Teaching focuses on applying theory in practical settings in the lab and computer suits, developing your skills for employment. You will have the opportunity to gain a wide range of skills including molecular techniques (for example, for the study of DNA, RNA and proteins), bioinformatics, advanced light and electron microscopy, and cutting edge methodologies for the study of evolution and developmental biology. Throughout, there is a focus on the application of fundamental biology to real life issues.
Skills in scientific writing and presentation and numeracy skills are taught in the first year. In the second year there are compulsory modules such as Data Carpentry and Interrogating Genomes, which includes bioinformatics and analysing large datasets in general. Within year three various modules develop the skills needed for writing grant proposals or carrying out consultancy activity, developing Research literacy. An example is Advanced Genetics and Genomics, in which the students will synthesise information from the lectures and tutorials to address a current and challenging research question in the biological and medical sciences using the latest methodologies in Genetics and Genomics; thereby demonstrating awareness of current research.
As courses are reviewed regularly as part of our quality assurance framework, the modules you choose from may differ from those shown here.
Level 4 Modules, all compulsory:
- Biodiversity - (double credit module):
This module takes an integrated approach to the diversity of life. It looks at the classification of the living world, the theory of evolution that links all biology and interactions between organisms and their environment. The module concentrates on major structures and patterns in plants, animals and fungi, how they vary within each kingdom and the interrelationships of some of the phyla.
- Cell Biology & Genetics - (double credit module):
An introduction to cell function. Students will study the different types of molecules within cells and learn about cellular organelles and their functions.
- The Practicing Scientist - (double credit module):
A module designed to introduce, extend and apply the fundamental skills that underpin the practice of science. Key themes include hypothesis testing and the design of scientific investigations, mathematical topics and their application, the principles and application of statistical methods, and the recording, reporting and presentation of science.
The module provides a general introduction to the chemical principles that underpin a contemporary understanding of cell function at the molecular level. An overview of stoichiometry and reactions, chemical bonds and structures, and chemical equilibrium underpins content exploring the chemistry of familiar cellular macromolecules (DNA, proteins, carbohydrates, fats).
Cellular pathways for synthesis of these macromolecules will be outlined, and a study of protein structure will be linked with enzyme function and the chemical changes occurring within cells (kinetics and mechanisms). Catabolic pathways will be studied along with cellular energy metabolism.
Year 2 and final year
Level 5 Modules
A study of structure and function of prokaryotic and eukaryotic genomes at the molecular level with an overview on the experimental evidence that has contributed to current concepts, models and paradigms and practical experience of key molecular biology laboratory techniques. The module focuses on aspects of genetic engineering and environmental applications of modern molecular tools, with emphasis on phylogeny, ecology and evolution.
The module aims to provide essential training in professional career management skills designed to assist you in actively planning and preparing for your future career. It will take you through a career development cycle starting with discovering your potential, exploring opportunities (jobs, post graduate study or training), plotting a way forward and making it happen.
This module introduces students on how to get biologically meaningful answers from data while providing a generic introduction to concepts of ‘big data’ and machine learning. This conceptual framework is delivered via a more practical approach where students learn how to program, analyse, manage and communicate data from diverse biological disciplines using the R language for statistical computing.
This module focuses on patterns of genetic inheritance at different scales from individuals to populations to evolutionary lineages. It will develop an understanding of Mendelian/transmission, quantitative, population, ecological and evolutionary genetics and an ability to analyse and interpret genetic data.
This module provides an introduction to computational thinking in the biological sciences. This involves learning programming to tailor bespoke solutions to biological problems and developing a capacity to approach biological problems from a computational perspective (computational thinking). Additionally students are introduced to a variety of – omic data types (RNA, DNA, Protein-level), public databases and publicly available software for bioinformatics applications.
Optional - Choose the equivalent of 3 single modules from the following
- Animal Developmental Biology:
This module will present students with an in-depth introduction to the principles of developmental biology, and provide a broad overview of development processes and their regulation in animals.
This module focuses on eukaryotic cell structures and functions and highlights examples from animals, plants and fungi. The composition and functions of the cytoskeleton, cell membranes and cell components including chloroplasts, mitochondria and the nucleus will be discussed. In addition, cellular processes such as cell division and cell death will also be examined. Students will use well established methods such as fluorescent microscopy of living cells to experimentally investigate topics from lectures in lab classes.
