Biochemistry is the study of the molecular basis of life.
Biochemists seek to understand the fundamental processes which occur in all living organisms, from the mechanisms of DNA replication and repair, to the coordination of an immune response against a pathogen. Through advances in molecular medicine and biotechnology, the subject has begun to make a considerable impact on everyday life and the Oxford biochemistry course is constantly evolving to match the pace of research. Over the past few years, a significant proportion of Somerville undergraduates have continued to graduate study in biochemistry or related disciplines, whilst others have embarked successfully on careers in commerce, finance and law.
Biochemistry is the subject for you if you want to know how life works at the molecular level. It is a broad, four year-long course, covering a variety of subjects needed to equip you to be an outstanding biochemist, and leading to the award of an MBiochem masters degree. The course begins with a study of the physical and organic chemistry of living systems and has a significant mathematical component. The first years typically receive ten lectures and two tutorials each week and attend practical classes organised by the Biochemistry Department.
The second and third years of the course explore the biochemistry of living systems and include detailed study of genetics, immunology and developmental biology. Students are introduced to a variety of experimental techniques and are encouraged to read original research publications. A core component of the undergraduate course is the twenty-week lab-based project undertaken by all fourth year undergraduates. A significant proportion of fourth year students have been able to publish the results of their research in academic journals and to present their findings at international conferences, and some students do their research projects in Europe or at Princeton through exchange schemes.
Somerville College admits four undergraduates to read biochemistry each year. Candidates must study chemistry to A level standard alongside two further A levels (which must include at least one of biology, physics or mathematics). In particular we recommend that students study mathematics beyond GCSE level, although this need not be for examination. We also welcome prospective students applying for graduate research courses.