Biology of Cells

This is taken by most of the Bio Natscis as it provides a fundamental basis for all Biology. However, there are a lot of Physical Natscis who also go for Cells, giving a bit of variety.

Over the year you’ll cover macromolecules and cell structure, leading on to a term of genetics and finishing with signalling and embryonic development. This sets you up for the IB courses next year, such as Biochemistry, Cell and Developmental Biology and Neurobiology.

There is one 5 hour practical each week (don’t panic – you tend to finish early, plus you get an hour for lunch, so it’s more like 3 hours) and they aren’t assessed, although writing up small reports at the end of each one is normally required and often useful when it comes to revising for the practical exam.

The practicals try to reinforce material already covered in the lectures, especially the genetics where you get to play with fruit flies and do genetic crosses as well as learning useful biotechnology techniques.

Cells is such a broad course it’s unlikely that every lecture series will rank amongst your favourites, but with some interesting and challenging topics, it is a good framework for courses in Part 1B.

Exam-wise there is one 3 hour paper with a series of short answer questions and three 40 minute essays, as well as a separate practical paper.

Biology of Cells is a subject where textbooks can become your bible for the year. Although the college library has several copies of the recommended texts, they are used throughout the years of the Natsci Tripos, so it can be worth investing in your own copies, especially if you’re considering taking any of the cellular subjects in IB. A couple of good ones are Stryer’s Biochemistry and Alberts’ Cells. Often other years may be willing to sell books, but if you want a brand new copy you can get one using college money via the Learning and Research Fund (

Very useful for most biological Part 1B subjects, particularly Cell and Developmental Biology, Neurobiology and Biochemistry.

More information can be found at:

The Natural Sciences Society of St John's College