An introduction to microbiology considering the structures, metabolism, regulatory signals, replication and growth exhibited by microorganisms. You will learn how to work in a Category 2 microbiology laboratory and have the opportunity to plan and execute simple experimental procedures that are important to work with bacteria and viruses. You will practise aseptic techniques, and several procedures used in diagnostic labs for bacterial identification.
- Biochemistry of Cell Function - (double credit module):
The module considers the biochemistry of eukaryotic cells with an emphasis on mammalian tissues. Using several approaches, we will explore the biochemistry of eukaryotic cells, including the chemical nature of the compounds that are involved in cellular processes. Examples of diseases caused by failures in these processes reinforce understanding and provide relevance and application.
An advanced study of the physiological, morphological and evolutionary mechanisms underlying behavioural traits and their variation in animals. Within this module, consideration is given to the influences of resource type and quality on animal behaviour, the evolutionary development of behavioural traits and the acquisition of new behaviours.
Level 6 Modues
- Project - (double credit module):
An individual project related to some aspect of the student's degree subject. The associated practical work may be conducted in a research or industrial laboratory or in the field, depending on the nature of the project.
- Professional Skills and Techniques:
This module focuses on the development of the professional skills, personalised to your career ambitions. You will select three ‘podules’ from a selection of podules, which draw upon our research expertise and links with external partners. Podules will cover a wide range topics relevant to your degree, such as advanced microscopy, protein biochemistry, species identification, geographic information systems, entrepreneurship or science communication. Each podule consists of an introductory lecture, plenty of hands-on experience, and a seminar in which you will learn more about the application of ‘your’ skill in different contexts.
- Advanced Genetics and Genomics:
The emphasis in this module is on the major theoretical and technological advances in Genetics and Genomics, and their significance in addressing the current challenges in biological and medical research. The module will specifically focus on the use of natural variation for the study of population history, selection inference, and analysing variation in complex traits; the use of comparative genomics and phylogenetics to understand evolutionary relationships and investigate gene and genome evolution; the role of microbiomes in human health and ecosystems and the study of gene function.
Optional: - Choose the equivalent of 4 single modules from the following
- Molecular Biology of Cancer:
An exploration of the nature and causes of cancer with particular emphasis on the molecular biology of underlying mechanisms. The module is framed around the concepts of the ‘hallmarks of cancer’ and will also explore the emerging field of cancer genomics as well as cover the therapeutic options for tumour patients.
- Advanced Topics in Wildlife Conservation:
The module will identify and deliver the concepts and practical skills used in wildlife conservation, integrating conservation at the landscape scale with other wider countryside land management. This will develop understanding of the use of practical conservation management in maintaining and enhancing biodiversity. The inter-disciplinary nature of the module is emphasised in identifying the role of policy and statutory controls for wildlife management, and the role of conservation science in their development and delivery.
- Evolution and Animal Development - (double credit module):
The shape, size and colour of each animal are produced during its development. This means that in order to study the evolution of animal biodiversity we need to study the evolution of development. In this module, we will not only discuss animal evolution at various timescales and levels, but we will also follow the development from egg (cell) to adult in a variety of animal species and compare the developmental programmes involved.
- Advanced Cell Biology and Bioimaging:
This module is designed to give students an in-depth appreciation of currently topical areas in the cell biology of mammals, yeast and plants, and the techniques underpinning the associated research. Topics to be covered will include cell signalling, the endomembrane system, and the cell cycle.
The key areas of genomics, human genetics and genetic variation will be introduced. An understanding of genetics in disease and how genomic medicine can be utilised to elucidate disease mechanisms and biology will be developed. Basic genetics and genomics will be discussed to enable development of understanding the role of genetics in disease and how genomic information can be utilised to elucidate disease mechanisms and biology.
Science has had a huge impact on all aspects of our lives, and the overall aim of this module is to set that influence in its social and historical context. We will address alternative views of the world, how they have been developed or replaced in the context of science and have a clear look at the strengths and weaknesses of a scientific world view. We will address ideas about the value of other life forms and introduce environmental philosophy.
