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 Department of Biological Sciences, featuring cutting-edge technology including mass spectrometry, bioinformatics and gene and protein sequencing equipment.
The flexible degree course 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. 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.
Our flexible degree programmes enable you to apply to take a Placement Year, which can be spent studying abroad, working or carrying out voluntary work. You can even do all three if you want to (minimum of three months each)! To recognise the importance of this additional skills development and university experience, your Placement Year will be formally recognised on your degree certificate and will contribute to your overall result. Please note conditions may apply if your degree already includes an integrated year out, please contact the Careers & Employability Service for more information. Find out more
- Gain Laboratory experience across all three years of study
- Learn how to make clinical diagnosis of diseases from health professionals from local hospitals
- Understand the importance of biochemistry in medicine
- Develop your knowledge of fundamental biochemistry, physiology, cell biology and genetics
- Join a close-knit and supportive learning community with a high staff-to-student ratio.
Core ModulesYear 1
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.
In this module you will develop an understanding of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell biology and the key functions of these structures and organelles. You will look at the origin of life and the principles of natural selection and evolution. You will also learn the practical technique involved in microscopy, including fixation techniques for the analysis of cell ultrastructure and aseptic techniques for bacterial culture.
In this module you will develop an understanding of genes and their behaviour in individuals organisms, in populations, and at the molecular level within the cell. You will look cellular genetics with respect to mitosis, meiosis, inheritance and recombination, and consider the fundamentals of gene expression, its control, and DNA replication. You will examine genome organisation, transcription, and translation, and gain practical experience of using techniques in microscopy, including slide preparation for the observation of chromosomes.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the 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 biochemistry 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 / function relationships in myoglobin, hemoglobin and the serine proteases, and learn to solve biochemical kinetic problems using the Michaelis-Menten equation. You will also consider how to solve thermodynamic problems, including equilibrium constants.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the main concepts of classic protein biochemistry including protein purification, enzyme kinetics, and enzyme structure. You will look at the basic principles behind a number of protein purification techniques, and consider basic enzyme kinetics using the Michaelis-Menten equation and derived methods to analyse kinetic data. You will examine the underlying biochemistry of a variety of analytical methods and their applications in research and diagnostics, gaining practical experience in performing some of these methods in laboratory practicals. You will also analyse the concept of biochemical buffers and learn how to make these from stock solutions.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the fundamental physiological systems that are required to maintain complex multi-cellular animals, specifically those involved in communication, transport and homeostasis. You will look at how systems and specialised organs have evolved and interact to obtain oxygen from the environment whilst maintaining optimal internal conditions for cellular function. You will consider the mechanisms, organisation, functions and integration of the nervous and endocrine systems to show how neural (somatic and autonomic) and hormonal signalling enable an animal to sense and respond both consciously (e.g. movement) and unconsciously (e.g. internal homeostasis). You will also examine the evolution of the closed circulatory system, separated into pulmonary and systemic circuits and driven by a four-chambered heart, essential for the body-wide distribution of nutrients, oxygen and hormones, and for the removal of waste products.
In this module you will develop an understanding of specific human physiological systems in health and disease. You will look at how these systems function under normal conditions and consider the consequences of dysfunction and/or dysregulation resulting from genetic or acquired disease. You will consider how special sensory systems convert light, sound and position/movement into electrical signals that are transmitted to the brain and how our ability to sense the environment can be disrupted by diseased or damaged receptors. You will examine skeletal muscle function, how movement is controlled and sensed by the somatic nervous system and the causes and consequences of selected muscle and nerve disorders. You will also cover aspects of basic haematology, including the fluid and formed elements of blood and their roles in inflammation and the control of bleeding following vessel damage.
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.
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 techniques that are widely used in the life sciences, including the preparation and handling of purified DNA, restriction enzyme digestions, and polymerase chain reaction.
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.
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 synaptic transmission, including both electrical and chemical synapses. You will examine the different types of neurotransmitters and receptors and the mechanism of intracellular signaling, considering the role of second messenger signaling pathways. You will also enhance your practical skills, such as isolating and characterising synaptosomes and using these for the study of transmitter metabolism.
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 spectroscopic 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.
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.
In this module you will develop an understanding of human metabolism, physiology and immunology. You will look at the main features of human energy metabolism, including nutrition, the importance of vitamins, and the biochemical basis of specific disorders, such as diabetes, hypercholesterolemia and obesity. You will consider the disorders associated with lipid dysfunction and examine other metabolic disorders such as hypercholesterolemia.
