Biology

Biology 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: MBiol (4 year) or BA Hons (3 year) in Biology

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.

Students can choose to leave after three years and graduate with a BA, or they can continue to a fourth year and graduate with an MBiol. Progression to the MBiol is contingent on satisfactory academic performance in the first three years. 

Biology at Oxford Course Homepage

In the first year, students take courses in Diversity of Life, How to Build a Phenotype, and Ecology and Evolution. There is also skills training (including a mini-project) in the first term and a week-long residential in Wales during the summer term.

In the second year, students select three from four themes: Genomes and Molecular Biology, Cell and Developmental Biology, Behaviour and Physiology of Organisms, and Ecology and Evolution. Lectures are usually timetabled so that students can attend any combination they choose. Students can also choose from a range of one-two week extended skills training courses that are more specialist. Courses that you may choose include a one week field course to Tenerife to study plant taxonomy or a two-week ecology field course to Borneo.

In the third year the course diversifies into around eight specialist options from which students select four from the following overarching themes: Ecology and Evolution, Genomes and Molecular Biology, Cell and Developmental Biology, and Organisms. 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.

Those opting to stay on for a fourth year get the opportunity to pursue an in-depth research project, which involves independent, novel research undertaken in the lab or in the field. Research projects will be conducted under the supervision of an academic member of staff. 

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
Professor 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. Dr Mark Fricker's research focuses on imaging, signalling and transport in fungi and plants.  This diverse tutorial 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 Mark Fricker (Lecturer)

Professor Nathalie Seddon (Tutorial Fellow)

Dr Cedric Tan (Lecturer and tutor)