Published: June 13, 2018
This blog is primarily aimed at potential undergraduate students thinking about applying to study Biomedical Sciences but are unsure about what the course entails.
I often think prospectuses don’t put enough emphasis on what Biomedical Sciences (BMS) really encompasses. So many students enrol on the course and find it's not what they were expecting. I know a few people at the end of their first year who switched to Physiological Sciences because the course wasn’t what they thought. For this reason, I thought it would be good to summarise some of the disciplines you will explore throughout the duration of your studies.
Now before I start, I will stress that the modules and order of subjects you will study can vary between universities so it's worth noting that you should do some research before applying. A BMS degree can be three or four years in length depending on the route you choose. Some routes include a placement year, and on some routes (such as Healthcare Science) you can complete your placement over the three year study period and obtain your Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) portfolio. Alternatively, you can do the three years without the placement.
What I will say, is that BMS is a very interesting and broad degree and you really do learn about the human body from the chemical level upward.
The first year of your degree is designed primarily to get everyone to the same level of understanding. The rationale is because everyone on your course will have come from different backgrounds, so it serves as a way of ensuring everyone at the end of year one is on the same page. In my first year, I studied Biochemistry, Infection and Immunity (which covered some immunology and a lot of microbiology), Cell Biology, Human Physiology, Analysis and Measurement (very important grounding for Year 2 and dealing with research methods and data handling) and Clinical and Professional Practice (where you provide a portfolio of evidence regarding issues and practices you would likely encounter in an NHS environment).
During your second year, the modules start to become a little more focused in terms of disciplines. Using the underpinning information you have learned from the first year, you will start to explore aspects of biomedical science crucial to diagnosing diseases and become familiar with experimental design and methods used in a laboratory.
Modules for me included:
Which gave me a solid grounding in the anatomy and physiology of the haematological system in health and disease. This also drew upon some aspects of Biochemistry used in a clinical context to determine the cause of certain diseases, such as liver disease. Practical lab sessions focused on methods used in haematology diagnostics such as staining techniques, cell morphology, counting, and differentiation. The written work comprised of a 2,000-word case study detailing a patient scenario to provide a differential diagnosis and the exam was essay-style questions relating to the topics studied throughout the year.
Research Skills for Biosciences
This was a module focused on equipping students with the knowledge to prepare for research in terms of understanding statistical methods and research design. It sounds daunting, but it’s actually not as bad as it seems and I actually found it really helped me later on during the year when it came to looking at research papers and learning to break down the statistical presentation. The written work basically comprised of interpreting a primary research article and reconstructing it in a manner that permitted the translation of research to the general public and also included computer sessions on how to use statistical software packages such as SPSS.
Molecular and Cellular analysis
Molecular and Cellular analysis covers a wide array of disciplines that focus on the inspection of morphology, form and function of cells and tissues in healthy and diseased states. This includes histopathology, genetics and molecular analysis methods such and PCR, mass spectrometry, gene sequencing and electrophoresis to name a few. The laboratory sessions equip you with the practical skills to carry out some of these processes and also I found it helped me with my numeracy skills in tasks such as working out buffer solutions and concentrations. This can be a very daunting module if you’re not used to doing much lab work. I came from a BTEC background where we did little lab work and although I passed the module, I do wish I could go back and do it again. I did, however, learn a great deal from it.
Pathophysiology and Therapeutics
Pathophysiology is an extension of first-year physiology with the sole focus on exploring the disease process of various organ systems and includes lab workshops in a simulated ward environment where students are presented with case studies and scenarios of patients with varying symptoms. The assignment is a written piece of work of a chosen disease process. In this module, you will also draw upon aspects covered in the module molecular and cellular analysis to explain the pathology and discuss the pharmacological benefits of treatments.
Bioscience Literature Review
This was my personal favourite of second year as it allowed me to get an appreciation for an aspect of science that I wouldn’t have normally looked at. You are allocated a supervisor with a particular speciality. I was allocated a tutor teaching audiology who designated a research question in which I was to conduct a 5,000-word critical review of the literature surrounding that particular subject. The module gave me an appreciation for reading existing research with the aim of formulating a research question and I also felt it gave me an appreciation for other disciplines. I felt the module also bridged a huge gap in my knowledge – and has actually prepared me for my final year research project.
Obviously, I can’t really comment on year 3 as I’m not there until September, but I can say the final year comprises of four optional modules plus a final year research project. I have, however, chosen the following modules for final year:
- Cellular Pathology (20 credits)
- Clinical Biochemistry (20 credits)
- Haematology and Transfusion Science (20 credits)
- Clinical Immunology (20 credits)
- Bioscience research project (40 credits)
I hope to keep you posted in due course about my progress from September onwards…