In the second year there is greater specialisation and you can choose three of four themes:
(1) Genomes and Molecular Biology;
(2) Cell and Developmental Biology;
(3) Behaviour and Physiology of Organisms;
(4) Ecology and Evolution.
Research skills continue to be taught, and are compulsory. After the second-year exams, you will get a chance to develop enhanced research skills, through a range of longer extended skills training courses, that last for one or two weeks. Topics covered include: ecological fieldwork (in the UK and overseas), genome sequencing and genome editing. All overseas work requires financial contributions from the student.
Research Skills Training (First and Second Year)
Research skills training in years 1 and 2 is compulsory. Skills training is not necessarily linked to lectures, but will focus on providing practical skills relevant to modern biology, from the cellular and molecular to the ecological and taxonomic. It will also include quantitative skills, such as presentation and analysis of data.
To underline the importance of actually doing science, rather than just learning about it, all students will undertake their first mini-project in week 4 of their first term. Students will work in groups, under the guidance of a member of staff. They will be given a question to investigate, and asked to decide how they could best go about tackling it, and then collect some preliminary data to present to their colleagues.
Reports from some of the skills training sessions in years 1 and 2 will be collected and marked and will count towards formal assessment. The skills training will also be assessed through examination papers in years 1 and 2, where you might be asked to give details of experimental procedures, or undertake simple calculations.
Towards the end of year 1, all students attend a field course in Pembrokeshire, South Wales. This introduces students to several different habitats and allows them to improve their species ID skills and to use their quantitative skills to analyse data and present their findings.
In year 2, in Trinity Term, there is an opportunity to choose from a selection of extended skills training courses that are more specialist. There are two one-week courses and one two-week course on offer. Examples of courses that you might choose include: a one-week field course to Tenerife to study plant taxonomy; a one-week course on gene editing; a two-week course on cellular morphology, which includes electron microscopy; a two-week ecology field course to Borneo. The two-week course is written up in report form and submitted. This forms part of the FHS exams.
Please note that skills courses will change from time to time and that overseas work requires financial contributions from the student. We also cannot guarantee that all students will be offered their first-choice courses.
Paper 1: Essay paper. Students will write four essays from at least three themes to demonstrate synthesis and conceptual understanding. There will be a choice of three essays in each of the four themes (10% of BA).
Paper 2: Research Skills paper. A mixture of short answers and quantitative questions to test knowledge of skills training in year 2: e.g. understanding of protocols, calculations of rates, carrying out and interpreting statistical tests, interpreting R code etc under exam conditions (10% of BA).
Practical write-ups: Students will hand in two short practical write-ups (2000 words): one in Michaelmas term and one in Hilary. (10% of BA)
Coursework: the two-week advanced skills course will be written up in the style of a scientific report and submitted at the end of Trinity Term of second year (7.5% of BA).