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Systems Biology

Programme Specification: Part III Systems Biology

The Schools to be involved in delivering the taught parts of the Course include: Biological Sciences (Departments of Biochemistry, Genetics, Pathology, Plant Sciences and the Sainsbury Laboratory); Physical Sciences (DAMTP); Technology (Department of Engineering). Additional material will be contributed by external Institutes which may include: the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI); MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology (LMB); CR-UK Cambridge Research Institute (CRI); Microsoft Research.


  1. To acquaint students with backgrounds in the biological, physical, mathematical or computational sciences with the concepts and techniques of each others' disciplines that are relevant to an integrated approach to the study of living systems.
  2. To equip students with the skills to generate comprehensive biological data sets, analyse them using appropriate statistical techniques, and use such data to generate mathematical or computational models of biological systems with predictive and explanatory power.

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course a student should be able to:

  1. demonstrate advanced knowledge and understanding of the biological, computational, engineering, mathematical, and physical sciences relevant to the integrative study of living systems;
  2. demonstrate knowledge of the objectives, methods, and efficacy of their design project by presenting a computer simulation of the implementation of their design to their peers and academic staff;
  3. demonstrate knowledge of the objectives, methods, results, and conclusions of their research project by means of interim and final presentations to their peers and academic staff;
  4. demonstrate knowledge of the written presentation of research through the production of a report on their research project;
  5. analyse critically research literature and contemporary topics in systems and synthetic biology, and present such analyses in written and oral formats;
  6. adopt a model-building approach to the analysis of large-scale experimental data;
  7. explain the importance and impact of topics in systems and synthetic biology to both non-specialists in the natural sciences and engineering and to the lay public;
  8. demonstrate cutting-edge computational and experimental techniques relevant to systems biology.

Teaching and learning methods

These include an Introductory and three specialist taught modules. Each module will comprise both formal lectures and computer-based examples and practical classes. One of the specialist modules will include a design project. Weekly discussion groups will alternate between Journal Club presentations by students and seminars from external speakers. A 12-week research project will be run in the Michaelmas and Lent terms.


Course performance is assessed on the basis of:

  • three written papers; one paper of three and one quarter hours, one paper of three hours and one paper of two hours (for aims 1-2 and learning outcomes 1,5, 6, 7);
  • a computer based practical examination of three hours;
  • a practical report of a design project (for aims 1-2 and learning outcomes 2, 6, 8);
  • a report of a research project of not more than 6,000 words, excluding footnotes and bibliography (for aims 1-2 and learning outcomes 3-6, 8)

Courses of Preparation

For details of entry criteria, please see The Fourth Year - Part III.

Additional Information

Further information on each subject is available in the Subject summary and on the Course Websites pages.