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BSc Genetics

Why we're great

  • You study advanced, medically important topics including cancer biology and immunology.
  • You develop essential lab skills in gene manipulation, cloning and microscopy.
  • You gain valuable research experience by being involved in cutting-edge project work.

Course options2017-18

BSc Genetics Full-time

UCAS code: C400
Duration: 3 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Biological Sciences (School of)
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £15,450
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

UCAS code: C402
Duration: 4 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Biological Sciences (School of)
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £15,450
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

UCAS code: C403
Duration: 4 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Biological Sciences (School of)
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £15,450
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 873666
Email admit@essex.ac.uk

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About the course

Are we a product of our environment or our genes – are you born an addict? A risk-seeker? Happy? With an interest in video games? Genetics is at the forefront of modern biology, driving progress in medicines and synthetics biology. New technologies in genetic manipulation, biotechnology and genomics allow you to explore the interaction between genomes and epigenetics that underpin the development of a complex living organism from a single cell.

Teaching on our Genetics course focuses on real-world biomedical applications, including how cells differentiate to form the specialised tissues present in complex organisms, and how the delicate regulation of cell growth can be disrupted and lead to cancer.

The study of genetics includes understanding how genes are passed from one generation to the next, how DNA works, and the effects of variation and natural selection. You study topics including:

  • The structural organisation of a gene, the process of transcription, and the regulation of gene expression
  • The contribution of genome science to the diagnosis and prevention of disease
  • Theories of evolution, from Mendel to micro RNAs
  • Molecular cell biology
  • The human genome

You learn about human, microbial and plant genetics and genomics, with a strong emphasis on bioinformatics and biotechnology.

Some of the most exciting and important advances in biology are now being made in the field of genetics, and at Essex you have the opportunity to study these fast-changing areas.

Professional accreditation

Our BSc Genetics is approved by the Royal Society of Biology.

Study abroad

Your education extends beyond the university campus. We support you extending your education through providing the option of an additional year at no extra cost. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year studying abroad in an English-speaking country or employed on a placement, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.

Studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. Recent destinations include:

  • University of Victoria, Canada
  • Northern Arizona University
  • University of Otago
  • University of Utah

Placement year

Alternatively, you can spend your third year on a placement year with an external organisation. This is usually focussed around your course, and enables you to learn about a particular sector, company or job role, apply your academic knowledge in a practical working environment, and receive inspiration for future career pathways.

Organisations our students have recently been placed with include GlaxoSmithKline, Proctor & Gamble, Aquaterra, Astrazeneca, Genzyme, Reckitt Benckiser, Thermofisher, and Isogenica.

Our expert staff

As one of the largest schools at our University, we offer a lively, friendly and supportive environment with research-led study and high quality teaching. Two-thirds of our research is rated “world-leading” or “internationally excellent” (REF 2014), and you learn from and work alongside our expert staff.

Our research covers a wide spectrum of biology – from the cell right through to communities and ecosystems. Key academic staff for this course include Professor Leo Schalkwyk, who is researching the genes involved in depression, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, Dr Toni Marco who specialises in evolutionary genomics, and Dr Greg Brooke, who is working on tumour growth and therapy resistance in prostate and breast cancer.

The University of Essex has a Women's Network to support female staff and students and was awarded the Athena SWAN Institutional Bronze Award in November 2013 in recognition of its continuing work to support women in STEM.

Specialist facilities

Recent spending by our University has allowed for major refurbishment and expansion of our School of Biological Sciences, including:

  • Work in an open and friendly department, with shared staff-student social spaces
  • Conduct your final-year research alongside academics and PhD students in shared labs
  • State-of-the-art research facilities, from confocal microscopy imaging systems, to proteomic mass spectroscopy, to next-generation sequence analysis facilities
  • Teaching facilities including new undergraduate laboratories
  • Practical work in your final year using the latest molecular genetic methods, including gene cloning, PCR, cell culture and advanced microscopy

Your future

As the world's environmental problems increase, the demand for qualified biologists and ecologists continues to grow.

