You will be provided with the deep foundations of core knowledge, practical skills and competence in data handling that will be required for the more specialised subsequent years and your future career. This mirrors year 1 of our medical biochemistry programme.
You will learn about the structures and reactions of molecules essential for life (amino-acids, proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates and lipids) and fundamental chemistry including thermodynamics, bio-inorganic chemistry and acids, bases and buffers. You will also learn about the experimental, analytical and computational methods used by our academics to investigate life in molecular detail. This includes recombinant DNA techniques, a wide variety of spectroscopies, mass spectrometry and bioinformatics. Finally, these core concepts will be used to explain the biochemical basis for enzyme function, protein synthesis, energy production in the cell and selected metabolic pathways.
Knowledge learned in lectures is re-enforced and augmented during six hours of laboratory work per week. Experiments will develop both your core practical skills (making buffers, taking measurements, analysing data) and introduce you to designing experiments to test hypotheses. Experiments include the separation and visualisation of protein mixtures, measurement and characterisation of enzyme catalysed reactions and quantifying serum cholesterol levels using a fluorescence assay.
Weekly small-group tutorials with your personal tutor will enhance your skills in numeracy, data handling and report writing. You will be asked to either write an essay on a specific topic or to answer a series of problems focussed on a recently taught topic. In addition to this formal interaction, this module provides you with an opportunity to discuss the subject and develop your scientific understanding with an expert in the field. You will also have the option to select optional modules and discovery modules from across the University.
At the end of year 1, our flexible degree structure offers you the opportunity to transfer onto other suitable degree courses.
You will focus on in-depth and increasingly research-led study of the major areas that underpin modern biochemistry taught by experts in each topic.
In lectures, you will be taught around the following three themes:
Genetic engineering – explains how the recent advances in DNA cloning together with methods to perturb gene expression complement the core methods of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and restriction enzymes described in year 1. You will also learn how the proteins encoded by these synthetic genes are over-expressed and purified so that their function and structure can be deduced.
Protein structure and function – continues to develop an understanding of how proteins work via lectures on their dynamics, folding and aggregation. You will also learn about analytical techniques such as Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), electron microscopy and mass spectrometry. Finally, you will be taught advanced enzyme kinetics and their catalytic mechanisms, rational and directed evolution protein engineering, and be introduced to the molecular mechanisms of chaperones, antibodies and antibiotics.
Biochemistry of health and disease – integrates these concepts to understand the structure, dynamics and function of organelles, cells and tissues. In addition you will learn cell biology techniques, basic innate and adaptive immunology and cellular control mechanisms and dysfunction including the cell cycle, gene regulation, genetic disease, cell signalling and cellular communication.
You will further develop your laboratory skills and take greater responsibility for your experimental design as you undertake a number of mini-projects. In level 2, your weekly six hours in the laboratory run in one day-long session, often over several weeks, allowing the integration of multiple approaches to answer a single question, reflecting the approach of modern research science.
Practicals include: cell biology project to analyse the effects of epidermal growth factors on the cell cycle, and drug discovery project where you will identify potential inhibitors of a therapeutic target protein by a computational method, testing the potency of selected inhibitors by using a high-throughput plate reader assay. These longer assignments run alongside more traditional biochemistry experiments such as determination the stoichiometry and specific activity of an enzyme.
Topics of tutorials used to secure your learning from the lecture and practical modules include organic reaction mechanisms, plant biology, and strategies for gene cloning and protein expression. Alongside this subject-specific knowledge, other tutorials start training in transferable skills required to compete successfully in the employment market. These include mock interviews, report writing and, with your personal tutor, the design and delivery of presentations. You will again have the option to select optional modules and discovery modules from across the University in year 2.
At the end of year 2, you will have the opportunity to complete an industrial work placement, study abroad, or combined study and work abroad. This will add an additional year of study to your degree.
Your lectures will be given as three advanced topic modules. Each module comprises of 6-8 topics covering molecular life sciences in its broadest sense. This enables you to study subjects most relevant to your interests and future career. As advanced topics are given by research leaders, the lecture content is research-led and often describes recent discoveries yet to appear modern textbooks. These topics range from:
biophysics (e.g. membrane proteins, molecular motors)
biotechnology (e.g. natural product biosynthesis, synthetic biology and enzymes for biofuels)
mechanisms of disease
modern biochemical methods (structural, computational and ‘omics methods).
