Areas of study
A quick guide to the areas of study covered by our courses.
- Cancer biology is the study of how a normal cell turns into a malignant (cancerous) cell. Understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying this process is essential for proper diagnosis and prediction of outcome for cancer patients, and for developing new ways of preventing and treating cancer.
- Microbiology is the study of the biology of microorganisms ("microbes") which include bacteria. Bacteria are found almost everywhere and in the main they do not cause us harm. In fact, they are essential to our lives in many ways. However, some bacterial infections are dangerous and as time goes by new antibiotic resistant bacteria are beginning to emerge. The mechanisms by which bacteria acquire antibiotic resistance and how certain bacteria infect humans and cause disease are clearly very important issues.
- Immunology is the study of how the body combats infectious disease and controls cancer development. Within our school there is particular interest in autoimmune diseases, where the immune system inappropriately damages healthy tissues.
- Virology is the study of viruses, how they replicate, how they change the cells in which they replicate and how these changes manifest themselves as disease. Virologists aim to develop new drugs and vaccines to control or prevent virus infections.
- Stem cell biology is the study of stem cells and how they may be used to treat diseases, including those once thought incurable. All the specialised cells in our body come from stem cells. In the early embryo there are stem cells that can turn into any other cell type. Tissue-specific stem cells in adults can turn into a more limited range of cells. All stem cells, when grown in the laboratory, can replicate without ageing making it possible to grow a large number that can be used to treat a wide range of diseases.
- Pathology and microbiology, combining elements from immunology, cancer biology, microbiology and virology. Pathology is the study of processes of disease at all levels from the whole organism down to the cellular, sub-cellular and molecular levels. Pathology and microbiology interact in the study of infection: microbiologists focus on the properties of microbes that enable them to cause disease (pathogenicity), and pathologists are concerned with the damage to cells and organs that results and how the body reacts to the infection.