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Biological Sciences T


he first year of the Oxford Biology course is broken into three: Organisms is a quick tour of life, covering microbiol- ogy, invertebrates, vertebrates and plants. Cells and Genes looks at enzymes, genet- ics and other topics familiar from A-level Biology, while Populations zooms out to look at interactions between organ- isms.


Expect two lectures a morning, two practical afternoons and one tutorial a week – lots, but manageable, especial- ly with the departmental cafe serving wonderful tea and toast to hungover undergrads. The highlight of the first year is the week-long jaunt to Wales fea- turing bug-hoovers, sand dunes and pubs with scant regard for closing time laws. This trip, plus the trauma of dissections, brings biologists together much more than other large subjects and strong bonds are formed across the University. Since super- geniuses tend to opt for medicine and science-geeks for Biochemistry, biologists tend to be remarkably normal.


In your second year, you’ll study Evolu- tion, along with Quantitative Methods and three further options from animals, plants, disease, cells and environment. Statistics is the only course everyone must do for three years and involves a weekly lecture and computer practical. At the end of this year you sit finals in Evolution and one of your options.


In the summer of your second year, you produce a dissertation on the topic of your choice. About half the year don their white coats for lab placements in Oxford; others do exciting field studies like but- terflies in Madagascar or Bahaman sea life. In third year you study pretty special- ized stuff. It’s exciting to study cutting edge science, with tutors explaining new discoveries or inviting you into their lab for practicals. You’ll produce an extended essay for each course, and this plus the dissertation and second-year finals mean 50% of your degree is done before ‘proper’ finals at the end of Year three.


What’s different about an Oxford biology degree? In many ways it’s more traditional than others, focusing on whole beings and their interactions rather than cellular biology more familiar from A-level. The relaxed department and very social year group help keep your feet on the ground and your head above water when it gets tough. If you love the natural world, then Biology at Oxford could end up being three years of thoroughly good fun.


Courses


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