Life Sciences

Biochemistry, Biological Sciences & Human Sciences

Alison Woollard (Biochemistry Tutor) was the 2013 Royal Institution Christmas Lecturer, presenting the “Life Fantastic” series broadcast on BBC4 at the end of December (you can watch them at http://www.rigb.org/christmas-lectures/watch).

Undergraduate subjects offered

All three of these subjects cover the broad area of Life Sciences. What is distinctive about each? Biochemistry (referred to as Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry in the prospectus) looks at cell function from a molecular, mechanistic viewpoint. In Biological Sciences, the focus is on organisms, how they evolve and how they interact with each other and their environment. Human Sciences spans human culture, biology, and society, anchored within an evolutionary perspective.

In Hertford, we teach all three degree subjects in the same ways as other colleges, but have combined our research and teaching strengths in a range of topics from molecules, through health and disease, to environmental science.  However, what is special and novel about our approach, academically and socially, is that all our Life Sciences students and their tutors have the benefits of also belonging to a vibrant  ‘subject family’, with joint academic and social events. These include the annual ‘Darwin dinner’ with undergraduate students, Hertford-based graduate students and tutors.  Another great event in the social calendar is ‘schools dinner’ where finalists come together with tutors after their Final examinations have finished, to relax, reminisce, and look to the future.  The emphasis is on seeking to provide a supportive and happy learning environment where all will reach their potential in collaboration with one another, irrespective of their background and life experiences. The central location of Hertford places it close to all the science departments (and libraries) in the South Parks Road area, where most science lectures and practical classes take place.

Biochemistry

The biochemistry degree is broad, covering all aspects of this diverse and fascinating subject, from genetics to macromolecular structure.  This diversity is reflected in the teaching offered to all Hertford undergraduates in this subject, who benefit from tutorials with leading researchers throughout their time in Oxford.  Some of this teaching is provided by Hertford tutors (especially in the first year), but in addition there are extensive opportunities to work with other tutors from around the University. 

Hertford is a popular choice for biochemistry students, and the subject boasts a strong record of academic success.  Doctoral research is a common destination for Hertford biochemistry graduates and tutors take a particular interest in mentoring undergraduates towards their first steps in this endeavour.

Biological Sciences

Biological Sciences is a strong subject in Hertford with a proud record of success and the breadth of this subject is reflected in the College teaching offered to all Hertford undergraduates, who benefit from tutorials with leading biologists throughout their time in Oxford.  While a core of this teaching is provided by Hertford tutors, there are extensive opportunities to work with other tutors from around the University, especially in the second and third years of the course.  At Hertford you can equally well specialise in the molecular, cellular, organismal or environmental aspects of the course and we have successful graduates who have specialised in each of these areas. 

Human Sciences

Human Sciences is by far the broadest degree in Oxford, a window into understanding how people come to be the way they are, culturally and physically.  From genetics, physiology and behaviour to sociology, demography and anthropology, it includes and introduces the methods of both the natural sciences and social sciences.  The unique feature of the Human Sciences approach is that it is as much about society and culture as it is about biology, requiring a very open-minded attitude and wide interests in the world; indeed, many of our students have had little previous science training.  In addition to enjoying the benefits of our large Life Sciences family in Hertford, we have joint social events with Hertford's tutors and students in Archaeology and Anthropology.

Studying Human Sciences will give you insights into many facets of human life, and give you a huge range of skills central to understanding and working with people, including methods in statistical analysis.  Such a broad course is hard work - but if you meet our students you'll see how much they love and enjoy it!

You'll have a busy schedule of lectures, and some practical work, with much teaching and social activity with students from other colleges being in the purpose-built Pauling Centre for Human Sciences.  In addition you'll have about 12 tutorials a term, and write an essay for each of them.  You'll be helped to develop the cautious, critical, organised and original thinking through the outstanding method of tutorial teaching.

We are delighted that Hertford has an outstandingly long and strong record of academic success in Human Sciences.

Subject facts

Biochemistry

Course duration: 4 years

Student uptake: 4 undergraduates per year

Biological Sciences

Course duration: 3 years

Student uptake: 4-6 undergraduates per year

Human Sciences

Course duration: 3 years

Student uptake: 3 undergraduates per year