Dear Student,

Reading list

Pre-Course Maths Booklet

All undergraduates on the Biochemistry course do a Quantitative Biochemistry course in their 1st year, comprising lectures and departmentally organised problems classes. To help students prepare for these we have produced a set of Maths resources for you to work through before arriving in Oxford. The lectures and problems classes will assume that you are familiar with all of this material.

The Maths resources can be accessed in both PDF and online formats in this Canvas course

Syllabus for MBiochem Pre-Course Mathematics Resources 2023-24 (

The home page has instructions on how to log in to Canvas (which is the University’s Virtual
Learning Environment (VLE) that you will use throughout your degree). If you have any problems
accessing Canvas, then please e-mail

We strongly recommend that you work through these resources and brush up any areas about
which you are not confident before you arrive in October. If you find any of the above material
significantly more challenging, then please don’t worry or try to learn these areas before arrival
but let your College tutor and maths class tutor know when you arrive in Oxford.

Chemistry Pre-reading

If you would like to start reading about some of the chemistry that is relevant to the 1st year course, then we would recommend that you have a look at the following review article:
Essays in Biochemistry (2017) 61, 401-427 – “Essential chemistry for biochemists”
which you can find at

You will cover most of this material in lectures, classes and tutorials during the 1st year and there
is no assumption that you will be familiar with, or understand, this material at the start of the
course, particularly in the way that it is described in the article. However, if you decide to have a
look and find there are large areas of the chemistry discussed that you have not seen before in any form during your school chemistry career then again please let your College tutor know once
you have arrived in Oxford.

We are not expecting students to have spent a long time over the summer working on these two
resources (or indeed to have done any other academic preparation before arrival) and most
students won’t start looking at them until late August or September after places have been
confirmed. We are sending these to you now so that you have, if you want, the opportunity to
have a look at them and then to talk to teachers at your school before the start of the summer

Please let me know if you have any queries and we very much look forward to seeing you in


Dr Mark Wormald

VSIs (Very Short Introductions): OUP Very Short Introductions

Oxford University Press publishes the Very Short Introductions series, which are suitable for laypeople, and also for background reading for budding biochemists.

  • Molecular Biology: A Very Short Introduction by Aysha Divan and Janice Royds (ISBN: 9780198723882)
  • Genomics: A Very Short Introduction by John M. Archibald (ISBN: 9780198786207)
  • Enzymes: A Very Short Introduction by Paul Engel (ISBN: 9780198824985)
  • The Cell: A Very Short Introduction by Terence Allen and Graham Cowling (ISBN: 9780199578757)


Those wanting to wade into deeper waters may find textbooks useful. You don’t need to start now, but if you’re interested, you can have a peek at these online textbooks:

  • You may be interested in browsing the introductory first two chapters of Molecular Biology of the Cell by Alberts et al. More details on what proteins and nucleic acids look like and how they work can be found in chapters three and four.
  • The Medical Biochemistry Page covers many topics that are useful for a first year biochemistry student, including Thermodynamics, Enzymes, Amino Acids & Proteins, Lipid Biochemistry, Production of Energy, and Nucleic Acid Biochemistry, among others.
  • Another nice online biochemistry textbook by Ahern and Rajagopal provides an engaging introduction to biochemistry and the building blocks of life.

Ted Talks

Cynthia Kenyon’s talk on molecular basis of aging:

Moshe Szyf’s talk on epigenetics:

David Baker’s talk on protein design:

Janet Iwasa’s talk on visualising biological machines:

David Liu’s talk on CRISPR gene editing:

Other Websites & Videos

You can get inspired by learning about the diversity of exciting research happening in Oxford’s Biochemistry Department:

You can also have a look at these inspiring videos of biological molecules at work:

“The following page provides an overview of the biochemistry course as well as a video with some insights into the student experience:

Study skills for incoming undergraduates

As an Oxford student, you have many great opportunities ahead, but studying here can also be very challenging. To help you prepare for this, we have put together some resources that will help you develop your study skills before you start at Oxford, no matter your subject.

Starting at Oxford

Starting a course at Oxford can be very daunting, but there are many resources out there to help you succeed! Here are some useful guides from across the University that you might want to check out:

  • Study skills and training: Here you can find advice on academic good practice including avoiding plagiarism, managing your time, reading, note taking, referencing and revision.
  • Student life: It’s not all about academics at Oxford; here you can find out about the range of other opportunities available to you as a student, as well as tips on how to navigate student life with your workload. If you prefer podcasts, much of this information is available in that form here!
  • Managing the cost: Undergraduate students Helena, Joe and Dan, have teamed up with the University’s Undergraduate Admissions team to discuss the financial support available to students and how they manage the cost of studying at Oxford.

Useful contacts

If you have any questions that aren’t answered on this page, you can get in touch with the following people:

ContactQuestions they can answer
Admissions Office: Sarah JonesAnything to do with offers, visas, UCAS issues, reading lists and preparatory materials
Accommodation OfficeAccommodation, what to bring, insurance, electoral roll issues  
BursaryAll things financial
College OfficePractical arrangements, bank letters, etc.
Disability enquiries: Elaine EastgateAny issues relating to disability or special requirements