Biological Sciences

At Oxford, Biology is not divided into plants and animals, or botany and zoology, as it was two decades ago. Today the subject is treated as one integrated discipline that enables the students to gain a very broad knowledge of the natural world that “joins-up-the-dots” between genes and whole organisms and the habitats in which they exist.

The University has rich and unique resources for teaching biology including the Botanic Garden, the Harcourt Arboretum, the University Herbarium, the Natural History Museum, the University Farm, Wytham Woods, and the University Parks.

In the first year Somerville students will have the same tutorials, all of which are given by Somerville tutors. Three broad areas are covered; cells & genes, organisms, and ecology. There are also practicals and a one-week field trip to Orielton, Pembrokeshire where students gain experience in everything from rocky-shore ecology to camera trapping and bird ringing.

In the second year there is some choice. Everyone studies evolution, statistics and quantitative methods. In addition to these core subjects, students chose four from six biological topics that they study both in lecture courses and in tutorials.

In the third year there is a vast choice and students take eight out of 24 options (two of which are field trips to Borneo or Tenerife).   The tutorials will reflect which options you decide to take. In addition to the lectures, field trips, and tutorials in the third year, final year students complete a project in a topic that interests them.

Somerville accepts eight students each year to read Biological Sciences. At least two science A-levels are required (one of them Biology), but some recent successful candidates have offered an arts subject as their third subject.

At Somerville the tutors have particular interests in marine ecology, molecular plant pathology, and conservation.

In February 2013, the Global Ocean Commission, based at Somerville College, was launched.

The Global Ocean Commission is an independent, high-level initiative looking at management and governance of the global ocean. The Commission is drawn from the highest echelons of international politics, alongside experts in business, economics, law and development. It is jointly chaired by former Costa Rican President José María Figueres, Minister in the South African Presidency Trevor Manuel, and former UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

Students at undergraduate and postgraduate level can benefit through internships with the Global Ocean Commission. Its work spans international law, social research, science and technology policy, communications and outreach to a vast range of constituencies across the world. The Commission gives Somerville students a unique window into international policy development at the highest level.

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