I’m Seren, I study Biochemistry at Queen’s and I’m from Sevenoaks in Kent. I went to a state grammar school in the outskirts of London before coming to Oxford, and I’m currently in my first year here.
I love the breadth of the Biochemistry course at Oxford – in the first year we study lots of different aspects of cell biology on the molecular level, including looking at different proteins, DNA, metabolism, and signalling, as well as some background physics and organic chemistry that helps us to understand techniques like X-ray crystallography, and the mechanisms enzymes use to catalyse a reaction.
Tutorials are usually in pairs or as a group of three, which provides a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of concepts with someone who is an expert in that particular field. We usually have one or two tutorials per week in first year. The tutors may ask you difficult question which you don’t initially know the answer to, but they help you to reach the answer by giving you more information about a concept you are already familiar with, or a different angle from which to look at a problem.
I also love how studying Biochemistry here is an integrated masters course, because it gives you research experience and this is also provided by the practical side of the course. In first year, we have labs every Friday, with some of the experiments looking at mitochondria, amino acid metabolism disorders, antibiotics, and enzyme activity, as well as using programs like PyMol to look a the structures of enzymes.
Student life at Queen’s is great, and despite the workload, there is very much a work-hard/play-hard attitude, where people get their work done as well as enjoying themselves, in whatever form that may take. Some people who don’t drink alcohol (like myself) can feel nervous about the drinking culture at university, but I haven’t found it to be a big issue – no one pressures you to drink, and there are plenty of activities where alcohol isn’t playing a central role (for example, movie nights in the common room), so there’s nothing to worry about. The LGBTQ+ Soc at Oxford runs all sorts of events, one of the most enjoyable of which was the Women*'s and Non-Binary Pizza and Drinks Night – it was a great opportunity to meet new people from different colleges. There was also CAKE, which is “Oxford's best women*'s and non-binary club night” held at Plush, which was one of the best night outs I’ve had. The LGBTQ+ Rep at Queen’s also held an event in the College bar before a night out in the last week of term, which was another really fun evening with friends.
Despite not being a very sporty person (having only done dance outside of school), I’ve taken up rowing. Since this is a sport most people do within their own college, it has been a great way to meet people from all years at Queen’s. I’ve also taken up some wellbeing responsibilities: I'm the Freshers' Welfare Rep, and next term I am doing Peer Support training, which I’m really looking forward to. Everyone here is so welcoming, and there’s a great sense of community, so I hope you apply here and get to experience it for yourself!
Advice for Applicants
If you want to apply for Biochemistry, you could read books and articles that talk about biological processes and evolution from a chemistry perspective, or genetics, or recent Nobel prize-winning advances such as Cryo-EM. If you are offered an interview here, the tutors aren’t looking for someone with a mountain of knowledge – they want someone who is passionate and can problem-solve, rather than someone who has memorised facts!