skip to content

Subject Summary

Biochemistry is the study of living organisms at the molecular and cellular level. As a core course for the whole of biological sciences, a training in Biochemistry leaves you with the widest choice when you come to select an area of cell/molecular biology in any subsequent research programme or career. Recruiters in industry, government, investment management, regulatory authorities, and industrial law appreciate the breadth and diversity of biological knowledge that Biochemistry provides. 

Students have a choice between a one year Part II (B.A. degree) and two years of study, in which Part II is followed by Part III (B.A. and M.Sci. degrees). Part II Biochemistry also provides an appropriate training for Part III Systems Biology. The subject Part IB Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is the normal precursor to the Part II course but is not compulsory e.g. Part IB Cell and Developmental Biology is an adequate background to Part II Biochemistry. MST/VST students who are considering a career in medical research after qualifying will find the Part II course an excellent foundation. 

The Part II course provides an advanced Biochemistry education, with modules entitled “Structural and Chemical Biology”, “From Genome to Proteome”, "Cell Cycle, Signalling and Cancer”, “The Dynamic Cell” and either “Molecular Microbiology of Infectious Disease” or “Bioenergy – The Exploitation of Plants and Microorganisms”. Teaching of transferable laboratory and communication skills (such as graphic illustration, record keeping, data analysis, database searching, seminar presentation, and report writing) is included in the course. Notice also that we place an emphasis through our extended critical essay on communication between scientists and society. More information can be found here.

The Part II course offers research experience through an eight-week research project. Part II Biochemistry students choose their research project from an array of dry (e.g. bioinformatics) and wet-lab projects across a wide range of research areas, and write a report. In the project each student will work closely with one of the research teams in the Department. BBS students taking Part II Biochemistry carry out a literature-based project and submit a dissertation, as outlined in the BBS subject summary. There are also departmental-based group supervisions involving students and staff throughout the year.

Students should consider carefully whether the three- or four-year course is right for them. The three-year course is likely to be appropriate for students who see their degree as education for a science-based or more general career rather than as a preparation for a life in scientific research. The four-year course is for committed enthusiasts preparing for a career in research in Biochemistry or a related area.  You are not bound to remain for the fourth year even if you choose the four-year course. Acceptance for Part III is conditional upon performance at II-1 (upper second) or better in Part II Biochemistry.

Programme Specification

This course is taught by the Department of Biochemistry.


This course aims to:

  1. provide an advanced understanding of the principles and topics of biochemistry and their experimental basis;
  2. provide training in research skills through an eight-week research project, together with journal clubs and data handling exercises;
  3. provide analytical, oral and written presentational skills.

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course students should be able to:

  1. demonstrate advanced knowledge and understanding in a number of core areas;
  2. demonstrate knowledge of the objective, methods, results and conclusions of their research project;
  3. demonstrate knowledge of the written presentation of research through the production of a report on their research project;
  4. analyse critically research literature on contemporary biochemical topics, and present such analyses in both written and oral formats;
  5. adopt a problem-solving approach to experimental data;
  6. explain the importance and impact of scientific topics to the non-specialist.

Teaching and Learning Methods

These include lectures, supervisions, journal clubs with guided detailed analysis of a research paper, classes in data handling and scientific writing, a problem-based learning exercise in bioinformatics, research work, small group teaching with occasions for oral presentations and debate of contemporary biochemical topics and issues of science that affect society.


Assessment for this course is through:

  • four unseen essay examination papers (for aims 1-3 and learning outcomes 1 and 4);
  • one data handling examination paper (for aims 1-3 and learning outcomes 1, 4 and 5);
  • a dissertation of no more than 5000 words, based on a research project undertaken over an eight-week period (for aims 2 and 3 and learning outcomes 2-5);
  • a critical essay of no more than 3000 words (for aims 1 and 3 and learning outcomes 1, 4 and 6).

Courses of Preparation

Essential: NST Part IB Biochemistry and Molecular Biology or NST Part IB Cell and Developmental Biology.

Recommended: Knowledge of A Level Chemistry is assumed.

Additional Information

Further information is available on the Course Websites pages.