Subject Overview

What are the Biological Sciences?
The Biological Sciences consider the study and characterization of living organisms and the investigation of the science behind living things. They include a diverse array of subjects, many of which have undergone tremendous expansion in recent years, including cell biology, neuroscience, evolutionary biology and ecology. This rapid expansion has been accompanied by a blurring of the distinctions between the subjects, and with other disciplines such as chemistry and physics.

Many Biological courses start off by introducing some core concepts such cell biology, evolution, physiology, statistics and genetics. However, once you have an understanding of the core principles, you can choose an area in which to specialize. Options include: anatomy, biophysics, cell and molecular biology, computational biology, ecology and evolution, environmental biology, forensic biology, genetics, marine biology, microbiology, molecular biosciences, neurobiology, physiology, zoology, botany, psychology and many others. However, even within each subject you will develop a wide range of skills. For instance, an ecologist with an interest in evolution may well use many of the tools and techniques that are indispensable to a molecular geneticist, chemist and even physicist!

Biological Sciences today
There are a huge number of avenues in the world where you can pursue a career in the Biological Sciences. Molecular Laboratories are performing cutting-edge work in searching for cures for cancer, developing new and more efficient drugs, creating artificial organs, understanding our genome and mapping the tree of life. Field-based biologists are studying the biological effects of global warming, identifying the causes of declines in the world’s flora and fauna, and enhancing animal welfare in captivity. Others are studying an amazing array of inter-disciplinary subjects including how animals fly, the flux of energy through forests, how our brain works, how we can create new products my mimicking nature, how we can create energy in an environmentally friendly way, and even how we can improve computer programming by looking at nature.
Biological Sciences is perhaps the most diverse and multidisciplinary subject that you can study at university. Life is, after all, incredibly complex and something that everyone is interested in in some way.

Thinking about studying Biological Sciences at university?
A Biological Sciences course will include a broad range of disciplines, but pre-university studies of Biology will provide a summary of the core concepts and often be necessary to get onto undergraduate courses.
Skills in mathematics are fast-becoming vital in many Biological degrees, as most biologists need to do some form of statistical analysis of their data. Many will also use skills in mathematical modelling at some point.
Chemistry is certainly a useful tool for Biology, particularly if you are interested in biology at a smaller scale, and want to understand cells and molecules in more detail. If you want to understand Biology at an even smaller scale, or want to understand the interactions of life with the non-living environment, Physics can also be useful. There are also other disciplines with which the Biological sciences intersect, including Psychology, and Computer Science.
If you choose to do a degree in a Biological Science at university, you will also need other skills. To tell people what you have discovered, you will need to be able to communicate clearly and concisely in a number of ways. You will almost certainly have to write practical reports and essays, and even conduct presentations. Assessment of Biological degrees is often very diverse, but this does mean that you will develop a wide range of skills that are useful in many careers, even if you do not want to pursue research.

  • Biodiversity

    This topic covers material that falls into two important spheres of geographical study: biogeography and conservation science.

  • Pregnancy Immunology

    If you are doing Biology at school, you will probably have learnt about the immune system, and a little bit about pregnancy, too. However, one thing which may never have crossed your mind is that pregnancy causes a potential conflict with the immune system. Why?

  • Physical Activity and Public Health

    The aim of this topic is to introduce some important ideas in public health about how to respond to these types of problem.

  • Breathing Disorders in Short Nosed Dogs

    Brachycephalic syndrome is of current interest in the veterinary world and press due to the soaring popularity of the extreme brachycephalic (literally ‘short-headed’) dog breeds, such as pugs, French bulldogs, bulldogs worldwide, and concerns about the welfare of these dogs.

  • Understanding Diabetes

    This topic is based around diabetes mellitus and explores patient symptoms, mechanisms of insulin resistance and possible treatments.

  • Genetic Variation and Evolution

    This topic straddles material that falls into two important areas of your A-level syllabus: genetics and evolution. The link between these topics may not be clear to you, and so this module will guide you through some of the complex ways in which these topics are related.

  • Vaccines

    This topic begins by introducing antibodies as part of the body’s defense mechanism against infection.

  • Leukaemia Stem Cells

    From which cell does cancer arise? What defines the cancer stem cell? This topic uses these questions to explore therapies for 'leukaemia stem cells'.

  • Haemostasis, Coagulation and Thrombosis

    This Biology topic focuses on three inter-related areas - haemostasis, coagulation and thrombosis.

  • Vaccines and Public Health

    You probably don’t remember getting your first vaccinations, but your childhood immunizations have provided protection from measles, pertussis, diptheria, polio, and other diseases that were once common. This topic explores the science behind existing vaccines, the risks and benefits associated with vaccines, and the challenges in designing improved and new vaccines for a variety of diseases.

  • Brown Adipose Tissue

    This topic focuses on brown adipose tissue. To understand how brown adipose tissue works, we will first explore the function of white adipose tissue and the process of cellular respiration.

  • Haplodiploidy in ants

    This topic explores the concept of Haplodiploidy in ants and gives you a fascinating insight into the social life of ants and termites.

  • Mycology

    Without realising it, you come across fungi every day. In fact fungi are pretty crucial to all forms of life on earth.

  • Doctor doctor I've got an Itis

    The suffix “itis” seems to find its way into many medical terms. Have you ever thought about what exactly it means?

  • Stem Cells

    This topic explains what stem cells are and how they can be used to study disease.