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Department of Biochemistry

 

 

Lectures

In Michaelmas Term, choose either:

  • Molecular Recognition and Interaction: Lectures present case studies in precisely understood contexts, within broad themes of protein-protein recognition (e.g. in molecular signalling), protein-nucleic acid recognition (e.g. in the RNA degradosome and DNA repair) and protein-small molecule recognition (e.g. in molecular assembly lines and drug screening). (12-lecture module), or

  • Cell Fate: How the developmental paths of cells (from cradle to grave) are determined, regulated and manipulated.  Our current biochemical understanding of stem cells, differentiation, neurodegeneration, cell death and ageing. The experimental approaches and models used to study cell fate. (12-lecture module).

 

In Lent Term, choose either:

  • The Biochemistry and Biophysics of Neuronal and Metabolic Disorders: This module will show how molecular and systems approaches can further understanding of diseases that perturb metabolic integration, cardiovascular function and neurotransmitter and hormonal signalling. Contexts will include circadian and cardiac rhythm disturbance, neuronal disorders, obesity, and thrombotic disease (6 x 2 hour lecture module), or

  • Contemporary Cancer Studies: This module will look at a series of recent advances in our molecular understanding of cancer, with a combination of lectures and workshop-style discussions (7-8-workshop module).

 

Part III students are also welcome to attend the Part II Methods and Skills lectures as a refresher (which may also be of interest to students coming from Part II subjects other than Biochemistry). For example,  “How to write a scientific report” and  “Basic statistics”.

Seminar Series on Scientific Method and Experimental Design

The overall aim of these sessions is to develop your understanding of scientific method and process - the development of hypotheses, the choice of experimental systems and the design of experimental tests of the hypotheses. There will be two complementary approaches: looking at deployment of methodological resources and discussion of landmark papers.  The sessions will run on Tuesday afternoons throughout Michaelmas and Lent Terms.

  • The methodological sessions will cover choice and use of model organisms, genome projects, microarrays, proteomics, RNAi, interactomics and measurement of interactions, recombinant protein expression and imaging.

  • The landmark paper discussions will provide an opportunity to understand what makes brilliant science, a sense of why current knowledge has accumulated as it has, and what limitations were imposed by the available technology.  Each session, led by a member of staff, is assigned a landmark paper (or small group of papers) that represents a leap forward in biochemistry.  Papers may be historic, such as the proposal of the lac operon, or more recent, such as advances in stem cell technology. The sessions will use a variety of approaches to explore the state of knowledge before publication of the landmark paper, and the impact of the paper on biochemistry as a whole.

Research Projects

There is a 17-week project during the Michaelmas and Lent Terms, which can be laboratory- or computer-based.

The Part III research projects are generally carried out under the supervision of a member of the Department, but please note that not all Group Leaders will host a research project every year due to sabbatical leave. Prospective students can find information about potential project supervisors in the Department on the website.  It is also possible to arrange projects with Group Leaders in other Cambridge research institutes in consultation with the Part III Project Organiser.

The project weighting is 50% of the total marks in the examination. Throughout the project, it is vital that students achieve a reasonable balance between project work and other aspects of the course. Students are of course largely responsible for policing their own work programme but staff have been reminded of the need for students to achieve this balance and to guard against any suggestion of undue pressure.

It is important that students commence the Project write-up before the end of the Lent Term, to avoid the erosion of revision time caused by a ‘creep’ of project write-up well into the Easter vacation and beyond.

  • Information for current students can be found on the Course Moodle site. 
  • Information for project supervisors will be circulated by the Undergraduate Teaching Office. 

Peer Groups

Peer Groups in Part II and Part III Biochemistry are arranged by the Department. Part II and Part III students are organised into mixed groups, and each group has a designated academic staff member lead. Peer Groups normally meet once a week and is an essential part of the taught course.

Topics addressed include:

  • Journal Clubs: It is essential to acquire the ability to source, read and evaluate original papers; reliance should not be placed on review articles alone. The Journal Clubs help to develop these skills.

  • Reviewing particular experimental techniques or selected areas of research.

  • Critical evaluation of data.

  • Science that affects Society. Designated students generally research the chosen topic and lead off a discussion/debate that is moderated by the staff members. The remaining students in the group will contribute their comments and responses. The Part III students in the group can impart knowledge based on their experience of undertaking this type of essay in Part II Biochemistry.

  • Integrated scientific essay. Some time will be devoted to rehearsing the skills needed to tackle the Part III  integrated scientific essay drawing on the overall scope of the landmark papers. 

  • Development of presentational skills. Students will be given the opportunity to make  presentations on scientific papers and their project work. At the start of Easter term, students will be expected to give a final presentation summarizing their research project.

Student Feedback

The Part III Biochemistry course is run by the Part III Management Committee. This committee considers the minutes of the Part III Consultative Committee, which comprises the members of the Management Committee plus student representatives from the Part III course. More formally, questionnaires are provided on the various components of the course, and the responses are considered in the first instance by the Part III Management Committee.

Staff attach considerable importance to student views and a number of modifications to the course have originated as student suggestions.