Biochemistry BSc (Hons)

Our Royal Society of Biology accredited Biochemistry BSc degree programme is the point where chemistry, biology and medicine meet.

If you are fascinated by the molecular world, and wish to pursue a career in an area with a direct and growing impact on key societal issues, Biochemistry is a great place to start.

The BSc Biochemistry course, with its specialist degree options, offers a fantastic opportunity to explore living organisms from a molecular and cellular perspective. We start with the foundations of chemistry, cell biology and genetics and lead you right up to cutting-edge research questions in the final year.

Our flexible degree programme gives you the chance to specialise in areas such as medical biochemistry and genetics. We put a particular emphasis on practical training and developing transferable skills that will be invaluable in a wide range of professional settings.

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Royal Society of Biology - Accredited Degree This programme has been accredited by the Royal Society of Biology. Accredited degree programmes contain a solid academic foundation in biological knowledge and key skills, and prepare graduates to address the needs of employers.

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Oliver Hartwell

Oliver Hartwell

Oxford Nanopore Technologies

“As it's a continually evolving area of science where breakthroughs are always being made, it feels great to be part of it.”

Our flexible Biochemistry BSc programme offers you the chance to specialise in areas such as Biology, Chemistry and Medicine.

In the first and second years, the course features chemistry modules taught by the School of Chemistry, and this knowledge feeds into your study of cell biology, physiology and genetics. In physical biochemistry and metabolism, we go to the very core of what makes living organisms tick.

Some of the themes in our second-year modules include membranes, energy transduction and gene cloning, which can be combined with your choice of optional modules, for instance on the molecular mechanisms of disease.

As part of your final-year project, you will have the chance to contribute to ongoing research in the School, which could see you working in one of our high-technology facilities, such as analysing metabolites using mass spectrometry in the Phenome Centre.

Why study this course

There are plenty of reasons to study BSc Biochemistry at the University of Birmingham:

  • World top 100 for Biological Sciences in the QS World University Rankings by subject 2018
  • Tailored options: The Biochemistry degree course offers a fantastic opportunity to explore living organisms from a molecular and cellular perspective.  Our modular course programme gives increasing flexibility in choosing modules that resonate with your interests.
  • Practical skills development: With a Biochemistry degree, you will acquire a wide range of skills, with particular emphasis on data analysis, experimental design and problem solving. Skills acquired in this course enable careers not just in the life science, but across a wide range of professions.
  • Employability: We are ranked 5th in the Russell Group for graduate prospects (The Complete University Guide 2019).
  • Research excellence:  Our experts are responding to key challenges of global importance. Find out more about research in the School of Biosciences.

Modules

Biochemistry students in laboratoryOur modular course programme gives increasing flexibility in choosing modules that resonate with your interests. Following a first year where all modules are compulsory, you take a combination of core and optional modules in the second year, while the final year includes only one core module and a broad choice of optional modules covering areas as diverse as cancer biology, immunology, neurobiology and mechanisms of human disease. 

For a description of modules see Biochemistry Module Information. The modules described here are the ones that we currently offer and will give you a good idea of the range of subjects that we teach. However as our undergraduate teaching is research led and we constantly review our teaching to ensure that the modules that we offer are up to date there may be changes to module titles and content.

Please note: The modules listed on the website for this programme are regularly reviewed to ensure they are up-to-date and informed by the latest research and teaching methods. Unless indicated otherwise, the modules listed for this programme are for students starting in 2019. On rare occasions, we may need to make unexpected changes to compulsory modules after that date; in this event we will contact offer holders as soon as possible to inform or consult them as appropriate.

First Year

The first year offers a set of modules that explores the full spectrum of biochemistry, from the physiology of living organism to the molecular details of particular biochemical reactions and the enzymes that catalyse these reactions. A key element is the Chemistry module.

First year modules

Fundamentals of Biochemistry - Fundamental biochemical processes taking place inside cells

Cell Biology and Physiology - Tissues, organelles, reproduction and development

Chemistry I - Inorganic and organic chemistry, including practical training.

Genetics I -  Storage of genetic information, gene expression and regulation, mitosis and meiosis, gene linkage and chromosome mapping.

Metabolism - Enzyme catalysis and regulation, metabolism of carbohydrates and vitamins, experimental techniques to study metabolic reactions.

Physical Biochemistry - The fundamental laws governing biochemical reactions and how we can explore them experimentally.

Widening Horizon Module (WHM) - allows you to explore content from other academic programmes of this university in the form of a stand-alone module. More information on WHMs can be found here.

