Programme structure

Summary of Biochemistry programmes at Bristol

We have three 3-year BSc programmes:

  • Biochemistry (C700)
  • Biochemistry with Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (C790)
  • Biochemistry with Medical Biochemistry (C720)

We also have a 4-year Biochemistry with Study in Industry BSc. Students may transfer onto this programme at the end of year 1 (for further details, see below).

Programme structure

Each year you will study units to the value of 120 credit points (cps). As can be seen in the tables that follow, Biochemistry and Chemistry are mandatory in the first year, and Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics comprise two thirds of the second year programme. A wide degree of choice is available for the optional units, and this allows Bristol to offer both a general Biochemistry Programme (C700) and two tailored programmes; Biochemistry with Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (C790) and Biochemistry with Medical Biochemistry (C720). Maximum flexibility may be retained by entering via Biochemistry C700, and students may then transfer to the tailored programme after entry, providing the right choice of optional units is made.

Teaching methods

Teaching on the Biochemistry degree programmes occurs through lectures tutorials and practical sessions. You should expect to have around 20 hours of teaching contact time each week.


When you arrive at Bristol, you will be assigned a Personal Tutor for the whole 3 (or 4) years of your programme. Your Personal Tutor will give you academic tutorials in Biochemistry in the first year in groups of 3-5 students. They will maintain close contact with you throughout your time in Bristol and are there to help you with any problems that may affect your studies. When you graduate, they are ideally placed to write you a reference for a job.

Year 1

Biochemistry I

students in a first year biochemsitry practical

In your first year you will spend a third of your time studying Biochemistry. This 40cps unit is delivered through three lectures and one three-hour practical per week. Tutorials are every other week. You will be given lectures covering the structure and function of nucleic acids, proteins, lipids and carbohydrates, the relationships between them and their synthesis and breakdown. Further topics include cell biology, the integration of metabolism and hormone signalling.

The unit is supported by practical classes where you learn techniques such as spectrophotometry, electrophoresis and chromatography, and apply these techniques to the study of biochemical systems. Our practicals are supported by the online dynamic laboratory manual, eBioLabs. During tutorials you will have set questions marked and returned, discuss any problems you may have, and give presentations. The unit is assessed through a progress examination in January (worth 10%) and two 3-hour exams in the summer.

Chemistry I

The first year Chemistry unit includes lectures, practicals and tutorials. Biochemistry students who have not taken A or AS level Mathematics attend additional Maths support tutorials. You will study the following  Chemistry units:

  • Introductory Chemistry (20cps)
  • Chemistry for Life Scientists (20cps)

Optional Units to a value of 40 cps are selected by students on the C700 programme from the choices given in the table opposite. Most students choose Microbiology, Pathology, Pharmacology or Physiology options. Students on C790 and C720 programmes have a more restricted choice.

First year programme structure

All students take Biochemistry IG, Introductory Chemistry and Chemistry for Life Scientists, plus 40 credit points from the following:



Biochemistry with Molecular Biology and Biotechnology


Biochemistry with Medical Biochemistry


Anatomy I

Biology I


Introduction to Microbiology

Microbes and Disease

Biology of Normal and Tumour Cells

Pathological Responses of Cells

Pharmacology I

Physics I

Microbiology I

Pathology I

Physiology I

Pharmacology I

The broad range of subjects (particularly in the case of C700) enables students to transfer between Honours programmes at the end of the first year, if they wish, provided the appropriate Level 1 units have been taken.

Year 2

Biochemistry 2

Biochemistry 2 is made up of two 20 cps units, each 12 weeks long:

  • Organisation and communication in cells studies the structure of proteins and how they are studied experimentally, how the cell is organised at a molecular level and the intracellular signalling pathways used by cells in response to hormonal stimulation.
  • Energy and motion in cells covers how cells extract energy from their surroundings, how they utilise cellular energy to power molecular motors and the movement of molecules around the cell and how molecular motors are used in cell movement and reorganisation.

