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Department of Biochemistry


The Structure of the MIMS Course

The understanding, diagnosis and treatment of disease is increasingly grounded in the molecular biosciences. The human genome sequencing project is but the beginning - the challenge for the future, the post-genomic era, is to make biological sense and medical practice from the galaxy of data acquired. Your Molecules in Medical Science (MIMS) course aims to establish the principles and knowledge base of biochemistry and medical genetics - to give you the means to build your understanding of living things at the molecular level as both you and medical science progress. We want to convey how molecules, large and small, cooperate so that our cells are able to utilise food as fuel, to produce and respond to messengers that enable communication and coordination between different tissues, and to replicate their genomes faithfully and express them selectively. We also discuss how natural genetic variation can give rise to mutant genes, how this can cause both single gene and multifactorial diseases, how the natural transmission of genes occurs and what can go wrong and when, and how these errors are inherited by individuals and in populations.

Students will automatically be registered for a virtual learning environment called Moodle. Course materials are available on the course Moodle site and you will be told when to collect your course handbook in your first week in Cambridge.

Our overall goal is that you become intellectually self-reliant. Full Aims and Objectives are outlined below.

MIMS is taught by means of lectures, laboratory-based exercises with linked discussions and presentations and problem-based learning organised by the Biochemistry Department and also supervisions organised by your college.

The Lectures

The course is organised around two themes: ‘Metabolism in Health and Disease’ for the Michaelmas Term and ‘Macromolecules in Health and Disease’ for the Lent and Easter Terms. We shall present the core material in the setting of two diseases which are important in medicine and veterinary medicine - diabetes and cancer.

Lectures are timetabled in the Babbage Lecture Theatre, New Museum site on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Full timetables are on the MVST website

Each lecturer will distribute a handout.  Our general policy for the handouts is that they should reflect the structure of the lectures, and make compact statements about key features: tricky points may get additional explanation. The handouts should contain copies of all significant items displayed during lectures: they are not a literal script of the lectures, and don't include extended commentary or background reference information.

To get most out of the lectures and make your learning an active process, we recommend that you take your own notes irrespective of the nature of any particular handout. This will also help with later consolidation and as you prepare for the examinations.

The Practicals and Discussions

These are compulsory and you must sign in to register your attendance.

Biochemistry and molecular biology are experimental science subjects.  The services of clinical biochemistry laboratories are also an integral and important part of medical diagnosis. The course includes practical experiments for you to gain some insight into how laboratory investigations are carried out and how data are processed and interpreted. It is important that you take time to understand the underlying principles and context of the practicals, and also to evaluate the results that you obtained. To facilitate this, there is a separate 2-hour session for discussion and presentation of results for each practical. These are lead by senior demonstrators, but students will also sometimes be called on to present findings to the group. Discussions are a vital part of the course and are your best bet for fully understanding the practicals.

Problem-Based Learning (PBL) Exercises

These are compulsory and you must sign in to register your attendance.

These structured exercises are intended to develop your skills of investigation in ‘researching a topic’ and in reporting the results. Each exercise has a launching session that is followed two weeks later by a reporting session. There are two PBL exercises, one in the Michaelmas Term and one in the Lent Term. There are separate sessions for medics and vets.

Michaelmas Term
Obesity and metabolic disease
Lent Term
Genetics in health and disease


Student feedback and representation

We shall seek your views about the course by means of questionnaires and liaison meetings with your representatives each term. We take student comment very seriously in course development.  Questionnaire analyses and minutes of the liaison meetings are publicised on the course Moodle site.