Nora Miroslavova, Biochemistry graduate "The modules were taught by expert members of staff involved in the research field, which I found very interesting and stimulating."

Second Year

The second year features a combination of core modules that all biochemistry students follow, and two elective modules, where you can start to define your personal direction in the field.

Second year modules

Core modules (taken by all students on the Biochemistry programme)

Proteins and Enzymes – Protein structure and evolution, mechanisms of enzyme catalysis, techniques to determine protein structures.

Membranes, Energy and Metabolism – Biological membranes and their role in energy metabolism, regulation of metabolism by hormones and other factors

Molecular Biology and its Applications – Genetic analysis and gene cloning, DNA fingerprinting and forensics, genomics and computational approaches to genetics

Chemistry II - Spectroscopic techniques, synthesis of peptides, oligonucleotide and aromatic compounds, determining structures of simple organic molecules.

Communications and Skills in Biosciences – Science communication in videography, writing and speaking, ethics in science, analysis of the scientific literature.

Choose two optional modules
Example optional modules may include:

Cell and Developmental Biology - Development of multicellular organisms, interaction between cells and the cellular matrix, regulation of stem cell function.

Topics in Medical Biosciences – Neurobiology and neurotransmitters, pharmacology and anaesthetics, blood constituents and haemostasis, complement and immunity.

Genetics II – Organisation of genes and genomes, generation of genetic diversity, gene transmission and analysis of problems in transmission and molecular genetics.

Microbes and Man – The impact of microbes on humans, bacteria, fungi and viruses, common themes of infectious disease mechanisms.

Final Year

The core component of the final year is the Project, which covers 40 of 120 final year credits. In dialogue with a lecturer or professor, you will do your own research and be led to independence as a biochemist. The Biochemistry programme also includes one core module focussing firmly on analytical skills. Finally, a diverse spectrum of elective modules allows you to explore individual facets of biochemistry according to your personal preference and interests.
You may choose between a laboratory project, a two-part library research or a computing-based project. Students choose their project from an extensive list near the end of their 2nd year. Some even arrange a project independently in collaboration with an academic member of staff. Whichever path you choose, you will find that the project is particular highlight of your academic training and experience.

Final year modules

Core content

Project

Experimental Design, Analysis and Interpretation of Biochemical Data – Lectures and practicals focussing on analysing data from biochemical experiments, from considering experimental design, to preparing reagents to composing an experimental report.

Choose three optional modules* 
Example optional modules may include:

Structures of Destruction - Bacterial and viral pathogens explored from the perspective of their molecular structures, protein misfolding and amyloid diseases.

Bacterial Gene Regulation - How genes are switched on or off in response to external stimuli, how control of gene expression can be explored experimentally.

Cellular Signalling** - Signal transduction in and between cells, G-protein coupled receptors, phospholipid and Ca2+ signalling, ligand-gated ion channels and electrical responses.

Cancer Biology – Regulation of cell division and aberrations in malignant tumours, genetic bases of tumourigenesis, programmed cell death.

Molecular and Cellular Immunology |  Watch video - Evolution of the immune system, innate immunity, cell biology of immunity, structural basis of discrimination between self and non-self.

Molecular Basis of Bacterial Infection |  Watch video - Evolution of bacterial virulence, antibiotics and antibiotics resistance, genomic data in analysing pathogenicity.

Genetics III - Genetic variation in humans and model organisms, dynamics of chromosome organisation during mitosis and meiosis, genome instability.

Applied and Environmental Microbiology - Microbial communities, how they compete, and behave socially.

Cellular Neurobiology** |  Watch video - Neuronal function and neural development, synaptic function, transmitter receptors and ion channels.

Eukaryotic Gene Expression - The central processes in gene expression are transcription and translation. Control of gene expression plays an important role in development, homeostasis and disease. This module explores the molecular mechanisms used to control gene expression, including transcription initiation, post-transcriptional control and epigenetic.

Global Challenges and Plant Science | Plant growth and development in relation to food supply, biofuels and climate change. Research-based module with emphasis on analysis of the current research literature.

* Modules run either in Semester 1 or Semester 2. Particular combinations of modules may not be advisable, especially if all 3 choices were to run in the same semester.

** this module is under review and content will likely change from 2018/2019 onwards

Fees and funding

Standard Home/EU student fees 2019-20

For UK students beginning their studies in September 2019, the University of Birmingham will charge the maximum approved tuition fee per year. The fees for your first year of study will therefore be £9,250. Visit our tuition fees page for more information.

