Biology of Cells

In Short

In the first couple of weeks Biology of Cells (BoC) gives you a quick tour of the cell, covering most of A-level Biology and Beyond.  The course outlines the chemistry of enzymes and protein structures, before utilising this to describe metabolism in plants, bacteria and animals.  A second focus is on the nature and expression of genetic information. Finally cell signalling and a few interesting elements of multicellular development are covered.

Since the scope of this course is huge, but it is also taught to a relatively high proportion of ‘non-biologists’, it necessarily picks out classic examples  and covers them quickly: BoC is a fast paced option covering diverse topics, rather than building on principles throughout. There’s a pretty good balance between plants and animals (and fundamental biology) making this a good gateway into CDB, BMB and Plants. Lecture topics range from Mendel’s experiments to corporate genomics, but this is the most ‘experimental’ biology option: Principles are taught via experimental results, and developing an understanding of experimental methods and interpretation is emphasised in BoC.

As a popular option (historically taught in the luxurious Babbage), lectures tend to be excellent quality – many lecturers play to the crowd.  However some important topics are unavoidably dull. Handouts tend to be good and improving. Only good things have been said about BoC supervisions at Christ’s, although workload, including mocks, can be high for first year.

The exam is made up of compulsory Short Answer Questions which cover most topics, and a choice of 40 minute essays. The 3 hour practical exam accounts for an unusually high percentage of the mark, and requires much revision.

Practicals

These are long compared to other biology options and weekly. Practicals start off teaching basic microscopy etc. (and labour the point somewhat), and cover most lecture topics. You’ll  work with live  bacteria, yeasts, drosophila, algae etc. etc. and the genetic experiments can be followed over weeks.  Report writing is encouraged, but dull and never compulsory: It’s worth getting you head around the basic but tricky maths whist the numerous, helpful demonstrators of BoC practicals are present.