All living things function and operate as a result of chemical processes. Medical Biochemistry at Royal Holloway, University of London helps to provide an understanding of these essential chemical processes, exploring the molecular basis of disease.
Pursue your passion for Medical Biochemistry at Royal Holloway and work towards joining the ranks of scientists striving to develop new methods of disease prevention and treatment.
You’ll study in our state-of-the-art School of Biological Sciences, where a recent £16 million investment has helped to secure cutting-edge technology including mass spectrometry, bioinformatics and gene and protein sequencing equipment.
The flexible degree programme lets you tailor your learning in years 2 and 3, selecting from a variety of optional courses ranging from Microbiology to Pharmacology and Toxicology and Biology of Parasitic Diseases to Molecular and Medical Microbiology.
Learn how to make clinical diagnoses of diseases in a course taught by health professionals from local hospitals, and become a part of our renowned research culture in your year 3 lab-based independent research project. The School of Biological Sciences was ranked 25th in the UK for influential research output by the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, and many of our former students have contributed to published scientific papers.
The skills and experience you’ll gain as a Medical Biochemistry student will make you a highly attractive candidate to employers in a variety of sectors. You’ll gain laboratory experience across all three years and receive a grounding in physiology, genetics and microbiology as well as biochemistry for medicine. Our alumni have gone on to careers in fields including forensic medicine, biotechnology and medical research.
- Learn from specialist medical professionals based in local hospitals.
- Gain invaluable transferable skills to take into the workplace, including lab experience, data handling and communication skills.
- Take part in world-class research led by renowned academics, with 76% of our Biological Sciences research ranked world-leading and internationally excellent.
- Join a close-knit and supportive learning community with a high staff-to- student ratio.
- Graduate with a Royal Society of Biology accredited degree.
Becoming a Bioscientist
In this module you will develop an understanding of key scientific concepts and effective science communication. You will learn how to process and critique different forms of information, and how to communicate science to both scientific and non-scientific audiences using diverse media, forms and methods. You will also examine ethical issues surrounding research and intervention.
Cell Biology and Evolution
Chemistry of Life
In this module you will develop an understanding of fundamental chemistry of life processes and laboratory experiments. You will look at the basics of biological chemistry, including the chemical bonding and reactivity of important biomolecules, intermolecular forces, 3D structure and isomerism. You will analyse equilibria in acid / base biobechimstry and solve related problems. You will also learn the basic biochemical lab techniques and carry out consequent data analysis.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the basics of biochemistry. You will look at some of the key techniques for biochemical analysis, including spectroscopy, and the fundamentals of protein structure. You will examine structure / fuction relationships in myoglobin, hemoglobin and the serine proteases, and learn to solve biochemical kinectics problems using the Michaelis-Menten equation. You will also consider how to solve thermodynamic problems, including equilibrium constants.
Protein Biochemistry and Enzymology
Introductory Animal Physiology
Bioenergetics, Biosynthesis and Metabolic Regulations
In this module you will develop an understanding of the major pathways for electron transfer and energy conversion in living systems. You will look at how energy is utilised in biosynthesis, and the role of enzymes, coenzymes and metabolic intermediates. You will examine the priniciple of flux control and metabolic regulation and the mechanisms that balance the activity of key pathways to physiological demands. You will also consider the main features of human energy metabolism and their relationship to obesity and diabetes, and analyse the importance of protein glycosylation and how protein glycans are biosynthesised.
Protein Structure and Function
In this module you will develop an understanding of protein structure, protein folding in vivo, and the principles of protein engineering and protein-protein interaction. You will look at methods for the separation, purification, detection, and structural analysis of proteins, gaining practical experience in using techniques such as SDS-PAGE and Western blotting. You will also examine mechanisms of enzyme catalysis and regulation.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the chemical structure of DNA and RNA, and how genes are organised and expressed. You will look at gene characterisation using recombinant DNA technology, and will consider DNA as a template for RNA synthesis. You will also become familiar with molecular biology techiques that are widely used in the life sciences, including the preparation and handling of purified DNA, restriction enzyme digestions, and polymerase chain reaction.
Molecular and Cellular Immunology
In this module you will develop an understanding of the mammalian immune systems at cellular and molecular levels, and how this is determined by antibody structure and function, the complement system, and the impact of immunoglobulin genetics. You will look at the role of T cells as effectors and regulators of immune responses, allergic reactions, transplant rejection, and the HIV virus and the pathogenesis of AIDS on the immune system. You will examine antipody antigen reaction techniques used in immunology, and consider the isolation and purification of lymphocytes, their morphology and abundance.
Neuronal and Cellular Signalling
In this module you will develop an understanding of the structure of the nervous system, including the main types of cells and the transmission of signals within neuronal networks. You will look at the process of synpatic transmittion, including both electrical and chemical synapses. You will examine the different types of neurotransmitters and receptors and the mechanism of intracellular signalling, considering the role of second messenager signalling pathways. You will also enhance your practical skills, such as isolating and characterising synaptosomes and using these for the study of transmitter metabolism.