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.
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.
There are a number of optional course modules available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course modules that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new modules may be offered or existing modules may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.Year 1
- All modules are core
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.
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 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.
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 autonomic system.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the key energy-generating reaction of photosynthesis and how storage polysaccharides are produced by plants from carbon dioxide and water. You will look at the key biochemical aspects of the nitrogen biosphere cycle and how plants assimilate nitrogen and produce aromatic amino acids. You will examine molecular targets for herbicides in plants, approaches to weed control management, and sustainable nitrogen for agriculture. You will consider the major groups of secondary plant compounds and their roles in plant function and chemical ecology. You will also integrate knowledge of biochemistry, metabolic pathways, chemical ecology, modern agriculture and the use of plant-derived compounds in the pharmaceutical industry, and analyse their importance for strategies to address global challenges.
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 publications on your chosen topic, highlighting how data has been used to generate and test hypotheses.
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 21st Century.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the role of the biotechnology sector in the search for a green economy and a sustainable future. You will look at the exploitation of plants and microorganisms for the production of bioenergy and biomass, and as pharmaceuticals and naturaceuticals. You will examine the concepts and measurements of food security, and consider the evolving debate on the use of genetically modified organisms.
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.
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.
In this module you will develop an understanding of advanced concepts and recent advances in fundamentally important areas of cell biology relevant 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 signaling, 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 signaling and regulatory pathways these are involved in. You will also examine the diagnosis and rationale of cancer therapies.
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.
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.
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.
Teaching & assessment
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.
A Levels: ABB-BBB
- Including Biology plus another science from either Chemistry, Maths or Physics. A Pass is required in the practical element of all Science A-levels taken.
- At least five GCSEs at grade A*-C or 9-4 including English and Mathematics.
Where an applicant is taking the EPQ alongside A-levels, the EPQ will be taken into consideration and result in lower A-level grades being required. For students who are from backgrounds or personal circumstances that mean they are generally less likely to go to university you may be eligible for an alternative lower offer. Follow the link to learn more about our contextual offers.
English language requirements
All teaching at Royal Holloway is in English. You will therefore need to have good enough written and spoken English to cope with your studies right from the start.
The scores we require
- IELTS: 6.5 overall, with no subscore lower than 5.5.
- Pearson Test of English: 61 overall. No subscore lower than 51.
- Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE III.
- Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) grade C.
For more information about country-specific entry requirements for your country please visit here.
For international students who do not meet the direct entry requirements, the International Study Centre offers the following pathway programmes:
● International Foundation Year - for progression to the first year of an undergraduate degree.
● International Year One - for progression to the second year of an undergraduate degree. You can join the International Year One in January 2021 and progress to degree study in September 2021.
Your future career
Medical Biochemistry at Royal Holloway, University of London is geared towards making you an attractive candidate to potential employers in a wide range of sectors. You’ll graduate with extensive lab-based experience and a range of specialist knowledge and transferrable skills, undertaking an independent research project in year 3.
Our alumni go on to pursue careers in fields including medicine, forensic science, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. Our close-knit graduate network means that alumni regularly visit to share their knowledge and experience with current students, helping to better prepare you for a fulfilling career in your chosen field.
Fees & funding
Home (UK) students tuition fee per year*: £9,250
EU and International students tuition fee per year**: £22,600
Other essential costs***: £235
How do I pay for it? Find out more about funding options, including loans, scholarships and bursaries. UK students who have already taken out a tuition fee loan for undergraduate study should check their eligibility for additional funding directly with the relevant awards body.
*The tuition fee for UK undergraduates is controlled by Government regulations. For students starting a degree in the academic year 2020/21, the fee will be £9,250 for that year. The fee for UK undergraduates starting in 2021/22 has not yet been confirmed.
**The Government has confirmed that EU nationals starting a degree in 2020/21 will pay the same fee as UK students for the duration of their course. For EU nationals starting a degree in 2021/22, the UK Government has recently confirmed that you will not be eligible to pay the same fees as UK students, nor be eligible for funding from the Student Loans Company. This means you will be classified as an international student. At Royal Holloway, we wish to support those students affected by this change in status through this transition. For eligible EU students starting their course with us in September 2021, we will award an automatic fee reduction which brings your fee into line with the fee paid by UK students. This will apply for the duration of your course.
Fees for international students may increase year-on-year in line with the rate of inflation. The policy at Royal Holloway is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information see fees and funding and our terms and conditions. Fees shown above are for 2020/21 and are displayed for indicative purposes only.
***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.