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Department of Biochemistry

 

The structure of the BMB course

BMB is taught by means of lectures, laboratory-based exercises with linked discussions, Journal Clubs and Experimental Design sessions organised by the Biochemistry Department and also supervisions organised by your college.

Progress in science is achieved through observation and experiment. Biochemistry (and its close cousin, molecular biology) is an experimental science that advances from well-thought out investigations in the laboratory. No serious student should neglect the opportunities which this course provides to appreciate this fact. Your course includes experiments for you to gain some insight into how laboratory investigations are carried out and how data are processed and interpreted. To obtain useful results an experiment should be designed to answer a definite question and the detailed planning should be sufficiently rigorous to exclude adventitious errors. The course gives you the opportunity to plan some experiments for yourselves. You should benefit from the practicals in three ways:

  1. You will learn a variety of experimental techniques, all of which are currently used in biochemical research. The practicals have been designed to complement the lectures and fit in with their sequence as far as possible. The hands-on experience should link to the mental framework provided by the lectures, and give you a deeper understanding and more realistic perspective of the topics discussed.
  2. You will learn to handle experimental data effectively, and to extract the maximum information content without falling into the trap of over-interpretation.
  3. You will be helped when it comes to the data handling questions in the Tripos examination. Question papers from the last three years are included on Moodle.

In addition to the BMB Moodle site, you will be given a course handbook when you register for the course.

The Lectures

Lectures are timetabled in the Sanger Building Lecture Theatre on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays at 10.00am

  • Full timetables are available in the University Lecture Listings

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 may contain copies of significant items displayed during lectures: they are not a literal script of the lectures, and don't include extended commentary or background reference information. Colour versions of the lecture handout, along with lecture slides, are available on Moodle.

Lecturers will also provide some questions related to the material that they have presented, which you and your supervisors may wish to discuss.

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. Most of the BMB lectures are recorded to aid revision.

 

BMB Classroom 2019

 

The Practicals and Discussions

BMB practicals are scheduled every day of the week, so provide an excellent opportunity to work in a relatively small group (maximum 30 students each day) where the ratio of student to demonstrators is high. The practical sessions thus provide the perfect environment to ask questions and discuss your experimental results. You are given comprehensive notes for each practical, which are found in the BMB course handbook and on Moodle.

Journal Clubs

These small group sessions comprise structured exercises to help introduce you to reading primary scientific literature. There are two Journal Clubs, one on a molecular topic and the other more cell biological. You will be given a published paper, with some guidance notes and questions, to analyse during the week before the interactive session, in which you critically evaluate its merits in a small group directed by one of the Biochemistry staff. Most students find this a challenging but worthwhile exercise, since it gives exposure to the raw material of the scientific literature.

Experimental Design

Experimental design will be discussed throughout the course and to consolidate this aspect of teaching in biochemistry there will be a teaching session on this  in Lent Term. You will be briefed in advance of the session. You will be allocated to groups and given an outline of a problem to address. You will be required to design an experimental strategy to investigate the problem and will report back as a group to a discussion session, led by a member of staff.

 

The BMB Moodle Site

The BMB course is supported by a comprehensive Moodle site that contains a range of materials that aim to support a variety of learning styles. These materials include short videos describing various experimental techniques, quizzes based on past exam questions or techniques, techniques posters, interactive practical resources (Learning Science), lecture recordings etc. Other key materials, such as lecture and practical resources, the BMB course handbook, safety information, past exam papers, and more, are also available on Moodle. 

You will automatically be subscribed to this site as part of the NST subject choice procedures but if you join the course after the start of term, send an email to the Teaching Assistant in Biochemistry (), requesting that you are added to the course. You will need to use your Raven ID and password to log onto Moodle, which you will also be able to access during the vacation.

 

Moodle Site BMB

 

Student feedback and representation

We shall seek your views about the course by means of questionnaires and termly Consultative Committee meetings with your representatives (chosen by you!) each term. The BMB course is revised each year in light of student comments.  Questionnaire analyses and minutes of the consultative meetings are publicised on the course Moodle site.