Biochemistry in Oxford is a four-year degree, culminating in the conferment of a Masters in Biochemistry with honours (MBiochem Hons.) degree at graduation. The undergraduate course is split into two parts; Part I being the prelim year, involving lectures and small class groups with introductory practical training in the laboratory. This is followed by two years of intense lectures and laboratory-based practical classes focused towards the Part I honour school exams, which constitute six 3-hour written papers taken over a 7-day period at the end of the third year. These exams account for 65% of the final mark.
Students then enter Part II of the course, which involves an 18-week research project and two advanced-level exams based on the latest unpublished research in the different fields covered, including virology, chromosome biology, structural biology, immunology, and membrane transport. During the fourth year, the students are fully active members of our department, attending group meetings, presenting their results in weekly seminars, and engaging with the post-graduate and post-doctoral research scientists both in the Department, the wider South Parks Road research, and the Old Road Campus sites. Students leave Oxford Biochemistry with a solid grounding in the fundamental tenants of biochemistry and crucially, a real appreciation for how this core knowledge is applied in a research setting to continue the advances being made both here in the UK and around the world. Examples of projects undertaken include studying the molecular basis of transcription factor regulation, the role of ion channels in diabetes, how chromosomes are held together during cell division, and the molecular basis of malarial infection of red blood cells.
I currently organize teaching at Christ Church, which admits three to four students to read Biochemistry each year. Christ Church has a strong record of achievement in undergraduate performance in Biochemistry, and for the past five years, our students have graduated with five First and seven Upper Second class Honours degrees. We have seen one student successfully set up from scratch a genome sequencing company, which in 2015 relocated to California. Our other graduates have continued in research as post-graduate researchers, many at the world’s top research universities and institutions, one has gone on to train as a medical doctor, whilst another has become a recruitment consultant. On a personal note, it is extremely satisfying to see our graduates succeed using the skills and knowledge learned here in Christ Church and the wider University.