Student Profile: Tianyi Shi
A Levels: Maths, Chemistry, Physics, Biology
What do you enjoy the most about your course?
The best thing for me (although perhaps not the best for others) is that the course focuses on everything about biochemistry as a pure science and nothing else—no finance, no physiology, not even industrial applications. This is perfect for those who are determined to pursue an academic career.
How is your subject taught?
In the first year, we have five courses—Molecular Cell Biology (MCB), Biophysical Chemistry (BPC), Biological Chemistry (BLC), Organic Chemistry (OC), and Maths & Stats (MS). We have around 10 one-hour morning lectures, and a four-hour practical on Friday every week, which are organised by the department.
We have tutorials for MCB and OC, and classes for BPC, BLC and MS. They’re quite similar—we write assignments (essays for MCB and problem sheets for others), tutors mark them and we discuss them in tutorials/classes. Tutorials are more in-depth than classes.
A comprehensive description of this four-year course can be found on the Biochemistry website.
How did you prepare for your interview?
I did not have special preparations for the interviews apart from learning more about the topics I mentioned in my personal statement. I benefited from reading college-level textbooks such as Stryer’s Biochemistry and Clayden’s Organic Chemistry—although their content was far beyond the scope of the interview.
I was asked questions about restriction sites in a plasmid, histidine’s chemistry and His tag, and CRISPR and genetic engineering, which I had mentioned in my personal statement. There was also a written assignment–writing a summary for an (Scientific American-style) article on junk DNA.
What advice do you have for prospective students interested in studying your subject?
Check Biochemistry’s course content and be sure that’s what you want! Our course focuses on the very fundamental aspects of biochemistry, and all subjects are compulsory. If you don't like maths and/or physics, you may not enjoy the course so much.
In terms of the interview, I suggest reading the first few chapters of Clayden’s Organic Chemistry and/or Parson’s Keynote in Organic Chemistry (Fundamental Concepts in Organic Chemistry), as well as Chapter 8 of Albert’s MBOC (An Introduction to Methods in MCB)–only after you’ve mastered your A-Level/IB/etc., materials.
What do you like the most about being an Orielensis?
To me, the best thing is definitely being able to borrow books from the start of the Michaelmas term until the end of Trinity term without renewing! What's better, the books can be renewed for use throughout the long vacation.