Physical Biochemistry for Life Scientists
In this module you will develop an understanding of the behaviour of macromolecules in solution, looking at the key analytical methods used for their study. You will become familiar with a range of spectrosopic techniques, including fluorescence, phosphorescence and circular dichroism. You will examine the phenomena of surface plasmon resonance measurements, interferometry, and biocalorimetry, and look at the principles of scanning force microscopy (SFM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM). You will also consider the importance of the emerging field of nanobiotechnology.
Individual Research Project
You will carry out an individual laboratory or theoretical investigation, supervised by an appropriate member of staff, who will provide guidance throughout. You will apply the knowledge and skills learned throughout your studies, and learn to organise data in a logical, presentable and persuasive way. You will produce a report, around 8,000 words in length, and will deliver an oral presentation with a summary of your findings.
Cell and Molecular Neuroscience
In this module you will develop an understanding of the basic principles of brain development and the molecular mechanisms which regulate this, including the synthesis, storage and release of neurotransmitters. You will look at the molecular basis of learning and memory, considering brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy and bipolar disorder. You will assess the problem of brain damage in preterm babies and infants, and the methods available to help provide neuroprotection, with insights from a clinical practitioner.
Clinical Diagnosis of Disease
In this module you will develop an understanding of how physiology, biochemistry and biochemical methodologies can be applied to the investigation of disease and monitoring of treatment. You will look at the chemical pathology of a range of physiological systems, including kidney, liver, heart, thyroid and bone, and clinical biochemical aspects of cancer diagnosis, infertility and epilepsy. You will examine the rationale behind the analyses used in the biochemical investigation of disease, and consider the clinical aspects of disorders affecting the various organs and systems.
In addition to these mandatory course units there are a number of optional course units available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course units that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new units may be offered or existing units may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.
Only core modules are taken
In this module you will develop an understanding of some of the key concepts in microbiology, including the study of bacteria, viruses, and eukaryotic microbes. You will look at how microbes are distinguished and classified, and discuss bacterial growth and differentiation. You will examine the importance of microorganisms in health and disease, including human welfare issues such as opportunistic infections and the role of microorganisms in cancer.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the key methologies used in cell biology, becoming familar with modern microscopy techniques and live cell imaging studies. You will look at the basic mechanisms that regulate the cell cycle and the regulatory mechanisms for DNA synthesis and mitosis. You will examine mitochondria and chlorpolast organelle functions, and the principles of polar bodies and asymmetric cell division. You will assess the basic mechanisms underlying cell shape and mobility, and consider the evolutionary constrains of cellular functions.
Essential Human Physiology in Health and Disease
In this module you will develop an understanding of the function and integration of selected human physiological systems in normal physiology and disease. You will look at endocrine control in the human body, specifically the role of the hypothalamo-pituitary axis and the function and regulation of thyroid hormones. You will examine the organisation and integration of the nervous, cardiovascular, respiratory and systems and the principles of whole muscle physiology. You will also consider the composition and functions of blood and haemostasis, and the the analysis and interpretation of physiological experiments.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the processes that lead from a fertilised egg into complex tissues and organisms with well-defined body plans. You will look at the basic cellular and genetic mechanisms that regulate development, and the evolutionary outcomes of developmental changes. You will examine model organisms in which both embryological and genetic approaches have been developed, and will explore axis establishment, segmentation, cellular differentiation, organ development, and the widely-shared signalling pathways that underpin them.
Pharmacology and Toxicology
In this module you will develop an understanding of drug-receptor interactions and the methods used to characterise drug action. You will look at the factors that influence drug action and drug toxicity within the body, examining the concepts of drug absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion. You will consider the pharmacology of a number of major drug classes, including antihypertensives, antidepressants, analgesics, general and local anaesthetics and drugs affecting the automonic system.
Plant Biochemistry and Biosynthesis
Special Study - Dissertation
You will carry out a literature research project on a biological or biochemical topic of your choice, producing a written report around 7,500 words in length. You will critically evaluate recent scientific literature on your chosen topic, highlighting how data has been used to generate and test hypotheses.
Biology of Parasitic Diseases
In this module you will develop an understanding of the principles of parasitism and the protective mechanisms used by immuno-competent hosts to limit the spread of infection. You will look at the biological strategies used by a range of unicellular and multicellular organisms to colonise host causing disease in human and non-human hosts. You will consider studies on the pathology and the cellular immunity elicited by various parasites, and the immune evasion strategies used by widely distributed human parasites to protect themselves from immune attack. You will also address the principles and prospects of anti-parasitic vaccination in the 21stCentury.
Industrial Biotechnology in a Changing World
Molecular and Medical Microbiology
In this module you will develop an understanding of medical microbiology with particular reference to bacteria and pathogenic eukaryotes. You will look at pathogen mechanisms for infection, the host immune response to infection, vaccine development, gastrointestinal health and disease, resistance to antibiotics, anti-parasite chemotherapy and the genetic and biochemical validation of parasite drug targets in the kinetoplastidae. You will examine the role of probiotics in health and disease, and consider a range of microbiological and molecular diagnostics techniques.