Our recent graduates have taken up a wide range of careers in research laboratories, consultancies, business and industry, conservation practice and environmental assessment. Others have gone on to work in sales, publishing and management, while others still have chosen to enhance their career opportunities by studying for MSc or PhD degrees.

We also work with the university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

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Example structure

Studying at Essex is about discovering yourself, so your course combines compulsory and optional modules to make sure you gain key knowledge in the discipline, while having as much freedom as possible to explore your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are just a selection of those available. The opportunity to take optional modules will depend on the number of core modules within any year of the course. In many instances, the flexibility to take optional modules increases as you progress through the course.

Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current first-year students, including details of all optional modules.

Year 1

Develop your skillset and boost your CV. This module prepares you for the coursework, laboratory practicals and research projects that you will encounter during undergraduate study. Get to know referencing systems and learn how to effectively communicate scientific information. Use scientific units and simple algebra and demonstrate understanding of logarithms, exponentials, geometry and elementary calculus. Learn how to design experiments, handle data and display, interpret and analyse basic statistics.

Teaching and learning will be through a mixture of lectures, classes, practicals and tutorials, with an emphasis on developing the key transferable skills needed for a career in biosciences.

The building blocks of life, plants and animals depend on the actions of individual cells. Investigate the biochemical characteristics of the small molecules and large macromolecules that allow cells to function. You examine the origins of life, cell structure and function, energy transductions, synthesis of molecules, and the eukaryotic cell cycle.

Get to know the culprits of some of the world’s deadliest diseases.

Despite major advances in treatment and prevention, incidences of infectious disease continue to rise. Vast diversity, rapid evolution and the opportunistic nature of micro-organisms present a significant challenge. You examine how different viruses and bacteria invade, interact and replicate within living hosts, and explore the consequent impact on ecology, industry and disease.

A series of four practical sessions allows you to get hands-on and develop valuable skills. You learn how to purify, observe, count and kill micro-organisms in our purpose-built labs, gaining experience of aseptic techniques, serial dilution, response to antibiotics, and staining.

Explore the building blocks of life. From the proteins that make up our genetic code to the lipids that envelope our cells, explore the structure, function and biological role of the major macromolecules.

You investigate the basic principles of protein structural bioinformatics and protein structural evolution, examine how ligand-binding equilibria may form the basis of diverse biological phenomena, learn the structure and properties of monosaccharides and polysaccharides and review the major types of lipids.

This module develops key skills in analysis and interpretation of data, biochemical methodology and calculation of biochemical parameters.

Why do we all look different? Are some illnesses hereditary? Are animals born ready-suited to their environment? From the early theories of Mendel to modern studies in molecular genetics, you explore how scientists have answered these questions over the last 150 years.

Examine how the structure and function of DNA allows genetic material to be expressed, replicated and inherited, and consider how genetic variation leads to adaptive evolution. From developing new technologies in gene cloning to the applications for modern medicine, you explore how geneticists are building on the earlier achievements in this fundamentally important field to enhance our understanding of life on earth.

The diversity of life on planet Earth is breath taking. We share our home with a vast number of species, a large portion of which are animals. We will discover the diversity of animal forms and functions and the role of natural selection in determining individual behaviour such as foraging, breeding and predator escape. You also investigate the idea that nothing in ecology and evolution makes sense in isolation.

Many recent advances in biological research have been born from an increased understanding of the molecules involved in systems and processes. But what do things look like beyond molecular level?

Study how molecules are formed from individual atoms, and how the properties of these constituent atoms influence molecular structure and reactivity. Examine the fundamental concepts of chemical bonding, electronegativity, acidity, basicity, hydrogen bonding and review the common organic functional groups and different types of isomerism.

To fully understand the function of biological systems, we must examine their underlying biochemical principles. You explore the importance of molecules which contain the p-block elements of oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur and phosphorus, concentrating on how their electron structure relates to the action of redox enzymes in metabolism. You also look at the biological role of main-group and transition metal cations.

You will also review the physical elements of biochemical reactions, including kinetics and thermodynamics. You determine reaction rates, reaction orders and activation energies as well as assessing how thermodynamic parameters affect reactions.