Standard international student fees 2019-20

International fee
Fee Band (Undergraduate) Full-time
Band 3a (Laboratory) £21,180

Learn more about fees and funding

Scholarships
Learn more about our scholarships and awards

Entry requirements

Number of A levels required:
3
Typical offer:
AAB
Required subjects and grades:
A level Chemistry and a second science°. Minimum of five GCSEs to include Mathematics, English and double award science at grade 4/C.

°Subjects accepted as 'second science': Biology, Human Biology, Mathematics (or Further Mathematics, or Statistics), Physics.

Specified subjects excluded for entry: General Studies, Critical Thinking, Citizenship Studies, Applied Science, Communication and Culture, Critical Studies, Global Perspectives, Science in Society and World Development.

Additional information:

BTEC Extended Diploma in Applied Science with sufficient Biology and Chemistry content is only accepted when combined with an A level in a required subject. Grades D*D*D* required in addition to grade B in a required subject A level.

BTEC Diploma accepted when combined with two acceptable A levels (Chemistry plus a second science°).

BTEC Subsidiary Diploma is not accepted.

Access to HE (Science) with sufficient Biology and Chemistry content is considered. Contact Admissions Team for details.

Other qualifications are considered – learn more about entry requirements.

International students:

International Baccalaureate Diploma: 6, 6, 5 in Higher level subjects plus 32 points overall. Higher level subjects need to include the required subjects as defined for the A-level qualification.

Standard English language requirements apply
Learn more about international entry requirements

Depending on your chosen course of study, you may also be interested in one of our foundation pathways, which offer specially structured programmes for international students whose qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to UK universities. Further details can be found on Birmingham International Academy web pages.

How to apply

Apply through UCAS at www.ucas.com
Learn more about applying

You’ll be taught using a combination of lectures, practical sessions and tutorials with lecturers using innovative teaching techniques where possible.

How you will learn

A core component of your final year is the project, which principally comes in two forms: as a laboratory-based project or as an extended dissertation. In both situations, a lecturer or professor will guide and advise you, but the main aim is to lead you to independence as a future graduate in your field. 

You will join one of the research groups in the School for the laboratory-based project, and you will work on a topic or question that draws on current research activity. You will receive training in relevant lab techniques and you will have to document your work and its results in a thesis-like report. 

The dissertation project asks you to explore the research literature in a narrowly defined area of scholarship, with three aims: one, to write a comprehensive review of that area, two, to explore analyse a small set of articles in depth, and three, to develop a new research proposal from your review and in-depth analysis. 

Our e-learning platform Canvas provides a wide range of learning resources. Recordings of lecture sessions, reading material and links to resources on external sites, quizzes, video material and so on. We use Canvas to provided individual feedback on some of the assessments, for instance on essays. Finally, Canvas serves as a discussion forum, where tailored to individual classes or groups, students can exchange questions, thoughts with each other and with lecturing staff.

Our Academic Skills Centre also offers you support with your learning. The centre is a place where you can develop your mathematical, academic writing and general academic skills. It is the centre's aim to help you to become a more effective and independent learner through the use of a range of high-quality and appropriate learning support services. These range from one-to-one support with mathematics and statistics based problems from experienced mathematicians, to workshops on a range of topics including note talking, reading, writing and presentation skills.

Your personal tutor

A personal tutorial system is an integral feature of our degree programme and your tutors will help you in supporting your academic progress, developing transferable skills and helping with any other issues. You will normally have the same tutor throughout the course, who will get to know you well as you progress towards graduation. Tutor groups include a maximum of 6 students and each tutor looks after one tutorial group in each of the years. You will have one-on-one meetings with your tutor at least once a term.

We have dedicated academic tutors who provide professional support, advice and guidance to students across a range of issues. They can meet with you to discuss extensions, disabilities, reasonable adjustments, extenuating circumstances, or talk through any problems you might be experiencing, and help you access wider support on campus and beyond. During your first year it is important that you have a smooth transition into University.  You will be able to talk to your tutors about this and discuss if there are particular areas where you need support. 

Seminars and tutorials

  • Lectures - At Birmingham, we support lectures through recordings of the session, so you can revisit and review parts of the session as needed. Lectures frequently include interactive elements, for instance by using instant polling. Occasionally, we use 'flipped' lectures, asking you to study a particular topic prior to a session, and using the contact time to explore the topic in more depth through problem solving exercises, question-and-answer sessions or lecturer-led group discussions. Student interaction using discussion boards, social media is expressively encouraged.
  • Practical classes - Laboratory-based practical work is an integral part of our degree. A typical practical session will last 3 hours allowing you to complete the work at your own pace. In addition to gaining important transferable skills, experience of practical work is essential if you wish to move into a research career and is valued by a wide range of employers. You will engage with academic and postgraduate researchers who will help you during these practical sessions.

