Biochemistry at Magdalen

Biochemistry is the study of life at the molecular and cellular level. The idea that life could be understood in this way is surprisingly recent – and is usually ascribed jointly to Erwin Schrodinger and Francis Crick – but Biochemistry remains a constantly-developing field of study. The Oxford course is particularly characterised by the breadth and depth in which the subject is taught. The subject breadth is shown by the inclusion of macromolecular structure and function; classical genetics and genomics; bacterial, human and plant metabolism; and developmental and cancer cell biology. The subject depth is found in the detailed study of enzyme mechanisms, of the molecular dynamics of DNA replication, of the redox loops of the electron transport chain and the role of chemical gradients in body pattern formation. Students are lectured and tutored by experts in all the topics covered over the first 3 years and in the 4th year of the course undertake an original piece of research in an established laboratory as well as studying two chosen options in more depth.

At Magdalen the tuition in Biochemistry is overseen by the College’s own tutor assisted by a college lecturer and with assistance from specialists in some of the topics, frequently the academics giving the relevant lectures in the Biochemistry Department. In the first year, in addition to tutorials and lectures, classes in Biophysical Chemistry, Biological Chemistry, Mathematics and Statistics and Organic Chemistry are provided. In years 2 and 3 about 40% of the tutorials are with outside experts, the rest are provided by Magdalen’s own specialists. We have a strong emphasis on the value of using up-to-date research reports to ensure that students have the latest information, and provide specific guidance and practice for the Data Handling and General examination components of the third year exams.

Commonly, students completing Biochemistry at Magdalen go on to further research towards a DPhil/PhD, or to study graduate-entry Medicine, or teach in schools. We are also very glad when students have decided to make use of their scientific training within business and the financial services and banking industries.

Magdalen admits three or more students in Biochemistry each year.