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Subject Summary: Part III Biochemistry

The Part III Biochemistry course is followed by undergraduates who have successfully completed the Part II Biochemistry course having met the set criteria in Part IB and Part II in order to be accepted for the 4-year course. The course allows students who wish to become professionals in the molecular biosciences to pursue a two-term research project during their fourth year, together with continuing advanced teaching in lectures and discussion groups. Success in the course leads to the award of the M.Sci. degree.

The individual research project is conducted in the laboratory of the supervising member of staff and chosen from an extensive list. With prior approval by the Course and Projects Organisers, projects may be undertaken in other parts of the University, such as: Gurdon Research Institute, MRC Toxicology Centre, Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, Institute of Metabolic Science, Department of Veterinary Medicine, MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, CRUK Cambridge Institute, Cambridge Stem Cell Institute. The experimental work will start at the beginning of the first term and be written up as a dissertation (8,000 word limit, excluding footnotes and bibliography) by early in the third term. For many of the Part III class the project is the highlight of their degree as well as providing a real insight into the world of research.

In the Part III research symposium, students present a 15 minute report and answer questions on their project. Production of these presentations is an excellent training for postgraduate and business careers. The research environment is reinforced by a series of seminars on “Scientific Method and Experimental Design”.

The training also includes Journal Clubs and advanced lectures. Peer group discussion sessions with other students and members of staff take place throughout the year. The third term is, as for Part II, otherwise free to devote to examination preparation through specialist supervisions with individual lecturers and self-guided supervision. At this stage, four-year students graduate with the BA and M.Sci. degrees.

There are opportunities for students who satisfactorily complete the Part III course in Biochemistry to proceed to doctoral degrees by research, in Cambridge or elsewhere; the Department is well equipped for research on a wide range of biochemical topics.

Programme Specification: Part III Biochemistry

This course is taught by the Department of Biochemistry


  1. to build on Part II Biochemistry to deepen and extend research-level knowledge and integrated understanding of the scientific methods and processes. To study selected specialised aspects by means of lectures, and to develop research skills and knowledge of research techniques and instrumentation by means of seminars, lectures and a two-term research project.

Learning outcomes

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

  1. demonstrate advanced knowledge and understanding in additional selected specialist areas;
  2. demonstrate knowledge of the objectives, methods, results and conclusions of their research project by means of interim and final seminars to an audience of their peers and departmental staff;
  3. demonstrate knowledge of the written presentation of research through the production of a report on their research project;
  4. analyse critically research literature and 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;
  7. demonstrate knowledge of cutting-edge experimental techniques designed to underpin the strong research focus of Part III;
  8. demonstrate knowledge of key papers that have significantly influenced the development of the subject.

Teaching and Learning Methods

These include two advanced modules of 12 lectures in the first term, on “Molecular Recognition and Interaction” and “Cell Fate” of which students attend one, and two in the second term, on “Contemporary Cancer Studies” and “The Biochemistry and Biophysics of Neuronal and Metabolic Disorders” of which students attend one. In both terms there are regular seminars on “Scientific Method and Experimental Design”.  There are also short courses on research skills, a two-day course on laboratory safety, supervisions, journal clubs with guided detailed analysis of a research paper, classes in data handling, research work, peer group sessions with opportunities for oral presentations and debate of contemporary biochemical topics and issues of science that affect society.


Assessment for this course is through:

  • one unseen essay examination paper to examine the advanced modules, requiring two essays covering the chosen first term module and two essays covering the second term module (for aim 1 and learning outcomes 1 and 4);
  • one unseen examination paper to assess the journal clubs and seminar series (for aim 1 and learning outcomes 4, 5, 7 and 8) containing two sections of equal weight: the first section requires critical evaluation of a research article; the second section requires an integrated scientific essay;
  • a dissertation of no more than 8000 words, based on a research project undertaken over two terms (for aim 1 and learning outcomes 1-7);
  • an oral examination centred on the subject of the dissertation (for aim 1 and learning outcomes 1, 2 and 4-7).

Courses of Preparation

Essential: NST Part II Biochemistry

Additional Information

Further information is available and on the Course Websites pages.