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Prepared essay example titles

Students are required to write a prepared essay of not more than 3000 words in length selected from titles proposed by the examiners. The topics offered for the prepared essay will concern ‘Science that affects Society’ and the Examiners will announce titles to students in the Michaelmas Term.   Examples of previous essay titles are included below.


  1. The human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine is now being used extensively in the UK. How does this vaccine work? Is it effective? Why is it given only to young girls and are there any ethical or moral questions associated with mass vaccination against HPV?
  2. "Good bacteria" in probiotic drinks and yoghurts are thought to maintain gut health. What are these “good bacteria" and how are they supposed to fulfill their probiotic roles? How good is the evidence that these probiotic foodstuffs have beneficial effects on health?
  3. Are GM crops the answer to solving the world’s food problems?


  1. Animal models of disease are of questionable scientific value. Discuss.
  2. How likely is it that we will see RNAi-based drugs in the next ten years?
  3. To what extent could microbes be used as “biorefineries”, that is, in biological processes for producing chemicals, fuels and polymers?


  1. It will soon be possible to sequence the genome of an individual human for $1000. What impact will this have on medicine and society?
  2. By what biochemical means do athletes seek unfairly to enhance their performance? How do the authorities attempt to detect them?
  3. Thalidomide caused birth defects, yet this molecule and analogues are now being used successfully to treat cancers and other diseases. How can such a simple molecule cause such diverse effects? Do any ethical issues arise?