This double module gives you the background skills in science necessary for the rest of the course. These include sufficient laboratory skills to perform experiments safely and successfully; the necessary mathematical and statistical skills for quantitative analysis of data. It also introduces the broad body of knowledge of chemical, biological and physical sciences necessary for the study of the biological and environmental sciences.
Variety of Life
Life on earth is amazingly diverse, colourful and multifaceted. The Variety of Life module introduces you to this diversity, tracing the tree of life from its roots to its branches. Beginning with simple, single-celled organisms like bacteria and protists, you discover the various forms of complex life that have evolved and how to classify them in a taxonomic system using characteristic features of each group. The module features a large number of practical sessions in which you engage with plants, animals and other organisms.
The Organism and its Environment
You will learn about the physiological, genetic and behavioural mechanisms that organisms employ to cope with the dynamic nature of Earth’s environment. This course has a significant practical component, so in addition to the theory you will hone your lab and field skills. The first half of the course focuses on behaviour and physiology, the second half is devoted to applied population genetics.
Microbiology and Cell Culture
This will introduce you to principal taxonomic groups of micro-organisms; examines their growth, physiology and culture, and their importance to humans and the biosphere. The module equips you with the necessary skills to carry out safe, aseptic practices with such organisms in a laboratory environment. It is an intensive module in which you spend an entire week in the laboratory. Currently, the laboratory week is taken during the Easter vacation.
Likely optional modules
Introduction to Environmental Systems
You will investigate animals and plants living in selected habitats and review factors which control populations and methods of determining distribution and abundance. It will also introduce you to the concept of energy in physical and biological systems. In this way the theme of energy will be seen as unifying all the various aspects of the relationships between organisms and their environments.
Plant Control Systems
This module investigates the physiology of a range of plant groups, integrating biology with the underlying physics. By studying communication and homeostatic processes as unifying themes, you will develop a holistic approach to the investigation of biological control systems and the means by which they respond to the environment.
Communication and Analysis in Science
Scientists must be able to effectively analyse, present and communicate scientific data, whether it originated from their own research or whether they are engaging with literature produced by other researchers. In addition, successful research depends on the careful and considerate planning and design of experiments and studies in the laboratory and field. This module helps you to develop your critical thinking skills as scientists, introduces you to various mathematical and statistical methods for analysing and presenting scientific data and explores important concepts relating to experimental design, measurement and sampling.
The Molecular Biology module offers you a unique practical experience of diverse laboratory skills associated with the isolation, handling and manipulation of DNA and proteins. During two weeks of intensive practical sessions, lectures and tutorials, this module will cover the main areas of theoretical molecular biology knowledge and its practical applications in current research. The module currently takes place during the summer vacation.
Chemistry for the Life Sciences
This module aims to provide you with an understanding of the fundamental concepts and practical applications of chemistry in a biological context. It aims to introduce you to the study of organic compounds and the links between molecular structure and properties, establishing connections with the behaviour of these compounds in biological systems. The module also aims to introduce some of the different methods that can be used in the identification of chemical compounds, and to encourage a critical approach to these methods.
Anatomy and Physiology
By examining mammalian anatomy and physiology and comparing these systems with those of a range of other animal groups you will develop an integrated understanding of animal form and function. Throughout this module, communication, evolutionary history and homeostatic processes are used as unifying themes.
Likely optional modules
Chemistry for the Environmental Sciences
Chemical processes shape the world we live in; the soil we use to produce food, the air we breathe and the water we drink. This module aims to provide you with an understanding of the fundamental concepts and practical applications of chemistry in an environmental context. You will be introduced to the chemistry of soil, water and the atmosphere and you also will learn how these three environments interact. The impact of human activity on the chemistry of the environment will be discussed in topics like the ozone layer, greenhouse gases, freshwater quality and hydraulic fracturing (fracking). This module has weekly lectures, supported by practical lab sessions, workshops and two local field trips.
Applied Plant Genetics
This module will cover some exciting topics explaining genetic/epigenetic mechanisms by which plants grow, make flowers, know when to flower and can turn different genes on and off to achieve these goals. We will also look at strategies to map and clone desirable genes. In this module, you will also do various experiments (9-5 for 5 days) and will explore how different genes are expressed under different temperature regimes. You will also clone these genes and use DNA markers to look into mapping populations etc. The laboratory part of the exam is currently taken in the first week of the Christmas vacation.
Reproduction and Development
This module examines the genetic and endocrine control of reproductive behaviour and other aspects of reproduction, of embryological growth and subsequent ontogeny of selected vertebrates and invertebrates. This allows you to develop an understanding of how the processes underpinning animal reproduction and development function and have evolved.
Animal Care and Behaviour
Here you will learn to quantify behaviour and consider the deeper meaning behind the different motivations and mechanisms behind various expressions of behaviour. You will also be introduced to some of the hot topics in modern animal care, and relate these topics to practical care for a variety of animal groups.
Underpinning all of the biosciences, evolution is central to understanding the diversity of life and the behaviour of biological systems. By studying the processes and drivers that result in evolutionary change, you will consider the nature of evolution, developing an understanding of both macro- and micro-scale evolutionary change.