Your tutorial module will encompass tutorials, group work and presentations on critical analysis of scientific literature and writing, attendance at School research seminars, problem sets and self-directed learning projects. The latter exercises are based on model data that culminate in you analysing a real dataset obtained by nuclear magnetic resonance, mass spectrometry, electron microscopy or X-ray diffraction.
In the first semester, you will undertake an independent or group research project which further develops your analytical and communication skills. It will be a laboratory, literature or computer-based project, under the supervision of one of our expert research academics and will hypothesis-driven.
Recent laboratory projects include:
Investigating the function of a centrosomal protein by electron microscopy.
Using bioinformatics to understand proofreading thioesterases in natural product biosynthesis.
Using transcriptomics and proteomics to identify viral proteins that affect host cells.
Using NMR to understand fusidic acid resistance in bacteria.
Recent literature projects include:
Rhythms of life – are circadian rhythms important in infection and can they be exploited in anti-microbial therapy?
Cancer Stem Cells, Fact or Fiction?
Programmable Nucleases: The Future of Gene Therapy?
BAM – a catalyst for outer membrane protein insertion?
The specialisation and depth of your final year studies, together with your involvement in choosing the direction of your studies leaves you well placed to pursue your specialist interests and future career.
Integrated Masters (MBiol)
Our integrated Masters MBiol programme shares the same year 1 and 2 studying with our BSc programme, providing a foundation knowledge and skills.
Year 3 (MBiol)
You will study the same advanced topic modules and skill modules as BSc students. You will undertake advanced research practical training, which develops tailored biochemistry skills and provides the opportunity to become familiar with the cutting-edge research facilities available at Leeds. You'll also begin preparing for your extended research project which you take in year 4 by undertaking a literature review of the subject.
Year 4 (MBiol)
You’ll undertake an extended research project in one of the research laboratories under the supervision of one of our academics. Studying specialist research topics and a skills module will prepare you for life as a professional scientist. As you are fully integrated into a group, you will contribute to internationally-competitive research which can result in CV-enhancing publications. Previous projects resulting in publications included the use directed evolution to identify candidate protein biopharmaceuticals that are amenable to large scale manufacture and investigating bacterial outer membrane protein folding.
Details of typical modules/components for our courses will now be published after July 1st (instead of May 1st), due to current limitations as a result of covid-19. These details may change from time to time. Read more in our Terms and conditions.
Throughout your degree you will benefit from a range of opportunities to expand your intellectual horizons outside or within your subject area.
This course gives you the opportunity to choose from a range of discovery modules. They’re a great way to tailor your study around your interests or career aspirations and help you stand out from the crowd when you graduate. Find out more about discovery modules on our Broadening webpages.
Learning and teaching
You’ll have access to the very best learning resources and academic support during your studies. We’ve been awarded a Gold rating in the latest Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF, 2017), demonstrating our commitment to delivering consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for our students.
You’ll experience a wide range of teaching methods including lectures, tutorials and practicals. Your first and second years will focus on these three teaching methods, building your skills, understanding and knowledge in preparation for your final year research project, which will see you take on independent research and learning with the guidance of leading experts.
Across all years, additional workshop and seminar sessions will complement your lectures and lab practicals, and you will also undertake private study.
As a guide, a typical week in your first year includes nine to twelve hours of lectures, three to six hours of practical sessions in the laboratory, tutorials, workshop and seminar sessions, plus private study.
Independent study and research are also crucial to every year of the course. We have excellent library and computing facilities to support your learning, and the University Library offers training to help you make the most of them.
On this course you’ll be taught by our expert academics, from lecturers through to professors. You may also be taught by industry professionals with years of experience, as well as trained postgraduate researchers, connecting you to some of the brightest minds on campus.
We use a variety of assessment methods to help you develop a broad range of skills. These include practical work, data handling and problem-solving exercises, multiple-choice tests, group work, online and face-to-face discussion groups, computer-based simulations, essays, posters and oral presentations.