The ‘Work Experience’ module is a supervised work-based learning experience. You will spend a minimum of 60 hours in a working environment that is relevant to your future career path. By learning how to reflect on your learning and professional development, and how to present your insights in a written essay and in a video, you will develop useful skills for your future job applications.
- Independent Study in Life Sciences:
A study (normally library-based) of a topic of the student's choosing that is relevant to the student's programme but not formally offered as part of the taught course.
We encourage our students to undertake a work placement as the experience will give you the competitive edge when you are applying for jobs. There are two optional work experience module, work experience over the summer or during the final year and an industrial placement for a year between the second and final year.
Work experience module
The ‘Work Experience’ module is a work-based, supervised learning experience, in which you will spend at least 115 hours in a working environment that has relevance for your subject. This is equivalent to 3 weeks full-time (7.5 hrs/day) or 6 weeks part time (~4 hrs/day) work. As part of the module, you will practice career management skills by reflecting on your interests and career aspirations and approaching potential employers about opportunities in their organisation. These will be integral elements linked to enhancing your overall employability.
We strongly believe that arranging a placement yourself will give you a head start after graduation, as you will have practiced essential career management skills. Ideally, it will be your responsibility to find, apply for and secure your work experience placement. If you get stuck, your subject lead, your academic advisor or your dissertation supervisor will be able to provide you with some contacts in a wide range of suitable organisations.
Cost of the opportunity: There may be some costs such as travel associated with work experience and these are not included in the course tuition fees
The Industrial Placement module provides the opportunity to gain first-hand experience of the application of theoretical and practical science within a professional environment, for example within an industrial biotechnology company, a research or hospital based
laboratory. You will have the chance to gain insight into various aspects of the work of a professional scientific employer and develop both practical laboratory skills and the ability to self-assess.
We will do what we can to suggest employers who may offer placements but experience tells us that successful students are usually those who show themselves to be pro-active in searching out their own placements.
You should also look carefully into what you will be paid as a placement student. Whilst many placements do come with a salary, sadly some companies and institutes do not feel they are obliged to offer a salary, and that the expenses they incur by hosting and training you are sufficient outlay for them. It is often hard to predict what a company or institute might be prepared to offer if they do not usually host placements; this should not discourage you from approaching potential hosts but you should likewise not feel bound to accept a non-paid placement if it is not possible in your financial situation. This issue of salary (or no salary) will have implications for you in terms of your finances and also for your funding status. We will guide you as best we can and give you advice on this during the application process, but you should make sure you understand your situation fully by talking about your placement, any salary and what this means for you, with the Student Finance department.
Great opportunities to study or work abroad
You may be able to go on a European or international study exchange
while you are at Brookes. Most exchanges take place in the second year.
Although we will help as much as we can with your plans, ultimately you
are responsible for organising and funding this study abroad.
Studying abroad provides an amazing opportunity to add value to your
- increasing your employability within an international market
- boosting your language skills
- building your confidence in adapting to new situations
- improving your knowledge of different cultures.
While on exchange you will have the opportunity to study for comparable
courses, allowing you to gain credits which count towards your degree.
We have more than 100 partner universities around the world. Funding is
available through the Erasmus scheme, and also via some international
programmes such as the Santander Student Awards.
There is also a European work placement programme which
gives you the chance to work abroad as part of your studies.
For more information, visit our pages on studying
abroad and exchanges.
This is an optional part of the course so any costs e.g travel,
associated with it are not covered in your tuition fees.
Free language courses for students - the Open Module
Free language courses are available to full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students on many of our courses, and can be taken as a credit on some courses.
Please note that the free language courses are not available if you are:
- studying at a Brookes partner college
- studying on any of our teacher education courses or postgraduate education courses.
Most of our modules include lectures and laboratory-based practicals. There are on average 20 hours of lectures and 12 hours of practicals per single credit module (150 hours student effort).
There are some additional costs for the course including the purchase of a lab coat, safety goggles, stationary such as a lab notebook, printing and text books (though the library will have some copies). If the student opts for the placement year then there will be living costs associated with this year but we encourage students to seek a placement with a bursary or a paid placement to mitigate this. Work experience also may also incur travel costs.
On rare occasions we may need to make changes to our course programmes after they have been published
on the website. For more information, please visit our
Changes to programmes