Introduction to Bioinformatics
This module examines all aspects of the gathering of biological sequence data, and introduces the application and approaches to their analysis. Particular reference is made to the manipulation and analysis of DNA sequence data and three dimensional protein structural data. Topics include: molecular biology, genomics, phylogenetics, proteomics, metabolomics and online databases. A major focus is on practical use of bioinformatics tools and techniques and on understanding how bioinformatics can be used to address real research questions. The module aims to develop a systematic understanding of the role of computing in biological research, the fundamentals of molecular biology and to introduce the key concepts and techniques in bioinformatics.
For the Individual Study module, you choose a topic of interest to carry out a research project. You will develop your project and then carry out research in the laboratory or field to address one or more research questions with the support of an academic supervisor. You present your results in the form of a log book record of your work, a written thesis in the format of a manuscript submitted to an international scientific journal and an oral presentation to your fellow students and academic staff. The Individual Study module allows each student to develop their independent research skills.
Likely optional modules
Pests, Parasites and Pathogens
This module aims to teach you about pests, parasites and pathogens which affect animals and plants, and how they affect the wider world. The course begins with introduction to the taxonomy and biology of these organisms, the economic impacts they have on societies around the world, and the ways in which plants and animals have evolved to fight infection and infestation. We then discuss and critique the mechanisms by which humans have attempted to control pests, parasites and pathogens such as the use of antibiotics, pesticides, vaccination and biological control.
The module aims to extend the techniques and analyses introduced in the co-requisite module Introduction to Bioinformatics, focussing on building the computational skills to allow students to undertake complex analyses. The module develops an understanding of how to analyse and investigate bioinformatic questions using various development tools and how to make results available via differing visualisations. Central to this is building an understanding and ability to use various industry standard open source tools and to work in Linux. The module therefore develops an integrated understanding of various bioinformatic development and analysis tools and of how to build these into analysis pipelines.
Plant Responses to the Environment OR Animal Husbandry OR Animal Health and Genetics:
Plant Responses to the Environment
In this module you study how plants (despite being immobile) encounter various environmental threats (drought, high temperature, disease) and employ sophisticated genetic and biochemical mechanisms to thrive under stressful conditions. We need to grow 70% more food in the next forty years from ever shrinking land and lower quantities of fresh water. Understanding plant survival mechanisms especially those of crop plants is therefore vital for our food security in the coming decades. This module covers topics explaining plants/crop interaction with their environment to maximise productivity and is complemented with latest developments published in high impact peer reviewed journals.
The aims of the module are to explore the importance of animals in society and the scientific background to animal welfare issues. This includes the study and analysis of nutrition, good husbandry, pain perception, the ability of animals to cope with their environments and the physiological and behavioural aspects of welfare.
Animal Health and Genetics
Here you will study the major causes of ill-health in animals and will then examine the role of the immune system in fighting diseases and the effects of stress upon it. Diseases which pose zoonotic or anthroponotic threats and those which are notifiable will be emphasised. With a focus on student-led seminars of case studies you will gain an in-depth understanding of the biological, ecological and biochemical problems associated with a selection of the more important diseases.
You will spend 8 days in the mountains and coastlines of Snowdonia, North Wales. During this intensive course you will go from being a novice at quantifying habitats and asking ecological questions of the environment to an expert at turning the natural world into a form that can be quantified and objectively measured. Due to its intense nature, this module is one of the most mentally challenging of all the science modules you will take at Christ Church, but according to our student feedback, also one of the most enjoyable, both from an academic and general life skills point of view. There is a limit on the number of students who can take this module. This module is currently taken during the summer vacation.
Through the study of the fundamental science of radiobiology, you will bring together many aspects of physics, chemistry and biology, especially in the context of the damage done by ionising radiations to biological information processing systems. You will also be introduced to some of the medical and industrial applications of radioactivity.
Biological Imaging and Photography
This module will enable you to use a range modern photographic and other image capture and processing techniques as tools for studying of biological organisms. With a focus on using these techniques to extract biological information, and on developing an awareness of the limitations of the different approaches, you will learn to evaluate critically imaging approaches in a contextual setting.
Ecology and Conservation
In order to conserve we must first identify underlying ecological issues that make conservation necessary. In the first two thirds of this course you will explore the underpinning ecological concepts that help us to effectively plan and carry out conservation work. In the final third of the course, which is partly student led, you will apply these concepts to modern conservation themed issues.
Applied Biological Chemistry
The focus of this module is on analytical chemistry techniques applied to biological systems. You will gain practical experience in protein purification techniques such as ion-exchange, gel filtration and affinity chromatography using modern fast protein liquid chromatography equipment. Combined with a solid theoretical foundation you will become familiar with many analytical spectroscopic methods including infrared (IR), UV-VIS, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and crystallography, together with separation techniques like gas chromatography (GC), fast protein liquid chromatography (FPLC) and high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). By the end of this module, in addition to the practical skills, you are expected to be able to interpret and analyse experimental data independently. There is a limit on the number of students who can take this module.