Year 2

Develop your practical and critical thinking skills during this week-long summer module. Basic knowledge gained from molecular biology is now being applied to solve industrial scale biological problems. You will rationally design bacteria by engineering DNA and transforming your microbe in the lab before presenting your results to peers.

Molecular biology is central to our knowledge of how biology "works" at a molecular level. This module explores the breadth of processes involved in the regulation of gene expression and the proteins that are made. You also discover the ever-expanding range of molecular biology techniques, including PCR, cloning and mutagenesis, and how these are applied to investigate and treat disease.

We are in the age of genomics and scientists have devised new technologies that can generate whole genome sequences in days which would once have taken years to achieve. Learn the high-throughput techniques of next-generation sequencing used to study genomes, the proteome and the interactome. Investigate how nucleotide sequences are analysed, applying the analytical tools used by research scientists and understand how new genes are discovered and their functions revealed. You also discover how our knowledge of gene structure is being applied in the emerging field of synthetic biology to create new organisms and modify existing ones by gene editing.

The study of cells is at the centre of modern biology.  Learn how cellular components determine cell structure and function, how cells communicate and how signaling pathways regulate cell fate.  You also explore the regulation of the cell cycle and cell death and learn about changes that occur in cells that have become cancerous.

A solid understanding of cell biology opens doors to more specialist topics, such as plant biotechnology and cancer biology.

Assess the importance of zinc, copper and iron in biological systems and review how they are kept in stable equilibrium. Explore the structure and functions of proteins and enzymes that contain metal cofactors and discuss the diseases and possible treatments associated with both metal deficiency and overload.

Regulating substance movement in and out of a cell is vital in maintaining its function. You explore the structure and function of the cell membrane, exploring how the movement of molecules across cell membranes is underpinned by the principles of thermodynamics. You pay particular attention to respiratory and photosynthetic pathways.

Understanding the shape, structure and folding of proteins can provide the basis for drug targeting in disease processes and enable us to develop a better understanding of specific biological pathways. This module takes a look at particular macromolecular assemblies using the most up-to-date structural biological techniques with a particular emphasis on x-ray crystallography.

We all know food is the fuel of life – but how do our bodies turn the things we put on our plate into the energy we need to function? Study the processes that coordinate metabolism of proteins, lipids and carbohydrates, paying particular attention to organ specialisation, hormonal control, metabolic homeostasis and appetite and body weight. The consequences of disturbances to metabolism will also be discussed.

5.5% of the population will have developed a genetic disorder by age 25. But how does genetic disease occur? From understanding the molecular basis of genetic disease, to the techniques used in NHS laboratories for diagnosis and screening for genetic disorders, you address the nature and inheritance of both single gene and complex genetic disease, and explore the effects of abnormalities in human chromosomes. Developments such as gene therapy, the 100,000 genomes project and manipulation of embryos will also be discussed.

Our bodies are under attack. So how do we defend ourselves against foreign invaders? Explore the anatomical and structural components of the immune system and assess what happens in the event of immunodysfunction.

Utilising real-world case-studies (eg. AIDS), and looking at specific examples (eg. allergy and transplantation) you will review important aspects of clinical immunology and immuno-pathology, gaining an understanding of auto-immunity and immune-deficiencies. You will also consider the future of human immunology – evaluating how far vaccines can protect us against disease. Using the knowledge you have gained you will be able to identify areas of current immunology understanding that could lead to positive medical intervention.

If we were to compile the DNA sequence of the human genome into a book, it would be 200,000 pages long, and would take 10 years to read. The ability to effectively interpret and analyse large-scale genetic and genomic data sets is a crucial skill for next-generation biologists. The module provides a basic introduction to R, the programming language of choice for biologists industry and academia. You learn to write scripts and functions, read and write data files in different formats, use basic plot functionalities and perform basic statistical analysis.

Microbes have been on the Earth for at least 3.5 billion years; they tolerate or require a huge range of physico-chemical extremes and perform a remarkable array of functions. This module will examine the diversity of microbes, and how they can be applied for the benefit of society and the environment, for example by bioremediation of contaminated land, recovery of oil and metals, production of biofuels and therapeutic compounds.

