On Wednesday 29th June and Thursday 30th June we opened the Department's doors for our biannual undergraduate Open Days. To mark the occasion, we spoke with Yushi Li, a first year undergraduate Biochemistry student, about his experience of studying Biochemistry at Oxford. You can watch the video below. A transcript of the video is available on this page as well.
Why did you want to study at Oxford?
The Department of Biochemistry is one of the leading research institutes in the field in the world. You are taught directly by world-leading researchers as a part of the course, and the cutting-edge research carried out in the Department is integrated into the course. At Oxford, there is also a something called the tutorial system, where you are taught by a leading expert in a specific field. A tutorial usually happens in a group of two or three students. You are challenged and encouraged to explore biological topics and chemical systems for a deeper understanding. On the pastoral side, the collegiate system makes Oxford's community a very tight one. You live, eat, and study with people in the college, so there is chance to build very close friendship that will last for the years to come. At Oxford, there are also a lot of extracurricular activities. There are more than 300 student clubs and student societies, which you can join, whether it is cheese tasting or modern pentathlon, you can try different and new things once you come to Oxford.
Why did you want to study Biochemistry?
When I was little, I was very interested in plants and animals. I became interested in living organisms in general, and throughout my studies I became increasingly fascinated by how life works. To understand how life works we need to study living organisms at the molecular, but sometimes also at the atomic level. And this is what biochemistry entails. Biochemistry studies chemical processes in living organisms, and tries to systematically elucidate what life is about, and when some things go wrong, how we can correct them. As I became increasingly aware of the health challenges around us, be it ageing, cancer or the global pandemic, I see that by harnessing the power of nature, and also by applying what we already know through biochemistry, we can develop solutions to efficiently address these challenges. And my ambition one day is to apply what I learned about Biochemistry, to contribute to solving these challenges.
What is your favourite aspect of the Biochemistry course?
What I like the most about the Biochemistry course is that it is very comprehensive. It gives you a very broad understanding of the life sciences. In the first year you have five modules, you have molecular biology, cellular biology, organic chemistry, physical chemistry, and mathematics. In my opinion, to be able to excel in one research area later on, you need to have a broad understanding of natural sciences to be able to draw inspiration across the field, as science is becoming more interdisciplinary. Secondly, biochemistry is based on chemistry because it gives you a very good understanding of both the physical and organic aspect of chemistry, of which you can then apply the principles to understand how they work in living systems.
Tell us about a typical week on the Biochemistry course
The first year at the biochemistry course a week is structured as follows. There are typically about nine to twelve lectures per week. So around two a day, and they're usually in the morning. I recommend going to lectures because sometimes they are in very cool locations, like the Natural History Museum. Apart from the lectures, you also have lab work.