In the 4th year of the Oxford University M.Bioch. undergraduate course, biochemistry students undertake an 18 week (starting in mid-September) laboratory-based research project either in Oxford or in one of the contracted European universities under the EU Erasmus student exchange scheme or at Princeton University in the USA.
All biochemistry students from Oxford taking part in these exchange schemes will have successfully completed their undergraduate degree at a "pass" level in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry and are now commencing a one year Masters degree course, the results of which will, in conjunction with their undergraduate marks, determine the class of degree to be awarded to each student. This (Part II) research project forms the major part of their course and it is this work which the student will be undertaking whilst in your laboratory.
At the end of the project, students write a 8,000 word dissertation on their work (see below for details). Therefore, it is important that all necessary experiments are completed while the student is in your lab and that all results and data (copies of original note books, if you prefer) are brought back to Oxford. We will appoint a co-supervisor in Oxford who has knowledge of your field to assist the student when they return home. The students will also have an oral examination of their project work, so it is will be helpful if the student can give a seminar to the rest of your research group during the latter part of their stay with you.
It is important that, while the student is given every encouragement and assistance to carry out their chosen project to the best of their ability, the regulations of the University of Oxford are adhered to. These stipulate that
At the end of the project, the project supervisor is requested to write a report on the student. This report will provide a valuable aid to the examiners who will be assessing the project. The appropriate form and details of when and how to submit this report will be sent to all supervisors towards the end of the student's project.
It is expected that the visiting student will be integrated into your research group. The local Student exchange co-ordinator should be informed when the student arrives so that they can be registered with your institution and take part in orientation courses. The student might also like to take part in available language courses about which the local co-ordinator will have information.
Below are some details about Part II projects which have been given to our students.
Experimental work should be written up roughly in the format of a published experimental paper with sections: Abstract; Introduction; Materials and Methods; Results; Discussion; References. It should not be more than 8,000 words long (excluding references and figure legends).
The Introduction should be sufficiently broad to introduce the non-specialist to the general subject area, to explain the past work of your laboratory and other laboratories in your detailed area of research, and to explain why you are carrying out the particular investigations to be described later (to test a particular hypothesis, to resolve a discrepancy in the literature etc.).
The Materials and Methods section should not contain detailed descriptions of standard biochemical techniques (e.g. SDS-PAGE) nor manufacturers' protocols (e.g. DNA purification) - appropriate references are sufficient - although sufficient details (key volumes, temperatures, etc) should be given to allow another investigator to repeat the procedure. Non-standard abbreviations (e.g. TDQ buffer) should be avoided.
The Results section should not contain standard calibration curves (e.g. for the Bradford protein assay) and results should not be repeated in different formats (i.e. tabulated and displayed graphically). Neither should it contain as examples 'typical results' taken from published literature rather than a student's own results.
The Discussion section should explain what you think your results mean, and how they support/contradict your original assertions. It should also place your results in the context of other, past, work in the same area and include some indication of further directions the work might take in the future.