Biomedical Sciences

Susanna Riley

I decided on Biomedical Sciences as I am interested in the research side of human biology, and the course at Oxford allows you to tailor your studies to your interests, including a research project in the second year where you work alongside leading academics.

I enjoy combination of essay-writing tutorials, lectures, and practicals allows for an in-depth understanding of a range of topics, from cell physiology to psychology to molecular biology. The small intake (30 students) gives a friendly feel to lectures and tutorials, allowing for a more relaxed exchange of ideas.

What has my best experience of the course been? In our first anatomy class of first year, we were given a human brain to examine. It was amazing to realise that I was holding in my hands the organ that was responsible for someone’s memories, emotions, and dreams!

Susanna, Teddy Hall, 3rd year

I applied for biomedical sciences because I was interested in medicine, but was more interested in research than treatment. The course was ideal for this reason, as it included a term-long research project in my second year, where I got the opportunity to conduct completely original research in an area that I was interested in, under the supervision of leaders in the field. The combination of teaching methods at Oxford has suited me well; I’ve found that the practicals and tutorials really let you grasp and examine the teaching given in lectures, which I think have made me a more inquisitive and questioning person.

The most interesting practical I can remember is from my first year when we were studying the kidneys, which for some reason involved us measuring the osmolarity of our own urine. This involved drinking excessive amounts of water and weeing into slightly too small beakers.

Rakesh, LMH, student from 2011

Biomedical Sciences is all about understanding how the human body works, covering everything from Molecular Biology and Genetics, to Experimental Psychology and Neuroscience. Teaching is delivered through lectures, tutorials and practical laboratory sessions. After your first year, which equips you with the basics, what you decide to study next is completely up to you. In this way, the course gives you a tremendous amount of choice in studying what interests and excites you, so you can tailor your degree to cover what you want. This course is rare as a science course, in that it requires frequent essay writing. While this may seem daunting at first (I didn’t do any essay-writing A-Levels), it’s useful in that it gives you the ability to make clear arguments, and you learn how to spell words like ‘fluorescent’!

What makes Oxford different?

As a much smaller course, it’s much friendlier, social and close-knit than the bigger subjects. Secondly, Biomedical Sciences at Oxford is not the same as some other universities, as you’re not doing an ‘accredited’ course (where you’re being trained to work in a lab). Instead, you develop an understanding of human physiology, specialising in whatever field you choose.

What helped inspire your love of the subject?

Isabelle Newell

A free resource is Ted talk videos - can find lots of relatively short clips talking about recent groundbreaking scientific research, from the scientists involved.  Apple podcasts offer many lessons on different topics from the open university, that are all free. You can choose whatever topics are of interest to you, however they often dont go beyond A-level. A brilliant book, available at many libraries, but relatively cheep, is Nessa Carey's 'Epigenetics Revolution'

Isabelle, Magdalen, 2nd year
Susanna Riley

I recommend reading The Selfish Gene (Richard Dawkins), which nicely introduces the idea of gene-centred evolution.

Susanna, Teddy Hall, 3rd year

Tell us about your interview?

Isabelle Newell

Was asked to talk about my favourite area of the subject. Also given an article about a piece of research, and asked to analyse it. And asked in-depth questions on gene expression. Some were very challenging, but I worked slowly through them using my own knowledge and asking further questions.

Isabelle, Magdalen, 2nd year

Applicants that might be offered a place are invited for interview in December.

Find out more

Course length: 3 years
Students per year: 35
Typical weekly contact time in first year: 6-10 hours lectures, 3 hours practicals, 1 hour tutorial, 1 mathematics class

Make sure you read the official prospectus entry for the course which contains entry requirements, full course structure, additional interesting resources and full details of the application process.

If you're going to apply, you'll want to check which Oxford colleges offer this course.

You might also find it helpful to hear from students studying Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, Human Sciences, Medicine or Psychology (or even consider applying for those courses!).