Lecturers and world leading researchers

At Birmingham, research and teaching go hand-in-hand. Lecturers and professors contribute to scholarship in their fields and, as academic teachers, are keen to introduce you to what intrigues them.

From discovering the mechanisms underlying metabolism in healthy ageing to aiding the future of drug design, our research has the potential to both enhance and save lives. Antimicrobial resistance, brain development, and finding new ways to cure blood cancers are just some of our major research topics.

Our research informs and inspires our teaching, so you will benefit from the cutting-edge work of some of the world’s leading biochemists. In fact, sometimes our past experiments form the basis of our practical teaching sessions. You will also have the exciting opportunity to join one of our research groups, working on live research projects during your final year.

Find out more about research in the School of Biosciences.

Resources and facilities

Our spacious state-of-the-art teaching laboratories are the training ground for your skills development, and you will have access to high-technology facilities during your final-year project.

Contact hours

Throughout your Biochemistry degree you can expect an average of about 15 hours of contact time per week over the two teaching terms (autumn and spring). This will be made up of lectures, practical laboratory workshops and seminars. The proportion of time spent in each will vary depending on which year you are in and the optional modules you choose.

Assessment methods

Studying at degree-level is likely to develop in different ways from your previous experience of learning and teaching. As well as remembering biochemical facts you will learn how to demonstrate real understanding as you apply your knowlege to analyse and evaluate scientific information. Our ultimate aim is to help you develop into a skilled and creative biochemist.

Each module is assessed separately and you will be assessed in a variety of different ways. All modules contain some continuous assessment, that is, assessment taking place during the teaching period. Continuous assessment generally accounts for one quarter to one third of the mark for a given module, while the remainder is contributed by the end-of-year examination in the summer term. A subset of modules are assessed through course work, without an end-of-year examination.

At the beginning of each module, you'll be given information on how and when you'll be assessed for that particular programme of study. You'll receive feedback on each assessment within three weeks, so that you can learn from and build on what you have done. You'll be given feedback on any exams that you take; if you should fail an exam we will ensure that particularly detailed feedback is made available to enable you to learn for the future.

We are ranked Top 5 in the Russell Group for UG graduate prospects - Complete University Guide 2019

Graduates of the University of Birmingham are highly regarded among employers in the UK, and a Biochemistry degree from Birmingham is an excellent qualification for securing your future career in a diverse range of industries and employment sectors. Our graduates have done consistently well over the last several years, ranking 5th in the Russell Group in terms of Graduate Prospects. Whether you have a clear idea of where your future aspirations lie or want to consider the broad range of opportunities available once you have a Birmingham degree, our careers and employability service, known as Careers Network, can help you achieve your goal.

Almost 95% of our graduates are in employment or further study within six months of graduating  2015/16 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey

Advances in the biosciences are having a profound impact on our daily lives in areas from human health to conservation. Biotechnology, biological pharmaceuticals, and personalised medicine are key growth areas in the health sector. Over the next decade our increasing understanding of how genomes are regulated will revolutionise how we interact with the natural world. Environmental remediation, climate change and related themes pose multi-faceted challenges for the coming decades. Expert knowledge in biology and the life sciences will be in high demand for the foreseeable future, with excellent prospects for exciting and rewarding careers in research, education, media, industry, the NHS and the public sector.

A significant number of our graduates choose to take a further degree, a postgraduate Masters or PhD. For many career paths, a further degree is an essential stepping-stone, including (but not limited to) careers in research. While many of our graduates remain in Birmingham and join one of our prestigious research groups, they are also highly sought after by universities around the world.

Careers Network

Careers Network, our unique careers guidance service is tailored to your academic subject area. Our team source exclusive work experience opportunities to help you stand out amongst the competition, with mentoringglobal internships and placements available to you.  Once you have a career in your sights, one-to-one support with CVs and job applications will help give you the edge. In addition, our employer-endorsed award-winning Personal Skills Award (PSA) recognises your extra-curricular activities, and provides an accredited employability programme designed to improve your career prospects.

Professional accreditation

Royal Society of Biology - Accredited Degree This programme has been accredited by the Royal Society of Biology following an independent and rigorous assessment. Accredited degree programmes contain a solid academic foundation in biological knowledge and key skills, and prepare graduates to address the needs of employers. The accreditation criteria require evidence that graduates from accredited programmes meet defined sets of learning outcomes, including subject knowledge, technical ability and transferable skills.