Pathology

(course website: http://www.path.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/part1b/)

In part 1B Pathology you learn about the mechanisms of disease processes. There are 3 1hr lectures a week and 2 2hr practical classes.

Michaelmas term lectures cover cell injury, immunology (components of the immune system, their functions in inflammation and some autoimmune and hypersensitivity diseases), and viral, parasitic and fungal infections. This term’s practical classes are mostly computer based histopathology which is comparing images of healthy tissue to those of injured tissue. There are a few practicals which complement the immunology section of the course which are ‘wet’ labs and in each a small number of quick experiments are performed. Practical classes can also be in the form of problem solving exercises (PSE) where pairs/groups are given case studies and have to diagnose patients’ symptoms, say how they may have been caused and describe the processes that have led to the patients’ deaths etc.

Lent term lectures cover bacteriology, cancer, vascular pathology and finally some further lectures on viral infections (HIV and Influenza in detail and emerging viral infections). The practical classes are a mixture of computer based (for looking at tumour development and vascular pathology), wet labs (to complement the bacteriology lectures) and PSE. The last practical class of the course is in week 5 of Lent term.

There are only 7 lectures in Easter term and these are on zoonoses (infections that pass between animals and humans), tuberculosis, prion diseases and further lectures on bacteria, specifically their evolution, bacterial zoonoses and emerging bacterial infections. There are 2 revision practical classes which cover microbiology and histopathology.

There are 3 exams in pathology: multiple choice questions (MCQ), essay and practical. The MCQ paper is challenging as it tests knowledge of very specific details that could be passed over in the lectures without being seen in the notes or mentioned in the practical classes but not written down on the handouts. So to score highly in this exam it is best to keep on top of the material as you go through the course so that by a couple of months before the exam you are comfortable with the more general principles of the course (and can remember them) so that you can concentrate on learning the topics in progressively more detail. This exam is negatively marked.

In the essay paper you are expected to write 4 essays and revising well for the MCQ paper hopefully means you should be able to recall enough content for this reasonably quickly. The practical exam has questions on microbiology, histopathology, immunology/virology and one PSE. NatSci students can be at a disadvantage on the histopathology question as in the exam you are expected to view real slides using a microscope. It is not computer based like in the classes. However slides and microscopes are available to use in each of the practical classes and practising at every opportunity ensures you are comfortable with the technique going into the exam.

Overall, the workload for pathology in the first two terms is fairly heavy, especially in Lent term whose topics you might find harder than those in Michaelmas. However the reduced lectures and no practicals in Easter means you’re not learning new material right up to the start of exams as is the case for some Part 1B courses.

The Natural Sciences Society of St John's College