior Biochemistry Tutor is Professor Ben Berks whose research interests are protein transport, microbial energy metabolism, bacterial cell biology and membrane protein structure/function. Additional specialist teaching is provided by Dr David Staunton and experts from outside the College.

A student's perspective

The first year is incredibly broad, and we do modules in biology, organic chemistry, maths + statistics, and biophysics.

It’s designed to be a foundation year, so everything is taught at a level of depth that solidly grounds the biochemists for the rest of their degree. It is also incredibly fast paced, which is something I certainly wasn’t accustomed to, but you settle into the swing of things quickly. Here, there’s no time to get bored of a topic – you rarely spend enough time on one thing to do that.

One of the perks of Oxford is the collegiate system. Whilst all the lectures and classes are centrally set by the Biochemistry department, we have tutorials in college each week with our tutors – these are small classes with only 2 or 3 students. These are definitely the most rewarding part of the degree; getting to have such in depth conversations about my subject with renowned tutors is a huge privilege. My tutorials are shared with the other Wadham biochemists in my year – there’s 5 of us in total. These are the people I spend the most time with during my degree. We go to lectures together, are in classes together, and some of us are also lab partners. The collegiate system means that if any of us are struggling with a topic, we’ve already got a support network of other biochemists we can go to for help.

In a typical week I’ll have lectures every morning, 2 or 3 classes, a tutorial, and a day of labs. Outside of these contact hours, I also get given problem sheets to do, as well as essays to write. Going into a science degree, I wasn’t expecting to be writing essays, but these are structured very differently to the English essays you probably had to write in school. They’re very factual and have loads of diagrams to support the science you’re writing about.

Biochemistry may be an incredibly busy degree, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t time to do anything outside of it (in fact you’ll probably enjoy it more if it isn’t the only thing you do). I joined Wadham Women’s Weightlifting in fresher’s week, and it’s proved to be a great way to destress after labs. Wadham itself has also been a really inclusive and welcoming environment, so definitely come visit us on an open day and see for yourself.

Current Fellows and Lecturers

Professor Ben Berks (Tutorial Fellow)

Dr David Staunton (Lecturer)

Dr Julie Stevens (Lecturer)