Applications of Advanced Molecular Biology Methods
In this module you will develop an understanding of the transformation technologies used in the study of gene expression, gene therapy and biotechnological applications of genetically modified organisms. You will consider how molecular biology research is employed in a range of systems, including animal and plant models, as well as the simple social amoeba, Dictyostelium. You will also analyse the use of molecular genetics in the study of circadian rhythms.
Cell and Molecular Biology of Cancer
In this module you will develop an understanding of advanced concepts and recent advances in fundamentally important areas of cell biology revelant to cancer, including developments in microscopy, imaging and molecular genetic techniques. You will look at current concepts in molecular cell biology, such as cell-cell adhesion and signalling, stem cells in development and in diseases, and cancer and the role of the cytoskeleton. You will examine topics in cancer biology including oncogenes, tumour suppressor genes and caretaker genes, and the signalling and regulatory pathways these are involved in. You will also examine the diagnosis and rational of cancer therapies.
Functional Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics
In this module you will develop an understanding of the structure-function relationships in proteins, and how new technologies are being used to exploit protein sequence data. You will look at how genome-wide analyses can be used to examine regulation in biological systems, and consider modes of specific recognition in mediating protein interactions.
Human Embryology and Endocrinology
In this module you will develop an understanding of human embryos and the development and function of particular endocrine systems. You will look at embryonic development, including gastrulation and specification of the axes, and the initial steps in the formation and patterning of the brain and spinal cord. You will examine craniofacial development, pharyngeal gland formation and sex determination, analysing the cellular and molecular processes involved in detail. You will also consider some of the birth defects that can arise, the genetic and environmental insults that cause them, and investigations which inform their prevention.
Molecular Basis of Inherited Disease
In this module you will develop an understanding of the theory, technology, and clinical practice of human molecular genetics. You will look at a range of genetic disorders and inborn errors of metabolism such as muscular dystrophies, cystic fibrosis, haemophilia, lysosomal storage disorders, haemoglobinopathies, mitochondrial respiratory chain disorders, neurotransmitter synthesis disorders, lipoprotein diseases and primary immunodeficiencies. You will examine the concepts and significance of human inherited disease gene mapping and consider the importance of the human genome project.
Each year you will take modules worth a total of 120 credits, with most individual modules worth 15 credits. In your final year, your Individual Research Project is worth 30 credits.
The first year is formative, while outcomes of your second and third year contribute one third and two-thirds of your final degree classification respectively.
You will attend a mixture of lectures, seminars and small-group tutorials, with class sizes that range from 6 to 180 students. Practical classes are a major part of all first and second year modules, and include experiments that are integral to the subject, helping to familarise you with the material and augment your understanding of key topics. These are either laboratory-based or field-based with laboratory follow-up. In your third year, you will complete an individual research project supervised by one of our academics, and you may have the opportunity to contribute towards a published scientific paper. The individual research project is assessed on the basis of a written report, supervisor assessment, and an oral presentation.
During your first and second years, you will complete essays and reports, and sit written examinations. In your third year, assignments include a range of activities, such as preparation of posters, oral presentations, creation of leaflets and podcasts, coursework essays, mock research grant applications and scientific news-and-views articles, as well as analysis of data from online repositories in mini-research projects.
Proportions of study time will vary depending on modules taken, but typically:
You will spend 32% of your study time in scheduled learning and teaching activities, and 68% in guided independent study.
You will spend 25% of your study time in scheduled learning and teaching activities, and 75% in guided independent study.
You will spend 27% of your study time in scheduled learning and teaching activities, and 73% in guided independent study.
Proportions of assessment types will vary depending on modules taken, but typically:
Written exams account for 61% of the total assessment for this year of study, 5% will be assessed through practical exams, and 34% will be assessed through coursework.
Written exams account for 71% of the total assessment for this year of study, 4% will be assessed through practical exams, and 25% will be assessed through coursework.
Written exams account for 59% of the total assessment for this year of study, 12% will be assessed through practical exams, and 29% will be assessed through coursework.
Home and EU students tuition fee per year*: £9,250
International students tuition fee per year**: £18,900
Other essential costs***: £235
How do I pay for it? Find out more about funding options, including loans, grants, scholarships and bursaries.
*Tuition fees for UK and EU nationals starting a degree in the academic year 2017/18 will be £9,250 for that year, and is shown for reference purposes only. The tuition fee for UK and EU undergraduates starting their degrees in 2018 is controlled by Government regulations, and details are not yet known. The UK Government has also announced that EU students starting an undergraduate degree in 2018/19 will pay the same level of fee as a UK student for the duration of their degree.
**Fees for international students may increase year-on-year in line with the rate of inflation. Royal Holloway's policy is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information see fees and funding and our terms & conditions.
***These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree programme at Royal Holloway. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing etc., have not been included.