Molecular genetics 2

This is again made up of two 20cps units:

second year student in labs

  • Recombinant DNA technology studies the methodology surrounding the cloning, manipulation and analysis of recombinant DNA sequences.
  • Gene expression and rearrangement studies the organization and replication of genes, genetic analysis, and mechanisms of gene expression in prokaryotic and eukaryotic systems and their viruses.

The material in these four units is delivered through lectures, practicals, workshops and tutorials.

Optional units

As in the first year, options may be chosen from a range of units. Pathology, Microbiology and Pharmacology units are popular.

Second year programme structure

All students take Biochemistry 2 and Molecular Genetics 2 , plus one of the following:



Biochemistry with Molcular Biology and Biotechnology


Biochemistry with Medical Biochemistry


Biology I

Cellular & Molecular Pathology


Infection and Immunity

Physiology I or II

Pharmacology I or II

Infection and Immunity

Cellular & Molecular Pathology

Physiology II

Cellular & Molecular Pathology II

Infection and Immunity

Pharmacology II

In the cases of C700, units to a total of 40 credit points may be chosen in a subject outside the Faculty, provided that it can be timetabled. For example, many of our students take language units in their second year.

Year 3

students in a third year lectureIn the final year you will cover a wide range of topics at an advanced level, with the emphasis on current developments. You will study the following lecture-based units:
  • Advance cell biology: Material covered will include techniques used to study cell biology, the cytoskeleton and intracellular trafficking.  The migration of cells and their interactions with the extracellular matrix will also be covered.
  • The dynamic proteome: covers advanced topics in protein biochemistry.
  • Cellular information: you study advanced topics in cellular information networks and genomic information.
  • Advanced options in Biochemistry: you will study advanced topics from a variety of specialist lecture elements. These topics are largely based around the reserach speacializations of staff within the School. There are seven elements avaliable and you choose four of these elements: The elements are:
  • Synthetic Biochemistry
  • Protein science in therapy and technology
  • DNA-protein interactions
  • Molecular basis of disease
  • Neurobiochemistry
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancer

In addition to these four lecture-based units, you will also study the Core Skills unit for which you will undertake two pieces of independent project work.

  • The practical project : you will spend eight weeks in the research laboratory of a member of staff where you will carry out a piece of original research, chosen yourself from a list of projects. These projects are usually in association with the on-going research in that laboratory and they give you an excellent opportunity to work in a research environment as part of a research team. You will have access to the specialised instrumentation that is an essential part of modern biochemical research. Most students find this a valuable experience which helps them decide whether they wish to proceed further with research or other laboratory work or else seek a career outside the laboratory after graduation. The project is written up as an assessed report at the end.
  • The literary project : this is a library-based project where you research a topic in the current scientific literature and write a review on it.

Your final degree classification

This will take into account your performance in the second year, your final year project work, comprehension and data handling papers as well as four finals exams.

Year in industry

What is the structure of the programme?

a biochemistry Year in Industry studentThe programme options are the same as those for the standard 3 year Honours Biochemistry programmes for the first and second years, with an industrial placement during the third year of the programme. You resume the final year of the standard Honours programme for your fourth year.

What are the benefits of taking this programme?

The work experience will look excellent on your CV when you graduate and you'll get paid for the work you do!

How do I gain admission to the programme?

You may apply for entry to the programme towards the end of the first year. Admission will be dependent upon examination results and a satisfactory interview with the industrial partner.

What happens during the industrial placement?

You spend one year as a paid employee of the industrial partner, subject to their standard working conditions and practices. You will typically spend about 47 weeks working on a project with appreciable academic content, and will be required to submit a report which will form part of your final Honours assessment.

Some of our current industrial partners are:

  • AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, Macclesfield
  • Eli Lilly, Windlesham
  • GlaxoSmithKline, various locations
  • Merck Sharp and Dhome, Harlow
  • Celltech, Slough
  • Novartis, Camberley
  • Pfizer Ltd., Sandwich
  • Syngenta, Bracknell
  • The Sanger Centre, Cambridge

Entry requirements