Final year

How does modern biology affect our day-to-day lives? Consider the impact of recent advances on society. Transgenic crops, ever-increasing (and sometimes unwanted) prolongation of life, cloning of animals – to what extent can science be allowed to manipulate nature? And who has the final say?

The study of human genetics is one of the fastest moving areas of scientific research today. Get to know some important emerging themes from the human genome sequence into the emerging fields of epigenetics and non-coding RNAs. You examine variations in genome sequence and structure in human populations, and consider the evidence for selection in human populations. Consider the evolution of the X chromosome and its regulation by the process of X-inactivation. You also investigate the significance of imprinting and epigenetics in human disease.

Fill the skills gap. Bioinformatics is a rapidly growing discipline based on the need to obtain biologically-meaningful information from the huge volumes of DNA-sequence, gene expression and protein structure data. Traditionally the niche area of computational biologists, there is an increasing need to for every type of biologist to be able to handle large datasets. You learn by solving problems, working through example datasets in order to understand and learn how to utilise and interpret commonly used methods.

Today’s global society has 8 billion mouths to feed. So how can we use our knowledge of modern plant science to improve agricultural productivity? From genetically-engineered disease resistance, to using water and nutrients more efficiently, you consider the potential impact and implications of the latest thinking and technology.

Placement

On a placement year you gain relevant work experience within an external business or organisation, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.

Year abroad

On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.

Teaching

  • Learn through a combination of lectures, laboratory sessions and coursework
  • Gain experience collating and interpreting data, and reporting findings clearly and concisely

Assessment

  • Degrees are awarded on the results of your written examinations together with continual assessments of your practical work and coursework
  • Contribute towards real-world research projects in your final year of study

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Qualifications

UK entry requirements

A-levels: BCC, including Biology
GCSE: Mathematics C

IB: 28 points, including Higher Level Biology grade 5 and Standard Level Mathematics grade 4, if not taken at Higher Level. We are also happy to consider a combination of separate IB Diploma Programmes at both Higher and Standard Level. Please note that Maths in the IB is not required if you have already achieved GCSE Maths at grade C or above.

Exact offer levels will vary depending on the range of subjects being taken at higher and standard level, and the course applied for. Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions Office for more information.

International and EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Email admit@essex.ac.uk for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the high school qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

IELTS entry requirements

English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. (Different requirements apply for second year entry.)

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.

Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels required. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications.

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Visit us

Open days

Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex. In 2017 we have three undergraduate Open Days (in June, September and October). These events enable you to discover what our Colchester Campus has to offer. You have the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

Check out our Visit Us pages to find out more information about booking onto one of our events. And if the dates aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing tours@essex.ac.uk and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.

Exhibitions

Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.

Applying

Applications for our full-time undergraduate courses should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications are online at: www.ucas.com. Full details on this process can be obtained from the UCAS website in the how to apply section.

Our UK students, and some of our EU and international students, who are still at school or college, can apply through their school. Your school will be able to check and then submit your completed application to UCAS. Our other international applicants (EU or worldwide) or independent applicants in the UK can also apply online through UCAS Apply.

The UCAS code for our University of Essex is ESSEX E70. The individual campus codes for our Loughton and Southend Campuses are ‘L’ and ‘S’ respectively.

Visit days and interviews

Resident in the UK? If your application is successful, we will invite you to attend one of our visit days. These run from January to April and give you the chance to explore the campus, meet our students and really get a feel for life as an Essex student.

Some of our courses also hold interviews and if you’re invited to one, this will take place during your visit day. Don’t panic, they’re nothing to worry about and it’s a great way for us to find out more about you and for you to find out more about the course. Some of our interviews are one-to-one with an academic, others are group activities, but we’ll send you all the information you need beforehand.

If you’re outside the UK and are planning a trip, feel free to email visit@essex.ac.uk so we can help you plan a visit to the University.

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Although great care is taken in compiling our course details, they are intended for the general guidance of prospective students only. The University reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University.

The full procedures, rules and regulations of the University are set out in the Charter, Statues and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.