Protein crystals and X-ray beams by Dan Dry/Argonne National Laboratory (www.flickr.com/people/argonne/) used under CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0 license

Studying Biochemistry at Merton

  • Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry is a vibrant and fast-moving subject, giving students the opportunity to study the molecular basis for life.
  • Merton admits two undergraduates each year reading for the four-year single honours degree in Biochemistry.
  • Biochemistry teaching at Merton is coordinated by Professor Matt Higgins, and Biochemists among the Fellowship include Professor Judith Armitage FRS, Professor Béla Novák, and Professor Nicole Zitzmann.
  • Students reading Biochemistry at Merton join a lively intellectual community – at undergraduate level the subject sits alongside Chemistry (which admits six students each year), Biology (four students) and Medicine (five students), and there are currently 15 graduates reading for higher degrees in Biochemistry or related subjects.
Student Profiles
Anna McQueen
Anna McQueen

Year: Second

Where are you from?: Southampton

Best thing about the collegiate system?
The best thing about being part of a college is the diverse range of people you get to interact with. As well as the people on your course and in your accommodation, there is a large number of people in your year group doing a variety of different subjects, and those in the years above and below, all of whom are part of the same wider circle that is the college. Living in the same environment, eating together in hall, socialising at the same events, and being able to pick the brains of those older than you are fantastic ways to meet new people and gain new friends from different backgrounds. Age, gender, religion, and subject are not a barrier between you and your potential best friend!

Best thing about your course?
Biochemistry at Oxford is incredibly broad, and you get to learn about everything. As most people haven’t done Biochemistry before university, the range of areas taught means you get to discover so many new and interesting topics that you didn’t realise existed! While it can seem a bit overwhelming at times, you’ll definitely be grateful when you find that your favourite topic is something that you wouldn’t have touched with a 10-foot barge pole if you had just read the description of it! 

Most important thing you’ve learnt?
Take every opportunity you can, without going over the top! Your primary motivation for being here will likely be to get a degree, but there is so much more to university life than studying. No matter your interests, whether you’re sporty, musical, theatrical, into food, or into politics, there is always something you can try and get involved in, the tricky thing can often be to remember to leave time to sleep! 

What are tutorials like?
Tutorial experience ranges from tutor to tutor, but generally you’ll have written an essay or answered some problem questions beforehand which they’ll have looked over and marked. The tutorial itself is a relatively informal discussion of the topic of the essay between the tutor and your tutorial partner(s), making sure everyone understands all the key points from the lecture series as well as some extra information that the tutor thinks is important. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing the answer to a question - with some gentle prompting from the tutor, someone will have that ‘lightbulb moment’ and discussion will continue. You get given back your essay with feedback, and that’s it! There will typically be one or two tutorials a week, so even if they seem scary at first you get used to them really quickly.

Willow Rolls
Willow Rolls

Year: Second

Where are you from?: Greater London

Why Merton?
When I visited Oxford on an Open Day, I viewed a few of the colleges but something about Merton felt right to me. Everyone was so friendly, the buildings were old but welcoming, and the gardens were beautiful and relaxing. It is a smaller college, which means you get to know everyone in your year and plenty of people in the other years. You are never far from someone to chat and catch up with.

Best thing about your course?
Biochemistry is a varied and exciting course. The range of topics means you never get bored of any single topic. All the lecturers are so passionate about their topics, you often find yourself fascinated and really enjoying a topic you would never have explored alone.

Most important thing you’ve learnt?
If in doubt – go for it. Whether this is in applying for university or an internship, trying a new sport or heading to a new event. I have been fortunate to have so many amazing opportunities here, and through hard work and just having a go, I don’t regret anything.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help – it’s a brave decision in itself and people are often very willing to help.

How do you cope with the workload?
Busy and intense – but completely manageable. I have one or two tutorials each week which need work to be prepared for and other contact hours like lectures and labs. Every day I manage to spend plenty of times with friends, catching up at mealtimes and in the evenings. I like to plan something exciting and new for each weekend to look forward to – and motivate myself to work efficiently. There is plenty of time to take part in other activities – I enjoy volunteering for the Oxford Hub on weekends.

Video: Biochemistry (Molecular and Cellular) at Oxford University
Course information
Average intake at Merton:

Two.

Key facts
Average intake at Merton:

Two.

Test:

None.

Written work:

None required.

Specific subjects:

Chemistry, plus another science or Mathematics, are essential. Mathematics itself is recommended. Biology beyond GCSE can also be helpful. We expect you to take and pass any practical component in your chosen science subjects.

Deferred entry:

Applications for deferred entry will be considered on their merits.